August 27, 2014
Highlights for fabricators from the past week’s Web articles—Atlantic City casino workers to retrain for fab jobs; aluminum body truck production picks up speed; U.S. factories keep losing ground; materials providers focus on 3-D printing; and young entrepreneur stresses leadership.
Back in April, the Top Five featured an article about New Jersey launching a rolling initiative to train manufacturing workers statewide. Two mobile labs with equipment and classrooms were to travel to community colleges in areas with enough interest to support the program. Now, Cumberland County College (CCC) President Thomas Isekenegbe is trying to get the labs to visit his college to help train Atlantic City casino workers who will lose their jobs if three casinos close as planned by mid-September.
Isekenegbe wants to have retraining options available for the displaced workers and to expand job opportunities for all residents in the area. Cumberland and Atlantic counties had the highest unemployment rates in New Jersey in June, more than 9 percent. Almost 6,000 jobs will be lost if the three casinos close.
Vicki Simek, executive director of workforce and community education at CCC, said she works with about a dozen manufacturers in the county on specialized training, but right now students can’t get the kind of hands-on training they will in the mobile lab. “We take them to the factories to see it, but we don’t have the equipment,” she said.
Is the new Ford aluminum-body F-150 on your Christmas wish list? If so, you may be in luck. The automaker is a few days ahead in its schedule to start producing the truck. It stopped production at its Rouge plant last Friday to install new riveting machines, adhesive robots, and other specialized tools to put together the truck, which will weigh about 700 lbs. less than the current model.
Ford has committed to offering the truck to consumers by the end of 2014, but the rollout could come sooner. Dealers were allowed to begin ordering the truck, but were given small initial allocations.
The company has been building its inventory of 2014 F-150s, because it won’t be able to produce as many as normal with only one plant operating. Its other truck plant, near Kansas City, will close sometime next year to have the equipment installed for producing the new model.
Speaking of trucks—at least the commercial kind—along with steel, car parts, industrial machinery, and furniture, they comprise areas contributing to U.S. factories losing ground to global rivals. Imports of these products contribute heavily to the trade imbalance.
As noted in an article published on online.wsj.com, “the reasons U.S. manufacturers are losing ground depend on the type of good. In electronics, production has shifted abroad so the U.S. doesn't even compete in areas such as smartphones and television sets. Commercial truck makers fled to Mexico over the past decade and see no reason to come back.
”Steel is a big part of the expanding trade deficit. Production and raw-material supplies were cut during the recession, and now production is falling short of rising demand, partly because of competition from imports.
“The U.S. is the ‘only mature economy’ with a shortage of steel, says Mark Millett, chief executive of Fort Wayne, Ind., steelmaker Steel Dynamics Inc.” That wasn’t always the case, and “the pendulum is poised to change direction again, though, as billions of dollars in new plants in the U.S. come online in the next few years.
Metal and mining companies are taking a good look at 3-D printing and making a play to provide the raw materials. Demand for specialized metal powders to feed the machines almost tripled over four years through 2013.
Key patents for 3-D printing technology expire this year, and some expect the machines to become more common in manufacturing.
Baosteel is backing a 3-D research project in Australia. Sandvik AB (SAND), a Stockholm-based provider of mining equipment, alloys and metal powders, has about 15 engineers investigating potential new applications of 3-D printing.
“It’s mind boggling what the future could hold for the use of 3-D printing,” said Andrew Spinks, executive director of Sydney-based Kibaran Resources Ltd. (KNL), which is developing graphite projects and has signed an agreement with a 3-D printer maker to establish a joint research venture. “Potentially it’s going to be a major use of commodities.”
We often are minded that introducing manufacturing careers to young people is a great way to ensure the next generation of fabricators. Apparently, the younger the better.
Thirty-year-old Kory Anderson, the president of not one but two metal manufacturing businesses, began his lifelong love of manufacturing at 5 days old, when his father took him to his first steam threshers’ reunion.
While Anderson was still in high school, he decided he wanted to build his own steam engine. The family owned a small manufacturing business, so Anderson had been welding and fabricating his own projects since he was 8 years old. Steam engine parts were no longer available, so he had to make a pattern and cast new parts or repair existing parts.
The project inspired him to study engineering at North Dakota State University in Fargo. After graduation in 2006, he returned home to Andover, S.D., and started Anderson Industries in his garage.
By 2009 he realized he could only do so much business with his own two hands. To grow the company he knew he needed to add employees, so he moved the operation into an empty factory in Aberdeen, S.D., and purchased additional machinery.
Meanwhile, his dad, who had been in a joint venture with German farm equipment manufacturer Horsch since 2000, was getting ready to retire. In 2010 Horsch representatives asked Anderson to take over, so he bought out his dad and became responsible for all Horsch business throughout North America.
Today the two companies employ approximately 180 people, and Anderson has realized the value of leadership.
“It is really important for me to have the freedom to think strategically and long term, to think about what we need to be doing in the future,” Anderson said. “So it’s also important for me to develop the leaders underneath me so the business can continue to grow and develop. A business can only grow as big as its leadership.”