Editorial


 

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Don't Let the Tariffs Blur Your Vision

By: Brad Kuvin

Sunday, April 1, 2018
 

“Stay focused on the big picture” is my overly simplistic advice to everyone shouting from the rooftops about rising material costs, in the wake of the steel and aluminum tariffs levied last month. While deservedly deriding the tariffs and diligently working to have them nullified, do not lose focus on what otherwise is a rapidly growing—and evolving—metalforming and fabricating landscape. Stop, for even a brief moment, paying attention to evolving customer expectations, new technology introductions and urgent personnel needs, and increased material prices will not be your biggest concern.

Tax reform and reduced regulations, along with promised healthcare-system improvements, paint a rosy picture for 2018 and beyond, even if the tariffs soften that rosy hue. Some insightful trends noted in the 2018 National Manufacturing Outlook and Insights report, developed earlier this year by LEA Global, should stay true to form:

  • 81 percent of manufacturers expect revenue increases in 2018.
  • 44 percent vow to develop new products and services.
  • 50 percent are prioritizing the role of predictive analytics/ERP/IoT.
  • 50 percent will increase their hiring.

In this issue of MetalForming you’ll find several instances of metalformers maintaining a sharp focus on their critical success factors. For example, look at senior editor Louis Kren’s opening statement in his laser-cutting case study beginning on page 34: “Riding the leading edge of technology is not for the faint of heart. It requires investment in equipment and in the human capital to ensure that it runs effectively, productively and profitably.”

In addition, metalformers and fabricators continue to look to big data and predictive analytics. Per the LEA Global study, Industry 4.0 and its smart-factory technology platforms, including the industrial Internet of Things (IoT), are taking center stage. As noted in my article beginning on page 38 of this issue, IoT creates connected organizations that can improve employee productivity, enable predictive disruption, address and avoid looming quality issues, and quicken prototype development.

The article, which highlights our upcoming IoT conference in Nashville, details how automotive supplier MFC Netform implemented a cloud ERP system to improve quality and reduce scrap. It then started leveraging IoT to connect its people, equipment and processes.

For example, MFC’s machine-vision inspection system automatically rejects any part that fails to meet quality specifications. It pulls the accumulated value of the scrapped part from the ERP system and multiplies it by the number of scrapped units, so that operators can quickly quantify the actual value of scrap, rather than just seeing piles of parts in bins.

Because cloud ERP connects MFC’s entire enterprise, users can access all machine-tabulated information and any related reporting, and correlate shop-floor machine-inspection results to product values to produce accurate scrap costs. It shows how connected devices allow manufacturers to gain incredible insights directly from the shop floor, to automate business processes and track data in ways that weren’t conceivable a few years ago.

So, stay focused on what matters long-term (connectivity, analytics, technology, etc.), even with one eye turned toward rising material costs.

 


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