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Archive for the ‘Manufacturing’ Category

Robotics in Logistics & Distribution

Monday, January 18, 2016
posted by IMT-Webmaster

robotics-in-logistics-webIncreased speed, accuracy and efficiency, while lowering costs from the producer to the end user, are the goals of every supply chain manager. Today computer-driven robots are being integrated into each segment of manufacturing, distribution and logistics. Machines programmed for specific functions can accomplish tasks quicker, safer and with fewer errors than humans can. In complex distribution and warehousing, particularly when millions of fast moving products and parts are involved, technology & manufacturing robotic innovations are critical to competitiveness and profitability.

As yet, not everything can be handled by machines. Judgement calls, analysis and decision-making remain within the domain of human capability. Customer and supplier interaction, inventory decisions and even communications with and programming of these robotic devices require human interface. By using robots to perform repetitive mind-numbing tasks, skilled employees can be advanced to perform more complex and interesting roles.

Robotics in Warehousing

Optimizing space and minimizing retrieval speed are critical objectives. In the past, inefficient space management has led to building expansions or even relocations that are not warranted. Picture the wide aisles of conventional warehouses required to allow bulky human-driven forklifts to maneuver while storing and picking. Consider the maximum height of racking for conventional equipment to safely place and retrieve pallets or other packing units.

With robotic shelving, rail systems, code readers and picking systems, cases and pallets can be placed randomly in any slot and easily retrieved as needed without human assistance. No longer are like products required to be grouped in order that humans may locate them in easy-to-find areas.

Virtually every cubic foot of space may be utilized in a modern warehouse, no longer limited by the reach capacity of conventional equipment.  Space requirements of a robotic warehouse can be substantially reduced.

 “Speed of Light” Order Picking

With technology & manufacturing robotics, the products come to the workers rather than the workers traveling to the product, a much more efficient arrangement.

Customer orders initiate the picking process and all other activities. The system instantly identifies the precise pallet or the location of the desired items. This triggers the picking mechanisms to pull a pallet or case from its “slot” and directs it through a series of conveyors. Elevators automatically lower the item to a ground level staging area. If the product must be weighed or otherwise labeled, the item passes automatically through the appropriate devices before loading. Automated fork lifts move the product to the delivery vehicle.

There are numerous companies involved in technology & manufacturing innovation. Configurations differ depending upon the manufacturer. But the objectives are the same. In most systems, racking consists of tracks, rails and elevators that can quickly move a pallet from a remote location in the building to the staging area for integration with other products prior to being robot-loaded onto pre-positioned delivery vehicles.

Once the item is picked or pulled from its storage location, the system adjusts the inventory, produces a load sheet and routes the product automatically to the assigned delivery vehicle.

Some Advantages of Technology & Manufacturing Robotic Systems in Logistics

  • Improved Productivity
  • Accurate Inventory Control
  • Improved Space utilization
  • Reduced Breakage and Damage
  • Delivery Truck Turnaround
  • More Efficient Receiving

Delivery Drones: The New Frontier

With the help of GPS technology & manufacturing innovations, human-operated delivery vehicles still manage the transport of goods. But currently, large companies such as Amazon, WalMart and others are experimenting with the possibility of using robotic drones for delivery in order to further reduce the lapsed time from order placement to delivery to a few hours. Once a delivery is complete, the empty drones will automatically return to their home base to be reused.

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Manufacturing’s Impact on the Agriculture Industry

Monday, January 4, 2016
posted by IMT-Webmaster

metal-manufacturing-in-the-ag-industry-webMetal manufacturing advancements have been a part of improving the agricultural industry as far back as the beginning of the industrial revolution. Before the revolution and the introduction of machines to aide in the process of manufacturing, most metal work was done entirely by hand and thus, very little metal work was actually done. The typically wooden tools used in agriculture at the time were far less sturdy than metalwork, and had a bad tendency to warp under environmental exposure.

With the advent of machines and assembly lines however, it not only became cheaper and easier to manufacture tools made of metal, but it opened up the entire agricultural community to further advances in its own tools of the trade. As the metal manufacturing world continues to grow and evolve today, the agricultural industry benefits from these advancements in a variety of ways.

  • Longevity: Metal works are far more durable than wooden ones, capable of weathering changes in temperature or moisture, as well as simply being sturdier overall.
  • Production rate: The introduction of machines designed specifically for agricultural processes cuts down on the need for human labor, which not only increases the speed at which these processes can be done, but also the accuracy with which they are done.
  • Increased production overall: With advances in the manufacturing of machines have come advances in the agricultural industry itself. New ways to encourage growth, as well as better ways to collect and preserve that growth without resorting to waste.

