Ten years ago, in 2012, the Fabricators and Manufacturers’ Association (FMA) founded Manufacturing Day (MFG Day). MFG Day is a national movement to show the public (students, parents, and all others) just what modern manufacturing is all about, because as they say, “It’s not your father’s machine shop anymore”.  MFG Day is always the first Friday in October. This year we are celebrating all things manufacturing on October 7th, 2022. In addition to MFG Day, many states and manufacturing associations (including the International Trade Administration) consider the first week in October National Manufacturing Week or the entire month of October Manufacturing Month. But it doesn’t stop there for FlexTrades. We celebrate manufacturing all year long and hope you will too. Below are ways in which you can do so!  

  

  1. Open your manufacturing doors to the public. You can find tips and tricks to do here. 
  2. If you’re an employee, encourage your employer to open their doors!  
  3. Partake in trade shows as a visitor or manufacturer. Here’s a list of 2022/2023 tradeshows to get you started!  
  4. Visit or participate in a tour (or two) of manufacturing facilities. Find events to attend or ways to host an event at mfgday.com  
  5. Know the industrial revolutions to see how manufacturing has changed and why it’s so great!  
  6. Talk to the kids you know and tell them what it’s like, share your knowledge of manufacturing and discuss the vast opportunities within a manufacturing career. Show them some of these great How It’s Made videos so they get time on their electronics and they’re learning!   
  7. Share positive messages about manufacturing to your social media accounts. 
  8. Follow and reshare positive messages from manufacturers and those in manufacturing on your social media accounts.  
  9. Shop and buy American made products. 
  10. Donate or volunteer to the Nuts and Bolts Foundation (also known as Nuts, Bolts & Thingamajigs ® – NBT). NBT is on a mission to bridge the skills gap in manufacturing, keep American manufacturing alive and strong, and provide students the opportunity to learn how they can do great things by working in manufacturing.  
  11. Donate your time and knowledge by visiting technical or trade schools to spread awareness about manufacturing and opportunities in manufacturing. Bring brochures with you (here’s an example). 
  12. Encourage your coworkers or employees to share their own stories with each other.  
  13. Curate an Employee Appreciation Day – managers can genuinely thank their workforce, provide pizza for lunch, or organize a cookout, send thank you cards, give gift cards, sponsor a team outing, or film a video of thanks.  

 

And as you celebrate, keep in mind the words of Alan Mulally, an American aerospace engineer and manufacturing executive, former executive vice president of Boeing, CEO of Boeing Commercial Airplanes and former President and Chief Executive Office of the Ford Motor Company, Alan is well versed in manufacturing and once said:   

 

“No country is very successful in the long term…without a really strong and vibrant manufacturing base”.  

 

Happy MFG Day (or week or month)! 

On September 11th, 2001, the unthinkable happened when four airplanes were hijacked by militants associated with the extremist group al Qaeda. Of the four planes, two were flown into the twin towers of the World Trade Center in New York City.  Almost 3,000 people were killed during these terrorist attacks resulting in not only major US initiatives to fight terrorism but also paths of grief for all Americans. To recognize that grief and commemorate the victims of these 9/11 attacks, the U.S. Navy commissioned the USS New York (LPD-21), one of six Navy ships with New York in the name. This ship was different though. This ship, the USS New York (LPD-21) is a massive ship with 7.5 tons of steel recovered from the World Trade Center and Ground Zero. The steel is forged into its bow of the ship which is significant. It symbolizes the strength and resiliency of citizens as the ship sails forward, around the world. In fact, the motto of the USS New York (LPD-21) is “Strength forged through sacrifice. Never forget.”  

Although named after New York, the USS New York (LPD-21) was not constructed there. This mighty ship was constructed at the Northrop Grumman Ship Systems/Avondale Shipyard in Avondale, Louisiana.

Avondale Shipyard sold, now called Avondale Marine | WorkBoat 

The steel from Ground Zero was melted down at Amite Foundry and Machine in Amite, Louisiana. Not only was Amite Foundry and Machine close to the shipyard, they also had the capacity to do a job of this size. You could say the foundry specializes in jobs of this size. They’ve been known to turn down molding jobs for product weighing less than 1,000 pounds and are also known to make mold products that weigh as much 119,000 pounds. Depending upon the economy, Amite Foundry and Machine has a goal of producing 24 million pounds of metal per year. How did they make the bow stem? By melting a total of 24 tons of steel (7.5 tons of that being from Ground Zero) and molding it into the bow stem. With the bow being front and center of the ship, the steel from Ground Zero will lead the way everywhere it goes.  

