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How the Development of Self-Driving Cars Is Steering the…

How the Development of Self-Driving Cars Is Steering the…

Feb 15, 2017

“How the Development of Self-Driving Cars Is Steering the Supply Chain in New Directions” By Mark Shortt, Design-2-Part Magazine  Jim McBride, senior technical leader for autonomous vehicles at Ford Motor Company, points to a pair of vehicles prominent in 1960s science fiction—George Jetson’s car and the Batmobile—as evidence that the idea of self-driving cars has been around for a long time. “We just never had the wherewithal to actually do [anything about] it,” he told D2P in a phone interview. That began to change in 2001, when the U.S. government decided it wanted to automate vehicles as a way of protecting the lives of military personnel on the battlefield. Three years later, the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency (DARPA) launched the first DARPA Grand Challenge, a prize competition for autonomous vehicles, along a 150-mile route in the Mojave Desert. The series of challenges, the most recent of which took place in 2013 as the FANG (Fast Adaptable Next Generation Ground) Challenge, was open to the public to speed up the process of developing and building self-driving vehicles. “We (Ford) participated in what was called the DARPA Grand Challenges because we thought if we looked at some of the new sensing and computing and algorithms that were becoming feasible, that we could probably translate those into making production automobiles not only more convenient, but safer,” said McBride. “Safety was absolutely the number one motivating factor. And once we did the Challenges and figured out that making a car self-driving was possible given the new wave of technology, all these secondary applications became obvious, like mobility for elderly or disabled people, or reducing urban congestion, or improving fuel economy. But it was always motivated by ‘What can we do to make cars safer?’” Bobby Hambrick, CEO of AutonomouStuff, a supplier of systems, equipment, components, and services for the autonomous vehicles market, echoed McBride’s sentiments, saying that the biggest single factor driving the development of autonomous vehicle technology is the need to reduce the number of traffic accidents and fatalities. “Thirty thousand people a year are dying, just in the United States alone,” Hambrick said in a phone interview. “That’s the equivalent of a 747 crashing every...

Small US Company Bucks a Trend, Adding Manufacturing Jobs

Small US Company Bucks a Trend, Adding Manufacturing Jobs

Feb 14, 2017

By Jim Randle, VOA News NORTHBRIDGE, MASSACHUSETTS — A rising tide of automation, trade problems and lagging growth in productivity has slashed millions of jobs from the U.S. manufacturing sector. At the same time, a small factory in Northbridge, Massachusetts, has been hiring, expanding and exporting. Riverdale Mills hopes to grow further by making unusual products and building a strong workforce. Riverdale makes materials that have revolutionized lobster fishing with unique processes and materials. The company applied lessons from fishing to making security fences, including some that protect borders. After welding, the wire metal mesh is dunked in a vat filled with tons of molten zinc at a historic building about an hour west of Boston. It’s just one part of a complex process used to make many kinds of rust-resistant products. That process combines skilled people and high-tech innovation. It’s helping the company find new markets for updated products, and means while other factories are laying off workers, Riverdale’s Dennis Meola is training new employees. “We have an experienced operator training a new individual,” Meola said. “We started a new person today, as a matter of fact.” Riverdale CEO Jim Knott says the company is growing, in part because he sells nearly half of his products overseas. Knott says he needs more than just machines to keep customers happy here and abroad. “The key to being successful, both globally and in a domestic market, you have to have skilled or trained employees who are capable of making a leadership product that is better than what other people are making throughout the world,” he said. On a recent visit to Riverdale, technicians were upgrading computers and other equipment that helps to run a huge machine that makes hundreds of welds at once. More automation is the reason that U.S. manufacturers produce as much as ever, with ever fewer people. Massachusetts Institute of Technology Professor Tom Kochan says automation and international trade has cut one-third of U.S. manufacturing jobs since 1980. He says American employers mistakenly think of labor only as a cost to be minimized, not an asset. “Anytime some new form of technology comes along that they think they can replace that worker with...

Machine Tool Orders Surge in December

Machine Tool Orders Surge in December

Feb 13, 2017

By Bill Koenig, Advanced Manufacturing Machine tool orders surged 20.6% in December as manufacturing “is showing signs of growth,” the Association for Manufacturing Technology said today in a monthly report. Orders totaled $406.72 million, up from a revised $337.24 million in November, according to AMT (McLean, VA).  The December figure was just under the $406.95 million in December 2015. “There has been a significant uptick in shipments for cutting tools,” Douglas K. Woods, AMT’s president, said in a statement. “Gains for machine shop investment are promising because they typically mark an overall greater need for capacity, and a broader upturn on the horizon.” For all of 2016, machine tool orders fell 4% to $4.01 billion, AMT said. The gap between 2016 and 2015 orders narrowed significantly during the second half of last year. Orders for the first six months of the year plunged 16% compared with 2015’s first half. One factor in the second-half improvement was IMTS 2016, the massive trade show organized by AMT and held in Chicago. The figures are based on information from companies participating in AMT’s US Manufacturing Technology Orders program. Industry Recovery The group has said it expects a sustained recovery in machine tool orders in April or May. Other economic reports related to manufacturing have shown improvement. The Institute for Supply Management said Feb. 1 that its PMI, which measures economic activity in manufacturing, was 56% in January. That was the highest level for the index in more than two years. The PMI is  based on a survey of purchasing and supply executives in 18 industries....

