- We will introduce LEAN concepts to eliminate waste. Through continuous improvement and LEAN tools, we will reduce waste to help the bottom line.
- We will introduce new technologies. New machinery investments are crucial to reducing waste and speeding up processes, resulting in better bottom lines.
- We will expand into international markets. Massachusetts statewide data show growth in exports in 2010 and 2011 due in part to specialized products and domestically healthy companies increasing their business internationally.
If manufacturers want higher efficiency, productivity, wages, and revenues, we recommend these three new year's resolutions:
How do you keep the talent pipeline filled when there aren't any local competitors and you need skills not taught to recent graduates? You launch an apprenticeship program.
In IndustryWeek's "Closing the Skills Gap One Apprentice at a Time," reporter Steve Minter says there's "a resurgence of interest among U.S. manufacturers in apprenticeship programs and vocational education." Manufacturers face skills gaps from "employment declines, outsourcing and a perception... that manufacturing is a poor choice for America’s youth. [But] according to the Manufacturing Institute and Deloitte, nearly 3.5 million manufacturing jobs will need to be filled over the next decade and 2 million are expected to go unfilled," says Minter.
Some manufacturers select high school juniors and seniors as apprentices. But many families and educators discourage careers in manufacturing for the pay, the grime, and the potential for the job to move to China.
But in those facilities where coordinators wow families with their advanced machinery and the program itself, manufacturers recruit students for their apprenticeship program. Students then split time between school and the program.
Some programs might include instruction on "assembly techniques, hand tools, measurements, working with CNC machines, manual mills, manual lathes, tooling, and quality control tools," says Minter. Students also learn basic work skills - sometimes more important skills - such as punctuality, communication, and a positive attitude. Some students even find that the vocation isn't for them. But the goal is to help them along their career path of choice rather than simply recruit them for a specific company.
In one program, students work year-round: part-time during the school year and full-time in the summer. "They start at minimum wage and receive four increases during the course of their training," says Minter. At the end of the program, apprentices earn certification to work in similar manufacturing plants.
On-demand manufacturing is here. In his article "Supply Chain Leaders Share How Digital Is Transforming Operations," Forbes reporter Robert Reiss explains the future of digital manufacturing from the perspective of four supply chain leaders, including Caterpillar's Dave Bozeman.
"We’re going to have 2+ billion more people by 2050, and that’s certainly going to drive everything from commodities to infrastructure demands. Our customers will have to build roads, mine for raw materials, generate energy — and everything in between. When it comes to data, our products will speak to us, and the value comes when we make that data work for our customers. Big data, in real-time, will be huge. The digital evolution will bring our supply chain, dealers, and customers closer together than ever before.... Caterpillar sees a great opportunity, and we must be ready."
What analytics will help businesses understand
Analytics give decision makers insights and allow them to make real-time decisions and predictions on:
Equipment health. Supply chain leaders can better see equipment condition and forecast maintenance.
Productivity. Decision makers can track performance, supplies, transaction times, outcomes, and costs. Data on what was done to get certain results can drive decisions on improving quality, access, and affordability for customers. Leaders can even use data to create simulations of possible options, helping to better understand the impact of decisions.
Future sales. Buslness leaders are better able to predict future sales but in minutes and seconds instead of weeks and months. The result: better response to demand changes by being ready with inventory. "[It's about] delivering what our customers want, when they want it, every time," said Bozeman. That response includes price and a full understanding of customer expectations.
Ultimately, better data means a better picture of the wholechain, not just individual links. With a view of the entire supply chain, leaders can increase capacity and customer response and decrease costs.
The first 3D metal printer is coming. In his Fortune article "Why 3D Printing Companies Should Be Watching This Startup," reporter Andrew Zaleski says that startup Xjet plans to make the first 3D printer that prints using liquid stainless steel (then aluminum and titanium for the aerospace and medical industries). Xjet plans to release the 3D printer in 2016.
The promise of less expensive prototyping
3D metal printing currently works by melting and fusing together powdered steel or titanium. This method eliminates the need to make a mold or a new mold should the part need changes. So 3D printing reduces the cost and time of making the metal part (though the 3D printer itself and the ingredients are costly).
A growing demand
But there's still a growing market. "According to consulting firm Wohlers Associates, the worldwide market for 3D printing in 2014 rose to $4.1 billion, and sales of additive manufacturing machines for metals printing grew by 76 percent," says Zaleski,