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Reshoring Initiative: Automation is Not the Bad Guy

Reshoring Initiative: Automation is Not the Bad Guy

Jun 22, 2017

By Anna Wells, Industrial Equipment News Automation has long carried the blame for the outflow of jobs from the manufacturing sector, but the Reshoring Initiative says that it is actually key to job growth in the U.S. The Reshoring Initiative is reporting that, for the first time in decades, more manufacturing jobs are returning to the United States than are going offshore. According to a recent press release promoting the Reshoring Initiative’s 2016 Reshoring Report, the combined reshoring and foreign direct investment (FDI) trends grew by over 10 percent in 2016, adding 77,000 jobs and exceeding the rate of offshoring by about 27,000 jobs. “The 2016 results bring the total number of manufacturing jobs brought back from offshore to more than 338,000 since the manufacturing employment low of February 2010,” said the release, adding that there are still “huge opportunities and challenges to bringing back all the 3 to 4 million manufacturing jobs cumulatively lost to offshoring.” Secretly, I’ve always wondered if these kinds of stats were a little overhyped – playing into our desires to latch on to a feel-good story with a positive trajectory. But when the Reshoring Initiative takes a deeper dive into the “whys” of reshoring, they make a pretty compelling case that is clearly resonating. Some of the reasons they cite for the ramp-up include things like proximity to customers, government incentives, skilled workforce availability and “ecosystem synergies,” which I take to mean that intangible of culture that drives so many successful businesses. Transportation equipment remained the strongest industry, accounting for nearly 40 percent of total jobs returned, and plastics/rubber and furniture saw the largest increases in industry ranking. Preliminary 2017 data trends are looking to be at least as good as 2016, but it certainly begs the question as to how we can sustain this activity over time. The Reshoring Initiative believes that government plays a big role, but also, in a recent e-newsletter, has pointed to an unlikely champion: automation. For years, automation has been carrying the blame, rightfully or not, for the outflow of jobs from the manufacturing sector. But the Reshoring Initiative takes a different tact, going so far as to say that automation is...

Where Manufacturing Is Thriving In The U.S.

Where Manufacturing Is Thriving In The U.S.

Jun 19, 2017

By Joel Kotkin and Mike Shires, Forbes Throughout the dismal presidential campaign, the plight of America’s manufacturing sector played a central role. Yet despite all the concerns raised about factory jobs leaving the country, all but 18 of the country’s 70 largest metropolitan regions have seen an uptick in industrial employment since 2011. And despite the slowdown in car sales, the job count continues to expand, albeit more slowly. Although the share of industrial jobs has shrunken from 10.5% of all nonfarm employment in 2005 to 8.5% today, manufacturing continues to have an outsized influence on regional economies, as is spelled out in the latest paper from the Center for Opportunity Urbanism. This stems in large part from the industrial sector’s productivity gains since 2001 — almost twice as much as the economy-wide average, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics — and it has a far higher multiplier effect (the boost it provides to local job and wealth creation) than virtually any other sector. Manufacturing generates $1.40 in economic activity for every dollar put in, according to the U.S. Bureau of Economic Analysis, far greater than the multiplier generated by business services, information, retail trade or finance. To determine the places where manufacturing growth is the strongest, we looked at employment in the sector over time, assessing short-, medium- and long-term trends going back to 2005 and adding in variables for persistence and momentum as well. The results of these trends, based on three-month averages, are normalized and each MSA is assigned a score based on its relative position in each area.  The rankings this year produced some surprising results, as well as some familiar stories. Red States And The Rust Belt Win  Nine of this year’s top 10 regions for manufacturing job growth are in red states, led by top-ranked Louisville-Jefferson County, which straddles the border between Kentucky and Indiana. Since 2011, manufacturing employment in the metropolitan area has expanded 30.2% to a total of 83,300 jobs, led by a resurgent auto industry that accounts for 27,000 jobs in the area. Due to a slowdown in auto sales, the job count may be peaking, but the hub of the Bluegrass State has...

