Tips for Hiring Qualified Manufacturing Help in 2017

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Will your company be looking to hire in 2017?  Recent reports are showing many companies continue to slowly but steadily add manufacturing positions but the issue is becoming finding qualified workers.  As manufacturing began to decline in the early 2000’s and then dramatically with the recession in 2009 the majority of those laid off were the lowest level, least skilled workers.  As companies moved out of the recession many moved towards more automated equipment requiring more skilled workers to operate them.  This has created a chasm between jobs that need filled and the quality of worker currently available.

Many companies are having to go beyond the traditional method of simply posting a job opening and then reviewing the applications or resumes submitted.  One Cleveland based company stated that of the 3600 applications they received last year only 47 applicants passed a basic skills test showing they could read and do math at a 9th grade level.  This resulted in an incredibly frustrating amount of wasted hours sorting through applications from people unqualified for the job available.

There are some specific places that many companies are having success finding qualified workers quickly, and may be the best place to start with your next job posting.

  1. Technical or Trade Schools – contact your local tech or trade school with the job posting you have available. Many schools have staff members who work with local businesses to help find the right students to fill the open position.  They may have students looking to work opposite shifts from their schooling such as 2nd or 3rd shift, or they may have students looking for internship and apprenticeship opportunities.  This can often be a great way for companies to get higher educated workers at a lower initial cost.  Many of these students are eager to learn new equipment or skills are get brought in for long term employment upon graduation.  They often come with the right mind set to learn.
  2. Veterans Associations – contact a Veterans Employment Representative at an American Job Center. This organization will be able to help match up a qualified veteran for the job opening you have available.  You could also list your job opening on your state job bank  There are many hard working veterans looking to utilize their current military skills as well as develop new areas to make them more employable.  There are also countless non-profit organizations ready to help business owners find qualified veterans as well, such as www.hireherosusa.org. In addition to getting a great worker you may also qualify for some additional tax benefits from hiring a veteran.  It’s also been found that employee turnover rates are lower amongst veterans which can help protect your investment in time spent training a new employee.

Certainly there are many applicants likely to knock on your door when you post a job opening but being able to quickly narrow down your search to those most qualified and most motivated can be worth the additional effort up front.  Taking the time to pursue other methods of employee recruitment could save you substantial money in the long run.

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$2 Billion Investment in Manufacturing R&D in Cambridge, MA

The Secretary of Defense, Ash Carter, recently announced a new manufacturing initiative to bring textile manufacturing back to the USA.  As part of that initiative the government will be investing $2 Billion in research and development to be done through a partnership of 89 manufacturers, universities and non-profit organizations all of which will be spearheaded by the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT).  The goal of this project being to re-establish the United States as a leader in revolutionary fibers and textiles manufacturing.

This research will be coordinated at the new Fibers and Textiles Manufacturing Innovation Institute in Cambridge, MA.  The days of basic fibers and textiles are way behind us with these new products being designed to contain electronic sensors, be extremely lightweight, or resistant to even the highest temperatures.  Some of the intended uses for these new textiles, according to Ash Carter, are having a textile that can detect when a soldier is wounded and needs to be treated with an antimicrobial compression bandage, or having the sensing capabilities of a smart watch built right into the lightweight fabric.  The protection these fibers and textiles could offer to our armed forces, firefighters and police would be invaluable.  One great example is the record numbers of forest fires we saw last year. Having uniforms that could protect from even the hottest temperatures would certainly be a benefit.

Although the American textile industry had seen steady declines for years the innovation of new products brought growth of about 14% from 2009 to 2015 and a 39% increase in exports.  This caught the attention of the Obama administration and made this industry an area worth investing in.  The ultimate goal being not only these incredible new products but also an increase in new manufacturing jobs.  The intellectual properties of these new fabrics mean jobs will be available at all levels of these companies, many of which should end up staying in the New England area.

