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  1. #21
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    I think the Germans just arent very hungry anymore.

    I have a couple of recent, not 100 year old, stories about german design and engineering-

    I own a Chinese forging hammer, made by Anyang- a pretty decent sized company, with 1200 employees. Recently the president of the company and one of their head engineers came to the USA, to the Blacksmiths conference in Seattle, to show the flag and see how americans were using their product. The US distributor told me that if a US owner has an idea to improve the machine, and he tells Bob Graham, the US distributor, Bob can email china. A prototype is usually up and running on a test mule in China within a week, and, if the Chinese like it, usually the improvement is included into all subsequent production within a month of Bob Emailing them.

    Now, contrast this to another machine I own- a german made HEBO CNC ornamental iron machine- the german machine is much more elegant, well designed, robust, and sophisticated than the chinese machine. But when at the same conference I talked to the US rep of the German machines, he told me that no matter how good the improvement, the german engineers absolutely refused to even consider any suggestions from US users. A severe case of Not invented here. No american could possibly tell the germans anything. So we, here in the USA, are evolving new accesories and uses for the German machine, and they, back in Germany, are less than not interested.

    The german machine is a great product, truly unique in what it does, and fiendishly well built. But they are completely uninterested in any feedback. Buy it, at their extremely high prices, or dont, they could care less.

    Last year, I was in Italy, around Bologna, which is a city of world class small manufacturers that work together to make amazing machinery- they told me a story of a german company, which made tea bag packing machines. The germans had a complete lockup, worldwide, on the market- but the design, from around the time of the first world war, was unchanged. Again, pay the germans their price, and receive the machine, or dont, but dont try to tell em anything. They know best.

    Well, a bunch of critical patents on this machine expired, around 1970, so a couple of Italian blacksmiths quit their jobs, and made a new version of the teabag packing machine. The germans would sell you a cell, of three machines- one placed the tea in the teabag, the next put the teabags in the box, and the third cello wrapped the box.
    The italians came out with one machine, smaller than the first german machine, that did all three processes.
    Then the italians worked their asses off, selling the machines, each one customised to buyers needs. Need a plastic tab on your string? no problem. No tab or string at all? no problem. Individual packaging, one tea bag at a time? no problem. Small box, big box, different shapes? no problem.
    The german company just kept trying to sell their same old machine.
    Now, the Italians have over 75% of the market world wide. The germans are still trying to sell the same machine, but nobody is buying.
    The Italians then took on another german monopoly- the machines that make aspirin style tablets. Again, the germans were selling a one size fits all, 50 year old design.
    Again, the italians redesigned, improved, and customised.
    20 years later, the Italians again rule the worldwide market for these machines, with well over 50% market penetration on a machine that used to be the exclusive domain of a couple of german companies.

    No one can deny the germans make some very nice machines. But the mental attitudes of their companies make them lose market share.

  2. #22
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    Smallshop,
    My first car was a 1935 Morris 8 with 6 volt Lucas lighting. I ran Lucas stuff both professionally and in my tuned Mini Coopers which I hand built. I have never had a Lucas ignition failure. Again, I have run italian stuff and even- hushhhhh- Yugoslav and never had an ignition failure. I have run Triumphs and Velocettes and more vehicles than some have had hot dinners.

    In all these years, I had one Seat failure on a cheap jack basket case and this Mercedes.

    It is interesting to think that one of my model engineering mates brought back one of my lathe motors today and he came up with the story that
    a Mercedes Benz car of much greater age had had its corrosion problems repaired by Mercedes agents in England. I was given to understand that the corrosion was so bad then that this had been done. It was interesting to relate that I had had a C250 diesel of the older shape with no
    corrosion whasover. Therefore, the corrosion question denied me, was for an even earlier vehicle than my original one.

    I promised the representative of Rycroft Newcastle who are main dealers that continuing difficulties built up over some five years had reached breaking point. My findings are current and therefore relevant to the heading of the topic.

  3. #23
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    .. too big and with an ugly look, again the brits...
    I don't think that anyone who comes from the place where they designed the Porsche 911 can criticise other stuff as having an ugly look without tongue-firmly-in-cheek

    Peter

  4. #24
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    Don't get me started on European or, for Heaven's sake, British electrics!

    As for British electrics, I haven't even seen them in the USA, except for some of the crap on Clausing Colchester lathes. The super large Crabtree printing presses that came into the USA all had Cutler-Hammer electrics.

    The electrical controls on the German printing presses and paper cutters are delicate, finiky and very much maintenance prone. Many of their limit swtches don't follow the same contact format as American ones, much of the control logic is Bass-Ackwards.

