Consider: Workers Who are Willing to Learn

A column in IndustryWeek argues that with technology advancing so quickly and a shortage of skilled workers it makes more sense to train employees on site rather than look for workers with appropriate degrees and training.

How does a manufacturing company leader solve that problem?

By emphasizing the only capability that truly matters: The willingness and ability to learn.

Whatever technical skills potential employees need today will be soon replaced by different ones. Schools can’t provide job-ready employees when we can’t tell them what jobs will exist in the future.

Manufacturers are the experts in current processes, and are learning what the near future demands. They need job applicants with the willingness and ability to learn, and qualified resources with the capabilities and willingness to teach. Yes, manufacturing has little use for those who can’t read, write or use math. That’s a social problem, not a skills-shortage problem.

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The Unlikeliest Tech Comeback

File this under “Comebacks Nobody Saw Coming.” After becoming a rare failure for the internet giant, a symbol of Silicon Valley excess, and a PR flop of New Coke proportions, Google Glass, the smartphone for your head, is poised to make a comeback in the private sector.

“Workers in many fields, like manufacturing, logistics, field services, and healthcare find it useful to consult a wearable device for information and other resources while their hands are busy,” wrote project lead Jay Kothari.

“That’s why we’ve spent the last two years working closely with a network of more than 30 expert partners to build customised software and business solutions for Glass for people in these fields.”

“It makes perfect sense to target businesses,” said Chris Green from the technology consultancy Lewis.

“While the original iteration of Google Glass had questionable consumer applications, we are already seeing that there is huge potential for augmented reality particularly in things like manufacturing.

“For example, a floor worker can get a single view of all the sensor data across a production line, from data about output and wear and tear of components, to where the bottlenecks are, all in a way they wouldn’t be able to do just by wandering the line normally.”

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8 Workplace Safety Tips for the New Business Owner

Keeping your workplace safe and healthy isn’t easy, there’s simply far too many possible ways an accident can happen for prevention to ever be straightforward. Industrial Safety and Hygiene News has come out with a list of 8 ways a new business can hit the ground running. Even for older businesses these suggestions can be a good starting point for ensuring your workplace has its proper protections and procedures in order.

1) Perform a job hazard analysis

Whether you’re opening a grocery store or a mining operation, you need to have a clear understanding of on-the-job risks. That’s where the Job Hazard Analysis comes in. When trying to implement a workplace safety program, this risk analysis should be step one.

A Job Hazard Analysis isn’t just a document, it’s a process. By carefully documenting all of the known risks associated with every task performed by your workers, you can then carefully plan on the best ways to reduce these risks to your workers. The end result should be a JHA document, which according to OSHA should focus on the “relationship between the worker, the task, the tools, and the work environment.” Your Job Hazard Analysis document should not only include a list of all potential hazards, but it should also identify the training your employees will need to manage these hazards safely.

Start by creating a list of every job or duty that will be performed in your workplace. Then carefully document every likely hazard employees will face in performing those duties. This will give you an itemized list of all the necessary training you will need to provide in order to ensure the safest possible work environment.

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Performance Goals vs Development Goals: What’s the Difference?

A new article in IndustryWeek asks if you have given much thought to how you set your production goals, whether you’ve given equal time to so-called Development Goals along with Performance Goals, and if you think that’s just splitting hairs then read on:

Think of performance goals as “What you want to achieve,” and development goals as “How you will achieve them.” The key thing to understand is that you will only achieve your performance goals by working on development goals because they create the capability for succeeding.

As intuitive as that sounds, my experience is that development goals are rarely articulated and are almost never reviewed. I asked three top HR leaders, each responsible for organizations larger than 10,000 employees, how many employees have formal development plans, and how many review them regularly with their managers. Their response: Maybe one out of four have a training and development plan, and just one out of 10 review them regularly. Ouch!

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New Rules for Industrial Dust Explosion Protection

The first step to compliance with the National Fire Protection Association’s new combustible dust standard is a dust hazard analysis, according to Geof Brazier of BS&B Pressure Safety Management. Technology can contribute to dust mitigation through protection devices, containment systems and explosion vents.

For a wide range of facilities that manufacture, process, blend, convey, repackage, generate or handle items that could be categorized as combustible dusts or particulate solids, new NFPA Standards, and even the first deadline to conduct a dust hazard analysis, are now on the books adding to the responsibilities of owners and operators of such facilities.

