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Manufacturers Disagree About Skills Gap, PwC Says

Manufacturers Disagree About Skills Gap, PwC Says

Aug 2, 2016

By Bill Koenig, Manufacturing Engineering Manufacturers disagree about the extent of the skills gap in the workforce, PricewaterhouseCoopers said in a report. The consulting company surveyed 120 manufacturers concerning how advanced technology is affecting the workplace. “Manufacturers are not speaking in a unified voice on the skills shortage issue,” PwC said in a report about the survey. PwC worked with the Manufacturing Institute (Washington) on the study. Among the results: —Perspective about skills shortages aren’t uniform. PwC said 33% of those surveyed reported little or no difficulty hiring workers to utilize advanced technology, while 44% have “moderate difficulty.” —Concern about the future varies. According to PwC, 31% don’t see a manufacturing skills shortage now but expect one in the next three years. Another 26% say the shortage has already peaked. And 29% say there’s a shortage now and it will get worse in the next three years. —New technology isn’t expected to kill manufacturing jobs. PwC said 37% of those surveyed say technology will boost hiring while 45% said there will be no impact on hiring. Only 17% said technology will cut hiring. “Our survey reveals that many manufacturers are either on the road to developing a talent pipeline ex exploit advanced manufacturing technology, or are in the process of ramping up efforts to do so,” according to a summary of the study. Traditionally, robots and automation have been the main sources of technology on the factory floor. Now, additional technology, such as controlling and activating production equipment with smartphones, is becoming common at plants. The newer technology is spurring concern about workforce skills, PwC said. “When asked about difficulty attracting talent to exploit advanced manufacturing technologies, the picture changes,” according to the consulting firm. “Only 13% of manufacturers said they have encountered no difficulty in acquiring talent to exploit advanced manufacturing technology.” PwC cited examples such as the Internet of Things, robotics, 3D printing and “virtual/augmented reality.” “Manufacturers realize the need for a workforce of problem solvers that will adapt to and have comfort with swiftly changing technology,” according to the report. “Manufacturers are stepping up hiring of talent that can keep up with their investments in...

A Third-Generation Bike Business Is Trying To…

A Third-Generation Bike Business Is Trying To…

Aug 1, 2016

“A Third-Generation Bike Business Is Trying To Bring Manufacturing Back To The U.S.” By Amy Feldman, Forbes Nearly two years ago, Kent International CEO Arnold Kamler opened a bicycle factory in Manning, S.C., the first major bike plant built in the U.S. in decades. Bike makers, including Kent, one of the nation’s largest with revenues of more than $200 million, fled this country for Asia in the 1980s and 1990s. Kent makes mass-market bikes, most of which sell for $69 to $199, at Walmart, Target, Toys R Us and Amazon. Kamler, 66, says that when he left the U.S. in 1991, he thought he’d never come back. But times changed as Walmart – which accounts for roughly half the more than 15 million bikes sold in this country – pushed its “buy American” campaign and the costs of manufacturing in China kept rising. For now, Kent’s Bicycle Corporation of America division is assembling the bikes in South Carolina, but Kamler hopes long-term to manufacture the frames, forks and handlebars in the U.S. as well. In a conversation that’s been edited and condensed, I spoke with Kamler about his hopes for the South Carolina factory, his struggle to get parts made in the U.S. and why he bought out Mark Cuban’s stake in a balance bike startup that had appeared on “Shark Tank.” Amy Feldman: How did your family get into the bike business? Arnold Kamler: My grandfather immigrated from Russia, now Poland, around 1905, 1906 to escape anti-Semitism. He opened a bicycle shop on the Lower East Side of Manhattan, which he sold to a cousin, then opened a shop in Newark, N.J. My father grew up living on the second floor of the bike shop. He hated the retail business and became an accountant but came back when his father got sick. Business was rough. It survived because my father was the buyer, the seller and the inventory manager. Feldman: It’s rare to see a business survive three generations. Kamler: We had some financial difficulties in the late-80s, as many companies did. I had a bank tell me they would never lend money to a third-generation business. They still approach me for business and I just chuckle now. Feldman: At...