    Starter and relay points are small and won't handle even normal currents if they are cycled too frequently. Terminal blocks are tiny and not well supported. Terminal screws are deeply recessed in their blocks, they are difficult to tighten and they loosen easily.

    In places where they should use 'liquitite' flex. conduit they choose to use rubber sheathed multi connector wire, literally power cord. This of course rapidly deteriorates when it gets its inevitable splash of oil on it.

    When the Miehle Company (founded by an American German) chose to import and sell the Roland (German German) offset press, they brought the press over and installed Cutler-Hammer electrics here.

    I have seen some so called gray market Roland presses installed here, What a mess! The Klockner-Moeller electrical controls were always breaking down. Spares and replacements were a Gross Bichen to get.

    Howd 'ja like to have fifty thousand pounds of iron and four color units full of ink and dampening solution go down at twelve-midnight because some half ounce relay decided to quit?

    Call Miehle? Nooooooooo, That's a Roland press. You shoulda bought ours, there is a reason why our presses say Miehle on them - tough luck!

    I 'inherited' a Wohlenberg paper cutter. It had some damage to the power back gauge motor due to a rigging accident.

    It is as fine a machine as I can think of and it is in perfect mechanical shape.

    Oops, it needs to be completely fit out with new electrical controls. There is no way that machine is going to go back up with the junk that I found in the control box.

    Everyone who I know who has a German car has trouble with it. One of their typical repair bills would send me to the poor house.

    I think that the Mercedes and BMW engineering department got ahead of practicality. Either that or they hired a Roland electrical man to do the wiring. When the cars go Klunk-Pzzzzzzdt I say to myself "I think I've seen this somewhere before."

    Now, Machine class, repeat after me -

    A-l-l-e-n B-r-a-d-l-e-y

    or

    C-u-t-l-e-r H-a-m-m-e-r

    The easiest way I have found to stop smoking is to stay away from European electrics.

  5. #25
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    It didn’t take long for this topic to go down the predictable route, but going back to the nub of the issue: Is Germany going down the slippery slope that Britain disappeared down, apparently being followed by the US, namely losing the desire and the ability to make things?

    I had wondered whether it was just a disease of the English-speaking world, with the symptoms as succinctly described by Seymour, namely nations populated by ‘…snotnosed stuck-up wannabes or sour dinosaurs’? I fondly imagined that the work ethic and self-discipline remained strong in Germany, but is that not the case? I must admit to having been disappointed with the quality of some German products in recent years, although I don’t intend to name names. British products are beyond criticism – we don’t make anything any more.

    There's currently a series showing on TV about the late, great, Fred Dibnah, enthusiast and populariser of Victorian engineering. He admired the way that manufacturers in the Victorian era tended to strive for high quality regardless of the difficulties, whereas the aim today is to put the absolute minimum of effort into anything. He believed that wealth should only be won by hard labour. Not much evidence of that over here now, but what about Germany?

    Is German manufacturing going down the tubes, and if so, why? Is it simply an inevitable function of the affluent society - people don’t want to do anything difficult, dirty or risky when there are easier ways of making money?

  6. #26
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    Engineering is broadly defined here (USA) as designing something useful and economical. Part of "useful" includes durability in its intended use. Part of "economical" includes cost effective from an initial purchase standpoint AND cost effective from a repair standpoint.

    I am talking about substantial machines here - but it can even apply to automobiles too.

    German and Japanese machines seem to be very durable until they need repair - maybe better than USA-made equipment. My only British experience was years ago with repair/durability of an XKE, so I am biased and will say no more.

    However, I believe we in the states have a slightly different concept of "cost effective from a repair standpoint" than the Germans, British or even part of the Japanese manufacturing community. It is my opinion, from the viewpoint of American engineering culture, that a machine is properly designed if it can be repaired simply, without an advanced college degree or its equivalent! I think that German machinery gets the worst mark here, followed by Japanese. German stuff is just more complicated, in general, than it has to be - we might say "overdesigned". Time is money - repair time (including special training or research) is also money.

    Look how much trouble you guys in the Deckel forum are having with the mechanical (not obsolete electricals, which know no international boundaries) aspect of the machines. Don't get me wrong - I would love to have a Deckel, but it would be a hobby, not for a business! Reliability of repair is not there. There is a beauty in such elegant design, but is it necessary to have such beauty for the task at hand? Leitz/Leica stuff (enlargers and cameras) is also overcomplicated for the job it has to do. True, the optics are good, but the lens elements have separated/fogged on a couple of mine. Not true of Nikon lenses, but they are not as sharp as Leica.

