Peter Zelinski has been a writer and editor for Modern Machine Shop for more than a decade. One of the aspects of this work that he enjoys the most is visiting machining facilities to learn about the manufacturing technology, systems and strategies they have adopted, and the successes they’ve realized as a result. Pete earned his degree in mechanical engineering from the University of Cincinnati, and he first learned about machining by running and programming machine tools in a metalworking laboratory within GE Aircraft Engines. Follow Pete on Twitter at Z_Axis_MMS.
Kent Bicycles, a United States-based company that currently manufactures bikes in China, will be building a plant in South Carolina so that it can serve American demand with American production. This Washington Post article details the company’s move. The article paints an interesting picture of reshoring, identifying the many factors that contributed to the move. According to Kent CEO Arnold Kamler, the reasons for reshoring include all of the following:
1. Shifting Opinion. In the 1990s, he says, offshoring was fashionable. “Made in the USA” was not. For a manufacturer to be regarded well by important commercial partners (retailers, for example), it helped to look to offshore production even for small cost savings.
2. Customer Encouragement. Related to Point 1, Wal-Mart recently expressed its new preference to Kent. The big retailer enouraged the bike maker to shift some production to the United States. Wal-Mart’s encouragement gave Kent the confidence to press ahead.
3. Foreign Demand. International business is doing so well that Kent expects to be able to sell all of its current overseas production outside the United States. Therefore, this shift in production will not subtract production from overseas. Instead, U.S. production is the alternative to an overseas increase.
4. Cost. Cost of labor in China is increasing. The difference between U.S. and Chinese labor cost is not as great as it once was.
5. Worker Commitment. Mr. Kamler found what he regards as a serious attitude toward production-floor work in Clarendon, South Carolina. Many of the workers he observed were single mothers basing their families’ livelihoods on this work. By contrast, he has noted what he views as an increasingly “apathetic” attitude among personnel in overseas facilities. He cites the distraction of cell phone use by production employees as a significant problem.
6. State Competition. State governments recognize the value of manufacturing and are pursuing manufacturing facilities. New Jersey and South Carolina competed for Kent’s plant. Part of the winning offer from South Carolina was the commitment to train Kent’s workers for free.
Students who are too far from Chicago to be able to visit the International Manufacturing Technology Show in person will be able to experience IMTS in their classrooms thanks to “Technology Applied,” a new, online virtual field trip that will be filmed at the show. Teachers can register to access any or all of the show’s three 30-minute episodes, which will be broadcast on three consecutive days during the IMTS: September 10, 11 and 12.
The virtual field trip will be filmed, produced and hosted by the team that creates The Edge Factor Show. By taking an exciting look at some of the automation, equipment and processes demonstrated at IMTS, the episodes show students the technology they are likely to employ if they pursue manufacturing careers, and will also illustrate how science and mathematics are applied in manufacturing every day. CNC machining, additive manufacturing, aerospace manufacturing and racecar technology are some of the topics to be addressed, with content appropriate to grades 5-12. Learn more by watching the teaser above and by visiting the “Technology Applied” registration page.
Consider encouraging the teachers you know to register for this event. Thanks to the support of Sandvik Coromant, the lead organizer of the virtual field trip, registration is free for the first 1,000 teachers who sign up. Learn more.
A shop running two 10-hour shifts has just about all of the day covered. That was the case with Aztalan Engineering. Using a horizontal machining center—with parts loaded on one pallet while they are being machined on the other pallet—offered a way to keep production going throughout all of the staffed hours. However, for a manifold part needed in relatively high volume, the shop went even farther than this. It added a Fastems pallet system so it could keep on feeding the machine even through the unattended hours. Capturing this seemingly small number of additional hours had a significant impact on capacity. The additional 4 hours per day, plus an extra 6 hours over the weekend, increases the weekly output of this machine by more than 25 percent over what a standalone HMC could do, even an HMC staffed by an operator for 20 hours per day.
Vickers Engineering President and CEO Matt Tyler says that automation has not replaced people in his shop, but instead has expanded the workforce. Without robotic automation, he says, this New Troy, Michigan, supplier of precision machined parts would have maybe 80 to 90 employees today, instead of the much larger number it currently employes. Because of the way robots have made the shop more competitive and increased the value of each of employee, the shop now employs around 200. Learn more about Vickers’s experience with robots in this video produced by FANUC America.
Airbus says it is expanding its use of additive manufacturing in aircraft part production. The reasons why are the ones typically cited: less lead time, less material, less environmental impact. However, a statement from the company gives numbers for some of the savings its expects to see. The company says parts produced additively (such as the bracket in the photo) will be 30 to 55 percent lighter than the parts they replace, will use 90 percent less raw material, and will decrease energy used in production by as much as 90 percent. Read more here.