Archive for the Technology/Tools Category
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Interview: The Manufacturing Economy, From The Trenches

Steve Kline is the Director of Market Intelligence for Gardner Business Media (publisher of  Modern Machine Shop and other media serving manufacturing since 1923). Steve’s work at Gardner gives him a unique perspective on the US economy, since he studies and reports on very specific manufacturing subsets of it – capital equipment, machine tools, and the economic performance of associated manufacturing technologies & their impact on the companies that sell and purchase them. His work is published regularly on Gardner’s Manufacturing Economic News Blog, and he regularly works with manufacturing groups and associations on research of the US  & global manufacturing economies.

I sat down with Steve to discuss the current state of the manufacturing technology economy, and its vitality in the coming years.

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IMTS 2012 – Social Media, Technology, And The Manufacturing Vibe

I attended IMTS 2012 last month in Chicago, and of all that I’ve been to – each one since 1996 – this was, by far, the best. Ever.

Maybe it has as much to do with the fact that, considering where we’ve been recently, anything beyond a poke in the eye with a sharp stick would’ve been an improvement. But I don’t think that has much to do with what I saw and heard.

There were many unique qualities to IMTS 2012, but few deserve a mention more than the ‘coming out’ party for Social Media. And that’s as much for what it didn’t do, as much as for what it did.

Here’s a look at my observations about the 2012 show, and where Social Media are at in the manufacturing sector.

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A Case For Robotics & Automation In US Manufacturing

Kuka Robotics has created an Infographic that presents the advantages that robotics and automation bring to US manufacturing. Feel free to argue all you want that Kuka has a dog in this fight – you’re right.

But now what? Does that make them wrong? I say it doesn’t. As a matter of fact, I happen to agree with the premise that the use of robotics/automation to support the right applications can in fact play a strong role in reshoring production back to the US.

Check out this Infographic from Kuka to get a clearer picture of this premise. (And look below the Infographic for a few more points from me on the subject.)

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3 Reasons Why Additive Manufacturing Will Change Our World

I recently attended the RAPID 2012 show in Atlanta. For those that don’t know, RAPID is an annual trade show and technical exposition hosted by SME, and dedicated to the promotion & growth of Additive Manufacturing (AM)and its related technologies. RAPID 2012 marked the 9th year of the show’s existence.

AM isn’t necessarily new. Many of its parts have been ‘around’ for some time – stereolithography, 3D Printing, Laser Sintering, to name a few. But as a technology, it’s still in its early stages. And like most industrial technologies before it, we’re learning as we develop AM. Make no mistake – AM will influence legitimate applications, and will greatly alter how we design and build things.

The show floor and conferences at RAPID 2012 focused primarily on where AM is as a technology, how that technology is expanding, and sharing interesting AM examples from shop floors, from around the world.

But what struck me most about AM was its potential beyond the technical, beyond the tools, and beyond the processes. The technologists and professionals at RAPID were laser-focused (pun intended) on developing and proliferating AM as a technology, and they (and the show itself) hit a home run in that regard. And there are many in our industries that are much better at describing the details of AM’s technology than I.

But I saw things there that made me look beyond the technology, and I came away with a set of new perspectives on – and possibilities of – AM’s potential impact on business, supply chains & whole economies. And even our culture.

Here are 3 ways that I see that Additive Manufacturing may very well upend our lives and the ways we do business, and sooner than you might think:

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Small US Manufacturers Hold The Future In Their Hands

Manufacturers have a long climb ahead to redefine the manufacturing equation in the US - good thing it's what we've always done, and will do again.

I recently dropped a post, ‘Here’s A Solution: Why Not Declare War On Manufacturing?,’ that put out a tongue-in-cheek suggestion that if we REALLY want the government to ‘save’ US manufacturing, they should declare ‘war’ on it. If we do that, I said in jest, maybe we’d get the same results the ‘wars’ on poverty & drugs have gotten, then manufacturing would thrive.

But the truth in that post – and in this one – is that we’re not helpless lemmings, wandering aimlessly, waiting to be ‘saved’ from extinction. Or, at least, we don’t have to be. Manufacturing in the US – particularly small & medium manufacturers – are where the bullet of innovation hits the bone. Always has been that way, ya know? And as bad as the economy or markets get, manufacturers always bounce back.

And manufacturing will lead the charge ahead. Not the government. Not the brokerage houses. Not the banks, who’ll only lend you an umbrella when the sun’s shining.

It’s up to us. And there are clear signals that point to what needs to be done. You’ve heard them before, and likely blown them off. They’re not for the the faint of heart, but we’re in this fight and those solutions are no longer alternatives – they’re necessary.

Two recent messages add to the growing voices of change, and help to define these solutions clearly. And as bedrock manufacturers we need to get onboard – to redefine and rebuild on the foundations that remain of our industries and create new ones.

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