Editorial


 

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Old School Won't Cut It

Friday, June 01, 2012
 

At the recently held Automotive Parts Supplier Council meeting, produced in Detroit by the Precision Metalforming Association, one belief came across loud and clear, as suppliers gathered to listen to an expert panel discuss the critical issues facing automotive suppliers. That is: Five years from now, metalformers that fail to adopt new and advanced techniques and technology, superior to today’s techniques and technology, likely will have vanished.

Paraphrased, this means that failure to evolve will lead to extinction. Or, as one manufacturing engineer recently told me, you cannot rely on old-school technology if you expect to hold on to your customers. The engineer was speaking of his company’s adoption of adaptive controls for resistance welding. Such controls automatically sense variations in resistance due to different weld-joint thickness or material composition, or even the presence of oil or adhesive. The controls then automatically adjust the weld procedure on the fly, ensuring consistent weld quality without interrupting production. You’ll read more about this application next month in MetalForming.

Speaking with this engineer, I was reminded of how quickly new school can become old school. Ask yourself this question: How long ago did these products come on the scene: GPS systems, E-readers, recordable DVDs, and PlayStation and Xbox video-game consoles? Seems like yesterday, right? But I’m here to tell you that all of these gadgets will soon be considered old school. As noted in a recent Yahoo! article titled, “7 Gadgets that Won’t Be Around in 2020,” all of the products mentioned will be eclipsed by new-school technology. We’re talking smart phones with embedded GPS technology, tablet computers, streaming options for music and movies, and smart televisions with built-in gaming technology.

Look around your shop and try to envision the gadgets that won’t be around in a few years, and start planning to replace the old-school stuff with new school. Adaptive controls certainly fit the bill. So does state-of-the-art die-design and development software, described in this issue in an article by contributing editor Lou Kren. Having spoken with management at metal stamper and die developer Dynamic Metals, Kren describes how the firm leverages new-school quoting, simulation and tool-design software to drive a reduction in new-tool tryout time—from as much as two weeks down to one day. That article begins on page 42.

Some credit these and other new-school manufacturing techniques as launching the third industrial revolution. A recent article in The Economist says as much, describing the first and second industrial revolutions, and then noting that “as manufacturing goes digital, a third great change is now gathering pace. It will allow things to be made economically in much smaller numbers, more flexibly and with a much lower input of labor, thanks to new materials, completely new processes, robots and new collaborative manufacturing services available online.”

Start preparing now for this third industrial revolution, by ushering out old-school technology and welcoming in new-school ideas.

 


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