Columns

Operations

Onshoring Profits: Rethinking Sourcing Strategies

By Lisa Anderson

Seventy percent of manufacturing and distribution executives think near-sourcing strategies will increase in the next five years, according to LMA Consulting Group’s proprietary research study on outsourcing, insourcing and near-sourcing.  This is a reversal of prior trends towards outsourcing.  In our experience with clients across all sectors and sizes of manufacturing and logistics, this is not uncommon. Executives rushed to outsource, following the in-crowd and have realized that they need to evaluate before jumping off the deep end of the pool when they haven’t learned to swim.

Although executives noted on the survey that they jumped on the bandwagon to outsource with an eye on cost, they are re-evaluating.  Several compelling factors are driving this re-assessment:

International

Canada is supporting the development of electric vehicle batteries that will be longer lasting, easier to charge and higher capacity. 

Canada's automotive sector is the country's largest manufacturing sector, producing more than 2 million vehicles per year, which translates to roughly one car every 14 seconds. Additionally, the auto sector employs more than 125,000 Canadians directly and another 398,700 indirectly. The auto industry creates more spinoff jobs than any sector. For every assembly job, six spinoff jobs are created.

To further the progression and innovation in this market, the Government of Canada is investing up to $1.9 million in Vancouver-based Nano One to support the development of cutting-edge electric vehicle battery technology. Nano One produces low-cost high-performance energy storage materials for batteries as well as a wide range of advanced nanostructured composite materials. The new technology will reduce the cost of the energy storage materials in electric vehicle batteries, resulting in batteries that are longer lasting, easier to charge and able to produce more energy. 

The funding, made available through the Automotive Supplier Innovation Program, will support the development and production of electric vehicle battery material in Nano One's pilot plant. The facility will simulate full-scale production of lithium-ion cathode materials and showcase Nano One's patented processing technology. The pilot will also demonstrate the cost, scalability, performance and novelty of Nano One's technology and will enable Nano One to significantly enhance the production of lithium-ion cathode materials. The investment is part of the Innovation Agenda, the Government of Canada's plan to create good-quality jobs for the middle class and those working hard to join it.

"The Government of Canada's Automotive Supplier Innovation Program supports automotive suppliers in developing ground-breaking products and bringing them to market,” says Jonathan Wilkinson, parliamentary secretary to the Minister of Environment and Climate Change. “We are proud to support these technologies, which will help create quality jobs and support Canada's middle class. By investing in Nano One, we are also promoting automotive sector innovation that will lead to a greener, more sustainable future."  

By investing in Canada's automotive sector, the Government is securing jobs, supporting small and medium-sized enterprises and ensuring the right conditions for innovation. The announcement was made by Jonathan Wilkinson, Parliamentary Secretary to the Minister of Environment and Climate Change, on behalf of the Honorable Navdeep Bains, Minister of Innovation, Science and Economic Development.   

"These projects illustrate how Canada's automotive suppliers are at the forefront of designing and building the super-efficient cars of the future—cars that are more energy-efficient and better for the environment,” Bains says. “The made-in-Canada innovations that come from these companies strengthen the skills, knowledge and business expertise that create well-paying jobs for Canadians. These innovations make our country's automotive sector a global success."

South

With a new partnership, Georgia Tech is connected to manufacturing professionals throughout the SME network. 

SME – an organization dedicated to training and developing the manufacturing workforce – has chose Georgia Institute of Technology (Georgia Tech) as one of its inaugural institutional members. Georgia Tech joins Harper College of Palatine, Ill., and Grand Valley State University of Allendale, Mich., as SME's first institutional members. 

"By taking advantage of this membership, colleges and universities can increase their awareness of manufacturing trends and technologies for their instructors, helping connect students to knowledge, resources and people in manufacturing," said Thomas Kurfess, PhD, FSME, PE, professor of mechanical engineering at Georgia Tech and 2017 SME president-elect.

Georgia Tech is known for top-ranked schools and programs, including the George W. Woodruff School of Mechanical Engineering. The department provides programs such as acoustics, bioengineering, materials, manufacturing, and robotics; as well as highly ranked nuclear and radiological engineering and medical physics programs.

SME's institutional membership program, now offered to all academic institutions, connects universities or colleges to manufacturing professionals of the SME network. Along with networking opportunities, it includes reduced member pricing for SME trade shows and conferences, access to industry-focused publications, and opportunities for research and certifications. Additionally, five of the institution's faculty or staff will receive a one-year SME membership.

