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Surcharges on Imported Aluminum

May 7, 2018

Lately, there has been much talk in the news regarding potential new tariffs and surcharges which would be imposed on certain materials and goods by the United States government.  One specific surcharge that is causing the manufacturing industry to ask a lot of questions would be the surcharge on certain types of imported aluminum.  Many issues of who can bring materials into the US have already been weeded out.

What Materials Would This Effect?

The newly proposed surcharges would be in effect on the 3003 and 5052 aluminum alloys. These grades of aluminum are often used in the Marine Industry and automotive applications, causing concern for many different marine and automotive manufacturing groups.

Why These Materials?

These two aluminum alloys were originally targeted for potential surcharges due to concerns on the quality of the material being imported from China.  There has been much concern that the aluminum being shipped to the United States from China could be of a substandard quality.  With the recent Kobe steel scandal that has come out of China, where substandard steel alloys were certified incorrectly, there is much more scrutiny on making sure the materials being imported are the quality they are supposed to be.  While many manufacturing companies import their aluminum that originates in China due to lower costs, if the Alloy is not at the expected certifications, that could lead to potentially serious issues in the marine and automotive projects they are using the materials in.

The Big Picture

marine-product-prototypeThere are only 3 mills left in the United States that produce aluminum for these grades.  The automotive industry has been making more and more cars with aluminum lately than they have in the past.  In the current climate, importing aluminum alloys from China and other countries is necessary as there is not enough being produced in the US to meet the current demand.  Putting these surcharges on the imported materials makes the cost the same or slightly higher as getting it from a mill in the United States.  This can hurt the businesses of American manufacturers. However, their goal should really be to prevent substandard material from entering the US marketplace and winding up in their products.

At Mid-West Screw Products we have been working with and cutting all kinds of aluminum alloys for many years.   We understand the importance of making sure only the best quality aluminum is used, and the importance of not having substandard aluminum used for manufacturing.  This is a difficult situation, as the question is can we trust this material not to be substandard as other materials from China were proven to be falsified and not what they certified it was in the past.  Many answers are still needed before this mess can be solved.

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Educating the Future of the Manufacturing Industry

April 23, 2018

The manufacturing industry is the backbone of the American economy as it is a provider of jobs on a large scale.  Many of the jobs in the manufacturing industry are technical or skilled in nature as they require training to operate machinery and heavy equipment.  In the past, workers got hands-on training and experience to learn how to do these jobs, but in more recent times that has fallen away as interest in working in the manufacturing industry has cooled a bit from the manufacturing boom period of the past.

Engineer banner flat set

There is a need for skilled workers in the manufacturing industry which is only growing as the baby boomer generation gets older and retires.  To try and provide the next generation of workers the skills they need to be successful in the manufacturing industry, recently there has been a rise in classroom training programs.    There are some questions though on how valuable these programs are for potential manufacturing workers.  The best way to learn how to operate manufacturing machinery is through first-hand experience and training on the actual machines themselves.   If these classroom training programs do not have actual machines for students to train on, it is unclear how useful these programs will be.  While it is useful to learn the theory and history of manufacturing in the classroom, nothing beats first-hand machine experience.

While improvements in technology are allowing people to learn quicker, with more access to information than ever before, there is still an important value to training on actual working machines.  There are many nonprofit organizations that are funded by the government that are working to help with these training issues.  They team with manufacturing companies to help their employees get the best training possible.  As manufacturing trade schools are not as prevalent as they once were, this is a great way to help make sure the manufacturing industry will have a new generation of skilled workers.

At Mid-West Screw Products we are always working with our employees to help them get the maximum training, and further develop their skills.  Our business runs on the strength of our employees, and we are always looking for skilled workers.  For more information about our company’s capabilities, or potential job opportunities please contact us here.

Industry On The Rise

February 28, 2018

Each month, reports come out touting the rise of various industries in the industrial world.  This is great news for machine shops as it often leads to more requests for quotes being submitted, and more business across the board.  At Mid-West Screw Products we have seen increases in activity in a few different areas including the heavy machinery sector, high voltage electric and aerospace industries.

One factor we have noticed that leads to an increase in industrial activity is emergency situations and national disasters.  When terrible events like hurricanes or earthquakes happen, repairs need to be made quickly and efficiently.  This leads to many jobs going out for bid as work must be done to repair these areas affected.  The goal of this work is to put things back to normal as fast as possible. Typically the newest design for these replacement parts and products, with the newest technology, are ordered to limit the damage when a repeat storm or emergency arises.

assembly-stagesAnother trend we have noticed which is leading to increases in industrial activity is the move towards energy efficiency and green initiatives.  This has played a major role in the electronics and lighting industries.  Many places from factories to hospitals and doctors’ offices are changing their lighting sources.  Moving to LED lighting options saves energy and costs for these facilities while still providing the important source of light needed. Besides just being energy efficient, using these kinds of lights lower the electric bill, as well as the liability.  They also last longer than older style lights and require less maintenance and upkeep. These low voltage, LED lights are the trend of the future, and installing them is creating a lot of much-needed work for the manufacturing industry.

Other industries that are showing signs of growth include the aerospace and medical device industries.  As the population is growing older, much work is being done on devices that can solve medical issues and provide the care needed by this large portion of the population.  The aerospace industry is always attempting to use the latest cutting-edge technology to improve efficiency, and this leads to a growing industry as improvements are made across the board.

Here at Mid-West Screw Products we have the capabilities to make your custom part to your specifications and in your desired time frame and for many different industries.  Contact us here to learn more about the custom parts we can machine for you.

Robots in Manufacturing

January 17, 2018

As technology has been improving, there have been many opportunities for the manufacturing industry to evolve and take advantage of these new technologies.  One way manufacturers have been doing this is with the use of robots and robotics.  This technology has been a great addition to the manufacturing process, and is changing the way parts and goods are produced.

Industrial robotic arms

A common misconception is that the use of robots in manufacturing is going to replace the jobs of humans.  That is not the case.  Robots are used for repetitive menial tasks that require time, but not skill. Tasks like picking up loads, and moving heavy items to other areas are best done by robots as opposed to human workers.  This allows human workers to work on more creative tasks which overall improves efficiency.  An employee working on more creative tasks provides them with an incentive to do well, and helps them stay interested in the jobs they are working on.

There is one company that the Robot Firm, Mid-West choose to purchase our unit from, has a customer we know of, because they were once our neighbor. They purchased one Robot and now have sixty. To prove my point that Robots do not take away jobs, their employees went from one hundred and thirty-five to one hundred and sixty-five.  WHY? Because the efficiency of the redundant jobs the Robots now do became so productive that their employees could not keep up with the increase parts flow. Hence, there was a need for more human involvement to do what the Robot could not do to complete the process of getting the parts out the door to their customers.

One of the things we do at Mid-West Screw Products is reward our employees for their innovation.  Time is money, and if an employee can develop a way to improve one of our processes to save us time by being more efficient, we make sure to reward them.  By having robots perform the repetitive tasks, this allows our workers the opportunity to work on more challenging responsibilities and potentially improve the way we do things.

Using robots for the manufacturing process also can improve employee safety in the facility.  Many injuries occur to workers in a position that could actually be replaced by a robot.  Taking employees out of these roles will improve both the health and morale of your workers, but also can save money overall as well. Also hiring temporary workers for busy seasons and large orders can be avoided, as robots will be able to handle the physical repetitive tasks, and the workers hired can instead by placed in long-term permanent positions.

Accidents typically happen when an employee is working on a mundane, repetitious job. When their concentration drifts to other things and they stop paying attention, they usually get hurt and it is usually a stupid mistake.  If they do not get injured, then they become lucky. However, the crash of the machine they were working on may cost thousands of dollars to repair. In either case, something catastrophic has happened.

At Mid-West Screw Products we are always looking to take advantage of the latest technology on the market.  Robotics is the future of manufacturing, and offers both benefits to employers and employees, and against common thought, will not replace jobs.  For more information about our capabilities and services contact us here, or submit a quote on our new website with our quick quote function.

Lack of Oversight for Manufacturing Accrediting Agencies

December 28, 2017

In today’s global economy, companies in the industrial field are doing business all around the world.  In an attempt to standardize and regulate the manufacturing being done, accrediting agencies have been created to develop universal manufacturing standards.  While the idea of these accrediting agencies makes a lot of sense, recently there have been many questions on who oversees these agencies, and who is running and financing them.

Workers and manager at factory

With many different accrediting agencies out there, the idea is that a manufacturing company could choose the best one that fits their budget and time frame to achieve this certification from.  Once this certification is achieved, such as an ISO 9001, AS910, as well as many other certifications, which will be recognized by large companies, that require them, this also helps get the certified company more business.  What appears to be happening though is that big companies are not accepting certifications from all accrediting agencies. They seem to be accepting them from only one large specific agency, and rejecting certifications from others.

Looking deeper at the one accrediting agency which big companies across many industries accept their certifications from, many potential conflicts of interest seem to arise.  Daryl Guberman, who is the CEO of Guberman-PMC, LLC, and a long time professional with over 34 years of experience in the aerospace, medical implants and materials, and printing fields has been doing a lot of research into this area.  He has created numerous videos on his YouTube channel investigating many of these conflicts of interests, and potential abuses of power.  These videos are a shocking view of what is happening in the accreditation arena. His findings have found potential issues such as foreign influence in the accrediting group, global standards that are not actually global, and a country club mentality where if you are not friends with the right people, you are kept out of the lucrative manufacturing business world that exists.  Expensive fees are also charged to these smaller companies who are trying to achieve these certifications, with everything from consultants requiring traveling costs to be paid on top of their training fee, and manual writing fee.  These types of expenses can put small companies out of business and prevents them from gaining potentially business saving contracts from the big companies of an industry.

By allowing one company to gain a virtual monopoly over the certification industry, the question becomes who is in charge of monitoring the industry to make sure these monopolies do not happen?  It appears that the accrediting industry is very politically connected, with a lot of money changing hands.  As a family run business, Mid-West Screw Products makes it a priority to provide the best quality and service for our customers.  We hope changes are made that prevent a company like ours from being shut out of doing business with big companies because we do not play their accrediting games.  We appreciate the opportunity our customers give us to provide them quality products and are always looking to make improvements to our facility and capabilities to meet their needs.  If you have thoughts on how the suspect actions of accrediting agencies are causing problems in the manufacturing industry, let us know here or in the comments below.

Today’s Manufacturing Climate

November 13, 2017

While manufacturing has been showing positive growth as a whole in 2017, one trend that we have noticed is the closing of many machine shops across the United States.  These closures have led to a lot of new business being up for grabs for the machine shops still in business.  This has led to what in one respect is a “quoting heaven”.  However, this can also be a nightmare when it comes to trying to compete with the prices these potential clients have been paying and expecting to continue to see. Moving forward, their thinking is that they will be seeing the same or similar pricing as from their old supplier.

Machine Shop – Client Relationship

Many customers develop long term relationships with their machine shops for the parts they require.  It takes work by the customer to find a supplier to make a part that meets all specifications at a price that meets their budget.  On the machine shop side, production should always refined to improve production time and limit unnecessary costs.  Once perfected, a relationship is developed between the client and manufacturer that can last years, because both sides know what the specs of the part they need, as well as the price and related production costs. Machine shops should work diligently to improve production. This improves productivity and keeps the cost down for their customer. Yearly labor price increases and frowned upon. Old repetitive jobs occasionally need looking into. It is in the interest of the supplier to seek ways to improve production at their end to keep the work. If the supplier doesn’t study their processes, to realize efficiencies and profitability, that is when the machine shop closes down. However, that client still needs their part, causing them to request quotes from many other shops.

Quote Process

As a machine shop receiving requests for quotes for new parts, we have been noticing a trend where the customer is looking for a much cheaper price than we can offer.  They expect this price because it is what their last supplier offered, but they do not realize that price is due to long term relationship they had with their old manufacturer.  Familiarity with the part when you run the job for years keeps the cost of production down. Yet, by not paying attention and assuming all is good can be devastating. The process is continually refined to see what can go wrong, where time can be saved, and how production can become more efficient.  Materials also cost more today than in the past, but often those changes in prices are not added for customers who have long standing relationships with.  When running a part for the first time you also do not know how it is going to go until you actually make the part.  The process is then refined each production run made, which can lead to costs going down, but is difficult in the quoting process as you must budget for worst case production scenario to make sure you will not lose money on the order. If you win a part to run, be sure you look for better ways to create efficiencies. Then two things happen, you can hold your price, while still making money and not have to raise the price to the customer, next time. This is exactly what the last guy did, except he became complacent, lost track of his overhead, increased material cost, while letting the part continue to run PO after PO, thinking he was making money. When this catches up to a company they are forced to close their doors. Think of the seconds to produce a part as pennies. A second saved is a penny earned. Never lose track of the seconds.

At Mid-West Screw Products we just launched our new website which contains a Quick Quote section for our customer’s convenience.   We are ISO 9001, ARM 9009, AS9100 certified to make sure we can meet all your needs.  Contact us here for more information on the parts we can provide for you.

Manufacturing For the Medical Industry

October 19, 2017

The medical industry is one of the fastest growing manufacturing sectors.  With a large portion of the population getting older, there is much demand for medical devices that will assist in taking care of them.  At Mid-West Screw Products we recently obtained ISO 13485 certification so that we could work with these companies making medical devices and equipment.

ISO 13485

While medical devices can be extremely costly and sophisticated to produce, they also require basic parts in their design.  This is where machine job shops come in.  Medical devices require parts that meet strict specs and tight tolerances.  In one of our previous blogs on screw machining we explained how job shops have the capabilities to make your custom part to your specifications in your desired time frame.  These capabilities allow for multiple options and processes to be completed simultaneously allowing for maximum efficiency.

Obtaining this ISO 13485 certification doesn’t mean that all parts we work on will be used in an actual patient itself.  Many of the parts and projects are for other items and equipment that are medically related. The word medical means more than just surgery, all the equipment in a hospital or medical facility needs to meet certain standards.  Items from wheelchairs, to x-ray machines and devices that monitor vital signals are important parts of medical care, and need to be built to meet certain standards and requirements.  Because of this most companies who make medical equipment and devices will only work with companies who have obtained ISO 13485 specifications.  Having this certification lets them know that machine shop will follow the strict requirements that are required for the medical industry.

As we grow into a global market, the need for certifications and global instructions are more important than ever.  Standards should be the same across the board, and having these certifications in place for different industries makes this the case.  Achieving these standards is not easy, and they shouldn’t be, to insure that best companies are the one doing the work.

Here at Mid-West Screw Products we continue to educate our employees to have the best industry knowledge so we can provide the best service for our customers.  Visit our new website and learn more about our recently obtained Aerospace, AS9100 certification to see how we continue to improve our capabilities.

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