FMA Communications Inc.

Tim Heston

Senior Editor
FMA Communications Inc.
833 Featherstone Road
Rockford, IL 61107

Shop Management | Blog Posts

Fab shop customer mix: Hitting the right spot

December 22, 2015 | By Tim Heston

Interest rates are rising, oil prices are falling, and energy and agriculture equipment sectors continue to struggle. What's next for fabricators in 2016? The news isn't all bad, really, depending on a shop's mix of services, technology, talent, and customers.

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Shop Management | Blog Posts

Managing a multi-generation fab shop

December 16, 2015 | By Tim Heston

Finding good people remains the No. 1 challenge in metal fabrication, but it's certainly not an insurmountable challenge.

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Shop Management | Articles

Workforce challenges: Can’t we all just get along?

December 15, 2015 | By Tim Heston

Talk to managers in metal fabrication and they’ll probably tell you they have trouble finding “good” people. In fact, they usually don’t say “skilled” people. So what’s the difference?

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Bending | Articles

How a plate rolling rookie becomes a guru

December 3, 2015 | By Tim Heston

How does a plate rolling rookie become a guru? According to Ken Pecho, project engineer at Chicago Metal Rolled Products, it requires good communication. So how do you really define good communication? For plate rolling (and many other shop skills), you can break it down into three critical components: collaboration, observation, and patience.

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Shop Management | Articles

Metal fabrication in 2016: Diversification proves its worth

December 2, 2015 | By Tim Heston

2015 has been a tale of two markets—commodities and everything else. Demand for food, fuel, and materials is suffering and prices are dropping. But low prices in these areas are spurring growth elsewhere. Many predict this tale to continue into 2016.

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Bending | Articles

Press brake training: Passing the torch

December 1, 2015 | By Tim Heston

Southern Metalcraft Inc.’s press brake veteran will be retiring at the end of 2016, and he is now passing the torch to someone who never worked on a press brake until 2009. So how did the rookie learn so quickly? Technical aptitude plays a role. But more important than that, the veteran and rookie get along and just work well together.

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Shop Management | Articles

2016 capital spending forecast in metal fabrication: The growth continues

November 30, 2015 | By Tim Heston

According to the “2016 Capital Spending Forecast” from the Fabricators & Manufacturers Association International, total capital spending will edge up a little more than 2 percent next year. Still, certain equipment categories, including welding and bending, may experience dramatic gains.

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Laser Cutting | Blog Posts

FABTECH 2015: The direct-diode laser and tuning the beam profile

November 23, 2015 | By Tim Heston

The direct-diode laser ups its presence at this year's FABTECH.

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Shop Management | Blog Posts

FABTECH 2015: Stringing a digital thread through the manufacturing supply chain

November 20, 2015 | By Tim Heston

A "digital thread" extending up and down the manufacturing supply chain might sound like science fiction. But as evident at this year's FABTECH, the digital thread is becoming reality.

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Metals/Materials | Blog Posts

FABTECH 2015: A metaphorical pit stop in the productivity race

November 19, 2015 | By Tim Heston

NASCAR legend Rusty Wallace was a hit at this year's show. Considering the nature of the sport, fast-paced while still rooted in advanced engineering, it's easy to see why attendees relate so well. And perhaps no one related better than those who exhibited at the show as part of an emerging field: 3-D printing.

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Shop Management | Blog Posts

FABTECH 2015: Innovation to serve the company, not the process

November 18, 2015 | By Tim Heston

A certain excitement permeated this year's show, and it wasn't just about this incredibly fast laser, that press brake that eliminates setup time, or that welding power source that connects to the cloud and simplifies welding parameter selection. It was about how all these technologies and more can work together to make a shop better.

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Shop Management | Blog Posts

FABTECH, community, and normalcy

November 17, 2015 | By Tim Heston

FABTECH was bigger than ever. The terrible news on Friday puts things in perspective, and yet shows just how valuable the "normalcy" of a trade show, and a healthy industry, really is.

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Shop Management | Articles

Manufacturing Fundamentals first, then improvement

November 10, 2015 | By Tim Heston

Sustaining improvement efforts remains difficult for many shops, but sustaining may not be so difficult with a foundation of good business fundamentals in manufacturing. This includes accurate bills of materials, accurate routings, good inventory control, a documented system for materials planning and procurement, concise business rules, and employee training.

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Shop Management | Articles

How SWOT and lean go together

November 5, 2015 | By Tim Heston

A SWOT analysis covers a company’s strengths, weaknesses, opportunities and threats. But how do you really define strengths and weaknesses? Much of it can come from data gleaned from a good flow assessment.

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Automation and Robotics | Articles

Why machine monitoring matters

November 4, 2015 | By Tim Heston

Monitoring machine performance in real time is gaining traction in metal fabrication. MTConnect, a machine communication standard that has made serious headway in the machining arena, now has a toehold in the sheet metal business.

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