    I am not bad-mouthing German, British or Japanese engineeing (except for that stinkin' XKE), I am just suggesting that we have slightly different definitions of what constitutes good engineering. The level of a country's technical education, mechanical ability, population density, cultural differences, even the general adversity of the living conditions of the populace - all this enters into what its society considers "good engineering".

    This even extrapolates to differences in manufacturing in China, India, Korea and Taiwan.

    It is possible that the Japanese, Koreans and Taiwanese have learned to receive feedback from the end users of their machines to the extent that their engineering design standards are becoming more like ours. The German and British engineering philosophies have been different from ours for many years, and may not simply be attributed to lack of feedback from the end user.

    Hard work is the antithesis of good engineering if it is not necessary to get the job done. Over here, good engineering is getting the job done timely and with the least labor, which is really saying at the least cost. Already said too much - A.T.

  7. #27
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    Historically the Germans are more developers than inventors.
    I can think of many famous German inventors: Wernher von Braun inventing the liquid-fueled rocket (and then being smuggled back into the US at the end of WWII to develop rocket technology for the US), Hans Lippershey inventing the refracting telescope, Johannes Gutenberg inventing the printing press, Wilhelm von Roentgen inventing the X-Ray machine, Adolf Fick inventing the contact lens, and most importantly, Levi Strauss inventing Blue Jeans [img]smile.gif[/img]

  8. #28
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    On the origional subject of a diminishing population of engineers, I was reading a real interesting yet scarey article in Neewsweek magazine. In the article they interviewed Jack Welch the CEO of GE who had just opened huge facilities employing over 40,000 Chineese engineers. Welch was saying if you want to hire 40,000 engineers China is the only place you can find that many in a given area. He was commenting with great anger about how in the past year this country graduated more exercise science majors, then engineers, which he remarked "is great if we want to become the next massage capitol of the world!" But that that is about it. I'm currently studying engineering, I loved machining yet had a hard time setting my sights on a career down that road. I figure better to get my degree and possibly wind up in the shops later on in life.

    However when planning out a long term career, something that will place food on my table for the next 45-50yrs most likely I need to look twards the future and what the global economy may bring. Quite frankly it doesn't look too good for any one who can be outsourced to a hard working Chineese person. I don't know what the secret really is however these are some interesting times.

    Engineering, and Medicine too are also two of the most difficult college majors to take for the simple reason of things change drastically ever 5-10 years. Stuff I'm learning and doing now in school with computers for example was unheard of when my dad went to school. When my dad went to school for engineering there were 3 and a half real fields, Mechanical, Civil, Electrical and a bit of Chemical. A generation earlier there really was only Mechanical and Civil, today we have Mechanical/Aerospace, Civil, Chemical, Materials/Ceramics, Biomedical, Environmental and a few random others. Almost all of which compliment each other. Go off to study say law, and the individual laws may change but the fundementals are the same. Engineering is one of the hardest cirriculums for what they cram into 4 years of undergraduate, for me I'd never be happy doing anything else (but perhaps machining) however it is a tough choice looking into the future.

    I've seen my dad twice come home to tell us he lost his job. Not because he wasn't the best guy for it, not because the company was closing, not because his skills were obsolete, but simply because some one in the far east could do it cheaper!!

    The other real problem not mentioned here is the first jobs out sourced are the simplest, easiest, and noncritcal jobs for the company. These also the jobs where new guys like me will climb up the ranks and learn their skills. I had a debate with my economics teacher and this practice I see as being similar to a town closing it's school system. All the taxpayers pay much less in taxes for years to come and the economy temporarily booms, but what happens when their children become of working age?

    Adam

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    Money talks.

    Today I bought a Festo 1/2 sheet sander, because Fein no longer makes them, and no one here knows they can be made. I also bought the Festo plunge saw, and gave the Milwaukee to the first derelict I saw( honest, no pun intended). Last week I bought a 60s Festo moulder, as good as any StetsonRoss XL. Yes, these are woodworking machines, but all engineering is problem solving. German and Italian woodworking machines solve problems before the others even get their lips moving.


    Cliff

  10. #30
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    As a german engineer, currently under temporary contract in the USA, reading all this is somewhere between hilarious and disappointing.
    When e.g. reading JimK's comments in the past on subjects I knew nothing about, I always assumed he knew what he was talking about. This thread certainly changed that misconception.
    Also I think the swapping of curious stories of individual companies does not answer the subject line.
    Because it would definitely go to far to write an essay here on social economic problems related to engineering in Germany, just some comments on it.