Additive Manufacturing: The State of the Industry

Additive Manufacturing: The State of the Industry

Jul 27, 2016

By Terry Wohlers, President, Wohlers Assoicates Inc. , Tim Caffrey, Manufacturing Engineering This article includes highlights from Wohlers Report 2016, the 21st annual worldwide progress report on the 3D printing and additive manufacturing state of the industry. Additive manufacturing (AM) and 3D printing, terms used interchangeably, are alive and well. Organizations around the world, including many national governments, are investing substantial resources into the development of the technology and its adoption. An impressive number of new companies and businesses are developing AM products and services in ways the industry has not seen in the past. New machines and materials are becoming available at a breakneck pace. Novel applications and other advances suggest a future that will bridge AM’s prototyping past to a production future. This is stimulating countless organizations worldwide to explore ways in which they can become a part of this fast-growing and exciting industry. Those who have invested in some of the publicly traded stocks may be less than thrilled about the current state of the industry. Indeed, some of the changes in share prices over the past two years have not been pretty. Some have been downright ugly. Do not let low stock values fool you. When looking at almost everything else associated with AM, it is not difficult to become ecstatic about where it’s headed.   Investments Abound Many organizations worldwide are betting, some big, with their pocketbooks. For example, it was announced early last year that $259 million would be spent to create the Institute for Advanced Composites Manufacturing Innovation, a public–private partnership project aimed at developing East Tennessee into an AM hub. The Department of Energy has committed $70 million, and the remainder is coming from a consortium of 122 companies and universities. In September 2015, Alcoa announced that it would spend $60 million to expand an R&D center to include the development of AM methods and materials. The following month, the state of New York said it would invest $125 million in a 3D printing facility that would operate as a public–private partnership. Norsk Titanium of Norway is its primary partner. In January 2016, Stryker announced that it would spend nearly $400 million to build a facility for the...

Getting ready for smart manufacturing within the…

Getting ready for smart manufacturing within the…

Jul 25, 2016

“Getting ready for smart manufacturing within the aerospace industry” By Paul Simon, Managing Director, ConsultEP Airbus and Boeing are pushing their supply chain to heroic efforts by ramping up production rates, whilst driving cost down, on existing and new aircrafts. This huge industrial challenge already has caused delays due to the numerous backward-looking supply chain management approaches being used: Wiring problems delayed the Airbus A380 supper-jumbo; Outsourcing snared Boeing’s 787 long-haul aircraft; Software bedevilled the Airbus A400M military transporter; Software glitches and slow engine start associated with P&W engine set back the deliveries of A320neos; Deliveries of A350 were impeded by late arrivals of lavatories and business seats from Zodiac Aerospace factories in the US. As a consequence, the aerospace industry has began the race to achieve a dramatic improvement in cost efficiency and operational effectiveness by implementing Industrial 4.0 / Smart factories. Since the Industrial Revolution, there have been five distinct waves of innovation, called Kondratieff waves, each of which began with disruptive new technologies and ended with global depression. The 4th and 5th waves, corresponding to the 3rd Industrial Revolution from 1970 to 2010, brought the explosion in machine technologies in our factories. In 1975, for the first time, we introduced computer technology on the shop floor in the form of Numerically Controlled (NC) equipment. Even before this technology was widespread, in 1980, we launched the next generation, Computer Numerically Controlled (CNC) and Direct Numerically Controlled (DNC) equipments, which were interlinked and controlled from a single computer. By 1985, we started using Flexible Manufacturing Systems (FMS), which are capable of handling small lot production and rapidly changing product design. We are now on the cusp of the 4th Indutrial Revolution, which corresponds to the sixth Kondratieff wave. Within the aerospace industry, innovations in new composite material technology, Additive Manufacturing technology, Cyber-Physical systems, Internet Of Things and Internet Systems are coalescing into a smart manufacturing platform that will deliver vast superior cost efficiencies and better operational effectiveness. These smart manufacturing platforms allow the visualisation of the entire production network and allow individual equipment to make decisions on its own. In the automotive industry, which was early adopters, they are capable of handling a...

