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.