    First there were not enough engineers (politics warns about german future), so you go into engineering school. Then when you come out, the market is swamped with engineers (politics now warns people about unemployment for engineering graduates). Graduates are abused and underpaid by employers (see Johann's comments). The public notices, so the next couple of school graduate generations skip engineering. Suddenly a lack of engineers is spotted just ahead. What happens? Big howling "we do not have enough engineers". Continue cycle. Its never just right. Its either too many or too few. There is never any planning, just reacting. Usually with big headlines in the tabloids.

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    There is never any planning, just reacting.

    I wish Germans WERE reacting.... that's the main problem over there. You want to plan stuff. Didn't work in the USSR. Won't work with your "Labor Boards" or whatever you guys use to "track" workers.

    Here's how it goes - you create businesses. The businesses either hire engineers or consult with engineers. Market leads to demand.


    I read a survey, taken in Germany, which stated that people regarded the word "Entrepreneur" the same as "exploiter".

    Without entrepreneurs, who will hire the Engineers? The Government? Oh, no, they'll come over here to the US and get jobs.

    Well, fine. I've worked with Germans. Aside their occaisional lapses into arrogance, and this peculiar guilt trip they go on around anyone who looks remotely Jewish, I enjoy their company.

    They respect competence. Which is refreshing. They also generally like Bach, which is also pleasant.


    In contrast to Germany in China the Government trains hundreds of thousands of engineers and scientists. They also allow people to start businesses to give these freshly trained people work.

    Gene

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    As an engineer with 40 years in engineering, I laugh when I hear of an engineering shortage. People forget that the law of supply and demand applies to people as well as to things. If a profession does not pay well, or does not promise steady employment, people will chose other professions.

    In theory, all these MBAs that now run companies had to study economics to get their degrees. They know, or should know about the need to make certain professions attractive if they want a steady supply of people.

    GE does not always come out a winner here either. About 15 years ago, GE laid off a lot of engineers in their refigerator group. A few years later, they had to design a new, energy efficient compressor. With the old crew gone, they had to hire some new engineers, who presumably did not know of the difficulties of designing a new compressor. Unfortunately for GE, they did not know much about testing, or the long term behavior of materials they used for the compressor. The upshot was that GE had a lot of compressor failures on their refrigerators, and had to replace, under warrenty, 1 million compressors, at a cost of $500 each, for a total of about $500,000,000. That would pay a lot of engineering salaries. There was also a big article in the Wall Street Journal about it, exposing GE's shortsightedness.

    I am sorry to here that German companies are haveing problems hiring engineers as well. It seems like modern management theory has reached Germany.

    Perhaps we need to export a lot of managers to China.

    Thermo1

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    Engineering, and Medicine too are also two of the most difficult college majors to take
    ...
    Engineering is one of the hardest cirriculums for what they cram into 4 years of undergraduate, for me I'd never be happy doing anything else (but perhaps machining) however it is a tough choice looking into the future.
    Adam,

    As a practicing engineer with 18 years in industry, let me assure you that it can be a very rewarding, and very lucrative career, if you really love it.

    The reason there are so few engineers graduating in the US and Europe is that the curriculum is so damn hard, and the field is so competitive, that many young collegians are deciding that other fields may provide the same or better salary for less work in college.

    the first jobs out sourced are the simplest, easiest, and noncritcal jobs for the company.
    US (or European) engineers are paid around 3 times the salary of an Indian or Chinese engineer. So it's pretty simple: you have to be more creative, and have better technical skills, and better communication and collaboration (team-work) skills to justify your salary.

    These also the jobs where new guys like me will climb up the ranks and learn their skills.
    US engineering companies are very aware of the need to bring "fresh blood" into the company. As a senior engineer, one major aspect of my annual performance rating (which determines my pay) is the amount of time, and the skill demonstrated, mentoring younger engineers.

    In other words, stick with it! US companies will always need talented engineers, and will always be willing to pay top dollar for them...

    Robert

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    JimK,

    I fought and won a similar battle against European electrical gear. A client of mine bought a large Diesel engine made in Finland for a cogeneration plant they wanted to build. The supplier wanted to supply electrical gear made in Sweeden. Maybe the Sweedes make a lot of good stuff, but electrical gear made to IEC (International Electrotechnical Commission) ain't one of them.

    In additon, I couldn't get spare parts for the IEC gear locally. My client would lose a lot of money if a 3000kW generator was down, because they couln't get some $1.98 fuse locally. Spares for US gear were no problem, they had WW Grainger 1/2 mile down the road.

