Posted by: Mark Albert 19. December 2014

Get Smart about Manufacturing Intelligence

This white paper from Sandvik Coromant is a succinct, readable overview of the so-called fourth industrial revolution. The big message is: Get ready for it now because it is both a huge challenge and a fantastic opportunity.

The paper includes a timeline of the successive industrial revolutions and a discussion of the emerging Internet of Things. Finally, it recaps Sandvik Coromant’s substantial efforts to have products ready for its customers as they implement the manufacturing intelligence that participation in this new revolution demands.

Posted by: Peter Zelinski 18. December 2014

Additive Manufacturing of Brackets Saves 1 Kilogram per Satellite

Satellites and spacecraft components are excellent candidates for additive manufacturing. One reason is that weight is critical—every ounce saved is an ounce that does not have to be launched into space. Another reason is that these parts are typically made of materials that are hard to machine. Still another reason is that the parts are made in low quantities. Additive manufacturing is unfazed by any of these challenges—part complexity, the machinability of the metal and the smallness of the batch size all do not affect its cost or difficulty.

We recently wrote about how additive manufactured components are on their way to Jupiter in the Juno spacecraft. Another spacefaring success now comes from Airbus, which recently shifted the brackets that hold reflectors and other hardware on satellites to additive manufacturing. Redesigning the brackets for this additive production allowed Airbus to use less material, ultimately cutting nearly 1 kilogram per satellite.

Learn more about the application in this report from EOS.

(Brackets, by the way, are an underappreciated opportunity, says this additive manufacturing authority.)

Posted by: Stephanie Monsanty 17. December 2014

Plasma Cutting on a Waterjet

Shown here on display at IMTS 2014, Esab’s Hydrocut LX combines waterjet and plasma cutting for greater efficiency. 

One advantage of cutting metal parts with a waterjet is the lack of heat distortion and mechanical stress, which translates into more accurate cuts. However, there’s usually a trade-off in speed for this precision. Depending on the type of material and its thickness, other processes like laser or plasma cutting may be able to cut more quickly and at lower cost than waterjet, though less accurately.

Machines that combine waterjet cutting with other processes can offer higher productivity and faster cycle times as a result. For example, the Hydrocut LX system from ESAB Cutting Systems combines the accuracy of waterjet cutting with a plasma system on the same gantry. The system enables precision without sacrificing speed on every cut, the company says. High-precision contours can be cut with the waterjet while non-critical contours can be cut with plasma for cost and time savings. The waterjet can also be configured with oxy-fuel cutting, plasma or ink jet marking, and drilling capabilities. 

Posted by: Peter Zelinski 16. December 2014

Marketing as a Real-Time Metric

Jon Baklund of Baklund R&D has a distinctive approach to marketing that I described in this article. The Minnesota shop owner does not score his business development reps’ efforts on how much business they bring in, but instead on how many live contacts they make with prospects. That’s it. His theory is that spreading awareness and continuing to establish and build positive relationships—without being pushy about getting business—is ultimately going to translate to more business in the long term.

He even tracks these positive contacts with prospects as a real-time business performance metric for all of the shop to see. In the various bar graphs on the right side of this shopfloor display, the green bar tracks business shipped relative to the shop’s costs across various time horizons. All employees know that 80 percent is the break-even on this bar. The business is making a profit above that. Meanwhile, the blue bar in each of these graphs displays a score based on a system Mr. Baklund devised to show the number and quality of direct contacts the business development reps have made. In other words, both the manufacturing personnel and the marketing personnel are generating real-time metrics for all of the company to see.

Posted by: Steve Kline, Jr. 15. December 2014

November MBI Growth Remains Steady

With a reading of 51.3, Gardner’s Metalworking Business Index (MBI) showed that the industry grew in November for the 11th consecutive month and the 13th time in 14 months, at a rate slightly faster than October. The month-over-month rate of growth was just 2.0 percent, which was the second slowest rate of growth since August 2013, and the annual rate of growth decelerated for the second month in a row.

Both new orders and production increased for the 14th month in a row, although new orders grew at their second slowest rate since September 2013 while production grew a little faster than it has since July. Backlogs contracted at their fastest rate since December 2013, and compared to the same month one year earlier, they contracted for the second month in a row. While it was still growing quickly, the annual rate of growth has decelerated for three months in a row, indicating that capacity utilization will likely see its peak rate of growth in the first or second quarter of 2015. Employment has continued to expand since August, and the rate of contraction in exports slowed significantly in November, although the dollar continues to appreciate against other world currencies. Supplier deliveries continued to lengthen, but the rate of increase has slowed the last three months.

Material prices have increased at a slower rate since June and were at their slowest rate since December 2013. Prices received have increased the last seven months, although the increase has accelerated the last two months. This is the strongest period of sustained price increases by metalworking facilities since the summer of 2012. Future business expectations increased sharply in November and were at their highest level since May.

Future capital spending plans contracted 13.7 percent from a year earlier, the fastest month-over-month contraction since February. The annual rate of growth decelerated to 0.5 percent. 

Click here for more economics news from Gardner Business Media.

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