US Manufacturing sector starts on a firm footing in 2017

US Manufacturing sector starts on a firm footing in 2017

Feb 8, 2017

By Orbex Team, FXStreet Two separate gauges of the US manufacturing sector confirmed that the sector kicked off 2017 on a firm footing evidenced by acceleration in new orders and output growth. Factory output in the US was choppy over the past few years with one of the manufacturing gauges, the ISM manufacturing PMI falling into a contraction around late 2015 – early 2016. Manufacturers were squeezed by a stronger dollar which curtailed demand for the US made products. Manufacturing was, however, seen stabilizing by mid-2016.   New order growth accelerates to a 28-month high The report released last week by IHS Markit suggested that improving business conditions alongside sustained low unemployment helped to boost the manufacturing sector. IHS Markit’s manufacturing PMI rose to 55.0 in January, from 54.3 in December. However, the January’s headline print was slightly off from the flash estimates which showed a reading of 55.1. Still, a reading above 50 indicates expansion in the manufacturing sector and Markit’s gauge of manufacturing PMI continued to rise steadily. Markit – Manufacturing PMI, U.S. The IHS Markit’s data showed a renewed acceleration in output growth among the manufacturing firms that were surveyed. The rate of expansion rose to the strongest level in 22-months with respondents noting that production volumes had increased with client demand improving. This is expected to boost inventory levels at the start of the year. The report highlighted the optimism among businesses for the year ahead. Chris Williamson from Markit said, “Production is consequently growing at the strongest rate for almost two years, and inventories are rising at a rate not seen for nearly a decade as firms respond to higher demand, suggesting the goods-producing sector will make a decent contribution to first quarter GDP.”   US ISM Manufacturing jumps to a 2-year high The Institute of Supply Management’s (ISM) gauge of manufacturing also showed similar trends. The survey report showed that factory activity in the US accelerated to the fastest pace in more than two years. The ISM manufacturing PMI rose to 56.0 in January up from 54.5 in December. ISM Manufacturing PMI, January 2017 Some analysts believe that the gains in the manufacturing sector came partly on account of increased optimism...

Special report: Automation puts jobs in peril

Special report: Automation puts jobs in peril

Feb 6, 2017

By Nathan Bomey, USA Today Automation is the greatest threat to the economy, but may also be its biggest opportunity. Part 1 WELCOME TO THE AUTOMATION REVOLUTION BALTIMORE — The patter of automated machinery fills the air inside wire-basket manufacturer Marlin Steel’s bustling factory in a rugged industrial section of this city. Maxi Cifarelli, 25, of Baltimore, peers through safety goggles at a flat screen, her left knee bent and heel resting on her chair. Two years after earning a fine arts degree from Towson University with a specialty in interdisciplinary object design, she now spends her work days working with a personality-free machine with a name to match: a computer numerical control, or CNC, router. With automation poised to sweep through the economy, some fear that it will kill more jobs than it creates. But Cifarelli’s experience is the opposite. She befriended automation, instead of fighting it, and she has a job because of it. “I haven’t named it,” she said, peering over at the robotic machinery. “I should name it.” Cifarelli is one of 33 employees at Marlin Steel, which has undergone a transformation. Employees used to make wire baskets by hand. Now automation has taken over. High-tech machines do most of the work — and the plant needs workers willing to adapt their skill sets to survive in a rapidly changing economy. Automation has allowed Marlin Steel to thrive, but across the country, workers feel threatened. Donald Trump catapulted into the White House by giving voice to those fears and promising to save American factories and jobs by rewriting trade deals, taxing imports and removing regulations. Futurists have warned for years that automation will take your job. Now it’s happening, albeit in pockets, at manufacturers, warehouses and even some labor-intensive white-collar professions. As the political debate rages over how to inject fresh energy into the American economy with Trump taking office, automation presents perhaps the greatest threat to the American economy. But it may also reflect its greatest opportunity if workers take the Cifarelli route and embrace robotics, artificial intelligence and automation. Either way, it’s poised to accelerate — and if not here, then in foreign countries that will reap the benefits while the American economy suffers...

Rpt: Samsung May Build a U.S. Manufacturing Base For…

Rpt: Samsung May Build a U.S. Manufacturing Base For…

Feb 2, 2017

“Rpt: Samsung May Build a U.S. Manufacturing Base For Appliances” By Se Young Lee, Reuters, Fox Business Samsung may build a U.S. plant for its home appliances business, a person familiar with the matter said, the latest global firm to consider a response to criticism about imports from new U.S. President Donald Trump. Specifics such as the amount the electronics giant might invest and where the new base might be located have yet to be decided, said the person, declining to be identified due to lack of authorization to speak publicly on the matter. The new U.S. administration has threatened an import tax while President Donald Trump has attacked some of the world’s biggest companies for manufacturing abroad for U.S. consumers, stoking much alarm and triggering a rash of promises to invest more in the United States. Samsung said in an emailed statement that the company continues to “evaluate new investment needs” in the United States but did not comment on specific plans. The company said in November, prior to Trump’s election, it would invest more than $1 billion in its chip plant in Austin, Texas by end-June. To date, South Korean firms have not been singled out about imports but even so, some have embarked on preemptive moves to ward off criticism. The Hyundai Motor Group said last month it plans to lift U.S. investment by 50 percent to $3.1 billion over five years. LG Electronics Inc also announced in January that it will decide on whether to build a manufacturing base in the United States within the first half of the year and warned of risks from the Trump administration’s trade policies. LG is considering Tennessee as a location for a new home appliances and television plant as part of its deliberations, a person familiar with the matter told Reuters. “This is something that has been under consideration for years at LG, but the current political situation is simply accelerating that timeline for a decision,” the person said, An LG spokeswoman declined to comment. (Reporting by Se Young Lee; Editing by Edwina...