    After a lot of arguing, we got the supplier to supply electrical gear made in Sweeden, but routed though the Sweedish firm's branch in Cleveland, to make sure it met US standards. This was OK for a few weeks, till I got a call from the equipment supplier asking if it was OK if the metal on the panels was a little thin? How thin?, I asked. Turns out, that for a reason I never understood, the factory in Sweeden could not make panels thick enough to meet the US National Electric Code. Their panels were about ten thou shy.

    That was the end of European electrical gear. They furnished electrical gear made in USA.

    Thermo1

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    Martin - We have the exact same problem here in the USA. Engineering graduates are cyclical in quantity (and somewhat in quality) because of this. I taught chemical engineering courses at a large university in my former life and am still a licensed professional engineer. Engineering graduates are at the mercy of the economy - sometimes they are in demand because the US economy is expanding - sometimes not, because the economy is stagnant when they graduate.

    In my case, engineers were in great demand throughout the 1950's and 1960's. My BSChE was awarded in 1966, when times were very good. All through the 1960's our university started with 1,500 freshman ChE students each year, but only graduated 20 or so per semester after the 4th year! The other 1,440 transferred to an easier curriculum.

    I was scheduled to receive my doctorate in late 1970, just as the bottom fell out of the employment market! PhD's are the first to be laid off because they are primarily used in research (as opposed to production in a chemical plant or refinery) in the chemical industry. The general economic malaise lasted until about 1974 or so - I did not hand in my dissertation because it would have meant no jobs available, even in production (MS and BS grads did not have the same problems - they had plenty of job offers). Once you attain a higher level of education, it becomes more difficult to find professional employment at a lower level.

    Then, about 1974 there was suddenly a crisis shortage of engineers! Graduation rates at the university actually rose up to about 200/year by 1979 (and some easing of the curriculum helped). By 1983 or so, there were no more new refinery expansions underway in the US - now (2006) this is becoming a political issue once more. Many of the post-1984 graduates had a hard time finding a job. And so it goes . . .

    As a nation, how do you plan for that? IMHO, the only thing one can do is react to the situation in the economy as quickly as possible - hard to do in a country this large and diverse!

    I was not trying to be disparaging of German engineering - just noting that there appears to be a slightly different philosophy about machine design here. I do not know which philosophy is correct - we all admire fine craftsmanship, fit and finish. The economic constraints on engineering design may have gone too far here in the USA, with the result that all our manufacturing jobs are going across the Pacific.

    How do you like the 3rd world deep south? A.T.

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    I am also not disparaging German engineering- I buy expensive german machines, because they are simply the best at what they do, and in many cases, the only ones like them available anywhere in the world.

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    Jack WELCH is complaining about lack of
    engineers????????

    He's gonna get struck by lightning. He fired
    so many engineers in his time they called
    him Neutron Jack. Fired the guys but kept the
    buildings, like the neutron bomb.

    Jack can kiss my... well you folks all know
    what.

    Nobody's mentioned Kammerling Ohness. He was
    the german scientist who discovered
    superconductivity. But he was also a leader
    and visionary in the area of technical education.

    He realized that most scientific endeavors were
    made possible by folks who were glassblowers,
    lathe operators, electrical technicians, and
    so on. He started a technical institute to
    train new scientific technical workers, because
    there was no other way for them to learn other
    than on the job.

    But anyway, when you see heads of large
    corporations wheedling and whining about how
    "gee there just ain't enough engineers these
    days" you need to get out the "Manager-to-
    regular-folks-translator." Let me look that
    one up on my copy right here....

    What they're really saying is, "I've gotta pay
    too darn much for engineers right now!" There's
    no shortage of engineers in the world. But
    there may well be a shortage of them who won't
    work for peanuts. If folks are leaving the
    field because of poor pay, all they have to do
    is pay more, and all those engineers who have
    switched over into more lucrative fields like
    finance or nursing or cesspool pumping might
    consider going back to their former glorious
    career.

    JIm

    Jim

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    On a lighter note : what a surprise , somebody actually knows Kamerlingh Onnes (1853-1926).
    He was Dutch tough.
    The german part was his meisterglasblaeser , Oskar Kesselring , which he got from germany.

    Jim , you might be pleased to hear this technical school still existst today and is alive and kicking.

    Leidse Instrumentmakers School

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    I had one of those GE compressors, junk. I did not blame it on the design but the R134 in the compressor. For the record, there is nothing efficent about R134 as takes twice the energy to put out the same BTUs as R12.

    Ted

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    I can think of many famous German inventors: Wernher von Braun inventing the liquid-fueled rocket (and then being smuggled back into the US at the end of WWII to develop rocket technology for the US),

    Nope, the liquid rocket was invented by Oberth. But both of them later worked on this technology in Penemünde and were very close friends.

    Cheers,
    Johann


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