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4 ways to take advantage of modern manufacturing trends

(BUSINESS MARKETING) Big companies are in a bit of a bind currently with ongoing trade issues and environmental impact, so wouldn’t local manufacturers be the way to go?

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manufacturers inspection

A lot of trends are impacting the world economy and the manufacturing sector in 2020. We don’t always get to choose our circumstances, but we do choose how we react to them.

The following is a rundown of the four biggest trends affecting manufacturers today. Knowing how to meet these challenges — and when a problem is an opportunity in disguise — could be the key to survival in increasingly competitive markets.

Here’s how companies can weather ongoing and future changes and come out the other side stronger than ever.

1. Domestic Sourcing and Manufacturing

Multiple reasons exist for why domestic sourcing and manufacturing are trending right now in the United States. One is the environment — shorter supply chains lead to smaller carbon footprints. Another is ongoing trade tensions making international freight more complicated than it needs to be.
To figure out if switching to domestic sourcing of materials and local manufacturing makes sense, businesses have some questions to ask themselves. Domestic production is making a comeback because of higher buyer control and potentially lower costs. However, determining real-world ROI is more complicated. It requires an understanding of factors such as:

  • How large is a typical run for your company? Overseas manufacturers often require larger batches. This process, in turn, requires the storage of more inventory than you might want.
  • Is the product light or heavy? Transporting cumbersome items over a distance is more resource- and labor-intensive than shipping smaller ones.
  • How much collaboration do you require with your suppliers and manufacturing partners? Speaking the same language and having the option to visit a factory are major advantages.

2. Additive Manufacturing (3D Printing)

Additive manufacturing has the potential to change the game for small and large companies completely. The ability to quickly prototype new product designs or fabricate replacement parts in-house is exceptionally enticing for manufacturers. However, these are just a hint of the advantages.

Research points to a potential 41 to 74% energy savings for 3D printing compared to traditional large-scale manufacturing techniques, such as injection molding. Manufacturers that incorporate 3D printing into their operations may also reduce waste and improve productivity and efficiency.

Not every company produces the types of consumer goods for which 3D printers are best suited. Several questions should come up before adopting additive manufacturing, including whether 3D printing-based “manufacturing-as-a-service” is a better way forward.

Is the part highly complex? Does it require post-processing? Current 3D printers don’t always play well with highly convoluted shapes and may require post-processing that would occur in CNC machining anyway. How much assembly is required? It may be tempting to 3D-print one consolidated part instead of assembling five separately machined ones. However, 3D printing large pieces can be much more expensive than manufacturing them separately and assembling after.

Is the company not yet ready to purchase a 3D printer? Manufacturing-as-a-service could be the path forward for many companies that lack capital but not creative vision. Rolls-Royce was one of the first to offer industrial services on a per-use basis, but 3D printing is revolutionizing the concept thanks to collaboration tools, such as the easy exchange of digital blueprints.

3. The Industrial Internet of Things

The Industrial Internet of Things, or IIoT, is bringing smart manufacturing to the masses. Smart manufacturing refers to networks of digital and physical systems that make industrial data available anywhere and anytime it’s needed.

Many examples exist of how the IIoT delivers value to manufacturers. These instances include gathering equipment data in real-time to spot trouble and avoid downtime, tool monitoring to maximize product quality and consistency and the means to track and reduce energy usage across a facility or supply chain.

Choosing and implementing the right connected equipment and IIoT products isn’t always straightforward. It requires close attention to factors. Compatibility and interference, for instance, bring new connected devices onto the factory floor and require input from engineers who understand how different devices connect as well as how they can interfere with one another. LCD screens are standard in human-machine interfaces, but choosing low-quality components can introduce interference and other unpredictable behavior.

Physical and cybersecurity is also a point of concern. Not every IoT vendor takes safety seriously. Connected factory equipment requires new levels of training and vigilance. Physical assets should have reliable access controls to avoid purposeful or accidental tampering. Plus, all data transmitted off-site should be encrypted first.

