With a reading of 44.4, the Gardner Business Index showed that the metalworking industry improved in January for the second month in a row. While the industry was still contracting in the month, the index reached its highest level since July 2015 and has slowly trended up since August.
New orders contracted for the 10th month in a row, but this subindex was at its highest level since July. Production also contracted for the seventh month in a row, although this subindex has improved noticeably since October. The backlog index, however, contracted for the 22nd consecutive month. It has steadily declined since early 2014, but there are signs the backlog index may be breaking out of its downward trend. In the months ahead, it still indicates falling capacity utilization, however. Employment contracted for the sixth straight month, although this subindex has improved since August. The export index contracted at a faster rate in January after contracting a steadily slower rate the previous five months. Supplier deliveries shortened for the fourth time in five months. Shorter delivery times indicate that suppliers aren’t as busy and can more easily meet the demands of customers.
The material prices index decreased at a faster rate in January and was at its lowest level since May 2009. Material prices have decreased since September 2015, and prices received have decreased since June, although their rate of decrease accelerated in January. Material prices were falling faster than prices received, however. While future business expectations had been steady over the previous four months, in January they weakened to their lowest level since November 2012.
Future capital spending plans fell to their lowest level since July 2015. Compared with one year earlier, they were down 24.3 percent. The annual rate of change has contracted at a fairly constant rate since November, but it does appear that it will contract at a slower rate in the upcoming months, indicating that the weakest part of the capital spending cycle may be over.
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A small slice of the infographic. Click on the link below to see the entire illustration.
MMS’s outreach to future manufacturing professionals typically focuses on careers in machining. A closely related field is welding, and the Tulsa Welding School has recently produced a detailed infographic summarizing the work, opportunities and compensation in this field. Most of the jobs are in manufacturing, but the illustration points out the traveling job opportunities as well. It also notes the increasing extent to which welding work involves automation. For the benefit of a young person in your life who might make a good welder or welding technician, find the complete infographic here.
A smart tablet, mounted in the front of the forklift, connects the truck to ITAMCO’s ERP system. The forklift also has a GPS.
ITAMCO, a manufacturer of precision-machined components and high-precision gears in Plymouth, Indiana, has a history of integrating its machinery and equipment with networked sensors and software. Many of these connections are powered by software applications for mobile devices—apps developed in-house by its own technology team. In 2012, the company implemented an MTConnect-enabled machine monitoring system. Soon after, key pieces of machinery were connected to the company's enterprise resource planning (ERP) system. Now ITAMCO has developed a communication system for its forklifts, citing this connection as a good example of how the Industrial Internet of Things (IIoT) will benefit manufacturing. In this case, it has made forklifts, the workhorses of the plant floor, more valuable than ever at ITAMCO.
Here is how the company describes the way forklifts are running on the IIoT. As soon as a machine operator scans the barcode on a pallet, signifying the completion of the product cycle at his machine, a forklift operator and forklift are on their way to the machine. Each forklift is linked to ITAMCO’s ERP system through its GPS and an application on a smart tablet mounted in the forklift. Forklift operators are notified via their smart devices (employees use iPods, iPads and smartphones) when they’re needed. The communication system is so efficient it will summon the closest forklift to the machine. The forklift operator will also know how many pallets need to be moved and where they should be taken. If the product is being moved to another workstation, the workers in that area will be notified that the product is on its way.
The technology team at ITAMCO created an application that links machine operators, forklift drivers and the company’s ERP system.
“We developed the application because both of our facilities are rather large and forklift operators where always looking for forklifts to move their material but could never find one. Also, material would sit for hours at a machine, delaying the next operation. This application solved the problem by notifying a material handler as soon as the materials were ready to go to the next work area,” says Joel Neidig, an engineer and lead technology developer at ITAMCO. According to Mr. Neidig, the system has been well received by ITAMCO employees. “It has definitely helped me schedule the movement of materials from one work center to another,” says Arthur Doody, material handler at ITAMCO. “We’ve seen a 10-percent reduction in the time it takes to get material ready for the next operation,” Mr. Neidig says.
To learn more about other innovations at ITAMCO, watch the video below.
You turn to Modern Machine Shop primarily for information about cutting metal, not forming it. So, you won’t find much material here on rotary swaging. Nonetheless, I think it’s worth sharing the last article I wrote for MoldMaking Technology, our sister publication, before transferring to Modern Machine Shop a few months back.
After all, metalcutting might not be all you’re interested in, and I’m guessing you’ve never seen anything like what this plastic injection mold manufacturer is doing. “Cavaform” (for “cavity forming”) isn’t just the name of this shop. It’s also the trademarked name of a rotary swaging process used to produce tubular insert IDs by forcing an annealed steel tube around a hardened mandrel. The result is ±0.0002-inch tolerances and 4-micron surface finishes right off the machine, prior to any subsequent polishing. Beyond the “cool factor,” perhaps it will spur some ideas for your own operation.
Read the February digital edition by clicking on the photo above.
The daily reporting document pictured on the cover of the February 2016 issue is a visual tool used by plant managers at Tech Manufacturing to easily check the previous day’s machine performance. The color red indicates a planned interruption (such as inspection or scheduled maintenance), while black indicates periods in which a machine is scheduled offline. Green, meanwhile, is in-cycle time. The machine is producing parts and making money during these periods. Yellow is what the shop doesn’t want to see. This color indicates unexplained non-cutting conditions. Click on the cover image above to access the digital edition of the magazine and turn to page 74 to read the full story.
Also in this issue:
How machining IDs and ODs of 0.0160 inch with tolerances down to ±0.0001 inch led to the development of a new multifunction turning center;
How one shop took baby steps to integrate five-axis manufacturing; and
What Hydromat is doing to tailor its rotary transfer machines to specific high-volume applications.