Friday, January 29, 2016

Lightweight Materials Momentum Grows as EPA and Industry Prepare for Mid-Term Evaluation

As governmental and consumer demand for decreased emissions, higher sustainability, lower carbon footprint and greater fuel economy increases, the growing trend for original equipment manufacturers (OEM) to adopt new materials is impacting manufacturing at all tier levels. As OEM’s change materials, small and medium-sized manufacturers will face a timely shifts toward aluminum, advanced high strength steel, composites, bio-polymers and bio-materials.

New and lightweight materials being specified by OEM’s in all industries pose a substantial risk to Michigan manufacturers.  Changing materials mean developing new processes, modifying supply chains, investing in new equipment, learning new materials, and adapting manufacturing practices to new requirements.

The fervor to reduce greenhouse gas emissions and increase fuel economy is stronger than ever at the EPA. Consumers and automotive companies are on board for continued improvements to meet the 2025 standard of 163 g/ml CO2 (54.5 mpg) average for all cars sold in the United States.  European standards are even tougher, and China and other Asian countries are moving in the same direction. With the emphasis on global vehicle manufacturers, all from Detroit to Yokohama and Wolfsburg, are taking the fuel economy challenge very seriously.  A midterm evaluation period is scheduled for June 2016, but it seems unlikely that the conclusions will be anything but to stay to course and push for 54.5 mpg average in 2025. See the following chart from the EPA.


With average fuel economy still in the 25 – 30 mpg range today, how will the car companies reach the end goal?  In his presentation to the Center for Automotive Research last August, Chris Grundler, Director of the EPA in Ann Arbor, presented the following charts showing that a number of vehicles are well on their way to achieving the vehicle class goals. The pathway to higher mileage includes improvements in engine technology, transmissions, and road loads.  Reduction of mass is also playing a role with many of these models.  This evidence points out that there is not one solution out there, but a combination of many that will get the car companies where they need to be.



Automotive companies are eager to reduce weight to offset weight increases created by safety features being added to vehicles. They are but they are not eager to increase cost.

MMTC Can Help You Meet Growing Demand for Lightweight Components
Altering existing materials means developing new processes, modifying supply chains, investing in new equipment, learning new materials, and adapting manufacturing practices to new requirements within your organization. MMTC’s Materials, Process and Product Consulting program will assist clients in better understanding the risks, upgrading processes, equipment and systems, and provide in depth technical know-how to assess clients capabilities and establish programs to significantly improve manufacturing efficiency and quality while preparing for new materials and products.

MMTC’s Areas of Technical Expertise 
Forming & Fabrication of Advanced High Strength Steel & Aluminum
Welding, Joining and Heat Treating
Casting – Aluminum, Iron & Magnesium
Powder Metal Molding
Metallurgy of Traditional & New Materials

Services Offered
New and lightweight materials being specified by OEM’s in all industries pose a substantial risk to Michigan manufacturers. MMTC’s Materials, Process and Product Consulting services can benefit your operations with:
New Material & Job Quote advising
Recognizing Changes in Scrap Handling & Recycling
Preparing for the Future With Assessments, Waste Walks & Program Preparation
Process Training & Development
Design of Experiments
Troubleshooting (8D Problem Solving)
Program or project Management

Contact MMTC
Do you have a materials or process-related question?  For more information, call the MMTC Materials Tech Team today at 888.414.6682.


Since 1991, MMTC has assisted Michigan’s small and medium-sized businesses compete and grow. Through personalized services fitted to meet the needs of clients, we develop more effective business leaders, drive product and process innovation, promote company-wide operational excellence and foster creative strategies for business growth and greater profitability. Find us at www.mmtc.org.

Friday, January 22, 2016

The Benefits of Hiring Veterans in Manufacturing


benefits of hiring veterans in manufacturing
According to Deloitte Manufacturing Institute’s report, The Skills Gap in U.S.Manufacturing 2015 and Beyond, manufacturers for years have reported a sizeable gap between the talent they need to keep growing their businesses and the talent they can actually find. Successful manufacturing companies need a growing labor pool to meet increasing market demands.