Georgia Tech provides a focused, technologically based education to more than 25,000 undergraduate and graduate students. Georgia Tech has many nationally recognized programs, all top-ranked by peers and publications alike, and is ranked in the nation's top 10 public universities by U.S. News and World Report. It offers degrees through the Colleges of Computing, Design, Engineering, Sciences, the Scheller College of Business, and the Ivan Allen College of Liberal Arts. As a leading technological university, Georgia Tech has more than 100 centers focused on interdisciplinary research that consistently contribute vital research and innovation to American government, industry, and business.

As a nonprofit organization, SME has served practitioners, companies, educators, government and communities across the manufacturing spectrum for more than 80 years. SME is dedicated to advancement of manufacturing by addressing both knowledge and skills needed for the industry.

Tags: ,

Macola Evolve 2017.3

At its 2017 Macola Evolve conference, Exact connected with customers and demonstrated the advances it is making to fuel their manufacturing and distribution businesses. By Staci Davidson

Exact’s Macola Evolve event in New Orleans in April featured a level of excitement that matched the well-known vibes of its host city. Not only did Macola Evolve bring together customers and solutions providers, but it also underscored the advancements Exact is making with its ERP software systems.

“Manufacturers and distributors are using Macola offerings to simplify and streamline their operations, to make more product and ultimately more profit. That is surely worth celebrating and the Crescent City is the perfect place to do so,” Managing Director Alison Forsythe said in her opening statement.

Director of Development Derek Ochs stressed Macola is focused on enhancing usability and ensuring consistency for its users. This means its systems are being designed to deliver clarity, accessibility, mobility and responsiveness.

“In any given day, our customers may be on the shop or warehouse floor managing operations, out of the office visiting customers or suppliers, or sourcing new materials. The latest update to our ERP and business software is focused on empowering users to more efficiently and seamlessly access the information they need to do their jobs, wherever they are at the time,” Ochs said. “With Macola 10.5, we are matching our software to the way our customers do their jobs. In the end, if Macola is truly doing its own job, the user hardly knows the software is there.”

To demonstrate its dedication to moving customers forward with cutting-edge technology, Exact announced the creation of Macola Labs, which uses company hackathons to explore new technologies and determine what will be developed in the future. Through this initiative, Exact is exploring a facial recognition application, a service-focused “chat bot” and a number of other developments.

Already, customers are having great success with Macola 10, and the company continues to enhance the ERP systems to aid client growth. Exact believes Macola 10 can help customers go beyond core ERP, become paperless in key departments, establish workflow for every critical business process and automate warehouse processes.

“We were looking for an ERP system about 18 months ago,” explained Ben Barber, general manager of Solaire Medical. “We had a custom ERP system and we would sell it, but as we evolved into a manufacturing and sales company, the proprietary system wasn’t working for the operational team. We needed a system that could help us increase productivity and lower lead time.”

Solaire went live with the Macola system last year and Barber described it as a “positive experience” because Exact viewed the company’s processes and procedures and helped fine tune the system in several areas to meet Solaire’s needs. “We are looking to Macola to scale with us,” Barber added. “We believe our internal lead times will be able to go from 30 days to 14 days.”

Ochs explained the expertise at Macola helps its customers have similar stories. “We’ve been doing this for 30 years,” he said. “There is not a scenario when sales talks to a customer where we haven’t seen before and haven’t solved. We know manufacturing and how you run that business better than anyone else, and we will continue to build on that legacy and modernize.” 

HovercraftIndie

Moving heavy machines through a production process by traditional methods such as cranes, conveyors and forklifts is time-consuming and often costly. Contact pressure from wheels, rollers, forklifts, or the load base can damage flooring due to excessive point loading. Costs to repair or replace can be considerable. Epoxy coated flooring, commonly used in industry, costs from $5 to $10 per square foot—a significant expense for a 50,000-square-foot shop floor.

While cost-efficiency is an ongoing issue with cranes, conveyors and draglines, another drawback is that all three are subject to limited flexibility due to their fixed position on the factory floor. If throughput requirements are increased or the production flow needs to be changed, these solutions are limited by their fixed location and speed. Compounding the problem is the tight design of factory floors. With minimal investment and zero downtime, air casters provide a workable alternative, which can be expanded to accommodate changes to production flow and throughput.

Company supervisors and owners have increasingly turned to air caster hovercraft technology to provide a low cost and flexible conveyance for heavy machines through a production process with less manpower, often in the form of a single operator.

Explaining Hovercraft Technology

Air caster hovercraft technology literally floats the equipment or load on a film of air. This technology has been around for many years, the most notable examples being the air hockey table and, of course, hovercrafts. In industrial applications, use of air casters provides ultra-low friction, allowing movement of loads weighing thousands of pounds to be controlled by hand.