With the bow completed, the rest of the ship was constructed. To construct a ship, the process starts with steel plates longer and wider than an average bus. These plates are cut into panels, bent on hydraulic presses to match the shape of the ship (or rolled to form the needed contour). Once formed, these panels are painted then welded together to form sub-assemblies of the ship. Once complete, the sub-assemblies are moved by large cranes and transport vehicles across the shipyard to the final build location of the ship. While all of this is occurring, the ship is also built out with internal mechanisms, equipment, cabling, etc. You can find a great video of this process (and really understand the sheer size of the process) here. Once the ship is close to being completed, it will be launched into the ocean where the final touches are added internally and it’s prepped to start sail.  

Final touches include:  

  • A New York City subway sign from the station beneath the World Trade Center  
  • A display case of hats and uniforms from first responders (including a firefighter’s helmet) 
  • A mural of the twin towers with the words Never Forget 
  • A banner with the many  names of the victims of 9/11 

A general timeline of the USS New York (LPD-21) is as follows:  

  1. August 2002: New York’s Governor (George e. Pataki) receive approval for his request that a United States surface warship bestow the name of New York to honor the victims of 9/11. 
  2. August 2003: Northrop Grumman Ship Systems is awarded the contract to build the USS New York (LPD-21). 
  3. September 2003: Amite Foundry and Machine melted steel down to form the bow stem of the ship.   
  4. March 2008: the USS New York (LPD-21) was christened in a ceremony at shipyard. 
  5. August 2009: the ship was delivered to the Navy. 
  6. October 2009: the ship set sail for Norfolk, Virginia.  
  7. November 2009: the ship passed the World Trade Center site for the first time. 
  8. November 2009: a commissioning ceremony took place in New York City.
     

From the very beginning to the very end, it took 7 years to build out this magnificent ship. There were many hands involved in the process including those who poured the metal at an unheard-of foundry in Louisiana to every welder who brought the plates together down to the last crew member to board the ship. This 9/11, let’s remember those who made this memorial ship possible in addition to the first. 

 

This week Americans celebrated the 246th birthday of our country. We wanted to pile on by celebrating the 10 greatest inventions our nation has contributed to the world in that time. Some are big and some are small, but life changed for us all after these 10 ideas (in no particular order) hit the mainstream! 

  1. Bread Slicing Machine 
    1. America may not have invented sliced bread but the bread slicing machine was invented by an Iowan. Otto Frederick Rodwedder was a jeweler by trade but an inventor at heart. It took him more than a decade to perfect his invention, but it eventually went into commercial use in 1928 and quickly took the world by storm. Today, the merits of all subsequent inventions are compared against it as we continue to look for “the best thing since sliced bread.” 
  2.  The Internet
    1. The IT Crowd the Internet JenIn 1969, researchers working for the U.S. Advanced Research Projects Agency sent the first host-to-host message between laboratories at UCLA and Stanford. This marked the birth of the internet as we know it, but it still took decades for it to become commonplace. Once it did though, it took off in a big way! Today more than half of Earth’s total population is online, and the Internet contributes TRILLIONS of dollars to the global economy. 
  3.  Global Positioning System (GPS) 
    1. In 1973 the United States Department of Defense approved a project to synthesize the best aspects of various satellite navigation programs already in existence. The result of this effort was the Global Positioning System as we know it today. GPS may not have changed the world when it reached fully operational status in 1993 but it has continued to change the way we navigate it via land, sea, and air ever since! 
  4. Post-It Notes 
    1. Romy and Michelle Post-it notes3M chemist, Spencer Silver, stumbled upon a revolutionary type of adhesive during research that could stick and re-stick without leaving residue behind. But he didn’t know what to do with it until inspiration struck his colleague, Art Fry, while struggling through a choir practice with bookmarks that wouldn’t “stick”. By 1974 the Post-It Note hit the market. Offices, calendars, and refrigerator doors have never been the same. 
  5.  The Telephone 
    1. Alexander Graham Bell was born in Scotland, and many scientists worked to develop technology for transmitting sound. But it was Bell, already living and working in Massachusetts at the time, who was first awarded a patent for the electric telephone on March 7, 1876. It was also Bell who first made his device produce intelligible speech when he called his assistant, Thomas Watson, three days later on March 10 to complete the first ever phone call. “Mr. Watson – come here – I want you.”, were the words that brought Watson from the next room and made the world a little smaller for the rest of history. 
  6.  The Airplane 
    1. Wilbur and Orville Wright were bicycle mechanics who became intrigued by the concept of aeronautics in 1899. Despite struggles and setbacks their experiments led to the first successful flight of a powered aircraft in Kitty Hawk, North Carolina on December 17, 1903. The basic design elements of the 1903 Wright Flyer have been incorporated in ALL successful aircraft since produced.  
  7. The Light Bulb  
    1. Few things are more disputed than the credit Thomas Edison receives for inventing the light bulb. While it’s true that many inventors were essential to developing the technology, Edison’s contributions are generally seen as primary. This consideration is due mainly to the fact that he created a fully functioning system, rather than just components, as well as the first commercially successful carbon filament bulb in 1879. This invention didn’t just light up the night, it actually changed sleep patterns for most of humankind! 
  8.  Interchangeable Parts 
    1. Henry Ford gets more credit for creating the moving assembly line, but it was Eli Whitney’s practical application of the concept of interchangeable parts that made “Fordism” possible. While others went on to perfect the concept, Whitney did it on a large scale first when he accepted (and eventually delivered on) a contract with the U.S. Congress for 10,000 muskets in the early 1800s. This changed the world, effectively eradicating the skilled artisan class, AND how the world makes things. 
  9. Plastic 
    1. Early plastics were invented in Europe but it was an American, Charles Goodyear, who invented the vulcanization process that made commercial plastics truly possible. After receiving a patent for his process in 1844, Goodyear went on to spend most of the rest of his life (and fortune) fighting patent infringement cases in various courts. Commercial plastics, on the other hand, went on to change or affect every industry we now know today. 
  10.  Moving Pictures 
    1. The Kinetograph, an early motion picture camera, was first introduced by William Dickson in 1890. Dickson was the British assistant of Thomas Edison but he developed the Kinetograph with Edison in New York City. In 1892, he announced the Kinetoscope (the first movie projector) and two years after that Edison started public film screenings in his new “Kinetograph Parlors”. This began America’s reign as the Motion Picture Capital of the World and forever changed how the world tells and consumes stories. 

