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  • Hardware Semi OT, Semi Rant

    Okay, I guess I qualify as a old coot now. When I was a young buck, I could arrive at any of several hardware stores with a description of what I needed, or better yet a sample. The people there would be able to understand what I wanted and knew if they had something, or not.

    In the late 60's I fixed lawnmowers for a few bucks. Times were tough after Dad suddenly passed away when I was 14. Guys working at the local dealership were knowledgeable and helpful. Soon after, I moved on to cars, and discovered that there were lots of people at independent parts stores, and also dealerships that had a encyclopedia in their heads. They were glad to help out a kid just getting started.

    Many years later I found myself as a heavy duty truck mechanic, and promoted to shop foreman. The toughest part of my job was getting enough of the correct parts to keep the jobs flowing thru the shop. This includes the common items like light bulbs, and blue butt connectors, and nuts and bolts. Several of the people (not all men) who I had relied on retired, and a few quit the trade. As Dan told me, after the "corporation" bought his employer, they told the staff of his store that they were going to minimum wage, all they needed was someone who needed to have keyboard skills.

    And so, there you have it. It's the dumbing down of the staff of the vendors we depend on. If your lucky enough to find someone on their way up, life is good. My experience says that they'll want to move out from mom and dad's and get a life on their own. Given the cost of living, minimum wage won't do it. It's the loss of family wage jobs that matters. How does a business attract quality people without offering anything in return?

    I have a friend in Manufacturing. His place may very well be the highest tech place in Oregon. His #1 problem? You guessed it, it's getting enough quality people. I know that on this board, there are a lot of people who have much more experience than me. Why not comment with your thoughts.
    I cut it off twice; it's still too short
    Oregon, USA

  • #2
    Same rant was chiseled in a pyramid wall 3000 years ago

    Comment


    • #3
      I just got home Saturday from a 3 day national sales meeting for a company I represent as an independent sales rep. We now have to enter all of our end user contacts and calls into the company CRM (customer relations management) software. They were calling it digitizing the company. The smoke that they blow is that it will help us in the field being more organized and efficient. Yeah, right, they just want to pick our brains and then flick us like something they got out of their noses. Anyway they were talking about the younger generation being Digital Natives and won’t have any trouble adapting to this. Well, I guess I am an Analog Aborigine! Glad I only have about a year to go before I retire. Companies today care more about numbers than people or products. Human cost is never a line item on anyone’s spread sheet.
      Sole proprietor of Acme Buggy Whips Ltd.
      Specialty products for beating dead horses.

      Comment


      • #4
        Originally posted by Tim Clarke View Post
        Okay, I guess I qualify as a old coot now. When I was a young buck, I could arrive at any of several hardware stores with a description of what I needed, or better yet a sample. The people there would be able to understand what I wanted and knew if they had something, or not.

        In the late 60's I fixed lawnmowers for a few bucks. Times were tough after Dad suddenly passed away when I was 14. Guys working at the local dealership were knowledgeable and helpful. Soon after, I moved on to cars, and discovered that there were lots of people at independent parts stores, and also dealerships that had a encyclopedia in their heads. They were glad to help out a kid just getting started.

        Many years later I found myself as a heavy duty truck mechanic, and promoted to shop foreman. The toughest part of my job was getting enough of the correct parts to keep the jobs flowing thru the shop. This includes the common items like light bulbs, and blue butt connectors, and nuts and bolts. Several of the people (not all men) who I had relied on retired, and a few quit the trade. As Dan told me, after the "corporation" bought his employer, they told the staff of his store that they were going to minimum wage, all they needed was someone who needed to have keyboard skills.

        And so, there you have it. It's the dumbing down of the staff of the vendors we depend on. If your lucky enough to find someone on their way up, life is good. My experience says that they'll want to move out from mom and dad's and get a life on their own. Given the cost of living, minimum wage won't do it. It's the loss of family wage jobs that matters. How does a business attract quality people without offering anything in return?


        I have a friend in Manufacturing. His place may very well be the highest tech place in Oregon. His #1 problem? You guessed it, it's getting enough quality people. I know that on this board, there are a lot of people who have much more experience than me. Why not comment with your thoughts.
        This isn't about the dumbing down of the staff, it about the greed of the new owners. Had they kept on paying a decent wage they would have kept competent employees and over time that would have increase their business but instead they went for the short term increase of profit.

