MMT Blog

“It’s people that make the difference,” is written on the wall in the conference room where we sit for our Manufacturing Alliance Podcast with Greg Eidenberger of Paragon D&E (Paragon). Greg says, “The people are what actually help you provide product. They are the ones who make things happen. And if you don't have the right people with the right culture and motivation to help you succeed, you won't.”

When I ask him how Paragon leadership encourages that culture, he quickly answers, “Training.” He says that leadership encourages “champions.” They give employees ownership of the products in which they have a role in manufacturing. This is mainly accomplished through Kaizen events that help promote change and better processes by bringing together a cross-functional team—including everyone from the janitorial staff and machinists to program managers and designers to sales personnel and management—to work together on a challenge or change. He says, “This has created a level of awareness across the company of how integral everyone’s role is, no matter what they do on a job. Everyone has a hand in a product's manufacture on some level, so understanding how one person’s job impacts another person’s job is key to making effective change.”

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To better understand how the tool and die market views today’s machining technologies as well as the what the future holds for the industry, Harbour Results conducted an industry roundtable at this year’s IMTS Conference held in Chicago in September.

The participants produce both molds and dies, range in shop size and utilize machine technologies across multiple manufacturers. And, across the board, each shop was at IMTS to discover new tools, technology, automation and software to improve costs, quality and efficiency while reducing risk and waste.

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Explain Roembke’s history and expertise for building molds for rubber products.

Adam Shaal, Business Development Manager: Since opening our doors in 1977 we've always focused on building molds for rubber parts. In the beginning much of it was for automotive use like brake seals, wire harness connector seals, noise and vibration-dampening parts, with mostly wasteless, flashless transfer tooling for the automotive industry. Then in the mid-90s we started to build molds for liquid silicone rubber (LSR). We believe more than 40 years of experience with these types of molds sets us apart from many other moldmakers who started out in thermoplastics and then transitioned to LSR as many high consistency rubber molders began to transition to fully automatic LSR molding.

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During 2018, the automotive industry tracked along the same trajectory as the prior year. Unit sales data for 2018 showed continued and growing preference for SUVs and light trucks over cars. This trend is not new, as unit car sales, which peaked in June of 2014, have experienced an average 7.5-percent rate of annualized contraction in the 17 quarters since then. Truck and SUV sales continue to offset the weakness in car sales, which has kept total vehicle sales since mid-2015 at a monthly average of 1.4 million vehicles, or 17.3 million units on an annual basis. Looking forward to 2019, there are several factors such as interest rates and tariffs which will have significant near-term effects on the automotive market.

This year is also the third year that interest rates have increased, raising the cost on all other loans. The latest data for 2018 indicates that the current vehicle interest rate of 6.16 percent is 10 percent higher than a year ago and over 22 percent higher than two years ago, when the average rate was just over 5 percent. Initially, these rate increases – which increase monthly finance payments – did not slow the growth in financing amount, which peaked at over $30,500 during the first quarter of 2018. As of the latest data available in October, the average amount financed has now fallen over 2 percent, or over $600 per vehicle.

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I’ve had my eye on the Matsuura Lumex sintering and machining line for a while now, and after IMTS it is on my equipment wish list. The Lumex machine has the potential to virtually eliminate the need for EDM, create self-venting steels and produce conformal cooling lines, reducing cycle times. They are amazing machines. The team also checked out the Sodick OPM 250L metal 3D printer, which is another hybrid machine that can print and cut at micro layers. Mazak and DMG Mori also displayed their hybrid machines.

Another take on this hybrid approach to 3D printing is a metal print head that fits onto the existing tool changer of a CNC machining center. This option caught our attention because it does not require extra floor space for a new machine. You simply adapt your current machine for metal printing.  Although we need to conduct further research to understand the required programming and software fully, we are considering this a viable option.

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