This history of Memorial Day is long but not complicated and dates back to the Civil War. The Civil War ended on April 5th, 1865, but the suffering and the pain of loss didn’t end, even in 1868. The Civil War left the US with a high number of casualty rates for soldiers not provided personal identification which left family members without any idea of what happened to their loved ones. As a result, former U.S. Army Major General John A. Logan (also an Illinois congressional representative and the commander-in-chief for the GAR – Grand Army of the Republic – the nation’s largest organization of Union veterans) designated May 30th as a day of national remembrance and called it “Decoration Day”.  

Shortly after, in 1873, construction of an amphitheater was completed near the Arlington House with its intended use for Decoration Day remembrance and commemoration. This amphitheater drew in large crowds every year resulting in a 1903 proposal by Judge Ivory Kimball (also a civil war veteran) to expand the amphitheater. The expansion was approved in 1913 with construction beginning in 1915. In 1920, the Memorial Amphitheater was formally dedicated and opened to the public. Over the years changes have been made to the amphitheater and Decoration Day has become better known as Memorial Day but the purpose is still the same, a space given to share in the reflection of the lives given by Americans at wartime and to grieve for those who gave the ultimate sacrifice.  

Located in the Memorial Amphitheater is the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier, also known as the Tomb of the Unknowns. The tomb is located atop a hill and is nearly perfectly geographically centered in the Arlington National Cemetery. This majestic marble tomb dates back to December of 1920, when New York Congressman and World War I veteran Hamilton Fish Jr. proposed legislation that would provide a place of rest for one Unknown American Soldier from World War I, in the plaza at Arlington National Cemetery.  This idea was likely based off France and Great Britain’s Armistice Day (November 11, 1921) in which one unknown warrior was buried at the Arc de Triomphe and another inside Westminster Abbey. Congress moved forward with the legislation and an Unknown Soldier was buried in memorial, in the plaza, on November 11, 1921.  

That wasn’t enough though, it was always meant that the memorial be larger than it already was. As a result, the United States congress held a design competition. This competition delivered 73 total applicants with the wining designers being Architect Lorimer Rich and Sculptor Thomas Hudson Jones.  

Lorimer Rich’s design was approved and shortly thereafter, the search for marble began. It was a long process to find the perfect marble but when found, it came from the Colorado Yule Marble Quarry and the Vermont Marble company quarried it with the help of 75 men. Fun fact: this quarry is the same quarry that provided the marble for the Lincoln Memorial and due to metamorphic factors geographically in the area, this quarry created some of the best marble in the country. 

To pull this block of marble from a quarry 10,000 feet above sea level would be complicated today, let alone in 1931. The pure white marble block when pulled from the mountain weighted 124tons and was cut down with a wire saw to a weight of 56 tons.  