American manufacturing, re-energized

American manufacturing, re-energized

Jul 22, 2016

By Mark Perry, U.S. News Thanks to shale gas, U.S. manufacturing is at its strongest profitability in a generation. Think the days of U.S. manufacturing are numbered and that our nation’s economy is becoming so-called service-based? Not so fast. In fact, U.S. manufacturing has been at the forefront of the nation’s economic recovery with strong growth in output and employment, and a large part of the reason is an abundance of low-cost natural gas due to America’s shale revolution. Thanks to the power of innovative fracking technology and an abundance of shale gas, the United States has the lowest natural gas prices in the world, giving our energy-intensive industries a global cost advantage. In May, U.S. natural gas prices of less than $2 per mmbtus (only $1.78 in some markets) were less than half of gas prices in Europe ($4.30); Asia and India ($4.50); and South America ($4.75). The impact of the shale revolution is profound because the economic growth it continues to produce is not confined to any single region of the U.S. Cheap natural gas is strengthening energy security across the country and is fueling a resurgence in manufacturing – particularly the most energy-intensive industrial products, such as iron and steel, bulk chemicals, petrochemicals, plastics, cement, petroleum refining, glass, paper and food products. Those claims that America doesn’t produce anything anymore just aren’t true. According to the Bureau of Economic Analysis, U.S. manufacturing output reached an all-time high of $2.17 trillion in 2015, making last year the best in at least a generation by all relevant measures of economic performance: output growth, employment gains and profits. In fact, today the U.S is the world’s number two manufacturing nation, ranking behind only China. Also, consider that in 2014, the U.S. produced more manufacturing output than the combined output of Germany, South Korea, India, Italy and France. Another reason for the resurgence of U.S. manufacturing: lower electricity prices. Adjusted for inflation, the cost of electricity to industrial users in the U.S. is lower this year than almost any year in history. Compared to 2008 in the early days of the shale revolution, industrial electricity prices are 17 percent lower today. That’s because virtually every...

The Big Picture On The Big Picture

The Big Picture On The Big Picture

Jul 21, 2016

By Arun Jain, VP of Siemens Industry, Inc. , Manufacturing Business Technology “Remaining competitive” takes on many meanings, depending on your location in the world, but here are some thoughts on how American manufacturers can do it better today. By the time you finish reading this column, another entrepreneur will have figured out a way to make it happen for his or her company. Time-to-market reduction is as critical today as ever. Shorter innovation cycles, the result of new product lifecycle management software and services available to companies both big and small, mean the savvy product companies can take their concept and make it fly in just a fraction of the time spent in the past — and by “past,” I mean compared to about ten years ago. With the recent, rapid expansion of application-specific integrated circuit (ASIC) capability, much more functionality can be built into a product today and this means the manufacturing community must be even more flexible and responsive, not merely reactive, than ever before. With the “big data” impact that has resulted from the above scenario, the manufacturer is challenged in many ways, not the least of which is the daunting task of deciphering the important or exceptional from the nominal. A quality ERP or MES system can tell you what you need to know, but the key is the determining factors that make up the inputs to these systems and how their priorities are set. From my perspective in the motion control world, where customers task us with the control, generation or application of movement on everything from a machine tool to a packaging line, from a chemical processing plant to a printing plant, we see a great variety of needs among OEMs as well as end-users in these various segments. All of them require flexibility and often highly-customized solutions to their manufacturing or processing challenges. Plus, maintaining high productivity on aging equipment is a constant concern for every American company. Do they need to retrofit their existing machine or invest in a new one? Are enhanced robotics and transfer mechanisms or more personnel required on the line? Should the focus be on better asset management or an entirely...