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Self-Driving Cars’ Prospects Rise With Vote by House

Self-Driving Cars’ Prospects Rise With Vote by House

Sep 13, 2017

By Cecilia Kang, The New York Times WASHINGTON — Lawmakers in the House took a major step on Wednesday toward advancing the development of driverless cars, approving legislation that would put the vehicles onto public roads more quickly and curb states from slowing their spread. Under the bill, which was approved by a unanimous voice vote, carmakers can add hundreds of thousands of self-driving cars to America’s road in the next few years. States, which now have a patchwork of rules regulating the vehicles, would have to follow the new federal law. The House vote sets the stage for a battle between safety advocates and companies that make the largely unproven technology. Automakers say the vehicles could greatly reduce roadway fatalities and help their businesses, but many safety advocates say they are not ready for wide deployment. The next steps will come in the Senate, which is expected to consider a similar bill soon. Lawmakers who support the legislation said the country’s confusing regulatory environment was hampering the driverless-car industry’s prospects. “Self-driving cars have the potential to save lives especially when the majority of fatalities are caused by human error,” said Representative Debbie Dingell, Democrat of Michigan. “The question is whether we are in the driver’s seat and not to cede it to China or India.” Auto and technology giants, including Ford Motor, General Motors and Waymo, Alphabet’s driverless division, have pushed hard for the new law. They have also pressed regulators at the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration to clarify safety guidelines covering self-driving technology. Elaine L. Chao, the transportation secretary, is expected to announce revised guidelines for the vehicles next week in Michigan. In recent years, dozens of states have passed laws related to self-driving safety, some of which carmakers view as too heavy-handed. The companies have, for example, fought proposals in California, Michigan and New York that would require driverless cars to be electric-powered and to contain steering wheels and brake pedals. “The reason why Congress is doing this is that there was a growing concern of a vacuum created because N.H.T.S.A. hadn’t acted and the states were acting in N.H.T.S.A.’s place,” said Marc Scribner, a senior fellow at the Competitive Enterprise Institute, a conservative-leaning research group in...

U.S. Metro Areas With Highest Robot Density

U.S. Metro Areas With Highest Robot Density

Sep 12, 2017

  By Dyfed Loesche, Manufacturing Business Technology Automation is one of the developments that has many employees in manufacturing worried. Some experts cite large negative effects of robots on employment and wages. However, robot penetration in the United States is uneven. With nine robots per a thousand workers Toledo in Ohio has the highest density of robots, according to research published by Brookings. If you look at the absolute figures, then the Detroit-Warren- Dearborn area, one of the biggest manufacturing hubs, has the most robots. All five metro areas depicted have had big growth rates, more than 20 percent since 2010....

Machine Job Shop Uses Flexible Manufacturing System…

Machine Job Shop Uses Flexible Manufacturing System…

Sep 11, 2017

“Machine Job Shop Uses Flexible Manufacturing System to Shorten Lead Times” By Mark Shortt, Design-2-Part Magazine L&R Precision Tooling has bolstered its capabilities for aerospace work with AS9100 certification and open capacity for horizontal machining Operating at the foothills of the Blue Ridge Mountains is a 20-year-old machine job shop that specializes in machining complex parts in titanium, Inconel, and other exotic materials to tolerances of plus or minus 0.0002 inch. L&R Precision Tooling Inc., of Lynchburg, Virginia, has made its mark turning out parts like titanium base plates for submarine antenna systems, Inconel housings used in deep oil well drilling, and specialized fasteners for the exterior of the International Space Station.  The company has also produced parts for use in surgical, night vision, fiber optic, nuclear plant inspection, and filtration products. Along with conventional CNC milling and turning equipment, L&R Precision deploys a pair of 7-axis Okuma Multus milling and turning machines, multiple 4- and 5- axis milling centers, and a 4-axis wire EDM machine at its 57,800-square-foot facility. But perhaps the crown jewel of its operations, and a key to L&R’s adaptability and future growth, is its Okuma Palletace / Fastems Flexible Manufacturing System (FMS),  currently configured with three Okuma MB 4000H horizontal machining centers. L&R has been using the flexible manufacturing system since January 2014, a year or two after the company’s founder, Allen Leath, had seen a Fastems Flexible Manufacturing System operating in an aerospace facility in the Midwest. Leath, whose company was already gearing up to become an AS9100 certified aerospace supplier, took an immediate interest in what a flexible manufacturing system could do for L&R and its customers. “It just made logical sense,” said Clay Leath, Allen’s brother and currently the president of L&R Precision Tooling, in a phone interview. “As a job shop, we get a lot of repeat jobs, but the quantities can be very small. So the more he thought about it, the more logical sense it made to have the machine with 52-pallet capacity. It allows you to set up repeat jobs and leave the tombstones fixtured up and ready to run. When a customer calls up for an order, they want it just as...

