Posted by: Steve Kline, Jr. 7. June 2016

GBI: Metalworking May 2016 – 45.3

With a reading of 45.3, the Gardner Business Index showed that the metalworking industry contracted in May at a similar rate as in April. Although the index showed a bit of a surge in the first quarter of this year, it has slowed down in the second quarter so far. The trend since last November is still somewhat positive, however.

New orders and production both contracted in May for the second month in a row, and while production took the larger hit the previous month, new orders contracted faster than production in May. The backlog index also contracted faster for the second month in a row. Overall, backlogs have contracted since March 2014. Employment contracted for the 10th month in a row with the rate of contraction accelerating somewhat the last two months. The export subindex has contracted at a decelerating rate since August 2015 as the rate of increase in the dollar has slowed, if not stopped altogether. Supplier deliveries lengthened in May for the third month in a row.

The material prices index has increased sharply in 2016, jumping to 59.4 in May from 41.9 in January. Some of this surge is more likely due to the leveling off of the dollar than to a strengthening world economy. This subindex was at its highest level in May since November 2014. Prices received have decreased since June 2015, but the rate of decrease generally has decelerated since November 2015. Future business expectations were unchanged from April, remaining above their level of the second half of 2015.

Every region contracted in May, although the Southeast remained the strongest with a very moderate contraction, having grown three of the last five months. It was followed by the Northeast, which has contracted the last two months, the North Central-West, the West, the North Central-East, and the South Central region. The South Central has had an index above 40 two of the last three months, which is a significant improvement over its level since November 2015.

While they are still well below the historical average, May’s future capital spending plans were at the second highest level since February 2015 (only April was higher). This also was the second month in a row that spending plans were higher than they were a year earlier. This has caused the annual rate of change to contract at a slower rate for three months. These last couple of months could be the beginning of a rebound in capital equipment spending.

For more economic news, visit our Economic News blog, or subscribe to our Economic news update.

Posted by: Peter Zelinski 6. June 2016

What Do Manufacturers Want in Training?

What do machining facilities want in training for employees? What do they lack in the training options available right now?

TMA, the regional manufacturing association based in the Chicago area, recently asked that question of its members. The association was opening a new headquarters facility and would be equipping a training shop there.

Beyond the training provided by local community colleges (which can be quite good), the member manufacturers said they also wished to find:

  • Accelerated training able to quickly equip capable unskilled employees with basic CNC skills;
  • Specialized training in advanced capabilities—five-axis machining and Swiss-type machining—for employees who already have a foundation more basic CNC equipment; and.
  • Training that features a diversity of different companies’ controls.

TMA recently launched a training program that is now meeting these needs. The development came not long after the association had come close to abandoning training altogether. Read about the reinvention of training at TMA.

Posted by: Stephanie Hendrixson 3. June 2016

Webinar: Quality Management Systems for Additive Manufacturing

Additive Manufacturing magazine, sister to Modern Machine Shop, is hosting a free webinar June 14 focused on quality management systems for additive manufacturing. Chris Krampitz, director of innovation and strategy for UL Additive Manufacturing, will be the featured speaker.

As additive technology moves out of development and into production, manufacturers need to adapt quality management systems (QMS) to handle the issues posed by additive manufacturing. During the webinar, Mr. Krampitz will discuss why QMS must be modified and how they can account for the AM supply chain, including raw material, internal equipment and more.

The webinar takes place Tuesday, June 14 from 2 to 3 p.m. EDT. Register here

Posted by: Derek Korn 2. June 2016

Inside Haimer’s Expanded North American Headquarters

Haimer’s 25,000-square-foot facility includes a training and demo area for the company’s range of shrink-fit, balancing and tooling technology.

Recently, I got to visit Haimer’s newly expanded North American headquarters in Villa Park, Illinois. The company’s facility has grown from 9,000 to 25,000 square feet where it maintains $5.5 million in inventory for its range of tool holders, shrink fit machines, balancing machines, 3D-sensors and cutting tools.

This area I call a tool room for lean manufacturers.

The expansion includes new training area for customers and distributors as well as a showroom/demo area with high-speed VMC. The company also has a five-axis tool grinding machine and extends its German hospitality to visitors with a large reception area and 25-foot-long bar.

The tool holder lights above the 25-foot-long hospitality bar were a nice touch.

As I toured the facility, I called to mind a number of articles we’ve written about the company’s tooling technology. For example:

Posted by: Russ Willcutt 1. June 2016

Redefining the Rustbelt

They’re called “driveway moments,” and fans of National Public Radio describe them as broadcast reports that are so captivating you end up sitting in your car once you’ve arrived home just to finish listening to it. My variation on that theme is the “parking lot moment,” which always seems to occur just as I’ve gotten to work. A recent example involved a segment on the Marketplace Morning Report during which Antoine van Agtmael—a trustee at the Brookings Institution—discussed the book he co-authored with colleague Fred Baker titled “The Smartest Places on Earth: Why Rustbelts Are the Emerging Hotspots of Global Innovation.”

Antoine van Agtmael has co-authored a book describing the transformation of rustbelts into “brainbelts” by harnessing the power of visionary thinkers, local universities, regional government initiatives, start-ups and big corporations.

A summary by Brookings states that “manufacturing has long held that the key to maintaining a competitive edge lies in making things as cheaply as possible, which saw production outsourced to the developing world in pursuit of ever-lower costs. [The authors] crisscrossed the globe and found that the economic tide is beginning to shift from its obsession with cheap goods to the production of smart ones.”

During the interview, the author described a combination of forces including visionary thinkers, local universities, regional government initiatives, start-ups, and big corporations that are transforming former U.S. rustbelts into “brainbelts.” Factors including a collaborative approach to working and a sense of freedom and trust are producing smart products that are transforming industries by integrating IT, sensors, big data, new materials, new discoveries and automation. Go here for a video of a panel discussion on the subject to learn more. Also read this blog post about an innovative approach to pumping life into small manufacturing communities in Kentucky. 

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