The global chip shortage is hitting car companies very hard

… with Ford’s earnings projections reduced, as a result.

I have friends still in the auto parts supply industry. This is hurting them badly as well. They are begging Ford and GM for some of their chip allocations from the big suppliers like Siemens just to keep their plants running.

If they have to lay off employees, they know they won’t return.

I thought an autoworker job was good?

The jobs at my friend’s plant are non-union but pay well with good benefits. Autoworker jobs are hard work in un-heated and non-air-conditioned plants. Plus, you must show up on time every day and work a full day. Much harder than a sales clerk at the Gap.

With enhanced unemployment benefits, work is much, much harder than sitting at home watching Netflix, eating Grubhub in Yoga pants.

Prior to the pandemic, hiring was a nightmare. Finding workers who could pass a drug test was problem #1. That ruled out a majority. Workers that were hired would ghost the company. Not show up for work, not answer phone calls or emails. It was a never-ending process to keep the slots full.

Really? Is it the area of the country or type of job? We’ve had drug testing (and back ground checks) at my company for years. Every once in a while we get a failure on the drug test. And of the ones that fail…some are false positives (certain anti-histamines will show marijuana use). We still won’t hire if using marijuana due to Federal contracts. Although that may be changing with new recent policy changes at the Fed level. Hasn’t reached us yet.

I would say it is the type of employee attracted to the type of job. These are factory floor jobs that can be done by those without a high school diploma; some with felony convictions. Low-to no-skill jobs. Exactly the leg-up type of job that can grow to something better. Assembler to job-setter to foreman for one willing to learn.

They assemble parts, and operate machines, sometimes heavy machines, so clean drug tests are a must. I think marijuana testing may be waived these days if you have a medical MJ card - but that will keep you off the forklifts.

Failing the drug test has been a problem for decades. 50 apply, 40 fail, 5 drop out before training ends and 3 won’t last 2 weeks on the floor so 2 are left after a round of 50 applicants. This from a plant that hires from a midwestern city. The plant hiring from rural Indiana has a better track record on drug testing but it is still a problem.

Many years ago, my boss’s wife was a secretary at the GM assembly plant in Linden, NJ (now closed), and I was with him on several occasions when he picked her up from work. While it isn’t possible to definitively determine someone’s drug status by his appearance, there were a whole lot of really scroungy-looking guys exiting from that factory who… let’s just say… you wouldn’t want your daughter to be dating. Back in those days, there was no drug testing, otherwise a LOT of these guys would likely have never been employed.

My brother-in-law was plant manager at a Chryco Plant in Michigan. He’s fired (or had one of his managers fire) a guy on the assembly line who was drunk. Manufacturing plants can be dangerous places to work when you’re sober.

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I worked at an industrial plant in rural Western Maryland for a couple of years in the mid-1980s. They had tremendous turnover. Near then end of my stay, they installed a revolving door next to HR. We joked about employee turnover as the reason they put it in. I talked to a couple of the foremen, and they said that the workforce was stable once they passed the drug test, but most of the new employees failed. The employees were all from rural Pennsylvania and far Western Maryland. None of the hourly employees travelled less than than about 45 minutes to get to work. Not the usual urban crowd most often associated with drug use.

In UAW or IUE union-represented plants about 35 years ago, that used to mean a 3-day suspension for the 1st offense. A trip to rehab for the 2nd offense, a second trip to rehab for the 3rd offense, and a 3rd trip to rehab for the 4th offense and THEN you could fire them.

Unless, of course, they were re-hired as part of the reconciliation for a stack of grievances filed in the 6 months before contract negotiations… maybe with back-pay.

Yeah I’m sure. Thought the chip problem was being resolved though after our JIT discussion. At any rate things have changed over the last 30 years or so. The military is having the same problem filling their ranks. Add to drugs, criminal records and lack of physical fitness and there is a 60-70% rejection rate. Kids of kids of the 60’s or something.

We had those problems in the 1970s in the steel mill I worked in. The USW was so strong that they could keep anyone from losing their job. Foremen used to send a drunk to a quiet spot where he couldn’t hurt himself or others to sleep it off. They were tired of wasting their time going to hearing after hearing after hearing after hearing… to face questions from management, HR, and the union. Sober union workers were also frustrated, but they liked the unfailing loyalty of the shop steward more. I imagine that the UAW was the same.


Had a co worker, in the union, always claimed they protected the lazy and under performers until she got written up, then the union saved her job for her. And she was still hating unions.

My wife worked the line at a GM IUE plant and then a GM UAW plant when she was just 18. The older workers kept an eye out for her and told her what departments to avoid. My uncle worked in the UAW plant as a toolmaker. He let it be known not to hassle her. She was a good worker so the foremen would keep her out of some of the sketchier departments as well.

It was a tough job with layoffs always on the horizon for anyone with less than 5 years seniority.

After the first plant closing and layoff from the UAW plant, that was it.

This report is very helpful in terms of understanding both the origin and the long-term effects of the global chip shortage:

As with almost every thing that use to be manufactured in the US - US companies outsourced the technology to foreign companies for cheaper manufacturing. They took the ball and ran with it. Now we’re playing catch-up.


A sobering perspective on international manufacturing issues beyond technical challenges, too.

You have to make sure who your friends and enemies are, or will be, before giving away the store. Flat screens too and of course pharmaceutical supply chains need to be re-thought. During the Civil War, the south had to build their own black powder plant in Augusta since their supply sources dried up. Been going on for years I guess.


I don’t have a problem sharing production capabilities with the rest of the world. We can’t afford to make everything we need, and trading with others can make us interdependent enough that we can’t afford to hurt each other.

My immediate concern from the article is that TMSC is in Taiwan, and China wants to annex Taiwan as another state. TMSC would immediately be property of the state, and that is disconcerting. As the article said, TMSC is building plants outside Taiwan now (e.g., Arizona). That seems like a natural reaction to China’s increased naval actions and rhetoric. If TMSC operates in other places, they can shut down the Taiwan facility and move elsewhere. That is not an immediate concern since China has been after Taiwan for decades, but they need to add that issue into their strategic planning.

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That is a well-thought-out analysis of the situation, IMHO.