Metal Fatigue

I met University of Massachusetts (Lowell) professor, Robert Forrant, several years ago. He toured Horst Engineering. I contacted him after reading an article that he wrote about Brimfield Precision, a renowned precision machine shop focused on the medical device industry. Brimfield went on to become part of Medsource Technologies, which became Accellent. Anyway, the story was about Brimfield’s transformation. Forrant has written extensively about the industrial revolution in New England and the demise of the metalworking industries that made our region a world manufacturing leader.

I just ordered his new book from Amazon. It is called Metal Fatigue: American Bosch and the Demise of Metalworking in the Connecticut River Valley. The book explores many themes, including globalization. I’m really looking forward to reading it in detail and plan to follow up with Forrant. Horst Engineering is 600 feet from the Connecticut River and we are not in demise. Of course, our industry has suffered a long decline. I’m sure I agree with many of his points. Now that we are a global operation, we have a different perspective. Our management team has taken the necessary steps to maintain growth. 

Forrant should make a return visit to Horst Engineering now that we are broadening our horizons beyond the aerospace market and turning our focus to the medical device industry. When he first visited with me, he was curious why we had made the cut. He asked why we had survived when so many other metal shops had folded. There are many reasons. Forrant was a machinist for many years and he worked at American Bosch, the company at the center of his latest work. I caught an interview with him on WFCR a few weeks ago. He spoke about the difficulty of writing the book as both a researcher and an actor in the demise of American Bosch, an automotive parts manufacturer. It was difficult for him to remain objective when he was one of the workers who was impacted by the closing of the plant. It was the collapse of the industry in the 1980’s and early 1990’s that led to his transformation from metalworker to Ph.D candidate to professor. The Boston Globe wrote about Forrant’s book in a recent review.

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