BSC Summit

Saturday, August 19, 2017

Apex Homes of PA, and Other Modular Home Factories, are bucking a trend.

While manufacturing jobs across the country have decreased over the years, building construction has increased. That has increased demand for the modular homes that Apex makes according to an article in the Sunbury Daily Item.

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Apex is one of the lucky businesses locally. Just two of the four Valley counties lost manufacturing companies between 2006 and 2016, but all four lost jobs, according to Lauren Riegel, a statistician supervisor with the Pennsylvania Department of Labor and Industry Center for Workforce Information and Analysis. Across Pennsylvania, more than 110,000 manufacturing jobs have been lost over the past 10 years.

"Our market is Maine to North Carolina," said Apex President Lynn Kuhns. "There's an increase in demand."

The Snyder County company added cabinet manufacturing several years ago in a separate facility in Mount Pleasant Mills, then later moved it to the factory complex along Route 522 in Middlecreek Township, near Kreamer.

"We've been doing that for a number years," Kuhns said. "We put up a showroom inspiration center."

The company employs about 120, and though a slowdown forced some labor cuts earlier in the year, "Now we're trying to fill production spots in order to meet increased demands," Kuhns said. "We'd like to bring on another 40 people."

But it's not like that in other manufacturing industries. Those jobs have been in decline across the nation.

There are exceptions in Pennsylvania, such as the homebuilder and food and beverage production, the latter receiving a boost from the explosion of wineries and craft beer breweries in Pennsylvania.

There are a number of reasons for the decline.

"In the past 10 years, the recession had the biggest impact," Riegel said. "Automation and outsourcing are having an impact. Generally, technological advances and automation have had a stronger impact than the outsourcing."

Jimmy Chen, a Bucknell University assistant professor of management, and Matt Rousu, interim dean of the Sigmund Weis School of Business at Susquehanna University and an economics professor for 13 years before that, agree that automation is playing a big role in reducing manufacturing jobs everywhere in the country.

"A more interesting question is even if we bring back manufacturing jobs, I would say many of them could be replaced by robots," Chen said. "If I can buy a robot instead of hiring six more people, the decision comes down to what makes more sense."

Kuhns said Apex has installed some automated equipment in its cabinet shop, but not at the expense of jobs.

"We could have eliminated some people, but we actually brought in more people to increase production," he said.

Again, that is an exception. Rousu said machines increasingly are doing the work people used to do. He said that's been true in the car manufacturing industry for a long time. It's also true beyond the United States' shores. He said automation is even eliminating jobs overseas.

"China has fewer manufacturing jobs than they had 10 years ago," he said. "Technology is improving."

He doesn't see it changing.

"The downward trend in manufacturing jobs has been going on for 100 years," Rousu said. "Two hundred years ago, most people farmed. The trend went from farming to manufacturing to the service industry."

Kuhns said every manufacturing industry faces the same challenge: "People don't want to get into the trades."

1 comment:

Mannymanbo said...

Great article! Apex is a well managed company!