Once quarried, the marble was sent to the marble mill in the town of Marble, Colorado which although only 2.8 miles away took an entirety of 4 days to complete. The marble mill crated the block and then shipped it to Procter, Vermont. Upon arrival in Vermont, the architect, sculptor, a representative from the Quartermaster General’s Department, and a contractor inspected the piece and approved that work could begin. 

The tomb was partially sculpted in Procter, Virginia by Thomas Hudson Jones. From Procter, it was shipped by rail to the Arlington National Cemetery for final sculpting. In all, it was a total of seven months to move the marble from the quarry and land it in its final resting place. The last of the sculpting was completed onsite by the Piccirilli Brothers under the direction of Thomas Jones. Fun fact: the Piccirilli brothers also carved the Abraham Lincoln statue as well as the lions you see outside of the New York Public Library.

The Tomb of the Unknown Soldier early in the morning at Arlington National Cemetery, Arlington, Virginia, August 7, 2018. (U.S. Army photo by Elizabeth Fraser / Arlington National Cemetery / released)

About The Tomb

  • A formal ceremony was held on April 9, 1932, to commemorate the finished tomb.  
  • The tomb honors and remembers those who died at war without any witnesses beared. 
  • The tomb has four levels (cap, die, base, and sub-base) with the die being the largest block of marble and in which you can see the design. It is 11’ high, 8’ wide at the base, 6’8” wide at the top, with a total length of 13’11” at the base and 12’7” at the top.  
  • The North and South panels are sculpted with inverted wreaths. These wreathes represent a “World of Memories”. Each wreath has 38 leaves and 12 berries.  
  • The West Panel is inscribed with “HERE RESTS IN HONORED GLORY AN AMERICAN SOLDIER KNOWN ONLY TO GOD”.   
  • The East Panel has three Greek figures sculpted which represent Peace, Victory, and Valor. 
    • The female figure of Peace is holding a dove to symbolize peace and friendship. 
    • The center figure is that of Victory, who is extending an olive branch towards the male figure while holding the hand of Peace.  
    • The male figure on the right is holding a broken sword and represents Valor. 
  • The budget for the tomb was approved at $50,000 but in the end, it was completed for $48,000. That’s approximately $860,000 in today’s money. 
  • It was Mr. Jones who sculpted the wreaths and the Greek figures while the Piccirilli brothers completed all other sculpting tasks.  
  • The memorial is placed in such a place that a visitor’s first view is from 20’ below, which is considered to be the most impressive angle. 
  • Every president since 1921 has stood in this spot to commemorate Memorial Day.  
  • There has been a total of four unknown soldiers buried at the tomb, all from different wars. World War I, World War II, The Korean War and the Vietnam War.  
    • The last soldier buried at the tomb (from the Vietnam War) was disinterred from the tomb in 1998 and his identity was determined with help of a DNA test. Where this soldier used to be, there is now a crypt cover inscribed with “Honoring and Keeping Faith with America’s Missing Serviceman 1958-1975”.  
  • Over 250,000 US flags adorn the Arlington National Cemetery on Memorial Day, with one small flag at each headstone and along the bottom row. This takes 4 hours to accomplish. 
  • Since April 6, 1948, the tomb has been guarded by the 3rd U.S. Infantry Regiment (The Old Guard) for 24 hours a day, 365 days per year, with absolutely no exceptions. These military members are called The Sentinels of the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier and undergo extensive interviews, trainings, and tests.  
    • This regiment is called The Old Guard because it is the oldest active-duty infantry unit in the Army, serving the nation since 1784. 
    • All Sentinels must be in “ superb physical condition” and be within a certain heights  
      • Men: 5’10” – 6’4”  
      • Women: 5’8” and 6’2” 

May is the month of flowers, endless blooms in a multitude of colors delivering on all the promises made by April’s showers during grayer days. With that in mind, it’s hard not to appreciate a beautiful blossom this time of year. Many places around the world, think Holland and tulips, are famous for their flowers. But here in Minnesota a different kind of flour put us on the world map. We’d like to celebrate this May by taking a deeper look at the history of flour milling – worldwide and in the home state of PMG. 

First Seeds 

Archeologists can date the first tools used by man as far back as 250,000 years ago but those tools were primarily weapons used for hunting and protection. History didn’t see humans turn their tool-crafting talents towards agriculture until relatively recently, 10 to 15 thousand years ago. This transition in tooling, and the many conveniences of grain compared to “fresher” fare, led to commerce and that led to the first form of city living as we know it today. 

