MMS Blog

Metalworking Index Moves Closer to

The Gardner Business Index (GBI): Metalworking registered a six-point improvement over April’s all-time low reading, ending May at 40.8. For the first time since governments curtailed normal business operations to prevent the spread of the coronavirus, all components of the index moved toward more “normal” levels. Except for supplier deliveries, all components moved higher from their prior month readings, although each remained below a reading of 50, signaling a slowing contraction. This means that while conditions deteriorated further in the most recent month, they did so at a slowing rate compared to the prior month. 

The May reading for supplier deliveries also contracted by four points, implying that deliveries were not as delayed in May as they were in April. The quickening of deliveries may provide the first evidence that upstream suppliers were able to begin more normal operations after experiencing significant disruptions to operations in recent months. The resumption of deliveries may be coming at a cost to manufacturers, as a growing proportion of survey respondents reported higher price for their material inputs while also reporting for a third month an erosion of their own pricing power. The combination of these two factors implies that profit margins are under pressure.

Manufacturing Touches Lives, Now More Than Ever

Like wars and natural disasters, the coronavirus represents an unwelcome crisis that will have long-lasting effects on the global economy and, most importantly, the lives of our loved ones. However, if history has taught us anything, it has taught us that such events can produce exceptional human efforts on a global scale. It is our time to shine.

Manufacturing has a huge part to play in this effort. Demand for parts for ventilators, stretchers and other biomedical essentials is some six times greater than normal and expected to continue for the next several months. During these lean times, Pioneer Service is only one of many manufacturers that are grateful for the opportunity to contribute and keep their doors open to do so.

Adding Part Traceability to CNC Machine Monitoring

By itself, machine monitoring is not enough to gage manufacturing process performance.

To understand why, consider an analogy from Dr. Shahrukh Irani, a lean manufacturing consultant. He compares the machine shop with a piece of woven fabric. The vertical threads represent the workstations, and the horizontal threads represent the work. Through the lens of the machine monitoring system, the vertical threads are fully visible, stretching from one end of the fabric to the other. However, the horizontal threads are visible only at the intersections, where parts meet machines. The result is an incomplete patchwork of latticed chunks that provides limited insight. “You make money by moving metal through the shop,” Dr. Irani explains. “If you lose traceability of the parts from the moment the cycle finishes on machine one until the next cycle begins on machine two, how can you move the money faster?”

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Emily Probst: Hi, I'm Emily Probst, senior editor with Modern Machine Shop, and I'm here with Christina Fuges, editorial director of MoldMaking Technology magazine. Christina, as I was preparing to talk to you today, I was reflecting on the fact that Modern frequently covers the topic of die/mold machining in our pages, and it seems like this is the type of content that is great for MoldMaking Technology. But, I think that the content you cover is even more targeted than that, right?

Machine-Tending Automation Gets a Head Start

Vickers Engineering is full of robots. Many are both large and powerful, and most move blindingly fast, fulfilling singular roles with such singular purpose that entering their protective cages requires rigid adherence to stringent safety protocols. The advantages of the latest collaborative arms aside, high part volumes, a breakneck production pace and an environment saturated with wear-inducing coolant and oil residue make traditional machine-tending automation the only choice for this Tier 1 automotive manufacturer.

However, Vickers’ success is due largely to making good on the idea that industrial robots can be more versatile than many believe. Perhaps the best proof of this is a relatively large structure near the center of the shop floor and emblazoned with a conspicuous logo: a red rabbit.