        Comment


        • #5
          Greed is part of the problem, you're right. I think that in large part it's because the world has "moved On" as Roland Deschain would have said. Go back 35 or 40 years when things were actually manufactured in North America. There was always two or three hardware stores in large towns and very knowledgeable sales staff to help you. Now, back to the present where 90% of everything is manufactured offshore. There is no longer enough profit margin to keep three hardware stores open. Two of them have closed down. The generation of people who actually fixed things themselves instead of rushing out to buy a new whatever has aged and are more likely to hire in a "specialist" to fix whatever is broken. The third hardware store is just hanging on--barely--and can't afford to pay good wages, so they hire kids who work cheap but don't know squat about the products they are selling.
          Brian Rupnow

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          • #6
            Good points everyone, often it appears a store is profitable to the general public, but most are just scratching to get by.

            Comment


            • #7
              As the owner of a business (Ritron, Inc.) I may have a different perspective.
              Prior to the crash of 2008 we could find well qualified people for our highly technical jobs.
              It wasn't easy but they were out there.
              I hired engineers and technicians and manufacturing techs in our somewhat automated factory for years before the crash.
              After the crash it seemed as though all of those people disappeared.
              Maybe it's our area (Indianapolis) because some companies failed or left the area, like RCA and Bell Labs, making the area less attractive to electronics types. Many other companies downsized like Delco in Anderson IN just north of us.
              Additionally we lost a for profit educational institution, ITT, that had provided some of our employees.
              Places like Purdue University, my alma mater, boomed but the vast majority of their students in the EE school were studying "computer science" that is code writing. We need that skill but mostly we need design engineers and manufacturing technicians.
              Maybe political policy has something to do with the problem.
              I really don't know why it's been so hard to find quality people during the last ten years.
              During that time we have increased the "digitizing" of the company quite a bit but have not laid of employees because of that. About the only way an employee leaves my company is to retire.
              We know our wages and benefits are competitive becaus almost no one leaves after they get through our six month probationary period unless on rare occasions we ask them to leave.
              Just some observations from my point of view.
              The OP raised an interesting question.
              Bill
              Last edited by Seastar; 05-07-2018, 10:35 AM.
              I cut it off twice and it's still too short!

              Comment


              • #8
                What you are suffering is power of large global corporations that can deliver products cheaper than high wage, wage and hour law protected, environmentally regulated N.American based manufacturing. An import duty to offset these costs would have helped and created a more fair playing field. The ability to have a lower price point on anything is an advantage in the market place. Greed isn't just at the top of the corporation it is also in the shopper who wants to save a buck. The whole thing did not happen overnight, it was a long slow process and we are basically "waking up" to the results.

                I do not believe raising the minimum wage will work. Prices are already going up and the wage gains will not be realized vs higher expenses. Getting into a higher tax bracket will also reduce the supposed increase.

                Comment


                • #9
                  IMHO the "clean Air Act" has altered the economic structure of the United States. The act essentially moved heavy industry out of N. America (Abner` just said that) and has made our work force compete with foreign production and there is little similarity in the lifestyles etc. between the two.
                  I have grandchildren that like the hand held computer in the telephone and rarely put them down. These "phones" are no longer communication devices but to a large degree are toys that have eliminated communication skills. I am really concerned that we are approaching a life style where a few are "in-charge" and the rest follow the instructions to survive.
                  Ray

                  Comment


                  • #10
                    It is a complex problem and no single factor is totally responsible for it, nor will any single change fix it.

                    Schools are not producing well educated young people. They are under too much pressure to get them all passed. And often things like sports are treated as they are more important. I am not against sports, but education should come first. So it is hard to get "good" employees.

                    Wages in advanced countries tend to rise. Many reasons why, so I won't discuss any particular ones. But in less developed countries people are glad to get what we would call low paying jobs. To them it is a bonanza to get even a fraction of our minimum wage of a decade ago. How do you fight that? Tariffs? Doesn't that penalize the hard working people of those countries? Over time, and I mean decades, this will level out: their standard of living will increase and their wages and prices will rise. But there are many such countries so, for now, we have to live with it. For instance, I have noticed that prices of things manufactured in China have risen quite a bit over the past decade or so. Strangely this is more problematic when/while these countries are trying to improve. And part of this may be that our wages and standard of living may even decrease. Is this fair? I don't know. But it is there and no one, no union contract will be able to resist it for long. The world exists and we can not ignore that.