Manufacturers meeting these needs have found a great benefit through recruiting veterans. Men and women enlist in the armed services for many reasons – a patriotic commitment to the United States, carrying on a family tradition, and more. In addition to strong character, our military men and women expand on their skills and increase their education during deployment, making them the perfect candidates for the manufacturing sector upon their return.

Required Skills
A side-by-side comparison demonstrates an almost perfect match of the skillset veterans possess and the skillset required by modern manufacturing. Manufacturers are clamoring for all levels of management to become leaders. Individuals who can solve problems creatively, while understanding the latest technology, are in high demand. Veterans possess many, if not all, of the skills manufacturers are desperately seeking. Their hard skills make them technically proficient, while the soft skills they possess provide social and leadership expertise. Veterans come ready to get the job done right.

Leadership
From the shop floor right up to the executive offices, manufacturing leadership can be lacking. The natural hierarchy of the military instills leadership characteristics in its personnel. Line officers and noncommissioned officers are taught to think for themselves and to take initiative when possible. They know the team under their command is their direct responsibility. Consequences are understood should they do something irresponsible.

  1. Veterans are taught how to work in diverse teams with all different types of skillsets. They know how to cooperate with a variety of individuals.
  2. Flexibility is required in the armed services to meet ever-changing demands.
  3. Veterans are used to working under pressure and meeting aggressive deadlines. Cracking under pressure is not an option.
  4. Higher-level skills include system planning, engineering, logistics and organizational management. The armed forces heavily rely on logistics to keep a unit moving, supplied, and equipped.
  5. Veterans are safety conscience and understand policy, procedures, and structure. They possess a unique perspective and value accountability.

Veterans are highly trained, versatile and educated, making them great hires within the private industry. Most of the skills acquired in the armed services are highly transferable and perfect for manufacturing. So the next time you have an open position, consider the benefits of hiring a U.S. veteran!


Since 1991, MMTC has assisted Michigan’s small and medium-sized businesses compete and grow. Through personalized services fitted to meet the needs of clients, we develop more effective business leaders, drive product and process innovation, promote company-wide operational excellence and foster creative strategies for business growth and greater profitability. Find us at www.mmtc.org.

Friday, January 15, 2016

Manufacturing 101: A Guide For Newer Professionals


It isn’t uncommon for newly graduated and well-educated engineers to immediately begin their career in manufacturing. They sit down at a new desk, organize materials, and layout their “task” list provided by their new managers. Typically, the list includes the five things the manager would have accomplished when they held that job (had they known how), three things that have been “on the plate” forever and never accomplished, and one or two items that upper management believes should be a part of this year’s progress.

The Downsides of Lists
The trouble with the new job task lists is very simple:

  1. Often, the manager doesn’t understand why the five items ended up as tasks or know how to start correcting them (or he/she would have done that when they had the responsibility).
  2. The items that have been perennial tasks and never accomplished lack relevance (or the lack of completion would have prevented production).
  3. The lack of proper policy deployment (whatever that is) makes the “key objectives” too strategic to be approached at a tactical level.

Now What?
So the first question arising from this situation is ‘What do I do now’? A simplified answer: Be career conscious. One can’t ignore the tasks provided by superiors and expect career success.  Develop a plan addressing the five items the manager wants accomplished, an incremental plan to make progress on the three perennial items, and finally, a list of questions regarding the key objectives. These questions will allow you to isolate what the objectives mean to you personally in order for you to determine the best path to show progress while staying within your own “sandbox”. To ignore any of them is career suicide. Unless you have an opportunity into a new, entrepreneurial career, they must be addressed in some meaningful way. That said, these are not always the best areas to spend most of your time to make real, meaningful progress in your new area. For instance, what if there are production issues affecting the line or product quality?
You will need to consider alternative priorities that will lead to real improvement.

First Things First…Research!
In your journey towards progress, research should be the first path you travel. Certainly, it isn’t advised you study a situation to death (paralysis by analysis), but you should learn the real underlying issues in your new area. There are three areas to begin your research in order of importance:
1. Production line stoppages and associated inefficiencies. 
  • Production line stoppages or pressing production requirements can and should take an immediate priority.  Inefficiencies can be difficult to detect. There may or may not be a detection/audit process in place to determine if they are happening or whether they have an associated cause. If the information doesn’t currently exist, the first order of business is to set up a data collection system to track the shutdowns and/or stoppages. Before getting too involved, find out who is responsible for maintenance. They may already be tracking downtime in some fashion.