Many advances in tool technology focused on planting, reaping, and threshing crops. But the ability to mill, and continued improvement of this ability, is what really unlocked the power of grain – by making it easier to swallow.  

The point of milling has always been the separation of the outer parts (bran and germ) from the more digestible inner parts (endosperm) of the wheat berry. This happens through grinding between hard surfaces. The earliest examples were simply two stones that ground kernels into flour between them. Even the oldest villages excavated show, through dental records, that people dating back to 6,700 BC already knew to use stones to mill wheat. 

Early Advances in Milling 

Early Egyptians used saddle stones to grind flour. Later millers added levers to their millstones to create greater power which allowed them to grind greater quantities of wheat. The Greeks created the “hourglass mill” by extending the top stone to make a hopper to hold extra grain. Fabric or mesh was used to sift, in combination with grinding, to produce white flour. Milling has operated essentially unchanged in principle for thousands of years since, other than being continuously modified to harness ever-increasing power (men, animals, wind, and water) to turn the stones. It’s believed that the Romans were the first to use waterpower for milling around 100 B.C. Ancient Turkish water mill for grinding, flour grinding device, Rize, Turkey

By the 19th century industrial development made possible the invention of machines, like reapers and threshers, that greatly increased production of grains like wheat. This industrial revolution was also reflected in the design and construction of mills themselves. Shafts, belts, and gears helped carry more power farther from sources than ever before, allowing greater amounts of flour to be milled faster than ever. Next, stones were replaced by rollers in many mills. An American millwright named Oliver Evans then introduced screw conveyors to move grain and flour horizontally and bucket elevators for vertical movement. He assembled these machines, together with sifters or bolters, into the first continuous system in which wheat was milled into flour as a single uninterrupted operation. Equipment to clean the wheat to produce purer flour were also added and, with it, American milling was set to boom again. 

Mid-Century Milling 

The advances brought about by such industrial techniques, coupled with improvements in barge and rail transportation, as well as the westward expansion of wheat lands, forced milling centers to shift west as well. The center of milling is represented by the place that produces the largest output of flour. Continuous change in the cost of transportation for product and power for milling meant that the center of milling moved often to wherever wheat was most readily available, and shipment of finished flour was most economical. Following this equation, the center of milling migrated west from New York, Philadelphia, Baltimore, and St. Louis before eventually landing in Minneapolis in the late 19th Century. 

This shifting prominence occurred at the same time a “New Process” was becoming standard in milling. This process used a harder wheat from Canada, slower milling speeds, and wider spacing of mill stones. These advancements, coupled together, created a finer quality flour that could be produced much more efficiently. By 1870, the average mill employed fewer than three people and could achieve extraction rates of 72% flour compared to 28% millfeed. This dramatic improvement in process made milling not only one of the oldest industries in history but also the first to be fully automated! 

What really made the “New Process” of milling able to exceed the quality standards of the best European flours though was the invention of a Minnesota man. In 1865, Edmund La Croix constructed his first middlings purifier which greatly improved the typical yields of “highest grade” flour. This allowed for the continuous improvement of the flour stream all the way through the mill to final product and set the stage for advancements throughout the second half of the 1800s. This made possible the modern mill as we know it today. 

Minneapolis Millers 

The many technological advancements in mill technology, partnered with a convenient location relative to America’s heartland and its emerging position as a rail hub, allowed Minneapolis to surpass St. Louis as the nation’s center of milling by 1880. That year the city produced 2 million barrels of flour. By 1910, production had risen to 15.4 million barrels and Minneapolis had ascended to “Flour-Milling Capital of the World.”Minneapolis, MN - June 2, 2019: Mill Ruins Park in the St. Anthony Falls Historic District in downtown Minneapolis

World War I caused a spike in demand that peaked in 1916 when Minneapolis mills produced 18.5 million barrels – representing more than 20% of America’s total flour output. 90% of daily milling capacity was controlled by just three firms. They were the Washburn-Crosby Company (eight mills and 37,300 barrels), the Pillsbury Company (six mills and 29,300 barrels), and the Northwestern Consolidated Milling Company (six mills and 15,960 barrels). Pillsbury’s “A” Mill – the world’s largest – boasted a daily capacity of 12,000 barrels! 

This capacity for quality and quantity led to Minneapolis being known as the “Mill City”, a boom in state industrial wealth, and the rise of several large companies that still dominate the industry today. Washburn-Crosby was best known for it’s Gold Medal Flour brand, a name that is still eponymous to Minnesotans. By 1921, Washburn-Crosby introduced the Betty Crocker brand and, in 1928, they combined with 28 other mills to form General Mills. In 2001, General Mills acquired Pillsbury and finally united Minnesota’s two largest and best-known flour producers. 

