Posted by: Steve Kline, Jr. 6. February 2015

January 2015 Metalworking Business Index Shows Similar Growth to Previous Months


With a reading of 51.2, the Gardner Business Index showed that the metalworking industry grew for the 13th consecutive month and the 15th time in 16 months. The index has indicated a fairly constant rate of growth since October. While the index shows continued growth in the industry, the month-over-month rate contracted 5.5 percent, which was the first month of contraction compared to one year ago since August 2013. The annual rate of growth decelerated for the fourth month in a row.

Both new orders and production increased for the 16th month in a row. The new orders index has been somewhat range bound since July. However, the production index has increased noticeably over that same time period. Therefore, backlogs continued to contract but at a somewhat slower rate than previous months. Compared to the same month one year ago, backlogs decreased 11.4 percent. That was the third time in four months that have contracted month-over-month. While it was still growing quickly, the annual rate of growth has decelerated for five months in a row. This indicates that capacity utilization will likely see its peak rate of growth in the first quarter of 2015. Employment continued to expand but did so at its slowest rate of 2014. The rate of contraction in exports accelerated due to the strengthening dollar. Supplier deliveries continued to lengthen, increasing at their slowest rate of 2014.

Material prices increased at a slower rate once again. The material price index was at its lowest level since August 2012. Prices received have increased the last nine months. The rate of increase has been fairly constant since October. This is the strongest period of sustained price increases by metalworking facilities since the summer of 2012. Future business expectations decreased somewhat but remained at about the average level since the end of 2013.  

Plants with more than 250 employees grew at a much faster rate in January. In fact, the index was its highest level since September. The index at facilities with 100 to 249 employees remained strong. Plants with 50 to 99 employees recorded their fastest expansion since August. While shops with fewer than 50 employees saw minimal growth last month, they contracted this month. Generally, the smaller the plant, the faster the contraction.

Thanks to the falling oil price, the index for the South Central has fallen off a cliff the last three months. The South Central in January was the only time any region has recorded an index below 40. The North Central – East was the fastest growing region, and it was closely followed by the North Central – West. Also expanding was the Southeast. Joining the South Central in contraction were the West and Northeast regions.

Future capital spending plans contracted 24.0 percent compared to January 2014. This was the fastest month-over-month contraction since June 2012. The annual rate of growth contracted 3.9 percent, which was the second month in a row of annual contraction.

Posted by: Emily Probst 5. February 2015

Are You Familiar with Zones on MMS Online?

If you’re reading this blog post, you understand that Modern Machine Shop is more than just a print magazine. Our brand uses various media channels—social media, e-newsletters, print, a website and more—to help move the manufacturing industry forward.

One of the ways we do this is by organizing our content into various Zones on MMS Online. Zones are knowledge centers on key topics where information is aggregated and organized for you to find relevant information on that topic. Take, for example, our CAD/CAM Zone. If you poke around in it, you’ll discover a central hub for new products, videos, articles, columns, case studies and other editorial content we’ve collected on the subject. It’s also a great place to discover new suppliers of CAD, CAM and related software, if you’re in the market for it.

We have many different zone pages on MMS online. Take a peek and see what you can learn.

Posted by: Derek Korn 4. February 2015

A Side Benefit to Benchmarking: Gaining a Customer

JD Machine maintains a clean, organized shop in Ogden, Utah.

Our fifth annual Top Shops benchmarking survey is now live through the end of February, and this article explains more about it.

Another element of Top Shops is an Honors Program that highlights successful participating companies in each of the survey’s four primary sections: machining technology, shopfloor practices, business strategy and human resources. Honors Program winners are profiled in the pages of Modern Machine Shop and on our website. Ogden, Utah’s JD Machine was a winner in 2013, and Matthew Wardle, company president, says that the resulting exposure helped net a nice contract from a new customer. 

Posted by: Stephanie Monsanty 3. February 2015

Spotlight Slideshow: Grinding

Grinding has an incredible range of uses in the machine shop—from roughing out a geometry to finishing workpieces with tight tolerances to threading parts to machining cutting tools. The selection of equipment featured in February’s Modern Equipment Review Spotlight slideshow reflects that variety of applications. Click on the image above for a slideshow of grinding equipment ranging from grinding wheels and abrasives to complete grinding systems equipped with automation and metrology capabilities. 

Posted by: Peter Zelinski 2. February 2015

The Changing Shape of Manufacturing

What is topology optimization? It is the use of mathematical analysis to achieve a part form that is suited purely to the load and function of the part, omitting all superfluous material. “You could think of it as being like a game of Jenga,” says David Ewing, technical marketing engineer for Renishaw’s Additive Manufacturing Products Division. That is, the objective is to remove blocks from low-stress areas that aren’t contributing to the strength of the part, leaving the part’s essential structure intact.

Topology optimization produces organic forms that generally can’t be produced through conventional manufacturing. However, realizing optimal part forms is one of the promises of additive manufacturing, which excels at producing complex shapes.

Mr. Ewing wrote this article on how topology optimization enabled Empire Cycles to produce a bike frame bracket 44 percent lighter than the bracket’s original design—even though the new, lightweight bracket is titanium when the heavy bracket had been aluminum.

Read more about topology optimization in this article about additive manufacturing at Penn State University.

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