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Tuesday, June 21, 2016

The Pros and Cons of Local Sourcing


Guest Blogger
Kelly Barner, Editor, Buyers Meeting Point 
Think globally, act locally. – Paul McCartney
…except when to do so causes more harm than good. – Kelly Barner

As consumers of goods and services, we are constantly bombarded with feel good messages about the companies we buy from. Green production, sustainability, and local sourcing: it is easy to take for granted that these programs are in everyone’s best interests. After all, why wouldn’t we want the companies we patronize to keep the bigger picture in mind and take every opportunity to do a little bit of good in the process of making a profit?

Business to business operations have to take a different kind of approach to such initiatives as their immediate customers are usually more motivated by efficiency and innovation than socially-oriented programs. Procurement and purchasing professionals play a unique role in B2B local sourcing; we have to outline the pros and cons and help the rest of the company decide when these programs are advantageous for all parties involved and when the fit just isn’t right.

Pros of Local Sourcing

  • Convenience: There is no question that having a supplier down the road - as opposed to across the country - opens the door to new kinds of information exchange and collaboration. Meetings can be casual and frequent, and have the opportunity to foster the type of interactions that breed creativity and innovation. 
  • Public relations boost: If your company’s product or service can be consumed by local companies, hiring another firm in the community to join the supply chain will no doubt provide a positive boost to your local reputation. Employees and their family/friends will no doubt return the favor with loyalty of their own.
  • Response time/turnaround: The speed of business is showing no signs of slowing down any time soon. When a supplier is down the street rather than across the country, deliveries can be made faster and problems can be resolved in short order. In addition, there are no time zone differences to be navigated and travel fees are reduced to a minimum.

Cons of Local Sourcing

  • Breaking up is hard to do: Nothing is forever – not even contracts entered into with the best of intentions. What if your company makes the decision not to renew a contract with a locally based company? Depending on the relative size of both companies, and how much business is at stake for each party, the negative PR associated with ending the relationship could easily outweigh any positive gains from the original award.
  • What’s the ROI? Many companies invest in local sourcing programs primarily for the sake of supporting the community, but they have the secondary benefit of supporting small to medium sized or diversity businesses. These companies are rarely the most cost effective option, even when the introduce innovative new ideas. Companies looking to be able to document the ROI associated with local sourcing must be prepared to balance quantitative incremental costs with far more subjective benefits. 
  • Dependency: Again, assuming the buy side company is larger than the local supplier, there could be downside for them as well. The contract could create conflict by making it awkward for the local supplier to do business with competitors – something that we all know happens, we’re just not usually brought face to face with it. The imbalance may also cause the supplier to prioritize the feedback and ‘wants’ of their large local customer disproportionately, hurting their overall appeal to the market.

Clearly, any local sourcing program must be approached with careful forethought rather than altruistic assumptions. This is an opportunity for procurement to play a key role – not only as the point of communication between their company and the local supplier, but between the groups in the company that have differing perspectives on the program as a whole.

Buyers Meeting Point is a supporting partner of Sourcing Solutions™. Sourcing Solutions brings together buyers and suppliers of fabricated metal parts, metal stampings, tooling & dies, assemblies and more to make valuable connections, face-to-face. The 2016 program will take place on September 29 in Indianapolis, Indiana. To learn more, visit www.pma.org/sourcingsolutions

Friday, June 17, 2016

Millennials Need Manufacturing


Blogger: Allison Grealis
Vice President, Precision Metalforming Association
President, Women in Manufacturing  

We know that manufacturing needs millennials, but recent research proves that millennials need manufacturing as well. 

This is not going to be another article about the skills gap in manufacturing.  We all know about the millions of open jobs and how the number is only going up with daily retirements.  But replaying these same dire predictions and hoping they will attract new workers is like putting an unpopular song on repeat and hoping people start to dance.

I have been working with the Precision Metalforming Association (PMA) and Women in Manufacturing (WiM) for more than a decade.  Over the years, I’ve seen many workforce development initiatives come and go.  Too often, they fail because the focus is on the industry and not on the worker.  That’s the wrong strategy.  We need to flip the paradigm and start from scratch.  We need to recruit millennials into manufacturing not just to help manufacturing, but to serve millennials as well.