Michelin’s concept tire comes wrapped in “rechargeable”…

Michelin’s concept tire comes wrapped in “rechargeable”…

Jun 16, 2017

“Michelin’s concept tire comes wrapped in “rechargeable” 3D-printed treads” By  Aaron Heinrich, New Atlas Aside from trotting out a new tread pattern every year or so, you might think there’s not a lot manufacturers could do to improve the humble car tire. But advances in materials, sensors and manufacturing techniques are opening up new possibilities. Michelin is exploring this potential with its Vision concept tire that is airless, 3D printed, equipped with sensors, biodegradable, and not just a tire, but a tire and wheel in one.   Unveiled at a global symposium on urban mobility challenges it hosted this week in Montreal, Canada, Michelin’s Vision tire is constructed using 3D printing technology. This enables an airless interior architecture that mimics alveolar structures (such as the air sacs of the lungs) that is solid in the center and more flexible on the outside, resulting in a tire that is immune to blowouts or going flat. The core of the tire, which also functions as a wheel and can be reused, would be made from organic materials that are bio-sourced and biodegradable. 3D printing allows the amount of rubber tread applied on the outside of the tire to be optimized to meet the specific needs of the driver while keeping the amount of rubber required to a minimum – and the tread can even be topped up, or “recharged,” when it wears down or the driver is headed for different road conditions. Although the Vision’s tread would still be made mostly of rubber, Michelin is envisioning the day when materials such as straw or wood chips could be used to make butadiene, a key ingredient in making synthetic rubber today. The condition of the tires would also be monitored in real time using embedded sensors. The owner would receive information about the tire’s condition and possibly use an accompanying app to make an appointment to change the tread for a particular use, like going skiing. Michelin isn’t saying when any of these innovations will be implemented, let alone when the Vision might be available for purchase, but Mostapha El-Oulhani, the designer who headed the Vision Project, said the promise of the concept tire is within reach....

What role will robotics and 3D printing play in the future…

What role will robotics and 3D printing play in the future…

Jun 15, 2017

“What role will robotics and 3D printing play in the future of manufacturing?” By Nell Walker, Manufacturing Global Digitalisation is taking over the manufacturing world, forcing traditional fossil-fuelled methods out of the way and improving the flexibility of processes globally. IIoT and Industry 4.0 are a looming presence spurring businesses to adopt advanced automation solutions in order to hasten production, lower manufacturing costs, and remain competitive. Top Technologies in Advanced Manufacturing and Automation, 2017 is part of business consultancy Frost & Sullivan’s TechVision Growth Partnership Service program. The study covers the technologies of robotic exoskeletons, metal 3D printing, computer integrated manufacturing, nano 3D printing, collaborative industrial robots, friction stir welding/solid state joining, magnetic levitation (Maglev), composite 3D printing, roll-to-roll manufacturing and agile robots. These are expected to have the most impact across a variety of market segments, including automotive, healthcare, consumer electronics, aerospace and transportation. “Developments in 3D printing materials, metal inks, printing techniques and equipment design are driving the global uptake of metal 3D printing,” said Frost & Sullivan TechVision Research Analyst Ranjana Lakshmi Venkatesh Kumar. “R&D can enhance metal 3D printers’ ability to print high-strength, lightweight prototypes and parts at low costs, making these printers highly relevant in the aerospace and automotive sectors.” The robotics market has also experienced huge advancements recently, and collaborative robots have the highest impact. “Collaborative robots are gaining traction due to their ability to work alongside humans, ensure worker safety and integrate with existing environments,” noted Frost & Sullivan TechVision Research Analyst Varun Babu. “R&D efforts to improve the level of interactivity and customization will bolster the adoption rates of collaborative robots, particularly in automotive, aerospace, logistics and warehousing, healthcare, and consumer electronics industries.” Robotic exoskeletons and agile robots are also important developments of note. The former is a wearable device that can increase strength and mobility of the wearer, and the latter are small robots which offer superior agility, efficiency, and uptime. Overall, with greater government support and deeper convergence, advanced manufacturing and automation solutions will surely be the cornerstones of Industry...