4. The Skilled Labor Shortage

Estimates claim that around 2.4 million skilled and semi-skilled manufacturing positions could remain unfilled by 2028. This trend will continue to impact companies throughout the coming years if they don’t figure out how to turn the situation to their advantage.

If manufacturers find their way back to the apprenticeship model and other forms of onsite training, they can attract not just potential talent, but engaged expertise. Studies show that workers are likelier to stay with companies that invest in their development.

Manufacturers can also set themselves apart from the competition in the eyes of job-seekers by working closely with universities and trade schools. This strategy could open the door to students earning credits and degrees onsite instead of in classrooms. Jim Nelson, a VP at the Illinois Manufacturers’ Association, says, “Every job should have a pathway to a bachelor’s degree. But not every job starts there.”

Plus, smart automation on the factory floor can pick up the slack during downturns in talent availability without displacing existing workers. Robotic inspections outperform human inspectors while allowing management to lift employees into more rewarding, more challenging, less repetitive positions.

Manufacturing in Flux in the Wake of New Trends

More than ever, success in manufacturing requires a careful balance of humanity, culture and technology. Companies with the right approach can benefit from these positive trends and learn to see the less-favorable ones as opportunities for reinvention.

The American Genius is news, insights, tools, and inspiration for business owners and professionals. AG condenses information on technology, business, social media, startups, economics and more, so you don’t have to.

Business Marketing

Easy email signature builder quickly updates your info

(BUSINESS MARKETING) When’s the last time you updated your email signature? That long? You might want to look at just sign, a new, quick, and easy, email signature generator.

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The last thing any of us are thinking about right now is email. While we’re all staying safer at home, though, it’s a good time to think about all the little things that need our attention, but typically get neglected: clearing out the email inbox, unsubscribing from things no longer relevant, and updating our email signatures. Why the email signature?

Oftentimes, we change emails when we change jobs and forget to change our signatures to reflect our new address. The same is true with social media; if we happen to change jobs, due to our own choice or by necessity thanks to the virus, we may need to update our social media profiles accordingly, especially if the new job suddenly makes this a requirement.

One of the fastest ways to update your email signature is with a generator. An email signature generator can help you quickly make a professional looking signature in about half the time it would take you to manually add each individual component.

Just Sign is one of the quickest options I’ve seen. This email signature generator is ultra simple, ultra easy, and ultra effective. It allows you to add clickable social links, a profile picture or logo, and all relevant contact information. It also allows you to choose a color scheme and tailor the formatting a bit to your preferences. As you begin to add options to your signature, you can see a preview of what the final product will look like in the right-hand panel.

Just Sign welcome

This allows you to make any necessary changes before downloading the finished product. When you have your signature perfected, simply click the purple “generate signature” button and you’re ready to go.

Just Sign is an easy, quick way to check another thing off your to-do list while we’re all at home. If you have already updated your signature, you might save this link for later use as it’s a good idea to revisit your signature a few times a year. Oftentimes, I revise mine simply to keep the attached picture updated. Have you updated your signature lately? Do you plan to? Let us know what you think of Just Sign.

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Business Marketing

How one employer beat an age discrimination lawsuit

(BUSINESS MARKETING) Age discrimination is a rare occurrence but still something to be battled. It’s good practice to keep your house in order to be on the right side.

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Jewel age discrimination

In January, the EEOC released its annual accounting for reports of discrimination in the previous year. Allegations of retaliation were the most frequently filed charge, which disability coming in second. Age discrimination cases accounted for 21.4% of filed charges. As we’ve reported before, not all age discrimination complaints rise to the level of illegal discrimination. In Cesario v. Jewel Food Stores, Inc., the federal court dismissed the claims of age discrimination, even though seven (7) plaintiffs made similar claims against the grocery store.

What Cesario v. Jewel Food Stores was about

In Cesario, all but one of the seven plaintiffs had spent years with Jewel Food building their careers. When Jewel went through some financial troubles, the plaintiffs allege that they began to “experience significant pressure at work… (and) were eventually forced out or terminated because of their age or disability.” Jewel Food requested summary judgment to dismiss the claims.

