Today, American manufacturers are facing a growing challenge: companies have open jobs and can’t find applicants with the necessary skills to fill them. These unfilled jobs are primarily in the skilled production category including machinists, welders, industrial engineers, and industrial machinery mechanics.
This is the skills gap. Simply put, it’s excess demand for skills and an insufficient supply of skilled workers.
Recent expansion in manufacturing has played an important part in supporting and strengthening the overall economy — and it’s generally expected that manufacturing will continue to play a crucial role in the future of our country’s economy. It’s vital that there are enough of the right workers in the right jobs for continued growth… but why aren’t there?
Sometimes jobs disappear in one sector of the economy for good, while other sectors expand so quickly that the available number of qualified workers isn’t able to keep up. There’s often such fast and progressive use of “new” technology that schools and training programs can’t stay as current as they need to. Another contributing factor to the shortfall of skilled factory workers is the aging of the manufacturing workforce and the resulting retirement of baby boomer employees.
And once baby boomers retire, there are fewer younger employees to take their place. Why? Maybe it’s partially about perceptions. For years, young people have been told that manufacturing jobs are headed overseas, or that these types of employment aren’t a worthwhile educational investment. This just isn’t true anymore. Younger workers also tend to lean toward big companies and corporations, not understanding that small businesses offer a great place to succeed.
Workforce and education programs that link the training of participants to the needs of employers are the best solution. Some community colleges already do this through specially-designed courses, internships, and apprenticeships.
Along that same line, another effective way to address the problem is for local leaders to join forces to organize industry partnerships. Working with a group of philanthropic funders or a community college, for example, leaders define skill requirements for an industry — then design a strategy to address current, as well as long-term, needs.
Some local colleges are beginning to do just that. Monroe Community College, in Rochester, NY, utilizes such community involvement. The school partners with local individuals and businesses to develop innovative, strategic initiatives to support economic development and training. Finger Lakes Community College, with campuses throughout upstate New York, offers workforce opportunities in a variety of counties. As a member of the RTMA, we also work with local community colleges on training students and bringing more people into the industry.
Until more young people realize the opportunities arising in the manufacturing industry and take steps toward careers in that field, the shortage of highly skilled workers will only increase.
At K&H Precision, we give our low volume orders a high level of importance. With our foundation rooted in prototypes, we specialize in low volume productions, allowing for quick change tooling and saved programs for our customers. Unlike many other manufacturing companies, we welcome orders of all sizes. We use the Kan-Ban system in order to ensure our customers get the products they need at the right time and for the right price.
What is Kan-Ban?
Kan-Ban is a logistical system in which products are supplied based on demand. The producer keeps products inventoried so that they can be ready when customers need them. This allows for just-in-time delivery to be possible.
Implementing Kan-Ban lets us supply low volume orders efficiently and effectively. It eliminates lead times, allows for an internal inventory system, and lowers the price for our customers.
Inventory assistance programs, like Kan-Ban and Demand Pull systems, are attractive to producers and customers alike because they offer flexibility while guaranteeing orders. As seen in this article, it is a production system that has been around for decades, and has grown throughout industry.
At K&H, our Kan-Ban orders are based on time. For instance, you could order parts for six months and we will keep them inventoried during that period. Whenever you need parts during that time, we will have them ready for just-in-time delivery. Kan-Ban allows our customers to order when they actually need parts instead of having to order in bulk. This lets you avoid having to store products that won’t be used for months. Customers that place Kan-Ban orders also receive discounted prices. Even though the order will be spread out between months, we price it as if it were one large order. Essentially, it is a low volume item with a large volume mentality. Find out what we “Kan” do for you!
Which type of casting is most appropriate for your medical, automotive, or component application? What is the difference between plaster mold castings and sand castings? When is a prototype casting the best option for your desired use? If you are in the market for extensive foundry work and expertise, then we would like to welcome you to our Pattern Shop and foundry.
How do we decide on which casting process to use? Depending on the geometry and configuration needed for the component, our foundry experts choose the most appropriate process to achieve the component’s desired applications.
In our foundry, we work with both plaster mold castings and sand castings, again giving K&H the unique opportunity to combine the two in a hybrid casting process. This allows us to quickly turnaround prototype castings from volumes of one to one thousand, in a variety of casting methods. Here’s a brief outline on each type of casting we offer:
Plaster mold castings: This type of casting will closely resemble a die casting, typically featuring thin wall thickness and tighter tolerances. Additionally, plaster molds have more of a smooth and cosmetic surface finish.
Sand mold castings: Made with fine sand, these castings tend to be heavier castings with substantial wall thicknesses, though we use a fine no-bake sand so that the surface finish is still not that of a plaster molded part. They allow for ornate detail and are the more traditional castings.
Hybrid mold castings: This combination allows thin wall castings in combination with heavy sections, so it is still maintaining good structural integrity, cosmetic surfaces where required, and low porosity.
K&H offers a unique system to keep your costs to a minimum; many of our customers take advantage of our KAN-BAN inventory system. With this we will cast your yearly order, machine and finish the components, and store them at our facility. You only order the quantity needed for the month or week, thereby reducing your cost through quantity, have a week or less lead time, and no in-house inventory.
Thank you for your interest. To learn more, visit us at http://www.kandhprecision.com.
Happy New Year from all of us here at K&H Precision! As is common this time of year, we have been busy looking ahead to the new year and creating company resolutions for 2013. Although there are a variety of goals we would like to accomplish, they all have one fundamental tie—we hope to have a bright year in which we strengthen our services and capabilities, ensuring continued high quality work. How do we plan on achieving this? Here are just a few of our 2013 goals:
- Fortify high quality: We are proud to be ISO 9001:2008 certified, and we plan on delivering stringent quality products in the new year.
