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By: Lori Payne 21. October 2014

What to Consider before You Buy

If you want to grow while giving yourself the insight to make the best decisions, taking a hard look at your technology and processes is a large part of what enables lowering your operating costs, increasing your visibility into the business, driving better decisions, improving processes and realizing efficiency gains, and providing the framework and foundation for future growth.

No small manufacturing leader wants the distraction and expense of investing months of team time into solutions that take a long time to vet, even longer to implement, and don’t allow the flexibility you need to answer your unique business challenges. No two businesses run exactly alike, and if you find that you’re taxing your budget and reorganizing your entire business to fit a new tool, you might get the feeling that you’re on the wrong path. 

Other important things to think about as you consider how technology will enable your growth:

  • Was it developed specifically for small- to mid-sized manufacturers?
  • Will it help you automate processes, freeing your team to do more accurate work and serve more customers in the future?
  • Will it give you insight into every facet of the business—from back office to shop floor to the field?
  • Will non-technical users be able to customize the software to fit their roles?
  • Is it Cloud-based, or will you be looking at significant implementation time and cost?

 

With these thoughts in mind, you’ll be better equipped to assess where you are now, where you want to be, and how technology can help grow the enterprise into which you and your team have put your heart and souls. Finding the right guidance can help

 


By: Matthew Danford 20. October 2014

TV Show Celebrates Working People

Created by Mike Rowe, this poster parodies an old college recruitment message that he viewed as bad advice. The original version used a smiling graduate and a frowning factory worker with a hammer (with the word “not” intact) to push the supposed advantages of a four-year degree. (Image courtesy of profoundlydisconnected.com.)

“We’re lending money we don’t have, to kids who can’t pay it back, to educate them for jobs that don’t exist.”

It’s always a good feeling when the mainstream media starts harping on the same topics that tend to obsess those of us in the manufacturing trade press (and, of course, you, our audience). That’s why I was particularly pleased the other day to hear the above quote on, of all places, CNN. The quote comes from Mike Rowe, who is perhaps best known as host of the now-defunct “Dirty Jobs” TV show and, for me, a consistent source of the warm fuzzies when it comes to people outside our industry talking about the skilled worker shortage.

This is a topic that’s near and dear to Mike’s heart, and CNN has given him a new platform on which to tout it. October 8 marked the inaugural episode of “Somebody’s Gotta Do It,” an unscripted reality series that sounds very much like his old show (I haven’t yet seen it, but the first two episodes are recorded on my DVR!). The third episode airs Wednesday at 9 p.m. Eastern.

Granted, I’m not sure whether Rowe has plans to dedicate any episodes to moldmakers, or even to any metal-cutting shops in general. Nonetheless, his stated purpose in introducing the show will resonate with many of this magazine’s readers. I, for one, welcome any outside influence that can help convince the masses of what those involved in our industry and other skilled trades already know. Check out CNN's video and Q&A to hear his message for yourself.

Rowe is active in this arena off the screen, too. For more information, check out “Profoundly Disconnected,” a foundation he set up to help close the skills gap.


By: Christina M. Fuges 17. October 2014

3-in-1: Print, Mill and Mold

It is an interesting machining development in the midst of all the technological innovations that we've seen during the past year, especially when it comes to additive manufacturing. That is why I thought I'd share it with you.

This 3-in-1 machine is called the TRiBOT. According to Luminar Products, a small manufacturing company located outside of Boise, Idaho, it is a retrofitted bench top manual milling machine designed to take advantage of its initial industrial strength and add practical automated functions for specific manufacturing applications.

Inventors say this machine fills the void that currently exists between light-duty 3D printers and heavier duty machining and injection molding equipment. This desktop machine will allow small manufacturers to grow their businesses by taking ideas from prototype to production without investing in three different machines at more than three times the cost.

Check out their story here.

 


By: Christina M. Fuges 16. October 2014

Building an Integrated Manufacturing Center to Help Fill the Skills Gap

I've known Bob Novak of Waukesha County Technical College (WCTC) for a few years now, and have come to understand his mission and fully embrace his passion for the industry and the students he teaches. We've covered him and his program in MMT, and he's spoken a couple times at our amerimold expo on the industry's workforce challenges and how he and WCTC have faced them head on.

That is why I wanted to fill you in on WCTC's latest project. WCTC is working to create a new Integrated Manufacturing Center (IMC) to raise WCTC manufacturing programs to a new level and to provide innovative solutions to the skills gap crisis.

The center will be connected to the Industrial Building and will be home to several programs within the School of Applied Technologies. It will serve as the hub of manufacturing on campus, facilitating integrated learning for multiple disciplines and promote a spirit of collaboration among programs.

According to WCTC, the proposed 24,000-square-foot IMC will include:
  • Automation Systems Technology laboratory (2)
  • Integrated Manufacturing and Engineering laboratory
  • Industrial Maintenance Technician laboratory
  • Electronics laboratory (2)
  • Electronics fabrication laboratory
  • Engineering lecture hall
  • AST classroom
  • Engineering classrooms (2)
  • IMC technology lab
  • Conference rooms (2)
 
You can learn more about the project here.  To make a donation in support of the IMC, visit www.wctc.edu/foundation

By: Matthew Danford 15. October 2014

Gathering Highlights Automotive Vendor Tooling Concerns

 

If you’re a supplier of automotive vendor tooling, consider booking a trip to the Detroit area right now before prices get any higher. If you’re already located there, consider clearing your schedule for the afternoon of October 30th. Chances are you won’t regret it.

On that date, the Original Equipment Suppliers Association (OESA) and Harbour Results Inc. (HRI) will conduct a group discussion about critical concerns for the automotive vendor tooling industry. Scheduled for 1 to 5 p.m. at the Sheraton Detroit Novi Hotel, the discussion will be driven in large part by the findings of the 2013 Automotive Vendor Tooling Study, conducted jointly by the two organizations, as well as the work of the OESA Tooling Forum, a group of independent vendor tool suppliers that gather regularly to discuss common problems and share best practices. Specific topics include the projected tooling capacity gap, the cause and effect of OEM launch delays, and the skilled worker shortage. Click here for registration and other information.

I can confidently say this event will be worth your while because of my familiarity with both organizations. I’ve seen Laurie Harbour, president of HRI, speak a number of times, and the response has always been extremely positive. In my view, that’s a credit to not only her no-nonsense attitude, but also the information she has to offer. Of late, most of that information involves how North American manufacturers can step up to address the nearly $6 billion tooling capacity shortage identified in the 2013 Automotive Vendor Tooling study. Harbour covered that capacity gap extensively in an article she wrote for MoldMaking Technology last December.

A month later, in the January issue, I dove into the workings of the OESA Tooling Forum, without which that study never would have happened in the first place. As I’ve written before, I think peer groups like this can go a long way toward ensuring a competitive North American manufacturing industry in decades to come. Read that article to learn more about the forum’s goals, structure and advantages for member shops.



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