The New Business-Academia Collaborations Shaping Manufacturing

Businesses are collaborating with academic partners to advocate for modern manufacturing jobs. While such collaborations have existed for years they have become more common, and more thorough, as the manufacturing skills gap continues to widen.

Silicon Forest Electronics first learned of the individual through a locally based industry ally, Partners in Careers, which helps provide resources, training, and job placement opportunities to job-seekers. The individual was a recent high school graduate with no designs on attending college.

Partners in Careers volunteered to pay the young man’s wages at Silicon Forest Electronics for 90 days with the aim of giving him industry exposure. Silicon Forest Electronics provided him with a range of work experiences, and he proved to be an unusually quick study, demonstrating — among other skills — that he could excel at military-grade soldering under a microscope.

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The Data Proves It: 3D Printing is Transforming Industries as we Speak

3D printing is officially transforming industries. Experts have been saying that for ages, but now there’s data to prove it:

With more and more 3D printed parts hitting the market, Forbes predicts the spare-parts supply chain will shift toward 3D printing solutions within the next three years. A survey report from Strategy& estimates that 85% of spare-parts suppliers will build 3D printing into their strategies within five years.

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Sharing Economy Comes to Manufacturing

40% Of Manufacturing Machines Are Under-Utilized. That’s the sad fact, but one company had an idea that brought the sharing economy to the manufacturing industry.

Here’s the deal: Say a manufacturer needs to make a machined part, but does not have the needed machinery or a reliable method of outsourcing. Another company (a supplier) has the machinery needed, sitting idle, collecting dust and making no money.

MakeTime brings the two together via its online platform. Much like a dating service, suppliers are matched with part orders from purchasers, based on their machining capabilities and when their machines are available.

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A New Generation of Robots is Changing Business

Robots have been a part of manufacturing for years now, but recent developments have seen a tipping point in terms of what the machines are capable of. New, sophisticated, robots are rapidly transforming the workplace.

Robots are becoming easier to configure and use than their traditional industrial forebears. Embedded vision systems, sophisticated behavior software, and robotic positioning systems enable workers to train them by example. For instance, some robots can be trained simply by moving them around to teach them where they are expected to go or to perform different tasks such as metal fabrication or molding.

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How to Adjust Teaching Styles When Working with Engineers, Technicians

The Socratic method, kinesthetic learning and vivid visualization are three of the techniques that may be effective when teaching engineers and other people in technical occupations, Don Graham of SECO Tools writes for American Machinist.

A successful teaching strategy hinges on two primary goals: get students to retain and apply the information. With that said, instructors first must identify what motivates their students and then tailor the material accordingly, to ensure they achieve those primary goals.

For example, consider machinists in training programs. Most likely the prospect of abundant and lucrative employment opportunities will motivate that particular group of students. So, teachers and instructors should emphasize how the subject matter being taught will help the students become more valuable to potential employers.

Likewise, new cutting tool technology and how it will benefit production operations, for instance, may be what motivates a group of shop engineers in a cutting tool training class. Cutting tool distributors in that same class may want to retain and apply the information, being motivated to sell new products more effectively to their customers.

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Attract Millennials to Manufacturing in 3 Easy Steps

SupplyChain Management Review is out with three suggestions on how to raise Millennial interest in manufacturing:

  1. Embrace mobile connectivity. Millennials came to the workforce in the age of the app. They don’t have a context for careers without speed and immediacy of the Internet and using mobile devices. For workers in this group, having to go from the production floor or warehouse to an upstairs office in order to send an email or input assembly data just doesn’t make sense. Companies need to make mobile connectivity a priority. That means investing in rugged devices, whether tablets or smartphones, as well as in their IT infrastructure and training on social platforms to receive alerts and share info across the supply chain. For finding top talent, ensure your website is mobile-responsive and job applications are mobile-accessible. Incorporate apprenticeships and/or paid internships. No one can come work for you if they don’t know that you’re there so get visible and accessible.

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You Can’t Stop Change, but You Can Manage It

Manufacturing is changing at a greater pace than ever before. So how do you keep up? There’s never going to be an easy answer to that question, but the trusted management firm McKinsey & Company has just come out with what it says are the four key characteristics of successful change management:

No mountain high enough: Aspirations to give inspiration

Few transformations achieve more than the goals their leaders set—especially in a typical risk-averse business context. That’s why high initial ambitions are so crucial. The instinct among leaders and managers to underpromise and overdeliver is so strong that only the strongest signals from the top can overcome them.

Moreover, there’s the practical reality that fulfilling high goals is really difficult, typically requiring leaders to shepherd hundreds, or even thousands, of initiatives through to completion. Nevertheless, the experiences of several organizations show that it’s possible, provided leaders plan for serious attrition rates. A recent analysis of high-stakes transformations found that on average, initiatives lost about 70 percent of their value between the initial idea stage and final tallying of the benefits. Accordingly, in order to reach a given target, a company will need a set of initiatives whose estimated value is at least three times the target amount.

That may not be possible at the very start. Instead, leaders will likely need to plan to “go back to the well” periodically to find additional opportunities. The consumer-products company, for example, set a goal of almost half a billion dollars in savings, and had to go back to the well several times in the first year to meet its goal successfully.

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The Latest Buzz on Additive Manufacturing

Additive Manufacturing is the latest thing everyone’s talking about, so just what is it that’s got everyone buzzing?

Simply put, it’s 3D Printing for people who want a more formal name than 3D Printing.

Additive manufacturing (AM)—the process of making a product layer by layer instead of using traditional molding or subtractive methods—has become one of the most revolutionary technology applications in manufacturing. Often referred to as 3-D printing, the best-known forms of AM today depend on the material: SLS (selective laser sintering), SLA (stereolithography), and FDM (fused deposition modeling) in plastics, and DMLS (direct metal laser sintering) and LMD (laser metal deposition) in metals. Once employed purely for prototyping, AM is now increasingly used for spare parts, small series production, and tooling. For manufacturing with metals, the ability to use existing materials such as steel, aluminum, or superalloys such as Inconel has significantly eased the process of adopting AM.

Meanwhile, the number of materials that AM can handle is constantly expanding. A wide range of new plastics has been developed, along with processes and machines for printing with ceramics, glass, paper, wood, cement, graphene, and even living cells. Applications are now available in industries ranging from aerospace to automobiles, from consumer goods (including food) to health care.

NY Manufacturing Business Continues to Grow

The Federal Reserve Bank of New York reported yet another strong month in every area covered by it Empire State Manufacturing Survey.

The headline general business conditions index held steady at 24.4. The new orders index rose four points to 24.9 and the shipments index climbed four points to 16.2, pointing to ongoing solid gains in orders and shipments. Unfilled orders increased, and delivery times continued to lengthen. Labor market indicators pointed to a modest increase in employment and hours worked. Both input prices and selling prices rose at a faster pace than last month. Indexes assessing the six-month outlook suggested that firms remained optimistic about future conditions.

The Future of Factory Robotics

Robots are getting cheaper and there are more workers qualified to handle them than there were in 1990 according to a new study by McKinsey. So where to they go from here?

As robot production has increased, costs have gone down. Over the past 30 years, the average robot price has fallen by half in real terms, and even further relative to labor costs. As demand from emerging economies encourages the production of robots to shift to lower-cost regions, they are likely to become cheaper still.