Wednesday, November 14, 2012

WANTED: Women in Manufacturing

Manufacturing leaders from across the country met in Milwaukee last month with a single focus and purpose: attracting more women into manufacturing.

Their reasoning is strong: while women represent close to 50 percent of the U.S. workforce, only 30 percent of the 14 million Americans employed in manufacturing are women. What’s keeping them away? A recent survey offers several reasons, including a lack of quality science and math education programs, and the presence of persistent stereotypes that say careers in technology, engineering and manufacturing are simply not for women.

Enter the Precision Metalforming Association of Cleveland, OH, who launched Women in Manufacturing two years ago to help promote opportunities for women, and dispel some of the old stereotypes of manufacturing being “dirty, dumb and dangerous,”

Read more about the conference here

…and here:

And find out more about the group here:

What it Takes to Stay "Made in America"

In the ever-changing global manufacturing arena, here’s a terrific article on some US small manufacturers (including KI of Green Bay) who kept their production onshore, and stayed profitable.

Although for some, off-shoring was a necessity, these companies, from textiles to high tech, chose instead to focus on the primary drivers of business…. efficiency, customer-focus and adherence to company values… to stay competitive while keeping home-town jobs at home. Some of their strategies are basic fundamentals, but others required more creativity…and guts. But you’ll like what you see.

Check out the full story here from Inc Magazine.

Growing Your Force!

Conventional wisdom says you hire people whose experience and training matches the skill you need. But, when those needs shift, productivity (and morale) tend to fall off.

It seems that every few weeks, we find another story about the challenges of finding qualified people for technical positions. Well here’s one with solutions that are low-cost and yielding high returns: Internal workforce development.

You may have a success story of your own, but you can also take the example of Diemasters Manufacturing in Elk Grove Village. They created an internal training program that gets their people “working on the system, not just in the system.” It may sound like a Lean initiative, but is far more focused on people than on procedures. The result is a better trained (and engaged) workforce. And it helps getting those specialty positions filled.

You might have success stories of your own. Read more about the new issue of MetalForming Magazine.

Monday, September 24, 2012

Circle this date on your calendar: Friday, October 5th.

10/5/12 is “Manufacturing Day,” and it is NOT just a ceremonial designation.

A large group of manufacturers and associations around the country have banded together to ‘rally the manufacturing community.’

Their two key goals:
-demonstrate to the public manufacturing’s critical importance to a strong and thriving economy, and
-to show off the many rewarding, lucrative and often overlooked career opportunities manufacturing has to offer.

You can read all about Manufacturing Day by clicking here.

And click here to find out what's happening and who's participating closer to home

A Mix of Optimism and Pessimism

A new survey of over 900 manufacturers and distributors is showing the conflicting rrealities of the current business climate.

The Optimism: 83% are feeling positive about their own business and the direction they’re headed. (However, only 39% feel they are ‘thriving.’).

The Pessimism: growing doubts about the economy, both domestic and global, and potential business tax increases.

But the real upside is that these ‘realities’ are pushing more companies to be leaner and more efficient.

You can read a complete article on the report (from here.

*survey conducted by Chicago-based assurance, tax and consulting firm, McGladrey LLP.

Like Something from Outer Space

Every so often we present an off-beat story related to our industry. This one just might beat them all!

A Sacramento-based welder and sheet metal fabricator built it just to walk around at Burning Man in Black Rock Playa. (Burning Man is another story altogether!) It’s not from some movie set, and wasn’t built to be in one, either (tho it might just start getting offers).

His ‘mutant beast’ walking pod was built entirely of surplus materials, using his welding skills and CNC plasma table. It’s an example of what good metal forming skills (and a sky-high imagination) can create!

Click here to read all about it!

....and, just in case you’re curious, and just have to know more, here’s what “Burning Man” is all about. (This is in no way an endorsement)

Tuesday, July 24, 2012

My Name is Jenny and I’m a Welder

Staggering numbers: currently, the national average age of a welder is 54 and in two years, 250,000 positions will be opening.

We’ve passed along some interesting welding-related articles, but here’s a first-person account of an art teacher who becomes a welder giving detail of both the challenges and attractions to this vital trade.

Check out My Name is Jenny, and I’m a Welder” from the Manitowoc Herald Times.

…and here’s an update….right now, an estimated 8,900 industrial projects in North America are looking for welders. Read “Welders: Manufacturing’s hottest commodity.”

Tweeted by Vicki Bell @fabcomlady

Motivated Workers Wanted

The leader of the state’s manufacturing association recently told a gathering in La Crosse that the secondary education system does not steer students toward manufacturing careers.

