At the last FABTECH® show, I ran into an engineer who works for GE Appliance & Lighting, looking for products that would speed that all-important art-to-part time--that all-important product-development time. Their comments make sense in light of recent growth of the company’s Louisville, Ky., Appliance Park. After years of decline, the massive industrial campus has njoyed a welcome rebound in recent years, as described in great detail by The Atlantic magazine last month.
Posts Tagged ‘supply chain’
By: Tim Heston
Yesterday the Brookings Institution, along with the Information Technology and Innovation Foundation, proposed a program that would involve the federal government designating 20 “manufacturing universities” to prepare students for the sectors that need engineering help. Most intriguing, perhaps is its proposed Ph.D. program for engineers:
“Ph.D.s would be transformed into high-level apprenticeships (as they often are in Germany), where industrial experience is a requirement for graduation. Likewise, criteria for faculty tenure would be reformed to include professors’ work with industry and the connection of research with industrial applications, as much as their number of publications.” According to the report, this would help bridge the wide divide between academia and industry.
By: Tim Heston
Innovation has been said to be at the heart of business success, but in a contract fabrication shop that often doesn’t entail product design, where is that innovation? According to a recent publication by the consultancy Plante Moran, titled the 2012 Innovation Quotient Survey, innovation doesn’t necessarily mean product innovation. It also can be process innovation, like innovative manufacturing methods or technologies. And there are innovations within supply chain relationships.
Jeff Mengel, leader of Plante Moran’s manufacturing group, described how such innovation changes customer relationships from one that’s simply a matter of convenience into one that is intimate-- not in the romantic sense, of course. Instead, Mengel uses “intimate” to describe a business relationship that would be very inconvenient and disruptive to break.
By: Vicki Bell
It all started with a blog post by The FABRICATOR®'s Senior Editor Tim Heston: The moral imperative of U.S. manufacturing. The post discussed the manufacturing supply chain and how the U.S. must rebuild its infrastructure to compete in the global marketplace. It led to posts by Editor-in-Chief Dan Davis and TPJ-The Tube & Pipe Journal®'s Editor Eric Lundin, who also had something to say about the topic, and it became the focus of the April "Fabricating Update" e-newsletter.
The newsletter quoted some of Heston's remarks, including: "I'd say it's a moral imperative that we again build our U.S. manufacturing infrastructure so we can respond to companies like Apple, with skilled workers and automaton. (As New York Times Reporter David Barboza reported on NPR), in the 1990s a California factory, full of automation, used to produce Apple computers. Surely, such flexible automation could be employed again. Apple has amazing market dominance and eye-popping production volumes. When you combine those two factors, some incredible manufacturing technology innovations may occur. (OK, the global market may not work like that, but the idealist in me sometimes wishes it did.)"
We asked "Fabricating Update" readers whether it is idealistic to think the U.S. can again build its manufacturing infrastructure to respond to companies like Apple. Here's what they had to say: (more...)
By: Tim Heston
Consumers and the business press lavish all sorts of attention to high-tech giants like Apple, Google, Facebook, and other Wall Street darlings. Even their informal moniker “high-tech” exudes a bit of superiority. Why does everybody pay so much attention? Well, every day, we use our computers, phones, and TVs. They’re part of our daily life. As I type this on my laptop, Michael Dell’s surname is right there, staring at me throughout my workday. But we also pay attention because of how much money these companies make, right? Apple, Google, and other Silicon Valley behemoths have very happy shareholders.
So what stock has given investors the absolute best returns over the past few decades, since the crash of 1987? Well, it isn’t Apple, which gave investors a 5,542 percent return. It’s not Microsoft either; its investors saw “only” a 9,906 percent return.
By: Tim Heston
With Japan in crisis, so are global supply chains. With the world’s third-largest economy basically in standby mode, manufacturers stateside--and around the world--are scrambling to adapt.
Most metal fabricators aren’t assemblers sitting at the end of a long global supply chain, but many of their customers are. Disasters like last week’s earthquake reveal the uncertainties of long supply chains, and for fabricators it also brings up the question of inventory: How much is enough? Lowering inventory frees up cash. But knowing all the uncertainties of a global economy, how “on edge” should a shop operate?
By: Tim Heston
This week has dripped with irony.
On Wednesday I traveled to a press event at Combilift, a forklift and material handling equipment manufacturer several hours northwest of Dublin, in the rolling green hills of County Monaghan. The company exports most of its vehicles and keeps much of its supply base local, a practice that has won the company numerous awards from Irish commerce organizations. The forklift-maker has achieved something local business groups anywhere would applaud. It manufactures locally, sells globally.
Then, well, there’s this volcano, which has brought a portion of global business to its knees.