This downtime tracking should also be Pareto’ed, but the following sample layout could be used to collect the data if you don’t already have something:


2. Customer rejects and customer feedback (not always the same thing).
  • When reviewing customer rejects, keep in mind they can be formal or informal.  Formal rejects will include something documented electronically, on a website for example, or printed. Nearly every customer has one or the other, so they exist to be found. The number of pieces rejected and customer cause should be Pareto’ed, or bar charted. (CHECK BACK FOR OUR BLOG HIGHLIGHTING PARETO ON FEB. 12)
3. Any warranty claims associated with the product produced.
  • Warranty should be investigated based first and foremost on what the costs are. You’ll need a copy of the contract for the parts to determine liability. Secondly, you’ll need to view the occurrence level or how often a failed part is detected.
To request a copy of the above Excel document, which includes the formulas which add the times per day and the totals per individual problem, or if you have any questions, contact Bob Jenkins at bjenkins@mmtc.org. Start documenting your data now and you’ll have a month’s worth to analyze before the follow up blog on Feb. 12 is posted.


Since 1991, MMTC has assisted Michigan’s small and medium-sized businesses compete and grow. Through personalized services fitted to meet the needs of clients, we develop more effective business leaders, drive product and process innovation, promote company-wide operational excellence and foster creative strategies for business growth and greater profitability. Find us at www.mmtc.org.

Friday, January 8, 2016

Get Ahead Of The Curve: Five Key Areas To Focus On In 2016

get ahead of the curve 5 key areas to focus on in 2016

Staying ahead of the curve allows you to anticipate what is going to happen before it actually does. You may watch the marketplace, assess emerging trends, and evaluate both potential challenges and growth opportunities. Give your business and organization a head start in 2016 by focusing on the following five key areas:

Develop a Talent Pipeline
Why not create an apprenticeship program grooming the next generation of manufacturing employees? Partner with a local school specializing in science, technology, engineering and mathematics (STEM) to build interest and awareness in manufacturing. Develop an internship program with local community colleges and trade schools. Hire veterans, they are already well trained and experienced.  

Regulatory Compliance
Manufacturers producing food, medical devices and goods for the defense industry face strict regulations. Compliance is NOT optional. All companies are subject to some level of regulatory compliance, which will only increase in the coming year. Designate an employee or assemble a team to ensure regulations are met. This team collects information about regulatory changes, shares information with management, and then helps to develop a plan to achieve compliance.  

Strategic Planning
Flying by the seat of your pants is never a good plan. Strategic planning, including a SWOT (Strengths-Weaknesses-Opportunities-Threats) analysis, provides insight to set the course for the year. Define annual goals based upon analysis feedback and get the entire team on board. All departments should focus on achieving the same objectives. Continuous monitoring and revision is necessary as the conditions always change.

Business Disaster & Contingency Planning
Threats to your business, such as changing weather patterns and terrorism, require a business continuity disaster recovery plan and insurance. If a disruption occurs, how will the company continue to operate? Identify an alternate facility and have back up arrangements for computer systems. Once the disaster occurs, it is too late to develop a plan. You have to be proactive.

Employee Wellness
Health insurance costs are on the rise and show no signs of stopping. Fueled by an influx of costly prescription drugs, group health insurance premiums are expected to increase in 2016. To decrease some of these expenses, provide employees with a wellness program. They provide incentives and rewards for healthy behaviors as well as real outcomes including reduced dependence on some medications and less visits to the doctor.

Good Luck in 2016!
Each New Year brings a clean slate fresh with the excitement of new possibilities and opportunities. Sure, surprises always occur and conditions can change without notice, but staying ahead of the market will help your company not only stay alive, but prosper. And if you’re looking to focus on more key improvements in 2016, we encourage you to learn more about MMTC’s solutions by clicking here.


Since 1991, MMTC has assisted Michigan’s small and medium-sized businesses successfully compete and grow. Through personalized services fitted to meet the needs of clients, we develop more effective business leaders, drive product and process innovation, promote company-wide operational excellence and foster creative strategies for business growth and greater profitability. Find us at www.mmtc.org.