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A Powerful One-Two-Three Punch for American Manufacturing

A Powerful One-Two-Three Punch for American Manufacturing

Aug 15, 2016

By Mark Shortt, Design-2-Part Magazine Reshoring is real, but it’s only one part of a robust expansion currently taking place in U.S. manufacturing. Paul Elio wants to keep the American Dream alive. The 52-year-old mechanical engineer started his own car company, Elio Motors, in 2009, after 13 years as head of an engineering consultancy, ESG Engineering, and a four-year stint as a design engineer at Johnson Controls. If things go according to plan, the first Elio automobile—an 84-mpg three-wheeler with a base price of $7300—will roll off the assembly line at GM’s former Hummer H3 plant in Shreveport, Louisiana, next year, carrying with it Paul Elio’s commitment to creating American jobs and his faith in American automotive ingenuity. “From day one, I wanted to build a 100 percent American car,” Elio told D2P in a phone interview. “I can show, with data, that we can build a low price, high quality vehicle in this country with about 90 percent North American content. We have to make things in this country and we have to export from this country. I think it’s critically important to our long term survival as a nation.” Elio estimates that manufacturing the car—known as the Elio—in the United States will create more than 1500 jobs at its Shreveport facility and approximately 1500 jobs throughout the supply base, most of which is located within easy reach of Elio’s design center in Livonia, Michigan. Another 18,000 jobs are projected to be created as an indirect result of the manufacturing. The company is currently building its E-Series test vehicles at its Pilot Operations Center in Livonia, where its engineering team and supplier partners will put the cars through a battery of safety, aerodynamics, and durability tests before the final design is approved. The Elio is a compact three-wheeled vehicle that uses a combination of strong, lightweight materials and aerodynamic design, including front-to-back, two-person seating—to achieve fuel efficiency targeted at 84 mpg on the highway and 49 mpg in the city. Safety is a high priority of the design, which calls for three airbags, a reinforced roll-cage frame, an anti-lock braking system, and crush zones 50 percent larger than those on similar vehicles. One...

How to win the global manufacturing race

How to win the global manufacturing race

Aug 12, 2016

By Deborah L. Wince-Smith and Barb Renner, Startribune You may not be able to hear it, feel it or smell it, but manufacturing has changed — the mood has swung. After a long bout of winter blues, the spring and summer of 2016 has acted as light therapy for an industry seen unfavorably as unattractive and likely shrinking. For four consecutive months, the manufacturing sector has expanded, according to the Institute for Supply Management. Some say the trend is merely the product of lessons learned during the recession. But the 2016 Global Manufacturing Competitiveness Index, a joint study by the U.S. Council on Competitiveness and Deloitte, suggests there is much more at play here, predicting that the United States will unseat China as the most competitive manufacturing nation by 2020. While China holds the top spot according to the index, the U.S. is feeling the early rumblings of a technological earthquake that’s changing the manufacturing landscape into a sector that is smart, safe and sustainable. The index surveyed more than 500 senior manufacturing executives from around the world, and its findings were the subject of Capitol Hill hearings. During testimony delivered to the Senate Energy and Natural Resources Committee, experts spoke eloquently about the ongoing transition to a world of advanced manufacturing and an emerging innovation ecosystem where industry, start-ups, national labs, and universities all sit at the same research bench and collaborate on research and development. This new public-private partnership serves as an innovation incubator, and it’s worth supporting. In fact, new lightweight materials are being developed that save energy costs and help our nation’s manufacturing base compete in the global energy race. During the Senate hearing, Minnesota Sen. Al Franken declared enthusiastically, “This makes me an optimist.” In Minnesota — where manufacturing is the largest private sector industry — there’s every reason to be optimistic. New advances in energy, high-tech modeling, robotics, 3-D ­printing and simulations fueled our “Manufacturing Spring” of 2016. So how can Minnesota continue to be competitive in manufacturing? The 2016 Global Manufacturing Competitiveness Index provides a road map that will help create jobs and a vibrant economy. Here’s a top-five list of manufacturing competitiveness drivers: • Talent. Skilled...