Robot Takeover Not Taking to Manufacturing

Coming as a surprise to few, the so-called “Robot Takeover” of the economy is taking longer to arrive than experts initially expected. Of course, ever since scientists and newspersons in the 1950s touted flying cars and moon colonies by the year 2000 most people have probably come to expect that technological progress will take longer to reach the public than initial estimates projected. Bloomberg has a more in depth look at the phenomenon that offers some solid reasons to doubt small manufacturers will be fully automated anytime soon:

There isn’t a single story that explains why second-wave technologies are trickling rather than flooding into the economy. Bloomberg News spoke with several to find out how the pace of technological adoption is proceeding. Here are some of the themes that emerged:

  • Robots can handle highly repetitive tasks in manufacturing, but at BMW AG’s largest plant in the world, located in Spartanburg, South Carolina, the talk is about complexity and customization — tasks that need human input.

  • Extracting data from highly-automated manufacturing operations is harder than it sounds, executives from Cisco Systems Inc. explain.

  • Finally, when it comes to turning any critical operation over to a computer, there is this one big sticking point: trust.

Students Learn Real World Benefits (and Profits) of Manufacturing

When debating ways to get young people interested in manufacturing the discussion usually centers on ways to bring the industry to the school (through tech class and presentations, etc.) or ways to bring the students to the industry (factory tours on Manufacturing Day), but this school in Washington State had a different plan. What if the students became part of the industry? The answer, as it turns out, is $500 in profits from a T-Shirt business run out of the classroom.

The new class is called AMPED, which stands for algebra, manufacturing, process, entrepreneurship and design.

Students used those skills throughout the year to run a T-shirt printing business. Young held up a gray T-shirt with a Cubs logo as an example.

“This business helps us show how math relates,” he said. “It was almost about $8,000 in revenue. That’s where you get the algebra. (It’s) in the invoices, business models and stuff like that. The manufacturing is the T-shirt printing press.”

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Cloud Computing and Modern Manufacturing

The Information Technology & Innovation Foundation has issued a report on how Cloud Computing (defined as the practice of using a network of remote servers hosted on the Internet to store, manage, and process data, rather than a local server or a personal computer) enables modern manufacturing. Calling it “a key platform technology” that plays “an essential role in enabling the next production revolution,” the reports summary declared:

Cloud computing—the provision of infinitely scalable computing resources as a service over the Internet—is in the process of transforming virtually every facet of modern manufacturing. Whether it’s how manufacturing enterprises operate, how they integrate into supply chains, or how products are designed, fabricated, and used by customers, cloud computing is helping manufacturers innovate, reduce costs, and increase their competitiveness. Critically, cloud computing allows manufacturers to use many forms of new production systems, from 3D printing and high-performance computing (HPC) to the Internet of Things (IoT) and industrial robots. Moreover, cloud computing democratizes access to and use of these technologies by small manufacturers. This report describes how cloud computing enables modern manufacturing, provides real-word case studies of this process in action, and recommends actions policymakers can take to ensure cloud computing continues to transform manufacturing and bolster America’s manufacturing competitiveness.

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Can Industrial Computing Change Manufacturing’s Public Perception?

That’s what Daniel Waldron Head of Content at Armagard ( ) is proposing on Waldron argues that Industrial Computing will demonstrate how modern the industry has become and thus lay to rest the doubts many people (parents especially) have about the industry.

‘Manufacturing’, a dirty word for most parents. However, as hard as it may be to believe, Mom and Dad have more influence than they know when it comes to children making a career choice. With that in mind, here’s how industrial computing can change the parent perception of manufacturing on the manufacturing floor…

… But first, we appeal to parents. Manufacturing has changed, the days of filthy factory floors and risky, repetitive jobs are over. Manufacturing needs your help to get young people excited about a career in this illustrious industry. You can start by encouraging your child(ren) to consider studying STEM subjects at school, college or university.

There’s no denying that manufacturing has an image problem, but industrial computing is cleaning up that image. Manufacturers… heed the call, if you want parent perception of manufacturing to change, you need to be prepared to invest in industrial computing.

Parents perceive manufacturing to be tedious, monotonous and soul-destroying. Add to that the belief that it requires very little skill and is unrewarding, you can understand why Mum and Dad dissuade their children from a manufacturing career. How on earth can industrial computing challenge these views?

Report: NY Manufacturing Rebounds in June

The Federal Reserve Bank of New York has released its latest Manufacturing Survey, and it brings with it some welcome news for manufacturers. The survey found that their business activity grew in June:

After dropping to a level just below zero last month, the general business conditions index more than made up for lost ground, rising twenty-one points to 19.8, its highest level since September 2014. Thirty-six percent of respondents reported that conditions had improved over the month, while 16 percent reported that conditions had worsened. The new orders index, which showed a decline in orders last month, jumped twenty-three points to 18.1, indicating that orders increased markedly. The shipments index rose to 22.3, pointing to a substantial increase in shipments. The unfilled orders index moved up to 4.6, and the delivery time index was little changed at 5.4. The inventories index rose to 7.7, a sign that inventory levels were higher.