Not just a cog, but a view of the whole wheel.

Millennials want to feel valued and to see the impact of their work.

Everyone likes to feel that their work is meaningful and important, but data show that millennials need this reinforcement more than other workers.  They want to see the final product, and how their contribution helped achieve the team’s goal.  As Jeremy Kingsley, the author of Inspired People Produce Results, has noted, “Millennials workers are more likely to look for meaning and impact in their work and aren’t satisfied simply punching a clock.”

The manufacturing is uniquely capable of fulfilling this need for millennials.  The final product is often accessible on a shop floor and, even when it’s not, skilled managers can help millennial workers see the value of their work in producing the products that make our world work.

Not turning over, but turning up.

Millennials are  restless, always looking for new challenges and opportunities.

Research shows that more than 90% of millennial workers will leave a job after less than three years.  Rather than mastering a task and coasting, they are intent on tackling new challenges.  For millennials, boredom is a deal breaker.

This is good news for an industry like manufacturing that thrives on R&D and is being transformed by new technologies.  Automation has made today’s manufacturing unrecognizable to people familiar with the factories of even 20 years ago.  And 3-D printing and other innovations are already changing the game again.  Evolution energizes millennials and offers opportunity for young workers who often bring strong computer skills with them to the workforce.

Not just a 9-5, but a schedule that really works.

The standard 9-5 just doesn’t do it anymore.  Studies show that nearly 80% of millennials believe that flexible work hours are a key to boosting productivity.  It is clear that younger workers want less rigidity in their work environments and the ability to set a schedule that also allows them to manage child or elder care responsibilities, pursue higher education goals, and participate in their communities.

Manufacturing often scores high on industry surveys in the category of flexible work structure.  An industry driven by results – and by finished products – often has the ability to adjust hours as long as the work gets done.

Not just an individual, but part of a team

Millennials thrive with constructive feedback from effective mentors.  Studies consistently show that employees who have mentors have retention rates around 20% higher than employees who do not.

One interesting concept floated by the Kevin Grubb with National Association of Colleges and Employers is “co-mentoring” or having an employee from an older generation to help a younger team member understand work culture and processes while the younger employee helps his partner manage technology and new tools at work.  This concept and others like it have real potential for the manufacturing sector which relies on both experience and creativity.

It is incumbent upon manufacturing leaders to share the ways in which the industry suits millennials with potential and current workers and to regularly solicit their feedback and insight on how to make the work structure and workforce better.  That’s why PMA is launching MFG NXT, a network for millennials and gen Xers who are rapidly rising through the ranks in manufacturing.  MFG NXT members are hard workers who are committed to success in their companies and in the future of the manufacturing industry.  When MFG NXT members get together, they develop creative strategies and innovative solutions.  Learn more about the PMA MFG NXT program by contacting Rosemary David at rdavid@pma.org.

Thursday, June 9, 2016

Progressive Stamping Dies – A Brief History

Blogger: Pete Ulintz
Technical Director, Precision Metalforming Association 
Prior to the discovery of metal, people used simple hand tools crafted from bone, rock and wood. After fire was discovered, humans soon learned that adding heat to certain rocks (ores) would free the metal from the rock. Eventually, the art of extracting and smelting metals and forming them into usable objects evolved. This practice is commonly referred to as metalworking.

Metalworkers were considered very valuable members of early societies. As more and more items and tools began to be made out of metals, more people were needed who were skilled in the craft of metalworking. Objects made out of metals were necessary for industry, farming, jewelry making and defense purposes. 

Old coins show that the art of die sinking - a process to create a specific size or shape cavity or opening for casting or forging - was known to the ancient Greeks at least back to 800 B.C. (ref: J.L Lewis, Journal of Commerce, 1897). But these artifacts do not show that the use of punches and dies was equally well known. 

Eventually coins were made using two (2) dies - a lower die depicting the coin in a negative form, and a similar upper die. The coin blank was placed between the two die halves and then the upper die was struck with a heavy hammer rendering a positive image on the blank. Even today people occasionally speak of coins being “struck.” 