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New Uses For Wearable Technology

Most of us have seen or used the “cloud” at some point but likely it’s been for storing pictures of the kids or backing up data from your office computer.  While certainly there’s value in having important documents stored safely and available anywhere, the future holds many more uses for cloud technology in manufacturing. As more and more equipment is becoming smart technology with integrated system monitoring, sensors and usage tracking, all of this information is being gathered in the cloud and if applied properly, could save business owners time and money in the future.  Seeing all of the data in one place would allow business owners to know instantly which machines in their shop are being used, which are down for maintenance, the percentage of utilization for each machine, what production is coming from various shifts, whether efficiency of a piece of machinery has declined with wear and of course hundreds of other useful pieces of information.

An interesting new facet of cloud computing is wearable technology which looks to be a promising wave of the future.  For example special glasses can be worn to provide training to new employees, provide real time data to shop workers, and increase workplace safety.  Imagine if the employee on the shop floor had immediate access via wearable technology to current inventory.  How much faster could they get a new job on a machine if they were told exactly where the material they needed was located and how much was on hand or if a remnant was available that would work for their next job.  Or think of the scenario where the forklift driver can’t see someone in their blind spot but the sensor in their glasses goes off to warn them that someone is there.  Many shops have been unable to adopt bar code scanners and readers because of the high cost of entry barrier, but wearable technology will likely make that problem a relic of the past. These ideas are just the tip of the iceberg for the future of this type of technology.

If all of this data was then integrated with a cloud based ERP system the benefits increase further.  Being able to track purchase orders, sales orders, and inventory as well as track scheduling and capacity all in real time would greatly improve overall shop performance and reduce costs.  Every shop owner wants to know where their weak points are – which machines fail frequently or have high costs for replacement parts, or which machines are simply underutilized – because at the end of the day it’s all about finding ways to trim the fat to cut costs and increase revenue.  Finally if all of this carefully collected data were then viewed from a mobile device it becomes even more accessible.  Many companies are integrating tablets, phones, and other mobile devices into their shops.  The Aberdeen Group found that companies that have integrated some type of mobile software into their operations have seen a 44% increase in efficiency.  More and more it seems growth is going to be at a more nominal pace which means every dollar will count and every inefficiency will be magnified, making it critical for forward thinking business owners to find ways to take full advantage of every technology platform.

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Take 5 for 5-axis Webinar Summary

Recently Hurco offered an excellent webinar to educate machine shop owners and others about 5 axis operations.  As 5 axis work is becoming a bigger and bigger piece of the industry it’s critical for every business to give serious consideration to adding this capability.  This information is so valuable we thought it would be helpful to offer a summary of this hour long discussion for our customers.  The initial point of discussion was a basic introduction to machine configurations.  Most people are familiar with the x, y, and z axis but to make that 5 axis we add the A, B, and C axis.  The A axis rotates around the x axis, the B axis rotates around the y axis, and the C axis rotates around the z axis.  Generally in 5 axis equipment you’ll find these in combinations such as an A/B, B/C or a system that can offer both set-ups – A/C or B/C on one machine OR A/B or B/C on one machine.

Some benefits to consider with 5-Axis capabilities include:

The ability to machine multiple operations in a single set-up

The use of shorter cutting tools in deep cavity features by tilting the head

Ability to machine complex parts from solid billet instead of castings – especially useful for small runs

Time savings when machining features on compound angles – eliminates the need for special fixturing

There are two different configurations that people refer to when they discuss 5-Axis machining.  One is a simultaneous 5-axis machine which is tilting while machining the part.  The advantages to this are better surface finish, longer tool life and allowing the tool to reach difficult places more smoothly.  The down side to this method is that it’s slower than 5-sided machining.  5-sided machining is rotating the part in to position and then running as a standard 3-axis.  The advantage to this option is faster cut speeds, easy to program, fewer tool interference issues and excellent roughing strategy.  When comparing 5-sided machining to the old traditional 3-axis machining there are other clear advantages.  5-sided machining reduces setup times by eliminating the need for multiple setups for each side of the same part.  It also increases shop capability and improves part accuracy.  This is generally a very easy transition for most shops because it’s simply doing 3 axis work at an angle.

Some items to consider before purchasing a 5-axis machine:

Look at the individual part size or part family, which machine best suits all of the parts without being too large or too small.

Review the part setup or fixture design to make sure the selected machine will accommodate not only the parts, but the desired fixture.

