As more states legalize the drug, employers in the manufacturing sector have some decisions to make.
By Steve Sawin

Imagine you have an employee who reports to work on time every day, completes his duties as assigned, and leaves every day without causing any problems. Now imagine that this employee occasionally smokes marijuana on the weekends. Does your opinion of his work change?

This isn’t just a hypothetical situation for many employers, including many manufacturers. As more states pass laws legalizing marijuana use, employers may need to amend their employment policies.

The confusing state of American marijuana laws
Marijuana is legal for medical use in more than half of American states. In eight states, the drug is legal (or will be soon) for recreational use.

However, possession of marijuana is still illegal under federal law, and this seems unlikely to change under the Trump administration. In February, Attorney General Jeff Sessions told reporters: "My view is that we don't need to be legalizing marijuana."



There is good and not-as-good news coming from suppliers to automotive OEMs, but tool shops are finding ways to succeed. 

The Original Equipment Suppliers Association (OESA) and Harbour Results Inc. (HRI) released the results of their Q2 2017 Automotive Tooling Barometer. The tooling industry is experiencing a slightly slower second quarter compared to quarter one, however capacity utilization for both mold and die tool makers is still well above 80 percent. Shops with revenue ranges of $40 million and above are experiencing peak capacity utilization rates of 95 percent.

“There is still a large discrepancy between tool shops who are very busy, and those who are not,” says Laurie Harbour, president and CEO of HRI. “In fact, we’re seeing the standard deviation in the market widening as the year progresses, and the smallest mold shops are struggling to even maintain 60 percent utilization.”

The clearly cyclical nature of work-on-hold continues, as it rises back above 11 percent. The Detroit Three (D3) are driving significant delays for suppliers. Despite increased program delays, overall sentiment (a tool shop’s general outlook for the next three months) is still at record highs at above 80 points.


With embedded, data-centric security and dynamic data protection for CAD and PLM, Vera helps manufacturers secure designs, products and innovation throughout the supply chain.

Vera, a leader in data-centric security, is partnering with Autodesk and PTC, industry leaders in the global computer-aided design (CAD) market. Although manufacturers account for 12 percent of the total U.S. GDP and 80 percent of privately held patents, companies today still lack effective tools to control designs once shared with contractors, third parties or foreign suppliers. With embedded, always-on security that travels with the data, Vera offers the first solution that protects CAD files and data in product lifecycle management (PLM) systems with persistent security and control. With a 360-degree audit trail, dynamic permissions and a frictionless user experience, Vera is closing a critical data loss vector for manufacturers.    

“CAD and PLM solutions are the beating heart of innovation for thousands of companies and define billions of dollars in products and IP every year,” says Ajay Arora, CEO and co-founder of Vera. “Because of this, these designs are a rich target for IP theft that can result in untold millions of lost dollars. That stops today. While Autodesk and PTC are known for their excellent security, the problem has always been a complete lack of control once designs leave these systems or are shared with external partners. Now, Autodesk and PTC users worldwide can maintain total control over their designs and trade secrets throughout the supply chain.”

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What’s New in Air Caster Technology?

By John Massenburg

The technology behind air casters has been around for decades, but its evolution in recent years explains why industry is looking more closely at air casters as a preferred mover of heavy loads. It may seem hard to believe that hovercraft technology, once closely associated with table air hockey games, has developed into a widely used and essential industrial tool. The fact is that the relatively small air caster, thanks to its technological upgrades and enhancements, has become a viable alternative to traditional load moving solutions such as wheels, rollers, rails and cranes because of its flexibility, ease of maneuvering and, perhaps most important, time and workforce efficiencies. 

The science behind air casters is relatively unchanged. A thin film of compressed air is created under the air caster providing almost friction free movement, in addition to inflation of the air caster element for lift.  These actions combine to provide a unique system capable of moving loads from 1,000 pounds to as much as 5,000 tons in a factory production environment. Unlike other traditional moving solutions, air casters are omnidirectional and flexible enough to complete equipment movement in nearly any location on the plant floor. By contrast, traditional load moving solutions require more personnel and time to adjust the move path and final location.