5 Communications Skills Needed to Advance an Engineering…

5 Communications Skills Needed to Advance an Engineering…

Aug 11, 2016

“5 Communications Skills Needed to Advance an Engineering Career” By Mitch Maiman, Design News There was a time when engineers could work within companies and have minimal (or even bad) communication skills. While it is not necessarily important for engineers to become great public speakers or authors, it is increasingly important for them to possess effective communication skills. Here’s why. Engineers Need to Sell Engineers do not necessarily need to become card-carrying sales people, however, they do need to be able to sell their ideas. In interactive discussions with technical and management team members, or even with clients, it is necessary to present your story well. Doing so helps convince others of the merit of your “case,” and furthermore, builds confidence in your perspective as a professional. It is about relationship building; an engineer who can prepare and deliver a clear, concise, and believable message will come across well. Engineers Need to Capture User and Client Insights for Specification Documents Often in the aerospace and government contracting worlds, product requirements and needs are clearly, and often completely, defined in specifications and requirements documents. In the commercial, industrial, and consumer product worlds, this is often not the case, and engineers need to alone or with a diverse team, meet with prospective or current clients to extract the opportunities and needs. In such situations, engineers will often be communicating with others who do not share their perspective and technical competence. Extracting information requires good listening skills and the ability to translate what is heard into technical requirements. Engineers Need to Create Clear Written Content Engineers must craft clear, concise written documents, emails, and presentation materials to be effective at their jobs. Be careful not to use jargon and technical terminology, especially if the receiver of the information is not a technically oriented person. The engineer needs to step into the mindset of the audience/readers and write in a form that gets to the point quickly and speaks in a language that is readily understood by the audience. Engineers Need to Present in Front of Groups As an engineer advances, either in-line or into management, it will increasingly be important to them to be able to present...

Globalization isn’t killing factory jobs. Trade is actually why…

Globalization isn’t killing factory jobs. Trade is actually why…

Aug 9, 2016

“Globalization isn’t killing factory jobs. Trade is actually why manufacturing is up 40%.” By Daniel Griswold, LA Times Foreign trade took a beating at both major party conventions, with speakers blaming free-trade agreements for all but wiping out U.S. manufacturing and eliminating millions of middle-class jobs. Both Donald Trump and Hillary Clinton have promised to renegotiate or abandon trade agreements with key U.S. trading partners such as Mexico and Canada. That would be a colossal mistake. The number of manufacturing jobs in the United States has indeed been in a long decline since the late 1970s, but that disguises the true story of American manufacturing. Nostalgia for a bygone era blinds politicians and voters alike to the reality of a revitalized sector of the American economy that is thriving in a global market. American factories and American workers are making a greater volume of stuff than ever — high-tech, high-value products that are competitive in markets around the world. In the last 20 years, which include enactment of the North American Free Trade Agreement and China’s entry into the World Trade Organization, real, inflation-adjusted U.S. manufacturing output has increased by almost 40%. Annual value added by U.S. factories has reached a record $2.4 trillion. What has changed in recent decades is what our factories produce. Americans today make fewer shirts, shoes, toys and tables than we did 30 years ago. Instead, America’s 21st century manufacturing sector is dominated by petroleum refining, pharmaceuticals, plastics, fabricated metals, machinery, computers and other electronics, motor vehicles and other transportation equipment, and aircraft and aerospace equipment. We produce more manufacturing value with fewer employees than in years past because today’s workers are so much more productive. They are better educated, equipped with more sophisticated capital machinery and turn out more valuable products than their parents’ generation. And as a result they are better paid, with total manufacturing payrolls rising during the last decade even as the number of workers declined. The political anger about lost manufacturing jobs should be aimed at technology, not trade. The political anger about lost manufacturing jobs should be aimed at technology, not trade. According to a recent study by the Center for Business and Economic Research...