Today’s Breadwinners 

The original Washburn Mill was destroyed in an explosion in 1878. You can still see the ruins of that mill, and the famous Gold Medal Flour sign on the “new” mill (built in 1880) if you visit Minneapolis today. But the Mill City is no longer tops in flour production. China, India, and Russia all produce more wheat annually than the United States. America is also beat when it comes to milled flour exports, finishing in fourth behind Turkey, Kazakhstan, and Germany. 

If this blog gave you something to chew on, and you’d like to learn more about how things are made, check out our article about how fireworks are made. Or you can watch this great video showing the process of modern flour production. And remember, the next time you cook up a question, we’re always happy to answer those too! Just send them to our writing team and we’ll try our best to answer them in a future blog.

April is the month of showers, they bring May flowers. We all know that, but how much thought do you give to the showers that keep us smelling flowery all year round? Approximately 2 out of 3 Americans shower daily but that wasn’t always the case. 

While early peoples cleansed themselves in streams, pools, waterfalls, or even rain as necessary (and when available) fledgling societies continued to improve upon nature. The ancient Egyptians invented ceramic jugs to create the “portable” effect of a waterfall. The Greeks contributed piping systems and the Romans spread the concept of cleanliness (and its importance) throughout their empire. 

However, with the collapse of the Roman’s empire came the Dark Ages and the rise of Christianity across most of medieval Europe. Contrary to popular belief, interest in sanitation didn’t wane but access to public bathhouses did and the sophisticated water systems of the Romans were lost. 

This stalled the advancement of shower technology for several centuries, but it didn’t halt completely. By the 18th century interest in personal hygiene had rebounded and a stove maker from London decided to capitalize. William Feetham did this by patenting the first shower (at least as we’d recognize it today) in 1767. 

Historical Moments for Showers  

This first shower pumped water to a basin above the user’s head but was still limited to cold water (and reusing the same dirty liquid during each session). By 1810 heated water had been added and reliable plumbing was “rediscovered” by 1850 to eliminate the need to reuse fluid. 

For the next century, showers would grow in popularity through the US and England, but they still wouldn’t overtake the popularity of the more common tub until the 1980s. It was during this decade that the variety of options for shower heads, lights, and body jets began to explode. The choices for customization continue to multiply to this day, as does the popularity in showering. History of showers infographic

Showers Today 

Today, the global market for bath and shower products is worth almost $50 billion annually. This growing market hasn’t just benefited from the change in personal attitudes worldwide towards personal hygiene either. The increased importance many individuals place on environmental responsibility has led to advancements in efficiency as well. A 10-minute shower today, with modern equipment, can require almost four times less water than taking a bath. 

If you’re interested in learning more, you can check out our article on the history of foundries. Or you can watch this great video showing the mass production of showerheads and hoses to see how far we’ve come from ceramic jugs. And remember, the next time you have a question in the shower, we’re always happy to answer those too! Just send them to our writing team and we’ll try our best to answer them in a future blog. 

PMG works with manufacturers of all types in a wide variety of industries, including food manufacturers. Our clients make anything from breakfast foods to dessert, dry, refrigerated, or frozen. Today, we can walk into a grocery store (or if you prefer, order grocery pick up or grocery delivery) for virtually anything we want. Of course, it wasn’t always that way. Those refrigerated goods and frozen items you see used to be kept cold by being stored in holes in the ground, in ice houses stocked with ice collected from frozen lakes or stored in underground cellars. However, foods froze slowly in these contraptions causing ice crystals to form which melted when food defrosted, causing watery foods, and negatively affecting texture and flavor. Today, we have the convenience of the refrigerator and freezer to keep our food cold. The question remains, how did we overcome the watery, poor texture, low flavor frozen foods? That’s all thanks to Clarence Birdseye.Clarence Birdseye the father of Frozen Foods

The Father of Frozen Foods

Clarence Birdseye worked as a fur trader in Canada. During his time in Canada, he realized that the fish he caught (and those were caught by local Inuit as well), froze almost immediately once they were pulled out of the water. And, after storing the fish in its frozen state for months then thawing the fish to eat, Clarence discovered the fish were just as delicious as they would have been fresh. As a result, Clarence theorized that freezing food quickly (or flash freezing), rather than slow freezing, was the trick to retaining food taste and texture in the freezing technique. Here began Clarence’s mission to test his theory, which he was able to prove true in two ways.  

The first method Clarence developed for quick freezing food used a calcium chloride solution. In this method, food was first packaged and then held between two metal belts that were cooled by the calcium chloride solution to a temperature between -40°F and -45°F.  