Consider the length of all necessary tooling as longer tool lengths can be a significant deciding factor that will drive the machine size and type selected.

Features of the 5-Axis machine such as tool center pint management, transform plane, tool vector input, 5-axis toolpath linearization, 3D cutter compensation, and automatic safe repositioning.

Easy of programming which can be made even simpler by selecting a machine with a user friendly conversational programming software.

The final segment of the webinar is a discussion about the ease of programming available with today’s 5-Axis systems.  Many customers are nervous about the programming that will be involved in starting to use a 5-axis machine but as described in the webinar there have been a lot of changes and improvements in recent years to make this a much less intimidating situation.  Most customers today have no trouble transitioning from 3-Axis to 5-Axis programming.  To hear the full webinar visit www.hurco.com and listen to the Take 5 For 5-Axis webinar.  Additional information about 5-Axis machining in general can also be found at www.5-axis.org.

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Handtmann: One week, two successful leading trade fairs: the AMB in Stuttgart and the IMTS in Chicago

One week, two successful leading trade fairs: the AMB in Stuttgart and the IMTS in
Chicago The IMTS in Chicago and the AMB in Stuttgart, which both took place in September this year, are viewed as the leading trade fairs in the fields of mechanical engineering and metal machining. At both trade fairs, the German machine manufacturer
Handtmann A-Punkt Automation GmbH was able to present its diverse range of 5-axis HSC/HPC machining centres comprising ofnumerous HBZ horizontal machining centres, PBZ profile machining centres, GANTRY high moving portal machining centres and UBZ universal machining centres.
Demanding profile machining at the IMTS in Chicago
ThePBZ HD 600 profile machining centrewas the central focus at theIMTS in Chicago. On the machine withaxis travels of 7,250/1,500/1,000 mm and travel speeds of 70/40/40m/min on the linear axes, aluminiumfloor beam sections for the aerospace industry were machined live at the trade fair. The high spindle powerof maximum
58 kW and the maximum speed of 30,000 rpm, together with the intrinsically rigid machine design and the aforementioned performance data, ensure precise and efficient aluminium machining with chip removal rates of up to 6.5 l/min when machining profiles and solid material. The PBZ HD can be configured up to a profile length of 30,000 mm and
is also providing significant advantages with respect to application-specific clamping technology.
High speed cutting at the AMB in Stuttgart
At theAMB in Stuttgart however, theHBZ Trunnion 160 horizontal machining centre
was the central feature of the stand. The HBZ Trunnion 160 is the largest machine of
the HBZ Trunnion series and, with its NC rotary-swivel table with a diameter of 1,600 mm, it is suitable for 5-axis complete machining of complex workpieces with a maximum diameter of 1,700 mm and 1,000 mm in height. The machine can be used for the machining of a wide variety of materials, such as aluminium, steel, titanium and other common light-and heavy-duty cutting materials. The topic of “high speed cutting in aluminium” was theprimary focal point at the AMB. Therefore the machine was fitted with a high-power spindle (max. 30,000 rpm and 81 kW). Precision and high-performance
have equally beendemonstratedby machining an aluminium car
live on theHBZ Trunnion 160. The presentation of a wide range ofsampleapplications for the other Handtmann machines gave visitors insight into the company’s extremely diverse product portfolio: from the smallest parts with a diameter of 200 mm to large structural parts, such as the wing panel, boasting 6,300 mm in length.
Successful trade fairs
Handtmann enjoyed a total of eleven successful days at the two trade fairs. At both fairs, good results were achieved in terms of the quantity of the visitors and–above all–the quality of the dialogues. The AMB in Stuttgart has developed into an established international trade fair which is becoming more and more evident from year to year.
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3D Printing as Common as Desktop Printing

3d-printed-parts

3D Printed Parts

Generally when small business owners think of the term “3D Printing” they think of the higher-end machines, many of which are outside the budget of the average job shop.  However experts in the field are seeing the future of 3D printing being a move towards low-cost devices that will be in every part-making shop.  The 3D printer will become the tool of choice to prevent wasted time on more valuable machines.  A desktop 3D printer will be seen as a necessary complement to its CNC machine tools and will be used as routinely as a desktop printer is today.

