Richard Malek, president of Tech-Max Machine (the shop featured in this article), periodically hosts a local group of Cub Scouts at his facility. The kids (third through fifth grade) are given the chance to learn about manufacturing in the hope that some of them might picture themselves doing this work in the future. For these visits, Mr. Malek devises displays and object lessons to help the kids experience what manufacturing is all about.
To prepare for one such visit, he had his shop machine blocks from various different metals—aluminum, bronze, steel, titanium and others—so that he could give a set of the blocks to each of the kids to take home. The insight he wanted to convey is that metals have very different properties, and that manufacturers master these properties so they can choose the right metal for the need at hand and work with that material in the right way. The different appearances and hefts of the different blocks helped make this lesson tangible.
Each scout also received a basic one-page guide to these different metals written by Mr. Malek. Download a PDF version.
(The shop president says he also expects to host a group of sixth- through eighth-grade Boy Scouts later this spring. He is in the process now of thinking about the best way to engage this older group.)
With a reading of 55.9, Gardner’s metalworking business index showed that conditions in the industry expanded in March for the third straight month and the fourth time in five months. This was the fastest rate of growth since March 2012. Since August, the metalworking industry has been on a steady and significant uptrend. The March index was 10.9 percent higher than it was in March 2013, which is the seventh straight month of year-over-year growth. Also, March was the fastest rate of month-over-month growth so far this year. The annual rate of change grew for the first time since September 2011.
New orders and production grew for the sixth consecutive month, both at significantly faster rates than the first two months of the year and at their fastest rates since March 2012. The backlog index also grew for the second time in three months, indicating that capacity utilization and capital spending at metalworking facilities should increase significantly this year. Employment has grown at a consistently high rate in each of the first three months of the year, similar to the rates of growth at the end of 2011 and beginning of 2012. Exports were flat, the first time they have not contracted since September 2011. Supplier deliveries continue to lengthen at a steadily increasing rate as they have done since last June.
Material prices continued to increase, but they did so at the slowest rate of the first quarter. Prices received increased for the fourth straight month, but the increase was minimal in February and March. Future business expectations remain strong and have been very stable throughout the quarter.
After contracting the first two months of 2014, future capital spending plans improved 2.7 percent in March compared to one year earlier. Despite this improvement, however, the annual rate of change contracted at a faster rate for the second consecutive month.
Attendees at the conference voted on the five finalists to choose the top three winners. In addition to the $100,000 first prize, a $75,000 second prize and a 50,000 third prize were also awarded. All of the finalists demonstrated the value of the MTConnect standard as a key enabler of creative, yet practical, applications that promised to have far-reaching benefits for manufacturers in the United States.
After the results were announced and the cash prizes awarded, I had a chance to find out a little more about Valerie’s interest in engineering, and discovered what I think is important clue in her background that might account for her unique ability to develop a winning entry. She told me that before she settled on engineering as her college program, she was drawn to creative pursuits such as music and theater. Her natural interest in and talent for math and the sciences, however, proved a stronger attraction.
Valerie explained that one of her first engineering courses included an introduction to CNC machining. That really got her hooked on the engineering aspects of manufacturing. Noting her earlier artistic interests, I ask Valerie if she found an outlet for that inclination in engineering. She agreed that there were many opportunities to be creative and inventive in her chosen path. Conceiving, designing and constructing the test equipment and related experiments proved this many times, she said.
It would be great if she can carry that message to other young women and men who might be considering careers and engineering, science or manufacturing. She can show them that these are fields in which the creative spark can certainly catch fire.
For more details about the MTConnect Challenge 2 and information about the finalists, click here.
With conventional vises, vise jaws attach to the face of master jaws via cap screws. Conversely, the Carvesmart system from Bellatex Industries uses master jaws with a female dovetail profile that accept vise jaws with a male dovetail profile. With this system, the jaws can be front-loaded or slid into the side of the master jaws, and are secured via clamping elements accessible at the top of the master jaws that provide downward pressure to keep the jaws in place. Learn more in this article.
Ergoseal’s production manager, George Lang, helped oversee the company’s ERP implementation. He says getting the entire staff into the habit of using the system took time, but it was worth it. Read more about Ergoseal by finding this company’s link in the list below.
Of all of the changes that Ergoseal put in place to prepare for its business to grow, implementing ERP was the most difficult. Badge-wearing, barcode-scanning, and interacting with a systemized approach to logging and accessing data became a part of the daily life of every employee.
But this change was arguably also the most necessary. The company had long since outgrown the point in which one company leader could keep tabs on all of the information vital to the shop’s daily efficiency. The company also recognized the risk of redundancy, error or lost time on the shop floor because of an employee not having easy access to needed information.
Job shops reach a point in their growth when they need to seriously consider ERP, says Dennis Gilhooley of Ultra Consultants. He wrote an article outlining what job shops should think about when evaluating these systems.
To get a glimpse of what other shops have done, see the list below. Each company name is a link to an article about that shop’s experience with ERP: