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The Skills Gap in Manufacturing Jobs

August 15, 2014

There is currently a boom in U.S. manufacturing requiring more skilled labor than ever before. Unfortunately, this is a problem for many manufacturers because they are struggling to fill 70,000-80,000 open roles. A big problem that companies are facing when hiring skilled labor is the lack of organizations that can educate students in technical fields such as manufacturing and engineering. Local schools and organizations previously taught CAD and CAM classes. However, class sizes are shrinking and there are now only a few that can teach such technically specific subjects.

To encourage employment growth among companies in the technical fields, education organizations are being developed. For example, the Manufacturing Institute is an organization that was developed to attract highly talented manufacturing professionals. According to the Manufacturing Institute, 82 percent of manufacturers reported a shortage in skilled production workers. This shortage can negatively influence success for manufacturers. The institute helps to close the skills gap by creating certification and training programs that successfully prepare students for a variety of manufacturing roles.

Companies ranging in size from small to large are struggling to fill skilled roles. Anyone in the industry that has a desire to grow and expand will have the opportunity once there is enough skilled labor available. This is a fascinating field because there currently is so much growth and not enough skilled workers to meet the demand.

Small and medium sized companies struggle the most to attract skilled labor. Larger companies have the resources to recruit the most highly skilled students from technical schools and organizations. To combat this, companies are beginning to offer their own apprenticeship program. The goal of these efforts is to attract young students and to train them in manufacturing and engineering.

According to U.S. News, the skills gap could possibly compromise and limit competitiveness in the manufacturing industry. As jobs continue to grow in technical fields, many manufacturers are realizing that prospective employees do not have the necessary skills to be successful in their job. This is a problem that American manufacturers have to deal with today.

Fortunately, there are more schools, organizations, and apprenticeship programs that are being developed that can positively impact the manufacturing industry and eventually lessen the current skills gap.


Abrasive vs. Non-Abrasive Waterjet Cutting

July 30, 2014

As a company who is experienced in custom waterjet cutting, we know exactly how to machine your parts to exact specifications. Our high quality CNC machining and programming software ensure a perfectly designed product from raw material. With waterjet cutting, we have the option of utilizing both abrasive and non-abrasive capabilities. How do we choose which is best? That all depends on your end application and details of the part.

Non-abrasive Waterjet Cutting

Non-abrasive waterjet cutting is a great service when working with light, soft, flimsy, and porous materials. Because no abrasive is being used to assist in cutting the material, subsequent material will not be subjected to abrasive or other contamination during the cutting process. Additionally, the finished product is visibly clean and burr-free. Some examples of materials that can be processed using non-abrasive waterjet cutting include most rubbers, such as silicone, neoprene, and EPDM, as well as soft and thin plastics, foam products, foam core, and gaterboard.

Abrasive Waterjet Cutting

Abrasive waterjet cutting uses a high-velocity stream of water along with an abrasive through a sapphire, ruby, or diamond orifice. An abrasive waterjet can cut through almost any Abrasive waterjet cuttingmaterial at 40,000 to 90,000 psi. During the abrasive waterjet cutting process, a stream of water exits the nozzle containing air, water, and abrasive particles with a cutting diameter of 0.020″ to 0.060″. The high-velocity abrasive particles impact the kerf face and perform the actual cutting. Kerf material is removed, with no impact on the material. With a few exceptions, abrasive waterjet cutting can virtually all materials and thicknesses up to 12”. Common materials include steel, stainless steel, alloy and tool steel, red metals, stone, and plastics.

Depending on the material and your particular needs, either abrasive or non-abrasive waterjet cutting could be ideal for you. Both services offer distinct advantages and provide custom cutting for a variety of materials in different applications.

Robotics: The New Breakthrough in Manufacturing

July 1, 2014

It seems like every week, a new piece of technology is introduced into the marketplace, primed to change the course of manufacturing. There has been light-weighting—the introduction of aluminum materials into auto production, as aluminum weighs lighter than steel, 3D printing—aimed to redefine manufacturing production, and Google Glass—looked at being used in different healthcare capacities, among others. One other technology that has entered many industries, and one we see greatly affecting manufacturing, is robotics.

Robotics, along the same lines as automation, are quickly being adapted and utilized throughout industry, as they are capable of performing methodical tasks and dangerous operations. According to this Financial Times article, “As smarter technology takes hold…robots are starting to come out of the safety cage and work side-by-side with humans. This is opening up new robotic markets.” Recently, industry has been utilizing robots in ways they never have before, including in more serious government or aerospace applications.[1] In fact, the market is expected to vastly increase in the next ten years.

Because of robotics’ breakthrough in industry, many young students are now being taught the technologies behind robots. In fact, there are several global robotics challenges that take place for high school and college level students, as well as researchers and engineers. One in particular—the DARPA Challenge—is “designed to accelerate the development of robots that could aid humans in real-world disaster relief efforts and emergency scenarios.” Then there’s the FIRST Robotics Competition, held for international high school students, in which they build robots to compete in specified challenges.

Fedtech has been involved at a grassroots level with this rapidly expanding field. In an effort to get students interested in the fields of manufacturing and engineering, we have dedicated company contributions to a number of high schools and colleges that offer robotics. Additionally, we will manufacture parts for school-related projects that aim to promote manufacturing careers. Most recently, we made some parts for a University of Minnesota solar project.

We certainly see how robotics has, and will, cause a major breakthrough in the world of manufacturing. We can only hope that with this new technology will come a whole new set of manufacturers and engineers eager at the chance to work with robotics.


In Manufacturing, Safety Comes First

May 29, 2014

No matter what industry you are in, or what type of business you run, there is one common factor among all companies: safety comes first. Whether it is the safety of your employees or the safety of your customers, safety should always take precedent. In the manufacturing industry, this is no different.

On the floor of a manufacturing plant, there are a variety of hazards one can encounter, from the operation of the machines themselves to working with hazardous chemicals or poor air quality. OSHA, the Occupational Health and Safety Administration, has set many rules and regulations in place in order to ensure the safety of manufacturing workers. Why? According to OSHA, over 4,000 workers died on the job in 2012; they now require all businesses to report all work-related injuries and incidents in order to strengthen rules in place.

As a manufacturer, we place safety above everything. When implementing safety strategies into your manufacturing business, there are a few factors to consider:

What are the exact safety standards? While OSHA provides many federal safety regulations, states and municipalities may have their own sets of safety standards as well. It is up to the company to know what they are and what needs to be done to implement them into the workplace.

Are there proper safety professionals in place? Recently, GM has recalled thousands of cars due to safety issues; however, there has been a lot of talk that the recalls were much delayed. Due to this, the company recently installed a new safety chief, providing GM “a single safety leader with access to senior managers and the board,” according to this article. This brings attention to the idea of having proper safety leadership in place, ensuring that all standards are met and proper regulations are being followed.

We understand the importance of safety and we make it a priority in our business—we hope the same for you!

Copper Grating Making New Cuts for the Laser Cutting Industry

April 21, 2014

When it comes to manufacturing and machining—particularly laser cutting—we consider ourselves to be well-versed and experienced. As the industry is consistently changing and adapting to new technologies, we are always finding ways to keep up and stay ahead of the curve. Laser cutting on traditional steel grating requires constant upkeep and has proved to be expensive. Over the years, through continuous improvement projects, we believe we have a solution for the industry.

Our experiments led to the development of our copper and hybrid laser slat product, or laser grating, for laser cutting manufacturers. It wasn’t until we had starting using new automated laser cutting systems that came with copper slats that we realized how much more efficient the copper was to steel. With copper slats, there is less slag buildup, the slugs and parts don’t get welded onto the bed, there is no carbon contamination, and there is a longer lifespan than its steel counterpart. At this time, we saw an opportunity to produce these copper slats ourselves and provide them to other OEMs in the industry.fedtech grating

The grates are available in two kinds: copper and a copper hybrid, where the copper material is inserted into a metal base. For some industries, the copper grates are a perfect addition because of superior part quality and reduction in carbon contamination. However, some industries have found the pure copper slats to be costly for their application, which is why we introduced the copper hybrid option. Depending on a variety of factors, including industry type, material type, part parameters, and production volume, we will help determine and custom produce the right slats for your laser cutting needs.

As laser cutting manufacturers ourselves, we understand the importance of quality and cost-effectiveness when it comes to the machines and parts we use. This is precisely why we have introduced our copper and copper hybrid slats to the industry.

Looking Ahead to 2014 with FedTech

January 31, 2014

As a successful and fulfilling 2013 came to end, everyone at FedTech is excited for an equally outstanding 2014. This past year was a busy and exciting one for FedTech, and we don’t plan on resting as we move into the new year. In fact, we have already set some challenging goals that we believe will make 2014 an even more productive year. While we have a number of different steps in our plan for 2014, the main focus will be on ratcheting up our welding capabilities.

Expanding Welding Capacity

Thanks to customer demand for our industry-leading welding services, we plan on adding workers and equipment in order to double our welding capacity. In fact, we are already starting to accept applications in order to find highly skilled MIG and TIG welders for all of our commercial, industrial, and defense related projects.

Buying More Equipment

With capital spending rising across the manufacturing world, as seen in this article, it is no wonder that FedTech is upping its equipment buying projections for 2014. While welding equipment is at the heart of our 2014, we also plan to expand our cutting, drilling, forming, and finishing capabilities. Overall, this new equipment will mean less outsourcing and more in-house activity streamlining our manufacturing processes and reducing lead times.

Everyone at FedTech hopes you and your family enjoy a truly fruitful and successful 2014!

What American Manufacturing Means to Us

December 30, 2013

As an American manufacturer, we fully support all things American made. We have watched proudly as local businesses have brought manufacturing back to America, in the case of reshoring, and more pride is put back into “Made in the USA.” This is exactly why we were glad to hear about the first annual “American Made Matters Day”, which was held on November 19th. American made certainly strikes a chord with our employees, as we all support American manufacturing on a daily basis.

In line with American Made Matters Day, we asked some of our employees about what American manufacturing meant to them and how they felt about the future of manufacturing.

What does “Made in America” mean to you?

They all had similar answers: “Quality, job creation, job security, and parts that are made, assembled, and packaged in the U.S.”

How, as a company, would you promote the fact that all of your products are American made?

“Discussion of the virtues of American-made products with friends and relatives; Personal comparison indicates that success with product functionality is higher and that fit and finish is of better quality.”

Do you feel that you have seen a definite trend in manufacturing returning to the U.S., as well as more of a demand for American made products?

“Yes, we see a definite trend of OEMs pulling specific projects back to the States. Reasons are quality, lead times, and freight costs; We have seen past projects lost to overseas competition return to Fedtech; We have had friends in manufacturing say their companies are seeing different projects return because of quality and lead time issues.”

What do you hope for the future of manufacturing here in America and the development of more American-made products?

“Growth; At the education level, teachers and counselors need to stop steering kids away from manufacturing, more qualified and educated laborers are needed in the manufacturing sector; More skilled laborers and qualified workforce.”

It’s clear that here at Fedtech, we are all proud to be a part of the American manufacturing force and we see the pride and quality in Made in the USA. How do you feel about American-made?