Recently, I was researching one of our favorite industries, medical device manufacturing, and came across an extremely well-written article with some excellent points that deserved commentary. Being a contract manufacturer for medical device OEMs gives PEKO a particular insight into the industry. Every day, projects come across our desk that can be anywhere from prototype, beta or even full rate production stage in their product commercialization life cycle. Each phase has it's own particularities that only a truly qualified manufacturer can navigate.
In past blogs, such as this, I've commented on articles that focus on the skills and employment opportunities in manufacturing. I've also lamented the lack of education that kids get when it comes to the wonderful opportunities in manufacturing careers. I recently read an article in Industry Week by Michael Collins titled "Let's Get Real About the Skills Gap and Start Solving it" and really liked what he had to say.
In manufacturing, we are used to major projects taking months from prototype to production. Without fail, this involves weekly meetings with internal personnel like managers, operations personnel, floor managers purchasing and of course, the customer. This usually means getting half a dozen people in the room to solve problems, delegate and usually make some committee decisions. Heck, we struggle to cut an hour off the setup time for a part but have six folks with ties sitting in a meeting for an hour to discuss it. We all know this isn't the most efficient way to communicate. Do we even know if it's effective? Is this just our comfort zone? Here at PEKO we are well aware of the costs associated with getting so many people in the room for an hour each time.
Topics: Contract Manufacturing
We keep hearing that the Internet of Things, or IoT is coming. In many cases, it's already here. Your watch knows how many steps you've taken, your phone knows where you are, your fridge knows if you have any limes in the fridge. It won't be too long before your blender sends you a text that your spouse is making margaritas so please pick up some lime juice on your way home from work.
Everywhere you look you see people and their wearables. People tracking calories, activities, movements, etc. I stumbled upon an article by Jeff Elliott titled "Miniaturizing Smart Wearables and Activity Tracking" in US TECH magazine, of which I am currently subscribed. The article is a great primer on the inner workings of wearables and touches on their future. But with the technology growing, I couldn't help but think, how can the wearable industry help optimize manufacturing?
Not even last week, we published a PEKO Perspective article that applauded Larry Fast on his contributions to his community via manufacturing education. I hadn't planned on writing a similar article so soon, but when I read Adrienne Selko's article "The Skills Gap is a Lie, Says Titan Gilroy", it was near and dear to my heart.
Topics: CNC Machining
Recently, Jedd Cole of Modern Machine Shop magazine (a personal favorite), penned an intriguing article titled "The Metalworking Economy: Expectations and Observations at Odds". The crux of the article is that economy experts are pointing towards a slowdown in growth, while machine shop management is hiring and reporting good business expectations, indicating they are more optimistic.
Topics: machine shop
Larry Fast gets it exactly right , and admirably puts his money where his mouth is towards getting kids into manufacturing. For too long manufacturing jobs have had an optics problem..."dirty, dingy, layoffs" is the sentiment. Decades ago, one could find a nicely paying job down at the local factory which promised a nice pension at the end of service. Times have changed and the past thirty years has reflected an education system that pushed kids away from manufacturing to pursue jobs in more "glamorous" fields. We've been told "America is a service economy now" as if that's a good thing. Can we really afford to sell each other coffee and insurance for the next 100 years?
PEKO is constantly looking for ways to gain efficiency in our manufacturing operations. Our CNC machining department is under constant scrutiny for opportunities for efficiency improvements. We aren't the only ones, as Barbara Schulz discovers in her recent article about using flexible automation for high mix and low volume production machining. This intriguing article highlights Zelos Zerspanung, and yields some very interesting insights and results, as well as leaves us with a few questions.
We all talk about robotics, but our experience tells us that your typical small shop or those with a high mix/low volume can be adverse to such technology. Common rebuttals for pursuing robotics in high mix machine shops are "it will take too long to setup" or "it will be too expensive".
This article identifies such objections:
"Mr. Oreskovic believes some robotic machine-tending solutions can be intimidating to small job shops. This can cause them to delay their transition to automated manufacturing because they think they need to invest in complex, expensive, process-specific systems that rely on highly trained specialists."
Dive deeper and you see how a process is laid out the subject overcame such obstacles, like starting small. We agreed with this take and thought it very wise.
The article explains how this strategy can be implemented in high-wage companies, a theme in which most western companies can sympathize. The discussion on quick-change workholding as a means for improving setups was right on point. Carefully selecting grippers compatible with common work geometries or part families is exactly the kind of smart thinking that many shops could analyze before spending a single dollar on robotics.
Stage two and three of the process laid out in this piece, are Robotic Loading for Pallet Pools and Vice clamped parts. Our gut reaction is that this sounds difficult to optimize, however I agree that by focusing hard on efficiency gains and using creative methodologies, there could be gold in those hills. I applaud the author and the subject both for vetting out the process.
The article closes the loop and informs the reader that such an investment has paid off. As we look to the future, I ask, how can other machine shops use a similar process? What kind of human capital is involved in successful implementation? What's taking so long for high-mix/low volume shops to adopt such a process? What are some process limitations? And lastly, are these systems flexible enough to account for changes in future business demands?
The full article, Small Shop Sees Big Gains from Right-Sized Automation, was published on Modern Machine Shop. Thanks for checking out The PEKO Perspective.
Topics: Product Review