“We need to be more vocal. We’re more of a behind the scenes industry,” says LaMoine Dohms, plant manager at Wissota Tool in Chippewa Falls. This means reaching out to parents, and middle and high school students to get them to consider going to technical colleges to learn manufacturing skills.

In Northwest Wisconsin, Chippewa Valley Technical College is trying to turn that perception around through the Gold Collar Career program to attract a new generation of trained workers to manufacturing.

Read more about it in “Workers in Demand for Manufacturing Jobs” from The Chippewa Herald.

WMEP Announces Election of New Board Members, Board Leadership

Wisconsin Manufacturing Extension Partnership (WMEP) today announced the election of two new members to its board of directors, and the election of current members to board leadership positions.
"The WMEP is happy to welcome Joseph Weitzer, PhD, Waukesha County Technical College, and Ross Winklbauer, United Steelworkers, to our board of directors. They bring perspectives and experiences that will help the WMEP in its mission to support Wisconsin's small and medium manufacturers and elevate Wisconsin's manufacturing environment to be the best in the world," said Buckley Brinkman, CEO of the WMEP. 

Wednesday, June 20, 2012

June Data Points

From MSCI’s Forward Magazine, here’s an updated look at some of the nation's economic indicators. Click here for the full chart.

Sensor Frankensteins, Mutants and Zombies

The result of mergers, acquisitions and trigger-happy customers, dies are flowing from shop to shop at a growing pace. The biggest problems are that each one has its own particular sensor setup, plus different controls and die-protection systems are being mixed and unmatched.
It’s a sensor and controls nightmare that’s become more than a bad dream for innovative fabricators and stampers.
For the ‘fix,’ click here for the complete article in this month’s Metalforming Magazine

Manufacturing's Role in Wisconsin's Economy

This applies to our friends and partners in Illinois and Minnesota, too!
Coming off the 16th Annual statewide manufacturing conference, Buckley Brinkman, Executive Director of the Wisconsin Manufacturing Extension Partnership, reports that Wisconsin’s manufacturers are “transforming the state by leading the charge” on preparing our future workforce and driving innovation throughout the economy.
“The industry accounts for 19 percent of our private, non-farm workforce. According to the National Association of Manufacturers, these jobs command an average premium of $21,000 over other jobs in the state. Manufacturing is 18 percent of our GSP and also one of the primary ways of creating value and increasing exports. With the additional support services and products required, manufacturing may account for up to half of the state’s economy.”
This isn’t a “rah rah” piece on manufacturing, either. He covers specific challenges while laying out solutions that each individual company can use to boost their own future (and bottom line).
You can read his complete article here

Thursday, May 17, 2012


The famed Surf Ballroom in Clear Lake, Iowa, home to the last performances of Buddy Holly, The Big Bopper and Ritchie Valens, is a renowned museum and home of the annual Winter Dance Party. And now, the Surf Ballroom overlooks Three Stars Plaza, a permanent tribute to the three, which features a one-of-a-kind sculpture that was created by local metal fabricator, Steve Sukup of Sukup Manufacturing. The eye-catching structure is a stack of records on a spindle (for those of us who remember those!). The 1500 lb center supports three neon-lit “records” made from 7 gauge stainless steel, laser cut and TIG welded. The Three Stars Plaza story, from Fabricator magazine, can be seen here.


Naturally, we talk about Wisconsin a lot, but we’ve got some fine customers in surrounding states, too. So it was great to read this ‘good news’ on manufacturing growth in the Land of 10,000 Lakes.
Manufacturing activity in the Midwest strengthened in April, according to a survey of supply managers, reported in the St. Paul Pioneer Press. The Business Conditions Index for Minnesota and a nine-state region climbed to 60 from 58.6 in March. (Above 50 indicates expansion.)
“Despite higher energy prices, manufacturers, particularly those tied to international markets and agriculture, expanded "briskly" for the month, said Ernie Goss, a professor of economics at Creighton University in Omaha, Neb., who conducts the survey. In Minnesota, as in past months, durable goods manufacturers such as metal producers are growing, even as nondurable producers, such as food processors, are registering no growth.”
For the state, the index climbed to 61 from March's 56.7. In addition to upturns in hiring, manufacturers and non-manufacturers are increasing the hours their employees are working, Goss said.

Wednesday, March 28, 2012

Manufacturing's Secret Weapon

When a company launches a new initiative, it’s usually hard to pinpoint the positive results. But that’s not the case at WMEP (the consulting group, not a radio station). A lot of you are familiar with the Wisconsin Manufacturing Extension Partnership. Similar groups include Enterprise Minnesota, CIRAS at Iowa State University, and Illinois Manufacturing Extension Center. All of them are manufacturing specialists helping companies change AND grow through these economic times. In 2011, according to their annual audit, WMEP helped manufacturers here generate $47 million in increased or retained sales, $3 million in costs savings and $6 million in increased investment towards factories and equipment, information systems, and work force practices. We’re not here to shill for them, just passing along some helpful facts. Here’s a link to their annual report. And, because we HAVE worked with them, here’s a link to a brief tour of Dalco Metals, with a few comments on WMEP.

