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So That Happened: Product Recalls Spike in Q1

June 5, 2024
IndustryWeek editors look into that story and remember manufacturing leader Barry Rogers, promotions at Allison Transmission, new plastics molding technologies and the UAW's "Southern problem."

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.

Saying Goodbye to a Machine Tool Leader

IndustryWeek remembers the life and legacy of Barry Rogers, a prominent figure in the machine tool industry, who passed away last month on May 18.

His 50-plus year manufacturing career began as a journeyman tool and die apprentice with Honeywell division MICRO SWITCH. Early in his career, he worked for John Deer Harvester and LK Metrology before landing at Renishaw, a British engineering company where he spent 20 years in numerous sales and marketing and engineering positions.

“Barry had a pronounced influence on our sales and marketing team that continues today,” says Renishaw Americas President Denis Zayia.

Rogers would go on to hold other positions at Sunnen Products Company and Haas Automation, and he would start his consulting company Alpha Strategies in 2016. In addition, he contributed expert feature articles to manufacturing publications throughout his career.

“He worked and lived passionately, and whether he was creating sales strategies, cooking, hunting or riding motorcycles, Barry did it with a contagious enthusiasm. He was truly one of a kind,” says Zayia.

A celebration of life service will be held in South Elgin, Illinois, on June 7, 2024, at 10:30 a.m.

—Anna Smith

Plastic Molding Sunny Side Up

I rarely indulge myself in writing about technology for its own sake but this week I’m indulging.

Rotational molding is a technique for producing hollow plastic parts. Two halves of a connected mold are filled with powdered plastic. The mold is then heated and rotated and the rotation provides force to spread the melted plastic evenly across the mold, creating a smooth part.

LightManufacturing patented a solar rotational molding process that uses computer-controlled mirrors called heliostats to track the sun and focus its beams on the mold and heat up the plastic. Other solar panels create electricity to rotate the mold.

Solar rotational molding is a green pitch. The system doesn’t require electrical grids to operate and can be placed close to landfills and beaches for plastic recycling without the need to transport the plastic large distances.

I suspect the process has as much or more to do with showcasing the company’s heliostats that have nothing intrinsically to do with manufacturing as anything else. I also don’t expect anyone in our audience to adopt this technology en masse as it doesn’t seem practical. But LightManufacturing lists cruise lines, the U.S. government and Disney as clients so maybe I’m wrong about the potential user base.

It’s cool technology in any case and sometimes I give myself the leeway to give cool tech a shout-out.

—Dennis Scimeca

The UAW Looks for Root Causes in Its Southern Bottleneck

The United Autoworkers union was openly confident in a win at the Mercedes-Benz plant in Alabama last month, so when the votes were counted and came up short (2,045 for, 2,642 against), some serious ego-checking/soul-searching was in order. On-the-ground union organizer Jeremy Kimbrell did some reflecting in an article in Labor Notes, a union activist website, noting these shortcomings:

  1. Banking on team leaders. Team leaders have contact with the most rank-and-file workers on a shift, so winning over this group was a top union priority. On the flip side, team leaders dialogue with management all day long and are pretty much one career move away from becoming management. In the weeks before the election, Mercedes leadership smartly focused on bringing team leaders over to their side—and those that did flip to management’s side held sway with line workers, too. “We were hurt pretty bad in this area,” Kimbrell contends.
  2. Beating one drum. The union drove home the unfairness of two-tier pay, but then Mercedes eliminated the tiers. Then the union shifted its focus to mistrust of leadership. Well guess what? Mercedes fired the plant CEO three weeks before the election and asked workers to give new leadership a chance.
  3. Drawing too much attention to early success. When they clinched the union-card signatures of 30% of Mercedes workers, organizers celebrated. They’d hit the minimum needed to hold an election, and figured publicizing that fact would build momentum. But Kimbrell reflects that it also “triggered the company to act probably earlier than they would’ve otherwise.

The Mercedes loss is significant, as the UAW had recently tallied historic southern wins at Daimler and Volkswagen. What’s next? The union has gone quiet on the automakers on its website for now, with coverage focused on a smaller win at the Webasto auto supplier plant in Plymouth, Michigan (200 employees), a walkout at Penske Logistics in El Paso and a union vote at the American Folk Art Museum in New York.

Win or lose, we suggest the museum host a retrospective of the work of folk artist Thornton Dial, who worked for 30 years in the Pullman Steel Plant in Bessemer, Alabama, and made powerful creations with some of the same materials he worked with in the plant.

—Laura Putre

New Leadership at Allison Transmission

G. Frederick Bohley III has just gotten a lot busier. The CFO of commercial truck transmissions, electric propulsion and hybrid systems manufacturer Allison Transmission Holdings Inc. is also the company’s new chief operation officer, putting him in charge of finance, strategy, operations, information systems and business and corporate development.