In the past, before the introduction of metal manufacturing, agriculture was practiced entirely by hand, or through the use of domesticated farm animals like horses. After the introduction of metal machinery and alternative powers like gasoline, the long and laborious job of many could be replaced by machinery like tractors and combine harvesters and the careful maintenance of only one or two people instead.

The manufacturing of metal works have advanced even further than that in recent years through continuous innovation in the field though. As technology continues to grow and adapt, our capabilities continue to as well.

  • Detail work with smaller and smaller pieces in machines increases accuracy in the work provided, with less chance of these parts needing to be replaced as often from being worn down through ill fitting.
  • Advancements in materials and production qualities in machine parts leads to machines that are faster and more durable.
  • The introduction of the “Information Age” has brought about the advent of machines fitted with GPS monitoring or even self-guiding programs, allowing for far more precision in their work.

All of these advancements benefit from the regular growth and innovation of the metal manufacturing and fabrication world, whether it be in the agriculture machinery itself, or in the technology being created for these machines. Because of the material’s durability and aptitude for precision, a majority of the new technological advances being made involve metal pieces.

As technology and our capabilities with it advance, so does our precision and detail in metal manufacturing, which in turn continues to advance technology in the agricultural industry at an ambitious rate. Some of the most necessary parts in machinery can be incredibly small and detailed, and it’s only through advancements in technology that we are able to produce these pieces. While metal works overall prove far more durable than the previous wooden ones, they still wear down over time and require various parts to be replaced, or even improved as the technology itself grows and improves.

Supply and demand for agricultural products continue to grow, and technology must with it. Metal manufacture is indispensable to this growth

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‘Doing’ as the NEW Learning

Monday, December 7, 2015
posted by IMT-Webmaster

doing-is-the-new-learning-webVANISHING POINT

Baby Boomers are retiring en masse. This unprecedented exodus has been the subject of a Social Security Administration report, which found these workers departing at a rate of 10,000 per day. While such a figure carries far reaching implications for every sector of the economy, the impact on manufacturing companies has been particularly harsh.

NEW KIDS ON THE BLOCK

A study by the Pew Research Center shows that, as of this year, Millennials surpassed Baby Boomers and Gen X’ers as the largest segment of the workforce. This influx of 53.5 million new workers should translate into a surplus of skilled replacements, but it hasn’t. Only 5.4% of those 18-34 have opted for careers in manufacturing. Branding can be blamed for part of this shortfall, as the industry has proven inept at appealing to the digitally obsessed generation.

LAWS OF ATTRACTION

There are countless articles, seminars, and HR pamphlets dedicated to the complex art of recruiting Millennials, who are a whole other kettle of fish. Since it could take a separate post to unpack the “How To” conundrum, I’ll simplify things by examining the obvious characteristics of Generation Y. For starters, we know that they are:

  • Group Oriented
  • Innovative
  • Tech-Savvy
  • Socially Active
  • Developmentally concerned
  • Creative
  • Digitally Obsessed

Now, let’s look at recent technological advances reshaping our industry:

  • 3D Printing and Painting
  • Nano-Technology
  • Sustainability Initiatives
  • Internet of Things
  • SMAC Stak
  • Next Shoring
  • Introduction of Industry Apps

From here we can conclude that manufacturers and millennials make natural allies. Revisiting the branding issue for a moment; our industry has done a poor job of distancing itself from the iconic photographs of dank assembly line laden factories of the early twentieth century. My manufacturing company is not the same as my grandfather’s, but without a push to transmit this new image to the general public, potential workers remain unenlightened.

THE GOOD NEWS

The United States Department of Education has shifted focus to STEM related curricula. This push will help capture the imaginations of future workers and prepare them for a career in our industry.

THE BAD NEWS

While this bodes well for future members of the workforce, it does nothing to assist with the current deficiency. Even if interest were suddenly generated and the industry experienced a massive influx, there would not be sufficient lead time for proper employee training and development.

DOING AS THE NEW LEARNING

This has led myself and other employers to develop on-the-job-training techniques designed to maximize efficiency in a reduced time frame. Here is an opportunity to appeal to the creativity, networking abilities, and group mentality of Millennials, by asking that they assist in the innovation and application process. For employee training and development in the new era, doing must become the new learning.

EMPLOYEE TRAINING AND DEVELOPMENT

Kryton Engineered Metals and other manufacturing employers are also maximizing development through such programs as:

  • Internship Offers
  • Community and Technical College based recruiting programs
  • Mentoring Programs
  • Job Rotation

As already seen, millennials are training focused and require constant feedback. As a manufacturer, I understand the value of placing incoming workers with veteran employees who can provide such feedback. I also understand their desire to be a part of something larger than themselves, and know I can capitalize on this by having them learn aspects of every job process.  Doing so helps them see that they are more than just another cog in the machine. After all, if I wait for education to provide the skilled workforce needed, my machine will not have enough cogs to function.