When small business owners are asked about their experience owning a 3D printer the most common feedback is that they were surprised by how useful the device turned out to be.  It has proven to be the perfect partner for the machine tool.  Often machine tools have to be pulled off of production jobs to run one off parts – most of which are not even billable as they are used for internal needs, proof of concepts for customers, etc.  This is an incredibly inefficient use of the machine tool but is the ideal use for the 3D printer but today most shops have no other choice.  Ultimately a 3D printer can save time from the most valuable resources, people and machine tools.

Most shops take a loss on prototypes and tooling.  Customers bring in rough sketches that require a prototype be made, often more than one.  This takes man power as well as machine time both of which could be spent on better uses.  In this instance a 3D printer could run through the night and result in a completed prototype part in the morning with very minimal cost investment.  Custom tooling is another area that the 3D printer will become standard use.  Many jobs require unique fixtures or inspection tools so most shops make the investment before starting into production.  However they often have to go outside to purchase this tooling and wait on substantial lead times.  In the future these custom tools will be made immediately in the very shop that intends to run the production job.

One final area of incredible value for the 3D printer is the unique, let’s be honest pain in the tail, projects.  No one is interested in devoting CNC machine time to these jobs and often they get passed on but if the 3D printer could make it possible to come up with an inventive solution with minimal time and money invested these jobs would be worth the effort.  There’s certainly money to be made on this type of work but not if the only option is the use of high-end expensive CNC machinery.  Shops face seemingly small, annoying problems every day and many business owners say they use their 3D printer as the quick fix for these.

Certainly no one would advocate just buying any cheap 3D printer out there. Some research should be done to find a low cost option that is still adequate to meet the needs described above.  One such machine that should be considered is the Markforged 3D printer.  Its low price point makes it accessible which its ability to produce incredible strong, rigid parts makes it more than capable of solving these regular shop problems.

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Inventory Debate

Throughout recent years there’s been an on-going debate around the topic of inventory.  How much is too much? When does going “lean” prevent you from being ready to fill customer orders promptly? What about implementing the Six Sigma method?  The questions regarding best practices for inventory management are endless.  Here are some factors to consider when determining whether your inventory levels are appropriate or could use some adjusting.

First, how is inventory being defined?  In this case, inventory is defined as any good, regardless of the stage of production it’s in.  This would include raw materials all the way up to products ready to send to a customer.  This is the main reason that inventory tracking and management is so difficult within manufacturing compared with other industries. Tracking this many items can be an extremely daunting task.  In general though this would include three categories: raw materials, work in process, and finished goods.

Working with this definition of inventory there are four areas to examine in determining whether your levels are in balance:

Forecasting Accuracy – the ability of your company’s team to accurately forecast upcoming orders as well as sales for new products is directly related to your inventory levels.  If you’re consistently overstocked or under prepared on inventory take a hard look at your forecasting.  Of course this can be more of an art than a science to predict future orders but generally with monitoring, trends will appear.  Many companies find that certain times of the year or a specific quarter is always busier or slower and can adjust inventory levels to accommodate.

Lead Time – many manufacturing companies find that certain components have extremely long lead times which forces them to stock more than they would like in order to be prepared.  One option can be to discuss with suppliers reducing the lead time by increasing the lot size.  Many suppliers will be willing to provide larger volumes of parts in shorter lead times because of the increased immediate revenue.

Product Quality – some suppliers find that they have to keep a higher than normal inventory to be able to provide replacement parts fast enough in warranty situations or other product returns.  If this is the case an investment in the quality department, either personnel or measurement tools, could be worth the initial cost.  Certainly the fewer failed parts coming back the less inventory required.

Product Changes – an area that can really hurt with inventory is products becoming obsolete.  If new designs or technological changes are coming out too frequently it will require either that old products be kept to maintain those already in operation or will result in lots of unusable inventory with products that can no longer be sold.  Either scenario is costly.

Many experts agree that regardless of what inventory system you use reviewing the items above can be extremely helpful in being prepared without being at financial risk with too much inventory.

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