- Work on quality management systems: One way we can ensure high quality service is by having a strict quality management system in place. We plan on coordinating with customers more directly, and giving them more of an open look at our processes. In wanting our customers to have more of a hands-on view of the project, we will be allowing them to come in and see the project through the production process with the chance to critique the work and provide additional ideas. Can’t make it to the office? We can hold teleconferences to ensure you’re still seeing your project firsthand!
- Enhance customer service: At the end of the day, we want all of our customers to be happy with our work. In order to guarantee the highest level of customer service, we will be streamlining our processes and operations.
- Offer new machining capabilities: We are excited to announce that we are bringing a new high speed machining center into our facility. This machining center has extended Y travel, high speed processing capabilities, therefore is better suitable for more complicated surface machining resulting in a more accurate surface much faster. This addition brings us to 16 machining centers for fast turn around tooling and machining.
We are excited to see what 2013 has in store for K&H Precision, and we hope it’s another year of growth in the manufacturing industry. What are your resolutions?
It’s no surprise that, as American manufacturers, we take pride in “Made in the USA” and we continue to watch the reshoring and manufacturing trends in our industry. As the year wraps up and we look ahead to the future of manufacturing, there are a few factors that stand out for us and a few goals we hope manufacturing can achieve.
Positive manufacturing expectations
It’s encouraging to see a surge in positive news throughout a variety of industries, including those of our customers. Specifically, it seems the automotive industry is doing well, medical equipment manufacturers are gearing up for growth, and the HVAC industry (boilers and furnaces, included) are experiencing progress because of increased demand in energy-conserving equipment. With these advancements we will hope to see a spike in manufacturing jobs.
Hopes for manufacturing
Ultimately, we hope that there is stability in the economy. This can begin with “Made in the USA” becoming more than a trend; rather, we hope to foster the idea that American manufacturing and reshoring is here to stay. It’s encouraging to watch as new technologies are brought into the production process, aiding in the growth of manufacturing. We look forward to seeing how these new technologies can continue to positively affect manufacturing. Additionally, it is imperative to drive consumer confidence with steady customer service and high product quality. These factors combined can help level off the economy at a high rate.
Of course, our plan is to contribute to the rise of American manufacturing. Not only are we looking into new technologies in order to strengthen our company (such as 5-axis machining and casting and foundry enhancements), but we are also looking forward to growth around us. Here in the Rochester area, high-tech schools are filling the needs of manufacturing jobs—it’s essential to the success of our economy that this continues nationwide.
We continue to work hard and contribute to the national manufacturing sector, helping our economy get back on track. As the new year approaches, we are preparing for a successful year and look forward to the challenges ahead. From us to you, here’s to a happy new year for American manufacturing!
In a recent blog, we broke down the prototyping process and outlined various scenarios where prototyping would be the best option for your production needs. As masters in prototyping, we have worked with clients in a variety of industries, creating prototypes for any application needed. Recently, we have noticed an upsurge in the automotive prototyping market, which has led to us producing various castings and prototypes for automotive components.
A long-time client of ours, with whom we have worked for years in the research and development end, has chosen K&H to produce castings for their Throttle Body program. The company is continually perusing less fuel consumption through controlling air flows in internal combustion engines in automotive, marine, and truck applications. When they approached us about working with them on these components, they knew from experience we certainly had the capabilities and knowledge to create the exact products they needed. To begin, they presented us with the precise geometry needed, allowing us to work on tooling needed to produce the aluminum castings that would fit these specifications. The throttle bodies have been through multiple design changes and are constantly being tested for fit and function. Since modifications need to be made to the parts throughout the process, we created castings using our soft tooling process for fast and economical modifications, so the concepts can be tested, proven, and tweaked until they feel the concept has been maximized. Prototypes allow this to be a continuous manufacturing process until the precise part requirements are met!
A supplier of windshield wiper systems we have worked with in the past is another example of the upsurge in automotive component prototypes. We have been producing specifically what the customer has designed, again allowing them to make the required motor housings, windshield wiper arms, gear boxes, and other components for the wiper systems they need to fit the continuously changing automotive market. We provide them, as well as all of our customers, with the capabilities to offer dozens of different parts and styles with various finishes, on a turnkey basis.
Not only can we help you decide whether or not prototype casting is the appropriate manufacturing process for your needs, but we can produce them rapidly in any quantity—for those automotive, consumer, medical needs, or any component, case cover or part. Let K&H help put your part in your hands!
As we travel the road towards economic recovery, one message has been loud and clear — a strong manufacturing sector is essential to growing the economy. However, after a strong start in 2012, we’re reading that the pace of expansion has slowed, and some reports indicate relatively flat growth for June and July. Despite some uncertainties about the future, we, as a small business, are looking towards the general industry to show more confidence, and suggest spending a little more in America to accelerate growth in the manufacturing sector.
As consumers are increasingly attuned to the source of what they are buying, companies, especially larger companies, are engaging in ‘re-shoring,’ the process of bringing operations back from overseas. We stand behind this and believe that in addition to adding jobs in the U.S., there are other financial benefits. Companies can save on logistics, and order components in smaller quantities to save inventory costs. Smaller quantities would allow for variations in component design to customize products based on local, regional, or sector preferences. Locating production near engineering and marketing teams also sets the stage for collaboration that is crucial for innovation.
At K&H, “Made in America” innovation is the very core of our being. Our engineering expertise and prototyping craftsmanship have contributed to product development efforts in many industries. To provide additional value to both our customers and the local economy, we are in the process of seeking other small manufacturers to team up with to make available a full range of services from one convenient (U.S.A!) location.
For consumers and businesses alike, buying American products will help strengthen the American economy. As a small business, we hope that concept will help us thrive. How are the changes in manufacturing affecting you?