Basically, an air caster is a torus shape bag that captures air to lift and move objects. The air pressure requirement for them is less than 60 psi, which the overwhelming majority of factories already have in their compressed air systems. Air caster technology provides omnidirectional load movement adjustments, meaning the casters can move in any direction without increasing force as is the case with wheeled casters. Omnidirectional movement allows more maneuverability and precise placement of equipment and loads that is not feasible with fixed transport systems or rollers.

Air casters work best on smooth, flat surfaces found in most manufacturing plants as well as epoxy coated flooring, tile, metal and vinyl. Although surfaces including asphalt, gravel and dirt are considered unacceptable, use of a temporary overlay will enable the technology to do its job and successfully complete the move.    

The Experience of an Engine Rebuilding Facility

Among the many facilities relying on air caster technology for flexible moves is a diesel engine rebuilding facility in the U.S. Southwest. Air caster systems transport a variety of components weighing several thousand pounds each throughout the plant. The company describes the operation as “effortless load movement for technicians,” and relies on air caster technology to provide efficient production processes.

The company still uses cranes for large sections and subassemblies, but has had issues with battery-powered wheeled vehicles, which it says lack the mobility and flexibility inherent with air casters.

Among the benefits senior management attributes to the technology are precise load control, reduced damage to the shop floor and an increase in productivity. The firm said its employees required only minimum training to become proficient.

Cost Comparison

While air casters require an initial investment, short and long-term financial calculations will offer a clear picture of return on investment. They cost more than traditional wheels and rollers, but certainly far less than cranes. Users cite several compelling benefits of this technology. Among them:

  • Considerably less injury exposure than with wheels.
  • A reduced need for costly repairs and replacement of floors.
  • For industries considering expansion at their location, air casters can easily relocate an assembly line—a capability fixed moving systems are incapable of duplicating.
  • Improved manpower efficiency as many air caster systems need a single operator for tasks formerly requiring multiple personnel.

Adopting the Technology

It’s little wonder that hovercraft technology is finding a home in heavy industry. A technology often associated with recreation at its inception more than 50 years ago has been significantly advanced and upgraded. From eliminating floor damage to more effective use of time and manpower, air casters are gaining greater acceptance as efficient, agile, safe and cost-effective tools for moving heavy equipment.

 

About the Author:

John Massenburg is president and chief executive officer of AeroGo Inc. of Seattle, Wash. AeroGo manufactures heavy load equipment utilizing hovercraft technology for moving heavy, awkward or delicate loads in factories. Tel: 866-537-0153. For more information, please visit www.aerogo.com.

workerscompensation

As the manufacturing environment evolves, executives must evaluate and consider all costs, including workers' compensation insurance. By John Rosmalen

For the last 11 years, manufacturing in the United States has been slowly moving toward a path to recovery. Based on U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, it can be viewed as a rebirth, albeit a gradual one. As the restoration of American manufacturing brings more jobs to the labor force, manufacturers will face a plethora of financial considerations to address including various laws and regulations, none the least of which is workers’ compensation insurance.

To understand the current milieu, here is a brief historical perspective on the evolving manufacturing environment and the challenges that will come with it. In the first decade of this century, American businesses were establishing partnerships with China to bring goods to the U.S.  Production costs were significantly below manufacturing expenses in the U.S., and chief financial officers focused more on risk management since there was no reason to be concerned about workers’ compensation costs and compliance. Then came the global financial crisis, which brought all of these problems to the forefront—poor product quality, safety issues, copyright and information theft.

DeWys Manufacturing web photo

DeWys Manufacturing is involved in all aspects of its custom metal fabrication projects, from beginning to end.

By Jim Harris

DeWys Manufacturing’s customers need not look to other companies to meet their metal fabrication needs. The Marne, Mich.-based company prides itself on being a “one-stop shop” for metal components used in a variety of sectors.

“We make it easy for our customers to write just one purchase order and have one invoice for the components we manufacture for them,” President C.T. Martin says. “If you want a custom metal component, we can take care of all aspects of that for you.”

The company’s diversified services – which it refers to as its “circle of companies,” includes precision sheet metal, machining, powder coating, contract manufacturing and product assembly. DeWys also offers engineering expertise. “We can help our customers engineer costs out of a product and make it more manufacturable,” he adds. “There are not many fabrication companies offering engineering in-house.”

Check out our latest Edition!

 

staci blog mt2

Contact Us

Manufacturing Today Magazine
150 N. Michigan Ave., Suite 900
Chicago, IL 60601

  312.676.1100
  312.676.1101

Click here for a full list of contacts.

Latest Edition

Spread The Love

Testimonials

"The article Manufacturing Today wrote about us was spot-on. It was a pleasure working with them from interview to published article and everything was as promised.” – Jennifer Brozek, inside sales, Koyo Machinery USA Inc.

Click here for more testimonials.

Back To Top