The seven plaintiffs made the same type of complaints. Beginning in 2014, store directors were under pressure to improve metrics and customer satisfaction. Cesario alleges that the Jewel district manager asked about his age. Another director alleges that younger store directors were transferred to stores with less difficulties. One plaintiff alleged that Jewel Food managers asked him about his retirement. The EEOC complaints began in late 2015. The plaintiffs retired or were fired and subsequently filed a lawsuit against their company.

Age discrimination is prohibited by the Age Discrimination in Employment Act of 1967, (ADEA). The ADEA prevents disparate treatment based on age for workers over 40 years old. However, plaintiffs who allege disparate treatment must establish that the adverse reactions wouldn’t have occurred but for age. Because none of the plaintiffs could specifically point to age as the only determination of their case, the court dismissed the case.

A word to wise businesses

Jewel Food was able to demonstrate their own actions in the case through careful documentation. Although there was no evidence that age played a factor in any discharge decision, Jewel Food could document their personnel decisions across the board. The plaintiffs also didn’t exhaust all administrative remedies. This led to the case being dropped.

Lesson learned – Make personnel decisions based on performance and evidence. Don’t use age as a factor. Keep documentation to support your decisions.

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Business Marketing

in 2021 the EU will enforce ‘right to repair’ for phones and tablets

(BUSINESS NEWS) The EU says NO to planned obsolescence by…letting you fix your own stuff? The right to repair has started to make headway again.

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Right to repair

Not to be a loyalist turncoat about it, but sometimes the European Union comes out with stuff that makes me want Texas to go back to being Mexico, and then back to being Spain.

The latest in sustainability news from across the pond is that in 2021, the Old World is saying no to Euro-trash, and insisting on implementing:

Right to repair laws
Higher sustainable materials quotas
Ease of transfer for replaced items (ie: letting you sell your old phone without the need for jailbreaking anything)
and Universal adaptors for things like phone chargers, and connection cables

Hallelujah!

Consumers worldwide have been feeling the pinch of realizing their (cough cough, mostly Apple brand) technology not only breaks easily, but either can’t be fixed afterwards, or requires costly branded repairs.

The phenomenon has given rise to rogue mobile repair shops, Reddit threads, and renegade fix-it philanthropists like Louis Rossman. And while they certainly HELP, the best thing for a problem is to cut it off proactively. Since companies were making too much money not picking up the slack, the EU’s decided to take the steps to force their hands.

I’m always on my soapbox, but I’ll stack another one on top for this: Planned obsolescence and the assumption that a company has any right to tell you you can’t repair, restore, revamp, or re-home your own possessions are obscene. And to be fair to Apple fans, it’s not just in tech—it’s in damn near everything that’s not meant to be EATEN. Literally.

I bought a STAPLER for a volunteer gig I had. A good, sturdy Staedtler one that I figured would serve the project and continue to stand me in good stead for a while. After a few dozen price tags attached to baggies, the stapler jammed, as staplers do. No worries, you find a knife and wedge out the stuck staple…except I couldn’t. Because the normal slot for that was covered by a metal plate literally welded in place so that I couldn’t perform a grade-school level fix on something I paid for less than 24 hours prior.

Rather than stand behind a product that’s supposed to last, companies, even down to simple office ware, have opted to tinker away to force consumers to trash their current products to buy newer ones. Which I did in the stapler case. A rusty second hand one that didn’t HAVE that retroactive BS ‘Let’s create a problem’ plate on it, meaning no company but the resale non-profit I was helping out in the first place got any more money from me.

Consumers are wising up, and fewer lawmakers are still stuck in the fog of the 90s and 2000s surrounding our everyday machinery. The gray areas are settling into solid black and white, and SMART smart-businesses here stateside will change their colors accordingly.

Now while we’re all still quarantined and hoping for these laws to wash up onto American shores…who has craft ideas for the five-dozen different chargers we all have?

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