Girlstart gains a new donor, allowing it to continue building girls’ interest and engagement in the STEM fields.

In an effort to continue to support programs that encourage girls at an early age to embrace STEM-related subjects in school and to embolden them to pursue careers in technology, orderTalk Inc., a leading provider of restaurant online ordering software and services, has donated $5,000 to select Girlstart summer camps and after school programs nationwide. orderTalk’s donation demonstrates the importance of supporting STEM, which can have a big impact on manufacturing.

“As the CEO for a progressive digital ordering company that develops software for the restaurant industry, the demand for innovative food ordering solutions is exploding, and with it the need for qualified and talented employees,” says orderTalk CEO Patrick Eldon. “We need to recalibrate the gender imbalance in the computer programing and software development industries and the best way to do that is to continue to support, encourage and inspire students at a young age.”

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UTRC unveils $60 million expanded innovation hub and announces additional $115 million for new research facilities.

United Technologies Research Center (UTRC), the global innovation arm of United Technologies Corp. (UTC), has a new and expanded $60 million state-of-the-art innovation hub on its East Hartford, Conn., campus.

This research and development facility has been designed to enhance global innovation at UTC and its businesses. The company also has two additional major investments planned for its East Hartford campus: a $75 million Additive Manufacturing Center of Excellence and a $40 million Engine Compressor Research facility.

The new innovation hub includes 185,000 square feet of new and renovated office and laboratory space. The $60 million build-out was enabled through a collaboration with the state of Connecticut through the historic 2014 Connecticut Aerospace Reinvestment Act. This investment enables UTRC to expand its core capabilities in advanced materials, measurement sciences, sensor technologies, environmental sciences, autonomous systems and human-collaborative robotics.


The SME Education Foundation expands its efforts to bring students into the manufacturing industry with a new partnership in Michigan.

Shape Corp., a global Tier I automotive and industrial component supplier, is the latest manufacturer to join the growing list of companies partnering with the SME Education Foundation to expand its exemplary manufacturing education program for high school students. The foundation, Shape Corp. and Grand Haven Area Public Schools in Michigan will collaborate through SME’s Partnership Response In Manufacturing Education (PRIME®) initiative to develop and launch an advanced manufacturing education program at Grand Haven High School beginning in the 2018 academic year. 

Shape is dedicated to producing a talented future workforce, often participating in career-building events and industry activities to increase awareness of the opportunities within manufacturing. On an annual basis, Shape supports and hosts local West Michigan teams from the Future Prep’d program, which engages students in solving real business problems. Shape regularly participates in career exploration events, including Boomerang, MiCareerQuest and others. Students often tour Shape’s facilities, gaining an introduction to processes, products and the varying types of work that are needed for the business to succeed.   

“Shape has a long history of engagement with students, and we have partnered with numerous organizations to attract these young people to potential career opportunities in manufacturing,” says Mark White, president. “We are very excited about partnering with the SME Education Foundation and look forward to growing a great manufacturing education program in Grand Haven.”

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Legal Considerations and Best Practices of Private-Equity Sales

By Bill Rosin

Over the past decade, the private-equity industry has expanded dramatically, more than doubling its assets under management to nearly $2.5 trillion in 2016. This remarkable growth has been fueled by a number of factors, including a favorable marketplace and an extended period of low interest rates. With economic conditions remaining conducive to growth, private equity firms and funds have found themselves not only in the black, but in the enviable position of looking to put more of that cash to good use. Consequently, they have become more aggressive about seeking out promising investment opportunities, and this has contributed to a growing trend of private businesses selling to private equity firms.

The surge in private-equity transactions has been evident in a wide range of different industries, from automotive to food services. The manufacturing sector is no exception. With private equity interest in private businesses perhaps at an all-time high, manufacturing executives and decision-makers would be wise to educate themselves about the various considerations and consequences that should be taken into account when negotiating these deals. Understanding the legal and logistical landscape of private equity deals is an important first step toward preserving leverage and maximizing returns if a sale moves forward.

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