With this discovery, Clarence took it a step further. He invented an entire system to package vegetables, fish, and meat into waxed-cardboard cartons which were then flash frozen. He even started his own frozen-fish company in New York City, called Birdseye Seafood. Clarence used his first method to freeze and package fish and obtained a patent for the method. To freeze his fish, Clarence placed fish filets into containers which were then submerged into a refrigerating tank containing the calcium chloride brine. This created a block of ice containing frozen filets. Once removed from the tank and the container, the fish was then wrapped in wax paper and stored in an insulated shipping container. Fun fact: Clarence also patented his insulated shipping container (a refrigerated boxcar) and used that technology to develop display cases for frozen goods (like those you see in the grocery store). Clarency declaring bankruptcy

Unfortunately, Birdseye Seafood went bankrupt. Fortunately, Clarence was undaunted. With capital brought in from Wall Street investors as well as the sale of his (and his wife’s) life insurance policies, Clarence started over, with a new company in Gloucester, Massachusetts, this time with the name General Seafood Corporation. It’s here that Clarence flash froze fish filets with a new method. This second method became a commercially viable option for not only General Seafood Corporation but also other food manufacturing companies worldwide. 

The Comeback

The second method Clarence developed used ammonia instead of the calcium chloride solution. In this method, Clarence placed the packaged food between two metal (and hollow) plates that were chilled to temperatures between -25°F – 40°F through ammonia evaporation. In this method, fruits and vegetables froze to 0°F in about 30 minutes while a package of meat froze to the same temperature in 75-90 minutes.  

In 1929, Clarence sold this business (General Seafood Company) as well as his fast-freezing method to Postum Co. What was the total sale amount? $22 million, with $20 million of it going toward the patents alone. Today, that sale would be worth over $358 million. As a result of the purchase, Postum Cereal Company changed its name to General Foods Corporation and appointed Clarence the president of their new division, the Birds Eye Frosted Foods division. With this new role, Clarence and General Foods Corp. started new lines of “frosted foods” to include spinach, cherries, meat, and frozen peas. Today, Birds Eye foods has a wide range of products including plain frozen vegetables, vegetables that are seasoned and sauced, vegetable-based foods (like cauliflower wings) as well as full skillet meals.  Frozen vegetables on a colored background top view

And to think, this all started by one man, born in Brooklyn, NY in 1886 who started his first business at just 10 years’ old by shipping 12 muskrats that he had trapped on Long Island to an English lord seeking wild game for his estate., making $9 dollars. Over the years, Clarence would use his entrepreneurial spirit in a variety of ways, including paying tuition at Amherst College (as a biology major) by selling collected frogs to the Bronx Zoo for snake food or trapping and providing rats to a genetics professor for studying. When this didn’t work out, Clarence decided he would try the fur trading business. It seemed like a good venture considering his deep interest in plants and animals. So, off he went to Labrador, Newfoundland to trap, buy, and sell fur pelt. Later, he would find himself working as a naturalist for the US government, with a post in the Arctic. It’s here, where Clarence Birdseye (1886-1956) developed his theory for fast freezing fish, which took him to places he’d never imagined and doing some pretty remarkable things. With all these accomplishments still, Clarence didn’t boast or brag. He’s quoted to say: “I do not consider myself a remarkable person. I am just a guy with a very large bump of curiosity and a gambling instinct.” 

Looking for more information about food manufacturing and processing? Check out PMG’s blog for my How It’s Made articles about mystery flavored suckers, cheese, plant-based burgers, and even Spam. 

The process of melting metal, pouring it into a mold, and casting it into a specific shape (metal casting) is centuries old. In fact, scientists and archeologists have found relics all over the world. The oldest relic dates back to anywhere from 300 BC to 645 BC (2300 – 2600 years old), depending upon whom you ask. A large majority of relics are found in Mesopotamia. It’s in this area that clay castings and hot fire pits were used to shape copper, gold, and silver. The first alloy (bronze) was made here, when copper was combined with tin.  

Over the years, metal casting has changed due to a wide variety of reasons. The two largest factors include increased mining abilities and less nomadic lifestyles.  

Historical Moments for Foundries 

19th Century: During this time, developments include the open-hearth furnace, sandblasting for casting cleaning, and gear-tilted ladles. This greatly improved the safety of foundry workers. 

It was this during time that foundries really helped the US economy become industrialized, as well, with metal casters and foundries at the forefront for railroad tracks and iron-clad warships, as well as the first Naval submarine in 1881! 

