Editor’s note: Welcome to So That Happened, our editors’ takes on things going on in the manufacturing world that deserve some extra attention. This will appear regularly in the Member’s Only section of the site.
What I Really Meant Was…
The deal must have fallen into place very quickly…
It wasn’t long ago—Jan. 27 to be precise—that Textron Inc. Chairman, President and CEO Scott Donnelly was taking a pot shot at rival Boeing Co.’s $450 million investment in electric vertical take-off and landing aircraft maker Wisk Aero: “We’re in a better position than anyone to go execute on these market opportunities,” Donnelly told analysts. “So, I don’t need to announce half-a-billion-dollar investment.”
Which is why we thought it mildly curious when Textron announced March 17 that it will pay $242 million for Pipistrel, a 33-year-old light aircraft maker based in Slovenia and Italy that has its roots in powered hang gliders and has delivered 2,500 planes since its launch. Donnelly’s team also said it will form a specific business unit dedicated to sustainable aircraft and will invest in future Pipistrel development and production work.
Yes, it’s not an apples-to-apples comparison, both because only part of Pipistrel’s work is in the eVTOL space and because Boeing is a co-investor in Wisk Aero with Kitty Hawk Corp. and not its outright owner. But Donnelly’s anti-Boeing bravado rings a little hollow to us now.
—Geert De Lombaerde
Let’s Give Them a Star, an Energy Star
The EPA is passing out stars for companies that were certified in their Energy Star program. To claim a star a company must score a 75, which means they are at least 75% more energy efficient that similar facilities across the country.
This year’s winners, 93 of them, avoided nearly 90 trillion BTUs of energy consumption.
Winners include Merck, GM, Nissan, Raytheon, Colgate, Panasonic, Boeing, Bristol Myers, Cannon, Schneider Electric, Colgate-Palmolive and Lockheed Martin.
A special designation, the ENERGY STAR Corporate Commitment Award, was given to Samsung Electronics. The EPA noted that this is a rare award, but the company showed outstanding leadership in product efficiency and energy management.
“ENERGY STAR award-winning partners are showing the world that delivering real climate solutions makes good business sense and promotes job growth,” said EPA Administrator Michael S. Regan, in a statement. “Many of them have been doing it for years, inspiring all of us who are committed to tackling the climate crisis and leading the way to a clean energy economy.”
Putting a Number on It
Russia’s invasion of Ukraine came just a few weeks after the world’s largest automakers reported their fourth-quarter results and after leaders expressed hope that the industry’s access to semiconductors would improve nicely in the second half of this year to help them feed customer demand.
So much for that, it appears: Analysts at S&P Global Mobility last week said the war in Ukraine and the repercussions from the sanctions it has engendered have the potential to hamper the production of semis around the world. Taking into account that and other persistent supply chain and labor issues, the S&P Global Mobility team has lowered its North America light vehicle production forecasts by 480,000 units this year and another 549,000 units in 2023. The analysts’ new 2022 forecasts also have lopped 1.7 million units off their previous outlook for Europe and are down 2.6 million units globally.
Don’t be surprised if those numbers are trimmed further: “The downside risk is enormous,” said Mark Fulthorpe, executive director for global production forecasting. “Our worst-case contingency shows possible reductions up to 4 million units for this and next year.”
—Geert De Lombaerde
Bed, Bath and Silicone Sealants
Hold on to your bath beads—Sarah Nash, the CEO of Novogard Solutions recently profiled in IndustryWeek, is taking on a second CEO role. Starting in May, she’ll be the interim CEO of global retailer Bath & Body Works, a company very familiar to her as she has served as board chairman since 2019, when it was called L Brands.
Parent company of the Limited, Victoria’s Secret and several other retailers that singlehandedly prolonged the era of the shopping mall, L Brands was founded and led by embattled magnate Les Wexner. Wexner stepped down in 2020, after his close friendship with convicted sex offender/billionaire Jeffrey Epstein invited scrutiny. During that scrutiny, Nash was a steadying presence, leading the spinoff of Victoria’s Secret to an independent public company in 2021 and the L Brands name change to Bath & Body Works.
Nash, a former vice chair of investment banking at JP Morgan, has been multitasking between Novogard, Bath & Body Works and several other boards for some time now “We had a lot of challenges,” she said of L Brands in an interview with IndustryWeek last November. “My night job was that job or any time of the day they needed me. And then my day job is [CEO of Novogard], which also is a night job. So for 18 months, I was deeply embroiled in both.” Sounds like the kind of schedule that calls for plenty of stress-relieving candles and lavender soaking suds.
A Soy Latte and a 26kWh of Electricity, Please
In a sign that the companies must recognize that a Venn Diagram of expensive coffee aficionados and electric vehicle owners shows a circle, Volvo’s Car USA and Starbucks are piloting the strategic installation of EV charging stations at coffee shops in the West.
Volvo plans to install as many as 60 branded ChargePoint DC fast chargers at as many as 15 Starbucks. The charging path would follow a route from 1,350 miles from Denver to Starbucks’ Seattle headquarters—connecting the two biggest cities in states with legal weed… possible a third overlapping circle in that diagram?
The aim is for a charging station every 100 miles, to ease range fears and well within the battery range of most EVs. The ChargePoint DC fast chargers can recharge an EV like the Volvo C40 from 20% to 90% in about 40 minutes.
“We are thrilled to partner with Volvo Cars to test how we can charge our customers’ electric vehicles at Starbucks stores,” said Starbucks Chief Sustainability Officer Michael Kobori. “Imagine a future where Starbucks helps our customers to connect—more sustainably,” he added.
Another changing of the guard is underway—historic Nela Park has been sold. For the unfamiliar, Nela Park is often referred to as the world’s first industrial park. It owns a spot on the National Register of Historic Places, and it is the long-time headquarters of GE Lighting. I was at the park in 2012, in advance of its 100th birthday in 2013, for a ceremony at which GE officials unearthed a century-old time capsule that contained, among other items, a couple of 100-year-old lamps. GE engineers were even able to get at least one bulb to light up—sort of.
GE exited the residential lighting business in 2020 and sold it to Savant Systems (which continues to use the GE brand under a licensing agreement). I wrote about the sale when it happened and waxed a bit nostalgic. For Cleveland-area residents like myself, the elaborate Christmas lights of Nela Park were a childhood Christmas tradition. With the sale, local and industrial history were undergoing some rapid realignment, it seemed to me at the time.
Now Nela Park is changing hands. Earlier this month, commercial real estate firm Phoenix Investors announced that an affiliate had reached a definitive agreement to acquire Nela Park. GE Lighting will maintain partial tenancy, but potential redevelopment possibilities are endless at the site, which spans some 100 acres and numerous buildings. “We plan to both honor the Park’s history and embrace its future with thoughtful renovations while attracting high-quality tenants,” wrote Phoenix Investors Chairman Frank Crivello in the company’s announcement of the purchase.
More change is a coming, but rumor is the holiday lighting tradition will continue.