Gas Drilling Helping Steel

New sources of natural gas are having a direct effect on steel prices, at least out east. In Pennsylvania, rich gas deposits in the Marcellus Shale is driving the demand for steel that is used in the mining and drilling equipment. At the same time, mills, like U. S. Steel’s West Mifflin plant, are switching over to that cheaper natural gas, which they claim will help reduce their costs in the coming years. While it’s not likely to have a fast impact here, it is a noteworthy and positive development. Take a look at the Wall Street Journal story here.

Hot Dogs and Welding

O.K., who’s old enough to remember having an Oscar Mayer Weiner Whistle as a kid? A new article in FFJournal puts the spotlight on the wienermobile (and, of course, the whistles) again. First, some history: In 1936, Carl Mayer dreamed up the Wienermobile, shaped like a hot dog on a bun and driven to promote their dogs. He later came up with the Weinerwhistle as a promotional giveaway. In 1958, the whistles were packaged with Oscar Mayer Wieners, and in 1964, they were a sell-out success at the New York World's Fair, dispensed in vending machines for two cents. Today, the car is refurbished (hence the article). The company came to a steel welding specialist for the job. While the base car is fiberglass, aluminum and steel make up the other elements. for other elements of the vehicle. “We tried to use aluminum for components of the vehicle that are exposed to nature’s elements. This “new” wienermobile is more aerodynamic and fuel efficient. Check out the full article here. Whistles are not included.

Monday, January 30, 2012

In the Media Spotlight


"World’s Greatest" could be an excellent description of manufacturing here in the Midwest. But, in this case, Worlds Greatest is the TV series seen on the ION network. On it, they cover ‘the best of the best’ in business, so we have to tip our hat to Waukesha Metal Products in Sussex, WI, featured on the show last month.

Waukesha Metal Products' incredible, 330-ton servo stamping press was highlighted, demonstrating the differences between servo technology and traditional stamping methods, including lower energy consumption. Its something to brag about, for sure.

Click the frame above to watch it for yourself

Manufacturers are Optimistic

We know that a lot of companies have tightened their belts and have taken extrordinary measures to make it through the downturn, so we don’t want to just talk ‘good news’ while ignoring the negative. But there is a lot of that ‘good news’ and, while its effects will vary, these reports aren’t just for the ‘big guys’ or chosen few. They impact all of us. A good example is the just-released National Economic Trends Survey from MRA-the Management Association.

With respect to Wisconsin, Iowa and Illinois manufacturers, findings include:

92% see the economy as the same, or better than 2011

77% expect sales increases

66% plan on making new hires

We all know that short-term stats and one-time bumps aren’t very meaningful. But this survey is based on longer-term projections.

You can read more about it in BizTimes Milwaukee

The Backbone (and Future) of Wisconsin’s Economy

Is manufacturing “dumb, dirty and dangerous” or is it “smart, safe, sustainable and surging?”

In this month’s “Wisconsin In Business,” Buckley Brinkman, Executive Director and CEO of Wisconsin Manufacturing Extension Partnership, comments on the industry’s old image, the new opportunities, and solutions that are already in the works, like our Wisconsin Working initiative. He cites exports (where Wisconsin has been especially strong) as an indicator of a strong future.

You can check out the complete interview here.

Tuesday, January 3, 2012



A while back, we wrote about John Ratzenberger’s “Nuts, Bolts and Thingamajigs,” a foundation that actively works with today’s youth to prepare and inspire them for futures in manufacturing.

Now, Wisconsin’s own Marcia Arndt, dean of manufacturing technology at Moraine Park Technical College in West Bend, has been elected secretary/treasurer of NBT.

Of course, NBT shouldn’t just be thought of as ‘that Cliff Claven project.’ John Ratzenberger, who found fame as the talkative postman on the TV series “Cheers” was the brainchild of this terrific foundation, but some of industries most creative and progressive minds are heavily involved. It’s great to see Ms. Arndt is now among them.

Check out Nuts Bolts and Thingamajigs here


Most indicators of steel price fluctuations come from the markets. But indicators also come from the street.

Case in point: scrap.

Recent increases in scrap metals prices, particularly in metals like copper, have resulted in higher prices. And, in some cases, a rise in theft. Thieves have been targeting old and vacant buildings for their copper wiring and pipes. With scrap prices on the rise, they’ve been hot targets.

Here’s an article with examples and details.

As always, we stay on top of all indicators to make sure you can always buy competitively.