The first record of punches and dies used in a machine having guides (or ways) to ensure punch-to-die alignment, is the fifteenth century, when a German locksmith used them to manufacture hinges. In 1796 a patent was granted to a Mr. DeVere of France for “Dies for Punching and Drawing Sheet Metal,” perhaps the first of its kind. 

A significant advancement in metal stamping operations was the emergence of the progressive stamping die. The earliest published record describing a “progressive die” that I could find is in J.L. Lewis’ 1897 book, Dies and Die Making. Oberlin Smith’s treatise, The Press Working of Metals” (Wiley and Sons, 1896) provides a good likeness of the first die maker that we may ever find but it makes no mention of a progressive die. It does, however, mention “follow-on” tooling and “successive gang cutting,” which are described in a manner that suggests they could be early predecessors to the progressive die. 

Progressive die use in the United States during the first half of the twentieth century appears to be limited; primarily to large companies producing products in very high quantity, such as electric motor components. The first edition of Die Design Handbook (American Society of Tool and Manufacturing, 1955) contains an entire chapter on progressive dies with numerous examples and illustrations of progressive die designs and die strips for electrical and electric motor components. 
Following World War II, the U.S. economy grew rapidly. Most contract metal stampers of the time produced metal stamping in single operation dies and presses. Material came to the press in strips and was hand fed into a blanking die. The blanks ended up in containers which were later brought to the next die operation. The parts were then hand loaded into subsequent forming and cutting operations and then hand unloaded into another container. 

As production demand increased, production speed became more important. Operator safety became a problem because operators were often injured while putting their hands into the die when loading and unloading parts. By the 1950s, single operations in single presses made it difficult to keep up with rising production demands.

In 1953, an design engineer named Ed Stouten, along with a partner, started a die design business in Grand Rapids, Michigan called, Capitol Engineering Company. Stouten looked for ways to overcome some of the problems contract manufacturers were having with single hit dies (safety, inefficiency, low productivity) and began to promote the idea of leaving some scrap material between parts to carry them through a single multi-station to some of his customers.

The idea of carrying parts in a strip through a single multi-station die was a foreign concept to many local tool & die job shops and contract stamping companies. Many of Capitol’s customers scoffed at the idea and were unwilling to risk investing their time, money or reputations in the idea. According to Stouten, it took many attempts to find a shop owner who would consider his idea. Stouten made a paper strip layout and showed it to one of the local shop owners. The owner said he would try the idea only if Stouten agreed to pay for the die if it did not work.

Stouten did not have to pay for that die because it worked just as he had planned. What he had not planned was how quickly word would spread among shop owners in the area regarding the success of this idea of retaining the part in a strip. Soon, many stamping companies wanted to run stampings in progressive dies. This created a new problem: Many die designers at that time did not know how to make progressive dies work, so they had to be trained.

 In 1970, the Grand Rapids chapter of the SME asked Stouten to speak about progressive dies at their monthly meeting. One of his die designers, Arnold Miedema, accompanied him to that meeting. Over the next two years Stouten and Miedema were invited to speak at every SME chapter in Michigan and one in Sarnia, Canada. They made drawings to use on an overhead projector to illustrate their concepts and soon attendees asked if they could get copies of the materials. This was the beginning of Capitol Engineering’s 266 page training course, Progressive Dies for Designers, Engineers and Managers.

In 1972, Capitol Engineering was asked to present a three day seminar for SME on progressive dies in Dayton Ohio. For the next 30 years they conducted seminars from the east coast to the west coast in the U.S, from Canada to Mexico and even as far away as Singapore; a total of 133 three-day seminars in all.

We can never know exactly how large an impact people like Stouten and Miedema made on the metal stamping industry, both as innovators who were willing to take chances and as educators willing to share what they learned with others, but what we do know is that they played a significant role in progressive die history in terms of what many of us know and learned about designing and building progressive dies.  Although both men are no longer with us, their materials continue to be used in industry seminars, die design books, die making texts, professional association handbooks (e.g., ASM, SME), trade magazine columns and university course work. 

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