Timeline of Historical Moments for Foundries

20th Century: This century brought the invention of the first coreless electric induction furnace in addition to new molding and casting processes, new metal composites and compounds including low carbon stainless steel.  

Additionally, metal casting was key to US manufacturing. It was introduced to a wide variety of industries including air conditioning, modern defense-related products, and even space exploration. Foundries sprang up everywhere in North America during the 20th century.  

Fun fact: the first American Foundry Society (AFS) meeting was held in 1896, but the first student chapter didn’t come until 1907, and was started in Minnesota. This was the same year that a patent was issued for high-pressure die casting machinery. 

Foundries Now  

Today, metal castings are a $33 billion dollar industry in the United States. There are nearly 1,900 foundries in the US with close to 200,000 employees. It’s the source of many things we use on a daily basis. Some say castings are found in 90% of durable manufactured goods, and yet they often take the background for popularity. However, castings hold a major role in so many things including clean water technologies, farm equipment, energy systems and components, and so much more. Foundries aren’t like they used to be, either. If you step into a foundry now, you’ll see many new adaptations and technology to make them not only safer but also efficient. These technologies include CAD design, casting analyses, 3D printing, and robots. It’s very expansive and very important.  

If you’re interested in hearing more, you can check out our article on how steel is made in addition to this great factory tour of the St. Paul Factory here in Minnesota. You’ll not only see molten metal, but you’ll see some of the up-to-date technology used to make castings. After that, take a moment to look around you. You’ll find castings everywhere!

The History of Contract Work

For most, going to work means you’re an employee of a company, receive a salaried or hourly pay every week (or every other week), work specific hours, and (sometimes) receive benefits like health and dental insurance and a 401k or pension. As traditional as that seems, it might be surprising to know that independent contracting (and contract work) has actually been around for quite some time, too. In fact, independent contracting predates the 20th century. Now, as we enter the 22nd year of the 21st century, independent contracting is often interchangeable with the word freelancing. What does that mean, though?

Contractors and Freelancers

Independent contractors and freelancers are those who work without the restrictions of classic employment. While freelancing is often used interchangeably with contract work, there are differences.

Independent contractors can work at a client site (or offsite) and operate as a business, hiring employees and/or subcontracting out parts of the work, when needed. Independent contractors determine their own rates and usually work with their customer to determine a schedule or timeline.

Freelance workers are self-employed, like contractors, and typically operate as a single source. Like independent contractors, freelancers will determine their going rates. And, although these professionals can bring on help, when needed, they typically work alone and also determine their own schedule.

In all cases, freelancers and independent contractors typically sacrifice security and benefits for the freedoms that come with the title.

The History of Contract Work

So, what’s the history of independent contracting? Well, simply put, there have always been people willing to take on work for others without being employed by a business or company. Consider the classic farmhand. This person was not employed by a company but rather, made an agreement with the farmer to work on the farm, perform certain tasks, sleep (or not sleep) at the farm, and work for a certain price. This same concept can be seen throughout history in which someone contracted out their services for a specific project, intent, or timeline, but without being employed and without the benefits of long-term employment. This was often done out of necessity, simply due to a lack of long-term employment opportunities or employers.

Considering how far back independent contracting goes, it’s interesting to know that it was the independent contractor classification that shaped current labor laws. The history books say the National Labor Relations Act (NLRA) and the Fair Labor Standards Act (FLSA) were created due to poor working conditions for employees and a lack of fair wages. However, it was also the “shake of a hand” type employment for independent contractors and the ambiguous rules around contracting that greatly affected these acts (even though independent contractors were not protected by the act). Then, in 1947, the Taft-Hartley Act was written. This act attempted to clear up confusion surrounding the definition of “employee” in the NLRA but unfortunately, it did not. Therefore, the definition of independent contractor varies greatly from state to state, even now.

The Future of Contract Work

Which brings us to 2021. We’ve got independent contractors and freelancers, and we also have gig workers. There are benefits to these types of employment for both an individual and a business. It provides flexibility and independence for the individual as well as minimal training and overhead costs for the company.

Is this the new type of worker? We’re guessing so and we’ll likely see more employment laws in place to accommodate these workers like the California 1099 Self-Organizing Act.

With all that said, there’s a long way to go for independent contractors, freelancers, and gig workers. While the US works to pave that path, PMG found the middle ground. Our PMG Technicians enjoy the lifestyle of contract work with the protection of classic employment. Likewise, our clients enjoy the increase in production without the costs associated with hiring and training.

If you’re interested in hearing more, apply here to join a talented team of technicians or contact us to join our long list of satisfied customers.

Kim Mooney

Kim Mooney

Technical Manager & Coach