Regulation’s Impact on Manufacturing

Regulation’s Impact on Manufacturing

Sep 8, 2017

By Stephen Gray, Area Development The volume of rules and policies with which manufacturers need to comply is onerous — cutting into their competitiveness and growth opportunities. The U.S. manufacturing industry is a force to be reckoned with. From its emergence during the Industrial Revolution in 1820, the sector has experienced repeated blows from the Great Depression to the Great Recession more recently. Despite these setbacks coupled with a highly evolving global industry, U.S. manufacturing has shown its resilience. Modern manufacturing is thriving across America. The fact remains that manufacturing has much more potential, if certain hurdles weren’t in the way. Among the top challenges manufacturers face are regulatory concerns, an inequitable tax system when compared with certain other countries, and, in some cases, unfair subsidies provided to certain industries by foreign governments. Manufacturers recognize that a safe working atmosphere and healthy environment are ensured through regulation. But, the complexity of regulations often results in duplicative, poorly designed and thus ineffective rules adding an unnecessary burden to manufacturing operations. Since 1981, the federal government has issued at least one manufacturing-related regulation each week. The National Association of Manufacturers (NAM) has found that the industrial sector faces a staggering 297,696 restrictions on their operations from federal regulations. Is the federal government overstepping its intended power? Rules and policy within reason are valuable, but will the U.S. economy begin to falter if the rate of regulation continues to rise? Notably, no regulations have been eliminated. With the sheer volume of new rules and policies to keep up with, manufacturers are not able to focus on competitiveness and growth opportunities, factors that feed into a prosperous economy. The Burden Manufacturing Faces The Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) has issued the majority of rules that impact industrial productions across the United States. While environmental issues are vital to the future of humanity, some flaws exist that counter the real benefits. American companies and associations, including U.S. Steel Corporation and the American Petroleum Institute, have openly voiced how regulatory burdens prevent building and expansion opportunities. Valero Energy Corporation, which is a member of the American Fuels and Petrochemicals Manufacturers Association, has pointed out that its manufacturing operations are “significantly impacted by the inefficiencies of...

Survey: US August factory activity at 6-plus year high

Survey: US August factory activity at 6-plus year high

Sep 6, 2017

By Marcy Gordon, AP Business Writer, ABC News U.S. factories expanded at a brisk pace in August, a likely sign of strength for the U.S. economy as new orders, production and employment all improved. The Institute for Supply Management said Friday that its manufacturing index rose to 58.8 percent last month from 56.3 percent in July. Anything above 50 signals that factory activity is increasing. The measure now stands at its highest level since April 2011, pointing to solid economic growth. Fourteen of eighteen manufacturing industries surveyed by ISM posted growth in August, including the machinery, petroleum and coal products, and computer and electronic products sectors. August was “a really strong month,” Timothy Fiore, chair of ISM’s manufacturing business survey committee, said in a telephone interview. He noted that the growth was mostly driven by the top manufacturing sectors. It’s early to predict the impact on the oil, gas and chemical industries and on the broader economy of Hurricane Harvey. But Fiore said a snap survey of ISM members showed there likely will be a significant hit to the petroleum and chemical products sectors and “lots of supply chain disruptions.” Refining capacity, raw materials and the ability to deliver products all have been drastically affected by the storm that lashed Houston and nearby areas and shut down oil refineries, plastics plants and the Houston port — the second-busiest in the nation. There have been widespread reports of gasoline shortages. The chemical products sector is one of the six biggest manufacturing industries, accounting for 17 percent of total activity, Fiore noted. Petroleum and coal, also among the “Big Six,” account for 7 percent. Texas represents more than 10 percent of U.S. manufacturing production. Chemical products refining in the state accounts for 20 percent of the U.S. total, and oil and gas represents 30 percent. U.S. factories have largely recovered from a slump in late 2015 and early 2016 caused by cutbacks in the energy industry and a strong dollar, which makes U.S. goods more expensive in foreign markets. Manufacturing employment began a sustained turnaround in December and enjoyed four additional months of job gains, only to have factories shed 1,000 workers in May. New government data issued Friday...

After decades of pushing bachelor’s degrees, U.S. needs more…

After decades of pushing bachelor’s degrees, U.S. needs more…

Aug 30, 2017

“After decades of pushing bachelor’s degrees, U.S. needs more tradespeople” By Matt Krupnick, The Hechinger Report FONTANA, Calif. — At a steel factory dwarfed by the adjacent Auto Club Speedway, Fernando Esparza is working toward his next promotion. Esparza is a 46-year-old mechanic for Evolution Fresh, a subsidiary of Starbucks that makes juices and smoothies. He’s taking a class in industrial computing taught by a community college at a local manufacturing plant in the hope it will bump up his wages. It’s a pretty safe bet. The skills being taught here are in high demand. That’s in part because so much effort has been put into encouraging high school graduates to go to college for academic degrees rather than for training in industrial and other trades that many fields like his face worker shortages. Now California is spending $6 million on a campaign to revive the reputation of vocational education, and $200 million to improve the delivery of it. “It’s a cultural rebuild,” said Randy Emery, a welding instructor at the College of the Sequoias in California’s Central Valley. Standing in a cavernous teaching lab full of industrial equipment on the college’s Tulare campus, Emery said the decades-long national push for high school graduates to get bachelor’s degrees left vocational programs with an image problem, and the nation’s factories with far fewer skilled workers than needed. “I’m a survivor of that teardown mode of the ’70s and ’80s, that college-for-all thing,” he said. This has had the unintended consequence of helping flatten out or steadily erode the share of students taking vocational courses. In California’s community colleges, for instance, it’s dropped to 28 percent from 31 percent since 2000, contributing to a shortage of trained workers with more than a high school diploma but less than a bachelor’s degree. Research by the state’s 114-campus community college system showed that families and employers alike didn’t know of the existence or value of vocational programs and the certifications they confer, many of which can add tens of thousands of dollars per year to a graduate’s income. “All throughout high school, they made it sound like going to college was our only option.” Derrick Roberson, who is training to...