                    As for the attitude of managers who do not see the value of knowledgeable employees and the wisdom of retaining them with good pay, I can only say that their companies are likely doomed by their lack of wisdom. We have all seen them go down the tubes. Someone new takes over, cuts costs to raise the bottom line, "Look at me, I am a hero for improving profits", that works for a while but then it catches up with him/her/them and the company is in trouble. Unless they suddenly get some real ability to manage things, the company dies.

                    I am not a fan of imposed wage limits, either minimums or maximums. For one thing, I don't think we should reward people who ignored the advantages of a good education. Give them the opportunity to go back and improve themselves, YES. But just raising a minimum wage because it is only fair or just? NO. It is neither fair nor just. And it is destructive because it removes the incentive to improve yourself.

                    Probably many more reasons in-twined here.

                    Personally I think the best thing for this is creating a better economy. When companies have to compete for good workers, wages go up. I think we may be on that course at the present time. For the sake of all working people, I hope so.

                    I hope I have not been too "political". I think what I have said is only common knowledge and common sense. Just food for thought; I am not trying to start an argument. And I do not lack compassion, but I believe in doing things that actually WORK, not nice looking and nice sounding economic band-aids.

                    Oh, as for "greed", it there in all of us. I am on a small, fixed income so I must have some greed or thriftiness. Otherwise my family would go hungry. But greed is not necessarily a bad thing. Not for people and not for corporations. We just need to have some wisdom to go along with it.



                    Originally posted by Abner View Post
                    What you are suffering is power of large global corporations that can deliver products cheaper than high wage, wage and hour law protected, environmentally regulated N.American based manufacturing. An import duty to offset these costs would have helped and created a more fair playing field. The ability to have a lower price point on anything is an advantage in the market place. Greed isn't just at the top of the corporation it is also in the shopper who wants to save a buck. The whole thing did not happen overnight, it was a long slow process and we are basically "waking up" to the results.

                    I do not believe raising the minimum wage will work. Prices are already going up and the wage gains will not be realized vs higher expenses. Getting into a higher tax bracket will also reduce the supposed increase.
                    Paul A.
                    SE Texas

                    Make it fit.
                    You can't win and there is a penalty for trying!

                    Comment


                    • #11
                      One more thought on this. When I find a clerk in a store who does not know about things that I want,

                      I TRY TO HELP HIM/HER OUT. I TRY TO EDUCATE HIM/HER.
                      Paul A.
                      SE Texas

                      Make it fit.
                      You can't win and there is a penalty for trying!

                      Comment


                      • #12
                        Originally posted by Tim Clarke View Post
                        I have a friend in Manufacturing. His place may very well be the highest tech place in Oregon. His #1 problem? You guessed it, it's getting enough quality people. I know that on this board, there are a lot of people who have much more experience than me. Why not comment with your thoughts.
                        Does he work for one of the Intel facilities in Hillsboro?

                        Comment


                        • #13
                          Paul a partial quote from one of your posts:
                          < To them it is a bonanza to get even a fraction of our minimum wage of a decade ago. How do you fight that? Tariffs? Doesn't that penalize the hard working people of those countries? Over time, and I mean decades, this will level out: their standard of living will increase and their wages and prices will rise.>
                          The result of this in the short and intermediate time frames appears to be the Reducing of the standard of living in all the "advanced" societies .
                          Which in the LONG run will probably be the whole world. :-(
                          ...lew...

                          Comment


                          • #14
                            Originally posted by Paul Alciatore View Post
                            One more thought on this. When I find a clerk in a store who does not know about things that I want,

                            I TRY TO HELP HIM/HER OUT. I TRY TO EDUCATE HIM/HER.
                            Isn't that sexual harassment?

                            Comment


                            • #15
                              Originally posted by Seastar View Post
                              As the owner of a business (Ritron, Inc.) I may have a different perspective.
                              <snip a bunch of interesting stuff>
                              I really don't know why it's been so hard to find quality people during the last ten years.

                              We know our wages and benefits are competitive because almost no one leaves after they get through our six month probationary period unless on rare occasions we ask them to leave.
                              Just some observations from my point of view.
                              The OP raised an interesting question.
                              Bill
                              One of my sons is a CPA and until recently worked as an auditor who went into lots of mid-sized tech companies to look over and help advise on their business. He has told me more than once that one of the largest problems tech companies around here have is finding and retaining good technical people. Some of them don't pay as well as they might, some develop crummy work environments, and many have this problem for no easily definable reason. Even here in the NE which has lots of higher education, lots of high tech and medical companies, and a pretty decently educated workforce it seems this is a problem.

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