Some of those duties will be short lived as Allison Transmission’s board of directors has launched a search for a replacement CFO, but in the short term, Bohley has a lot on his plate… including Allison’s support of IndustryWeek’s upcoming Operations Leadership Summit (subtle segue, right?).

Allison Vice President of Operations Rafael Basso will serve as keynote speaker on Friday, June 28, at the Indianapolis event. And, on Wednesday, June 26, Allison will host a plant tour of its main campus in Indianapolis, showing off how it builds its award-winning lineup of transmissions and systems.

Back to Bohley. He has been with Allison Transmission for more than 30 years (since 1991).

“Fred is a highly respected member of our team who has demonstrated exceptional leadership and a deep understanding of our company and our industry,” said David Graziosi, chair and CEO of Allison Transmission. “His extensive experience and successful track record make him the ideal choice to help drive our strategic initiatives and growth.”

—Robert Schoenberger 

Product Recalls Boom in Q1

Just before writing up this news item, I did a quick Google search on the word “recall.” No lack of fresh product recall-related news leaped out: Toyota will recall 100,000 vehicles over a potential engine defect; the FDA is recalling Once Upon a Farm baby food over Listeria concerns; and a pepperoni product is under scrutiny because it may contain metal pieces.

Quality issues escaping the manufacturing plant and finding their way into the public is an ongoing challenge despite manufacturers’ best efforts to make it not so. With that as prelude: From a product recall standpoint, the first quarter of 2024 did not get off to a stellar start. Just over 900 (909, to be exact) recalls were initiated across five key industries, which translates to an 8% increase over the previous quarter, and—more distressingly—the highest single-quarter total in over five years.

The data comes courtesy of brand protection company Sedgwick in its latest U.S. Recall Index report. The five industries under scrutiny are automotive, consumer products, food and beverages, medical devices, and pharmaceuticals. 

Despite the boom in the number of recalls, however, there also was significant positive news.  The number of impacted units is way down, a full 44% down, over the previous quarter to 129.6 million in the first quarter of 2024.

Among the highlights, or lowlights, shared by Sedgwick:

  • Automotive recalls were up 9.2% over the previous quarter, but the number of units impacted fell by 15.2%. For the fifth consecutive quarter, electrical issues were the leading cause of the recalls.
  • The pharmaceutical industry had good news on both the number of recalls and number of units impacted over the previous quarter. Recalls dropped by 14.5% and the number of recalled units fell by 46.3%.
  •  FDA-related recalls grew by 27.6% over the previous quarter, with undeclared allergens cited as the leading cause of the recalls.

Sedgwick’s Chris Harvey, vice president of brand protection, says that 2024 started as expected, with a “continuing high rate of enforcement activity.”

Let’s hope for progress in Q2.

—Jill Jusko

About the Author

Dennis Scimeca

Dennis Scimeca is a veteran technology journalist with particular experience in vision system technology, machine learning/artificial intelligence, and augmented/mixed/virtual reality (XR), with bylines in consumer, developer, and B2B outlets.

At IndustryWeek, he covers the competitive advantages gained by manufacturers that deploy proven technologies. If you would like to share your story with IndustryWeek, please contact Dennis at [email protected].


About the Author

Jill Jusko

Bio: Jill Jusko is executive editor for IndustryWeek. She has been writing about manufacturing operations leadership for more than 20 years. Her coverage spotlights companies that are in pursuit of world-class results in quality, productivity, cost and other benchmarks by implementing the latest continuous improvement and lean/Six-Sigma strategies. Jill also coordinates IndustryWeek’s Best Plants Awards Program, which annually salutes the leading manufacturing facilities in North America.

About the Author

Anna Smith | News Editor

News Editor


Bio: Anna Smith joined IndustryWeek in 2021. She handles IW’s daily newsletters and breaking news of interest to the manufacturing industry. Anna was previously an editorial assistant at New Equipment DigestMaterial Handling & Logistics and other publications.

About the Author

Robert Schoenberger



Bio: Robert Schoenberger has been writing about manufacturing technology in one form or another since the late 1990s. He began his career in newspapers in South Texas and has worked for The Clarion-Ledger in Jackson, Mississippi; The Courier-Journal in Louisville, Kentucky; and The Plain Dealer in Cleveland where he spent more than six years as the automotive reporter. In 2014, he launched Today's Motor Vehicles (now EV Manufacturing & Design), a magazine focusing on design and manufacturing topics within the automotive and commercial truck worlds. He joined IndustryWeek in late 2021.

About the Author

Laura Putre | Senior Editor, IndustryWeek

I work with IndustryWeek's contributors and report on leadership and the automotive industry as they relate to manufacturing. Got a story idea? Reach out to me at [email protected]


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