Building A 3D-Printed Rocket Engine

Building A 3D-Printed Rocket Engine

Aug 8, 2016

By Kaylie Duffy, Product Design & Development, Manufacturing.net NASA’s Marshall Space Flight Center (MSFC), located in Huntsville, Alabama, has pioneered space exploration and rocket advancements since it was established in 1960. Serving as one of the space agency’s largest centers, MSFC was responsible for various components of crucial missions, such as developing the Saturn launch vehicles for the Apollo moon program and leading the development of Space Shuttle propulsion elements and its external tank. Currently, Marshall is pursuing another potentially groundbreaking technology for spaceflight: additive manufacturing, otherwise known as 3D printing. The center’s exploration into 3D printing began in June 2011 when a team of MSFC engineers conducted the first hot fire test of a 3D printed part – a hot gas duct for the gas generator of the J-2X rocket engine. “That was the first time we were able to test a 3D printed part in a hot fire environment,” explains Nick Case, Marshall’s engine analysis team lead. “You can do analysis, material testing, and an individual component test, but it’s very hard to replicate the true environment of a hot fire rocket engine test.” After successfully testing the duct, the Marshall engineers moved on from the J-2X rocket engine to developing a smaller engine more compatible with the build box of available 3D printers. They designed a 35,000-pound liquid hydrogen and liquid oxygen upper stage engine. However, the engineers wanted to apply as much 3D printing to the project as possible to prove the technology could be a whole-system solution – not just for piece parts. Since the second project began about three years ago, the team has designed, developed, and tested a 3D printed fuel turbopump that spins at 91,000 revolutions per minute (rpm), while producing 2,000 horsepower (hp). Additionally, they’ve designed, printed, and tested a main injector, control valves, speed lines, tubing, and piping. “We’ve 3D printed and tested just about every piece of the rocket engine that we’ve designed,” says Case. “And we’ve been very successful in our approach.”   Finding the Right Vendors When Marshall first started 3D printing rocket engine parts, there were only a few vendors in the country that had the necessary equipment and know-how...

Is U.S. Manufacturing Really in Decline?

Is U.S. Manufacturing Really in Decline?

Aug 5, 2016

By Daniel Gross, strategy+business Did you hear that U.S. manufacturing just had another big month? That output has risen about 20 percent in the past six years? That industrial capacity is actually expanding? Probably not. At most times, and especially in election season, the talk surrounding U.S. manufacturing is one of relentless decline: a loss of jobs, the shutting down of factories, increased competition from foreign countries, a global war in which the U.S. seems to be on the losing end. And of course, it’s true. At some level, manufacturing has declined dramatically — as a direct employer of American workers. According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, 12.3 million Americans had payroll jobs in manufacturing in June. That’s down about 30,000 from June 2015, off nearly 1.9 million from June 2006, and down 4.9 million from 1996. In the past 20 years, in other words, America has shed 28 percent of its manufacturing jobs. In good times and bad, in recession and expansion, the manufacturing sector employs fewer people. It’s impossible to dismiss or talk around this trend. But the decline of employment isn’t the whole story. Not by a long shot. In fact, in many significant ways, U.S. manufacturing is thriving. The point of manufacturing is to make stuff that people and companies will buy and use, not to employ people to make stuff. And by the former measure, U.S. manufacturing is actually doing quite well. (Note: Rex Nutting at Marketwatchmade this point back in March.) Take a look at this long-term chart of industrial production, courtesy of the U.S. Federal Reserve. Over the past 100 years, the index, which measures the value of the output of the manufacturing, mining, and utilities industries, has risen steadily. But the rise has generally continued in the last several decades — decades in which the narrative was that manufacturing has been in apparent decline. What accounts for this disconnect between the rising dollar value of manufactured goods and falling employment? A few things. First, the production of less-expensive goods, like T-shirts, toys, and the like, has long since gone offshore. As a result, manufacturing in the U.S. is disproportionately a high-end activity: heavy machinery, tools, cars. I visited a...