Did Trump Create the Bump in Reshoring?

Did Trump Create the Bump in Reshoring?

Jun 12, 2017

By Rob Spiegel, Design News 2016 tipped reshoring jobs into positive territory. Finally, more manufacturing jobs came back into the US than left. During all of 2016, candidate Donald Trump harped on the loss of US manufacturing jobs, scolding companies for moving their production out of the country. As those complaints mounted, jobs actually started to return to the US. The trend accelerated through 2016 and into early 2017. For the first time in decades, more manufacturing jobs returned to the US in 2016 then went offshore, according to the annual data report from the Reshoring Initiative . The report shows that the reshoring trend grew by over 10 percent in 2016, adding 77,000 jobs. That ties the 2014 record and exceeds the rate of offshoring by 27,000 jobs. The results bring the total number of manufacturing jobs brought back from offshore to more than 338,000 since the manufacturing employment low of February 2010. The Trump Factor Reshoring picked up steam all through 2016 and into the first quarter of 2017, according to the Initiative’s founder, Harry Moser. “In the first quarter of 2016, we announced about 10,000 jobs coming back. Then 12,000, then 23,000, and in the fourth quarter, 32,000,” Moser told Design News . “Continuing into the first quarter of 2017, 44,000 jobs were announced as coming back. The first quarter of 2017 was four times as high as the first quarter of 2016.” Given the timing of the jobs returning to the US – growing all through the election year – and given the additional surge in early 2017, Moser sees a connection between Trump’s campaign rhetoric demanding that manufacturing jobs return to the US and the jobs that actually began to return. “It’s clear to us that something significant happened in the fourth quarter of last year and it seems to me that would be Trump,” said Moser. Flipping the Offshoring Trend The Initiative’s report shows a net gain of 27,000 jobs in 2016. The report compares that to the 2000-2003 period when the US lost about 220,000 manufacturing jobs per year – net – to offshoring. “The tide has turned. The numbers demonstrate that reshoring is an important contributing factor...

Manufacturing Jobs Outsourced to Space

Manufacturing Jobs Outsourced to Space

Jun 8, 2017

By Industrial Equipment News How it’s becoming cheaper and more efficient to manufacture 250 miles above the earth. Although it’s somewhat open for debate, the International Space Station is currently scheduled for retirement somewhere between 2024 and 2028. Shortly thereafter, Houston-based Axiom has big plans for the real estate it currently occupies. The firm’s overall plans for space are pretty aggressive, including an extension for the Space Station to accommodate tourists as soon as 2020. When the ISS runs its course, this module would be self-sufficient and open to expanded use for research and manufacturing. The company feels that by 2027 the ability to offer contract manufacturing, or at least lease the available space at their new outpost for production, will be a leading revenue source for the company. Axiom feels this will be made possible by advancements in 3D printing that would allow for manufacturing products like jet turbines, solar panels, satellites and optical fiber. There are two primary reasons for Axiom’s enthusiasm. First, costs for producing space station-like hubs are down nearly 90 percent since the ISS was made in 1998. This makes manufacturing in the microgravity environment of space, which is ideal for maintaining cleanroom-like conditions, more affordable to more countries and more companies. Lower-cost real estate in space also means specialized operations like repairing and deploying small satellites will be subject to greater competition because it could be done at a fraction of the current cost. Additionally, Axiom is looking to partner with California-based Made In Space, which built the 3D printers currently onboard the Space Station. Made In Space also developed the Archinaut – an advanced 3D printer with robotic assembly arms. Archinaut would allow for manufacturing larger pieces of equipment, as well as integrating electrical components. Combining these capabilities means supports for large telescopes, parts for spacecraft and other larger and more complex equipment could be made in space, instead of relying on spacecraft transport. This type of space-based manufacturing tech removes additional cost and takes the size of the spacecraft and its payload limitations completely out of the equation. There would essentially be no size limits when looking at what can be built in...