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Why it’s important to keep American manufacturing IN America

Monday, November 23, 2015
posted by IMT-Webmaster

made-in-america-webOne of the largest trends recently being brought to light in the American manufacturing industry is the process of reshoring. The reshoring initiative aims to return manufacturing operations back to the United States, after previously having moved them to another country.

The desire to keep manufacturing jobs here at home has been reticently shared throughout the industry for some time, but most industry leaders simply found the cost benefits of outsourcing jobs to other countries too rewarding to pass on. As the industry has adapted in many ways, however, the pros-and-cons of outsourcing are now being measured much differently.

Millions of American manufacturing jobs were lost in the last decade due to outsourcing. Low wages and tax advantages overseas made the transition seem obvious to big-time suppliers who would simply be able to produce much more for much less. What wasn’t figured was the cost of quality.

Quality is literally everything to manufacturers both local and global. Being unable to properly monitor and guarantee that eachquality-control2-web and every finished product is of pristine quality is a cost that can compound quickly. Simply put, any time an error must be corrected it creates a cost that would not have been in play otherwise. And, when it comes to weighing cost versus quality, the answer is becoming more and more obvious to manufacturers.

Growing energy and transportation prices have also lead many industry leaders to rethink the cost benefits of outsourcing. Keeping production at home significantly reduces the cost of delivery and distribution, and also better meets the needs of modern consumers. As technology has advanced, so have consumer expectations. Whether individual shopper or major bulk buyers, people expect short delivery windows and achieving this is much easier for manufacturers when less distance is involved.

Also, STEM’s place in modern manufacturing creates a wider skills gap and calls for a larger variety of abilities not yet utilized in the industry. Proper education and training of prospective manufacturing professionals is vital to the industry’s future, and proximity plays a major role in this learning. Separating manufacturing and development with long distances can stymie the transfer of training and knowledge among a company’s employees. Extreme distances also create problems for startup companies that rely on quick turnarounds when experimenting with new prototypes. In an industry that advances quickly, and moves quickly in general, learning must also happen efficiently.

maunufacturing-jobsA final benefit of reshoring efforts, while hard to quantify, might be the most important factor. Local craft and the connection that consumers feel with homemade products has become highly important. Local manufacturers play a large role in the growth and success of their local communities. Siemens, a global manufacturer of products in multiple industries, suggested earlier this year on social media platforms that every job in manufacturing creates roughly 2.2 jobs in other sectors. Manufacturing has a positive, multiplying effect on local communities and society as a whole. It’s important that these positive effects are felt right here at home.

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Intellectual Property Challenges

Monday, July 6, 2015
posted by IMT-Webmaster

intellectual-propertyThere is rapid change in the manufacturing sector making it difficult for us to keep up with challenges and risks presented by the changing ways of working. The challenges and risks we face in intellectual property will differ with the different sub sectors. We have carefully considered the trends that are applied in the sector as they ensure our future foundations are supported and are robust. The changes we see that are driving the manufacturing sector to the future are;

  • Focus enhancement on development and research
  • Process efficiencies and innovations

The output of these changes will need design rights and patent protection so as to remain competitive. There is lack of harmony when registering the protections in different jurisdictions.

The management of intellectual property is another challenge we find in this sector. The complexity of multi inventions technologies has raised serious challenges for us that want to cash in on new interventions. From what we have observed, there is a need to integrate business strategies and patent from manufacturers.

Successful marketing of patent based products drawing from multiple inventions where ownership is spread across a number of manufacturers is quite cumbersome. As manufacturers we will have to think through our intellectual property strategy along the models of our business. Almost every complex product we produce today contains numerous inventions and technologies where most are covered by different forms of intellectual property and patents.

It will be a costly mistake for us to put off intellectual property till we are successful. The analytical frameworks that are there will help us devise patent strategies and business models. There are three main intellectual property strategies we use in different combinations are leverage, defensive and proprietary.

Additive manufacturing commonly known as 3D technology is different from traditional manufacturing and uses s to create 3D models where the 3D printer then creates the objects layer by layer. It results in cheaper missed more versatile products raising several challenges to the intellectual property laws. This creates challenges on our Intellectual property rights affecting patents, trademarks, industrial designs and copyrights.  We will need to have these laws changed so as to adapt to the issues that have been raised by 3D technology. Despite the fact that intellectual property rights are constantly being challenged by new inventions, we have adapted to the changes and flourished in the new technology era.

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