FMA Communications Inc.

Tim Heston

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

Automation and Robotics | Articles

Small batches, big-time automation

October 15, 2015 | By Tim Heston

Rapid-Line Inc., a contract manufacturer in Grand Rapids, Mich., has a long history of early technology adoption. Two years ago it became an early adopter again, this time with an entirely different kind of robot. Regardless of the technology, everyone keeps their eye on what truly matters when it comes to manufacturing efficiency: how long it takes for an order to make it to the shipping dock.

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Shop Management | Articles

Diversification: The true competitive advantage in metal fabrication

October 15, 2015 | By Tim Heston

According to recent benchmarking surveys from the Fabricators & Manufacturers Association International, debt ratios remain manageable, EBITDA steady, yet revenue concentration remains high for some. The numbers show areas for opportunity as well as challenges.

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Shop Management | Articles

How to build loyalty in manufacturing workers? Go off-script

October 15, 2015 | By Tim Heston

Why do employees leave for a few cents more an hour? It goes back to culture—but what is culture, really? Rutland Walker of Atlanta-based The Academy of Marketing gives a relatively concrete explanation. It’s about connecting with employees with a shared purpose or belief.

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Shop Management | Articles

Wisconsin metal fabricator thrives on complexity

October 12, 2015 | By Tim Heston

Advanced Laser Machining Inc. launched in 1996, just when laser cutting was becoming a metal fabrication mainstay and software was changing everything. Today managers are hoping to put a structure in place to grow the company even more. In 10 years ALM may be a $75 million enterprise

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Shop Management | Articles

Streamlining diverse part flow in metal fabrication

October 7, 2015 | By Tim Heston

The people at Prince Precision Products may be fabricating thin sheet one hour and thick plate the next hour. Managers at PPP call their operation a hybrid—part job shop focusing on small runs, part production operation. Juggling it all requires focus on good communication and minimizing rework.

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Shop Management | Blog Posts

Why scaling up may be tough in metal fabrication

September 17, 2015 | By Tim Heston

Hefty competition usually drives companies to consolidate to achieve economies of scale. For metal fabrication, this rule may not apply.

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Shop Management | Blog Posts

Consolidation in metal fabrication: horizontal, vertical, or both?

September 16, 2015 | By Tim Heston

M&A activity has been on the rise in metal fabrication in recent years, but what's the strategy behind it all? Fabricators seem to be diversifying, both in terms of process offerings and customer bases.

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Shop Management | Blog Posts

Measuring the manufacturing cycle in metal fabrication

September 15, 2015 | By Tim Heston

Many fabricators scrutinize how fast a laser cuts: How quickly can a machine finish a nest, how many blanks per minute can a press brake form. But how do these processing speeds correlate to a custom fabricator’s profitability?

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Bending | Blog Posts

How small batches simplify metal fabrication

September 14, 2015 | By Tim Heston

When order quantities shrink, things can get really complicated on the job shop floor--unless the order-to-ship cycle shrinks as well.

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Plasma Cutting | Articles

Plasma cutting meets biochemistry

September 8, 2015 | By Tim Heston

A fluid for plasma cutting tables is designed to coat workpieces to prevent rust and corrosion. The fluid effectively biodegrades bacteria on contact. The company also reports that the fluid is safe enough to send down the sewer.

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Materials Handling | Articles

Parts identification for extreme environments

September 8, 2015 | By Tim Heston

A marking technology—which involves the interaction between a laser, coating, and metal substrate—is designed to withstand harsh processing environments, including blast cleaning and hot-dipped galvanizing.

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Automation and Robotics | Articles

Metal fabrication, automation, and the big picture

September 8, 2015 | By Tim Heston

Ludlow Manufacturing Inc.’s managers are big believers in automation, but they’re not just interested in shortening machine cycle times. They look at the big picture, from the first order to the final shipment.

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Metals/Materials | Articles

Will this stainless steel weld rust?

September 3, 2015 | By Tim Heston

Is a stainless weld truly passivated, or will some unexpected rust emerge down the road? New testing technology, used in-house by fabricators, helps answer this question

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Shop Management | Articles

Are workers really less productive?

September 2, 2015 | By Tim Heston

According to the Labor Department, American workers aren’t as productive as they once were. But how do we measure productivity? Perhaps most important, do customers value it?

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Shop Management | Articles

Metal fabrication basics: 5 insights on the humble hand tool

September 1, 2015 | By Tim Heston

Career metalworker Tom Lipton shares his insights on something that’s often taken for granted in the fab shop: hand tools.

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