General Motors Corp. may have ended the 17-day strike by the United Auto Workers in Dayton, Ohio, but the issue of using outside companies to supply parts is far from settled. GM still must compete with carmakers like Chrysler Corp. that effectively outsource a higher percentage of their component needs. Outsourcing makes sense both over the short term and the long run - especially if you consider the future cost of retirement and health-care benefits for GM employees.
The UAW showed some muscle, aided in part by the just-in-time manufacturing concept. The dispute effectively shut down nearly all of GM's North American production, putting about 200,000 other GM employees out of work and idling its supplier chain.
GM, anxious to show the union and Wall Street investors that it would not cave in quickly to UAW demands, sat on the situation as long as its inventory would allow, and then agreed to a face-saving settlement.
Both sides will claim victory in this 1996 showdown - GM because it retained the right to seek outside suppliers, the union because it gained a promise of jobs and investment at the Dayton operations. But no real blood was spilled in this pseudobattle, and the core issue is no closer to being resolved.
McCormick: lousy food, improved train service
The National Design Engineering Show was only one of four industrial exhibitions at Chicago's McCormick Place from March 18-21 during National Manufacturing Week, which is to say, transportation, food and bathrooms were as critical as the five conferences also scheduled.
That's because the event attracted an estimated 65,000 people and more than 2,000 companies, with exhibitors spread over 1 million square feet of display space.
This year, with a disruptive road construction project that added to the show's daily 5 p.m. queuing for taxis and shuttle buses, the show's organizers wisely made available complimentary train passes. Exhibitors and attendees could enter the Metra system's newest station at McCormick on level three and use the two downtown stops at Randolph Street and Van Buren to avoid the mass of people waiting to leave the building on the lower level.
Both the train stop and the four-day pass good for an unlimited number of rides were welcome additions. At next year's event, scheduled for March 10-13, more visible promotion of the free train rides is to be encouraged.
The Society of the Plastics Industry Inc. might consider taking a page from National Manufacturing Week, and distribute train passes next June at the NPE show, where similarly sized crowds always make ground transportation one of the show's sore spots.
It also is not too early to recommend changes for the temporary food courts. The food quality can and should be improved.
But the bathrooms were fine, thank you.