- You need durability. Metal is stronger than plastic and lasts longer.
- You need accuracy. Metal can stand up to warping more than plastic.
- You need great pricing. Considering plastic sheave gauges based on price? Metal sheave gauges cost around the same price as plastic gauges on the market.
- You need customers to better value your brand. Metal simply looks more pricey than plastic. Customers perceive it as better quality and durability.
Thinking about purchasing sheave gauges? Here are 4 great reasons why metal might be a better choice for you than plastic:
A secret to manufacturing company success is customer happiness. And what's one major factor that contributed to customer happiness? Lead times. Reducing lead times means eliminating waste on the production floor. Developed by Toyota, the Lean system helps manufacturers do just that.
In his blog post "Implementing lean manufacturing principles on the the plant floor: a case study," Apex International CEO David Goldberg reveals how he made his manufacturing company more efficient.
Goldberg and his team identified key areas for improvement:
They also setup goals including:
How they eliminated waste
The Manufacturing Initiative connects hardware startups with manufacturers - the Commonwealth's newest companies with some of its oldest ones - to keep jobs and manufacturing in Massachusetts. "Launched just over a year ago with a $267,500 grant from MassDevelopment, the state’s industrial development agency, the initiative is working with a group of 32 local startups and 83 Massachusetts manufacturers. So far, that work has resulted in 14 partnerships between manufacturers and startups, including seven that have already shipped made-in-Massachusetts products," says reporter Jon Christian in his January 12, 2016 Boston Globe article "Program connects old, new to boost manufacturing jobs."
If startups want tighter control over quality and process, they no longer have to try to get that tighter control in China from here. And manufacturers benefit too. They see working with startups as an investment. "The first run can be difficult, time consuming, and costly as designs are tweaked to make it easier to manufacture in volume, production lines are set up, and kinks are worked out. But if the startup takes off and places larger and larger orders, those initial costs can pay off," says Christian.
The Manufacturing Initiative is made possible by:
Morrill and Russo help startups:
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,
"Since the recession, manufacturers face a tension between seeing opportunities for growth on the one hand but a lack of resources on the other that would allow these businesses to hire more workers to tackle greater demand," say Marty Jones and Walter Towner in their Worcester Telegram article "As I See It: Innovating growth in Worcester and beyond." The solution? More brainpower. Worcester Polytechnic Institute (WPI) is now home to one of four manufacturing innovation centers in Massachusetts to provide that brainpower. Selected by MassDevelopment, the state's quasi-public finance and development authority, the WPI Innovation Center helps small- to medium-sized manufacturers grow.
"In February, MassDevelopment selected Algonquin Industries, Boston Engineering Corporation, the Connecticut Center for Advanced Technology, and WPI to provide such services and expertise to companies that employ 100 or fewer employees and need assistance in product development, prototyping, scaling up, cost reduction and other areas. MassDevelopment pays the lesser of 75 percent or $75,000 of the cost of a contract between a manufacturing company and the Innovation Center of choice.... Since the program’s launch, 60 companies have applied through the four centers and 10 projects are underway so far. Independent Plating was WPI's first project; the school has others in the pipeline. MassDevelopment has committed $1.3 million overall, and once the projects are complete, hopes to better understand the multiplier effect of this work on jobs created."
WPI students can help companies create products, develop better processes, and open up new jobs. For example, a team of engineering students created a production line data collection system that improved data accuracy and assessments for a local company. "Innovation Center projects also open a pipeline for new employees, as graduate and undergraduate students can fill positions as the businesses succeed in scaling up and hiring more workers," add Jones and Towner.
Massachusetts has a rich entrepreneurial community:
Worcester County is home to 950+ manufacturers that employ roughly 33,000 workers.
In its four-part series, Boston's hardware venture capital firm Bolt takes hardware startups, including example hardware startup Dipjar, through four phases of product development:
Part 1: Ideation
"Ideation starts with clearly defining the scope of the problem and ends with a proof-of-concept prototype," says Bolt founder and partner Ben Einstein.
Problem research. Product design starts with an "a-ha" moment - when you realize your product can fill a need. "Spending more time here will ensure founders lay a strong foundation for the rest of product development," Einstein adds.
Einstein adds that when gathering information for product design by interviewing potential customers, keep an open mind about where the product design may go and work toward building 3+ customer personas.
Proof-of-concept prototype. Next step: testing the concept. At this phase, you'll validate the major assumptions you formulated in your research. You'll build the prototype, use it in its natural setting, and observe to gain more insights.
Part 2: Design
The design phase involves improving user experience and presentation.
Customer development. "Startups that focus on customer feedback are far more likely to succeed than those that sit in a basement and engineer endlessly," says Einstein. "A design mentor of mine once said 'you can only learn how much your design sucks when you watch people use it.'"
Wireframes. Storyboard the full product experience, including:
Looks-like prototypes. A looks-like prototype is non-functional final product. Look at other products and sketch design options. Make the prototypes quickly and cheaply - and out of anything from clay to foam. Continue testing with customers once complete.
Part 3: Engineering
You want your product to function reliably and be cost-effective to produce. Done in tandem with the design phase, the engineering phase involves function.
Specification. Critical at this phase is the engineering specification documentation. Documentation should include information about:
Works-like prototype. "The works-like prototype is built to answer a large number of questions uncovered by developing the engineering requirements: core function, component selection, PCB, mechanics, feel, and assembly," says Einstein. You should select components based on price, durability, and supplier availability/lead time.
Firmware/software. Since accompanying software depends on the hardware, software development generally follows hardware development. You should consider:
Part 4: Validation
In this phase, prepare your product for mass production by joining the design and engineering phases:
Engineering prototype. In this first phase in merging design and engineering, create one prototype. "Often this is the best time to raise money from investors," adds Einstein.
Engineering validation. This phase answers “does my product cover the functional requirements of my specification?” Create a minimum of 20 products to test the product engineering.
Design validation. This phase answers "“does the product meet all possible requirements including cosmetic and environmental?” In this phase, focus on the production process. Create a minimum of 50 products, then test.
Production validation. This phase is your first official production run. Create a minimum of 500 products. You may need to create jigs and fixtures in the production process.
Mass production. This phase is the first full production run. Create a minimum of 5,000 products.
Along the way, continuously improve. Once you complete these phases, it's time for marketing and distribution. Oh and that other important thing you may not have had time for: sleep.
The next phase in our LEAN journey brings us to Total Productive Maintenance (TPM). It's a fancy term for maintenance for preventing downtime, defects, and slow running time. The goal here is for operators to proactively prevent these three types of loss by using maintenance, inspection, and cleaning checklists.
Under TPM, operators:
Down the road
Ultimately, managers can predict when a machine will break down using two metrics: