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This is part three of a five-part blog series on the evolution of the textile industry over time.

The Industrial Revolution started in England in the 1700’s.  At this time, England was a colonial power, and used its colonies in the Americas and Asia to provide resources such as silk, tobacco, sugar, gold, and cotton, and provided its colonies with finished products such as textiles and metalware. As the population in Britain and its colonies increased, Britain had to find new ways to keep up with the demand for its products. The value for trade motivated Britain to produce more ships and goods, and Britain’s ports, population, and supply of water and coal made it the perfect place to industrialize.  At this time, Britain largely controlled international trade, and most global trade was conducted within Europe, but by the late 1790s 57 percent of British exports went to North America and the West Indies, and 32 percent of British imports were provided by these regions.

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The recent Takata airbag recall is the largest in United States history with over sixty million recalls. This recall affects numerous car companies, including Toyota, Tesla, BMW, Ford, and Honda, among others. Cars manufactured within the last fifteen years are at risk, therefore, approximately one in five cars on the road today are affected by the recall. With demand for new airbags skyrocketing and supply devastatingly low, drivers are left wondering what to do next.

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Warehouses are becoming increasingly more complex according to a report by Zebra Technologies, a company which sells bar code scanners and other technologies. These products allow companies to track and manage their business operations in an efficient manner. In its most simple terms, warehousing is the process of storing materials and filling orders from one end of the supply chain to the other.  In response to the growing needs of e-commerce, major changes in labor and technology will be occurring within these warehouses. According to the report, in 2015, it took 60.4 hours to train new staff to “full productivity”, up 26% from 2013. This figure just further demonstrates that companies are already adjusting their supply chains to meet demand for faster delivery by consumers.

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Over the past two decades, China's economic growth has averaged 9.5% and national income has been doubling every eight years. This significant growth can be attributed to China's timely shift from a largely agrarian society to industrial production. However, expansion cannot last forever. The amount of raw materials being produced in China is continuing to increase, but demand for these materials is decreasing. Decreasing demand has contributed to the initial slow-down following China's rapid expansion, but if production itself is not moderated, China's economy could suffer greater consequences.

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Ukraine’s economy has contracted ten of the last eleven quarters in an economic downturn that stretches back to 2012. In the first quarter of 2015 the economy contracted 18% compared to the same period last year, while Gross Domestic Product fell 7% in the same period. The underlying causes of this recession are both a downturn in the domestic market, as well as a struggle to sever its economic dependence on Russia and orient itself more towards the west, specifically the European Union.

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Last week, a panel from the World Trade Organization announced that China had broken international trade law by restricting its exports of rare earth metals and other metals critical to the global manufacturing industry. The panel discovered that the export taxes, quotas, and bureaucratic delays in Beijing artificially raised the prices of exports and created shortages for foreign buying nations. The panel also determined that these export quotas, which the Chinese argued were intended for environmental protection, were actually instituted to achieve industrial policy goals aimed at promoting the continued growth of the Chinese economy.

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The resurging automotive manufacturer, Ford Motor Company, has made a big splash on the international automotive and commodity industries with their revolutionary light-weight body design. Thanks to Ford securing a hefty amount of aluminum for their flagship product, automakers are scrambling to prepare their supply chains to handle the next big metal demand. This comes at a critical time when the international aluminum market is suffering. Though the metal is in healthy supply, stockpiles are entangled in financial transactions making it hard to get aluminum at all. 

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After last year’s scare in China with the manufacturing industry taking a step backwards with a year of contraction, it has rebounded and returned to positive growth for four straight months. However, February was China’s lowest month of positive growth since November after posting record growth in January. February’s growth was 50.4, while in January it was 52.3. On the scale, readings above 50 indicate expansion, while below 50 indicates contraction.

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As much of the Eurozone has struggled to make ends meet during the recession, Germany has embraced global importing and exporting through a variety of thriving industries.  The country’s 3.6% growth in GDP over the last year can be attributed to a variety of factors in a time when the rest of the Eurozone barely topped 1% growth.  During this same time period, exports from Germany jumped by 21.7% including a 17% increase in sales to China

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When most people think about rare earth mining, they think miners extract a chunk of lanthanum or cerium, send it to Apple, and they put it in their newest iGadget. However, few know that there are two different types of rare earths with wide ranging uses and prices. In addition, raw minerals must be processed using a complicated (and often dangerous) process to extract the individual elements.

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The United States has long been known as a global powerhouse when it comes to innovation – especially when it comes to manufacturing. These innovations may not necessarily be products (although some certainly were) but, rather, just tweaks to the manufacturing process that greatly improved efficiency (think of interchangeable parts or the assembly line, both developed by Americans). However, in today’s global economy, the United States is losing jobs in the industrial manufacturing sector, despite still being on the forefront of innovation. Many claim that this is simply because of the lower wages required in other countries, but is that the only reason why?

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When I think of Brazil, coffee, tropical fruits, and sugarcane come to mind. This is not only because I enjoy all three things, but also because Brazil leads the world in production of these goods.  Over the years, exporting these goods has been a key factor in generating growth for Brazil’s economy. Speaking of economic growth, President Luiz Inacio Lula da Silva, has been working towards poverty alleviation and economic growth for the past several years. In 2007, the Growth Acceleration Program (PAC), an infrastructure development program meant to improve the country’s energy supply, road, rail, and other infrastructure needs, was established.

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International expansion is certainly no small task for companies around the world.  Recently a success story of a Dome manufacturer highlights a few lessons that can be applied to any product or industry.  Domes International is a United States-based firm that manufactures round structures molded out of fiberglass.  They are used in a variety of applications including housing, offices, schools, military barracks, and warehouses.

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On December 3, 1984, the lives of 15,000 people in Bhopal, India, ended unexpectedly with a catastrophic chemical plant accident.  On March 24, 1989, an oil barge, the Exxon Valdez, ran aground and created one of the worlds largest ecological disasters.  Events like these are cemented into history because they have marked important turning points for enhanced levels of corporate social responsibility and their impact on the environment.  On this topic we’ll approach the subject from two different vantage points: