Posted on May 10th, 2017

by Joseph Lawler | May 9, 2017
Published for Washington Examiner: Read Original Article
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Job creation in manufacturing accelerated to start the spring, as both job vacancies and hires hit the highest marks of the recovery.

Manufacturing job openings rose to 394,000 in March, the Department of Labor reported Tuesday, matching the highest level since April of 2006.

And actual hiring in the manufacturing sector jumped to 322,000, a level not seen since the early months of the recession, when manufacturing hiring fell off a cliff. Monthly hires were up nearly a quarter since last March.

The good news about manufacturing came in the agency's release of the Job Openings and Labor Turnover Survey, which contained other encouraging data as well. Overall job openings edged up from 5.68 million to 5.74 million in March, according to the report, in line with expectations.

The ratio of unemployed workers for each job opening, an important metric of labor market health, fell to 1.25, the lowest since January of 2001. During the worst of the recession, there were more than six unemployed workers for each advertised job, a sign of how hard jobs were to find for people who were laid off.

Tuesday's report includes figures about gross job creation, hiring, and layoffs that are not available in the monthly jobs report. The high level of detail makes it valuable to government officials and investors, even though it is released on a lag of month from the more widely noted jobs report.

The news will be welcome to the Trump administration. President Trump has prioritized manufacturing jobs. In the first month of his tenure, he launched a manufacturing jobs initiative involving business CEOs, and last month he signed a "Buy American, Hire American" executive order intended to promote U.S. manufacturers.

Posted on May 4th, 2017


ST. CHARLES COUNTY, MO -- Local manufacturers participated in a survey on the “state of manufacturing” in St. Charles County, and the consensus is: Manufacturing is alive and well! The survey was distributed by the Manufacturing Task Force of the St. Charles County Workforce Development Board in late 2016, and indicates that businesses are hiring for manufacturing jobs and seeing more technical training opportunities in the community.

“It is important for the community to know that manufacturing is growing in St. Charles County,” says Michael Hurlbert, chair of the task force and director of the County’s Community Development Department. “There are more people employed in manufacturing jobs in our community today than there were a decade ago, and that isn’t the case everywhere. We are definitely not in the norm, and that’s great news!”

Hurlbert says that because St. Charles County had a strong manufacturing base prior to the recession, recovery was faster than in many areas of the country. He said another contributing factor is the number of suppliers that came into the county as a result of the Wentzville General Motors expansion in 2014; those companies now are expanding themselves. Additionally, the community has been a regional leader in aerospace-defense manufacturing and has a strong and growing plastics sector, he says.

Results of the survey show that the top local manufacturing jobs available in the next two years are expected to be in assembly/production, engineering, computer numerical control (CNC) machining, quality/inspection, warehouse/shipping and receiving, sales and welders. To meet those needs as they arise, 62 percent of businesses that responded to the survey indicated they plan to hire full-time employees with benefits.

Asked about their areas of need for technical skills training, respondents identified SOLIDWORKS® 3-D CAD, AutoCAD®, CNC operation, machine maintenance, blueprint reading, electrical, forklift operation and welding, among others.  This information is assisting the task force in connecting manufacturers with programs already available through local tech and vocational schools, as well as helping them determine what programs need to be developed.

The survey had a 20 percent response rate, and Hurlbert was pleased with both the quantity and quality of responses. “Feedback from the surveys, as well as from one-on-one meetings with manufacturers over the past nine months, has helped us make strategic planning decisions for the county,” he says. “We are making recommendations to manufacturers regarding training opportunities, about target marketing, and about planning, to help them continue to grow and prosper in St. Charles County.”

Since 2016, several major accomplishments in manufacturing can be cited, showing the community overall is in line with the task force goals and survey findings. Those accomplishments include:
  • St. Charles Community College’s recent purchase of the former Barat Academy facility in Dardenne Prairie, and its plans for expanded technical training
  • Consideration of a countywide Centers for Advanced Professional Studies (CAPS) program by the five local St. Charles County school districts
  • Opening of a second location in the EDC Business & Community Partners incubator in St. Peters this spring for Inventor Forge Makerspace, a creative ideas lab and creation space
  • Growth and expansion of the Missouri State Technical College on the campus of Lewis & Clark Career Center in St. Charles 
  • Recognition of the Advanced Manufacturing Technology program at Ranken Technical College ­­– Wentzville as a Department of Labor Registered Apprenticeship
“We can’t say it enough,” Hurlbert says.  “Manufacturing is alive and well in St. Charles County, and we salute all the work of local businesses, educational institutions, and civic groups that are moving the needle when it comes to technical training, technical careers and technical business success in the community. We’ll be celebrating more milestones during Manufacturing Day 2017 activities being planned for this fall. Stay tuned!”

To download a copy of the Manufacturing Workforce Survey Results and Recommendations, visit Click on Manufacturing Workforce Report in the left column.

by Kyle Carreau on April 12th, 2017

Smart Manufacturing is Driving Success in Factories & Processes

Smart manufacturing represents the integration of three key productivity factors: automation, operations information and advanced analytics. You can’t achieve smart manufacturing without embracing modern technology. Automation has been tied to manufacturing for over 80 years. Industrial automation of factories and processes will save man-hours, energy and material costs. Automated machines also improve quality, accuracy and precision. If you are facing challenges with older legacy equipment and the opportunities afforded by new technologies, you might be asking yourself “Is it time to join the smart manufacturing revolution?”

What is Smart Manufacturing?

The Smart Manufacturing Leadership Coalition (SMLC) states, “Smart manufacturing is the ability to solve existing and future problems via an open infrastructure that allows solutions to be implemented at the speed of business while creating advantaged value.” Smart manufacturing, as a concept, is all about agility and efficiency driving success in your processes and your factories. SMLC also considers non-hardware and non-software factors, such as a next-generation workforce and global competitiveness. 
Why Forward-Thinking Users Are Moving Towards Smart Manufacturing

Many manufacturers are asking themselves questions like these:
How do we keep up with changing consumer demand?
What are other companies doing to be more responsive?
What visibility and information options exist out there for manufacturers?
How do we improve productivity? Or, reduce downtime?
How can I reduce operating costs?

Already, innovative companies have started building smart factories designed to answer these questions. Manufacturers will always need to deliver quality products and will always be driven to reduce costs. The key here is doing so through innovation and fundamentally changed production processes. For some industries, smart manufacturing solutions may look completely different that those commonly in place today.

Smart manufacturing does not represent a “cheap labor, cheap parts” solution. Rather, entirely new ways of operating industrial plants through the intersection of human innovation and integrated technology. Rockwell Automation recently had a cover story in TIME Magazine on this exact topic. 

Modern Technology, Analytics & Globalization

Securely converging plant-level and enterprise networks is no small effort. Here are three things to consider as you move towards smart manufacturing:
1. IoT & IIoT: The IoT (Internet of Things) and IIoT (Industrial Internet of Things) give us the ability to connect and interconnect many smart devices. Sensors, switches, phones, tablets – all working together. This improves machine function, allows increased data collection, and ultimately allows better visibility into processes. Discover how to bring the IIoT to life with this 5-step guide.

2. Analytics: Smart manufacturing can’t make your decisions for you. It does, however, enable a lot of useful data. And not just more data but intelligence, software, reporting and dashboards to all enable better and faster decision making. Get the details about operational intelligence here.

3. Globalization: An ever-increasing global marketplace is driving manufacturers along with government agencies to create and validate new approaches and technologies that can enhance productivity and performance. The Connected Enterprise & Globalization: Getting Started (eBook)

Working closely with Rockwell Automation, Horizon Solutions brings experience and understanding of manufacturing, industrial operations and information technology to your plant floor. Our team can help bring both IT and OT together into a secure and collaborative architecture. We can help you uncover data and transform it into actionable information. Is it time to join the smart manufacturing revolution? The answer is YES.

Kyle Carreau is an Automation Specialist based in New Hampshire. His expertise domains include PLC, HMI, network switches, controllers, and all things IO-related. He has spent time in every automation tech segment across Horizon Solutions and brings a view of drives, sensors, safety and motion to every application he looks at. Kyle recently became a Cisco Certified Industrial Networking Specialist.

Posted on March 29th, 2017

ByNoah Smith. 
Originally published 3/28/17 for Bloomberg

Discussions about manufacturing tend to get very contentious. Many economists and commentators believe that there’s nothing inherently special about making things and that efforts to restore U.S. manufacturing to its former glory reek of industrial policy, protectionism, mercantilism and antiquated thinking. 

But in their eagerness to guard against the return of these ideas, manufacturing’s detractors often overstate their case. Manufacturing is in bigger trouble than the conventional wisdom would have you believe.

One common assertion is that while manufacturing jobs have declined, output has actually risen. But this piece of conventional wisdom is now outdated. U.S. manufacturing output is almost exactly the same as it was just before the financial crisis of 2008:

​Read the Full Article

by Claire Bushey on March 8th, 2017

A new company wants to play matchmaker between skilled manufacturing workers and the businesses seeking to hire them—just not full time.

At FactoryFix, employers can browse profiles for engineers, machinists, maintenance technicians, welders and others, then contact likely candidates. Founder and CEO Patrick O'Rahilly, noting that workers are vetted before joining the company's network, jokes it's "like a dating website if you only let beautiful people in." What it resembles more, though, is websites like 99designs, Upwork or TaskRabbit that serve as intermediaries for hiring help, whether a creative professional or a handyman.

The fledgling Chicago company exists at the intersection of two seemingly opposite trends in manufacturing: the casualization of the workforce and employers' struggle to find skilled help. Nearly 10 percent of the sector's workers in 2015 were employed by staffing agencies rather than manufacturers. Yet companies are clamoring to fill vacancies for millwrights, welders and tool-and-die makers. In this tight labor market, "if they're not working (full time), there's something else going on," says Anne Edmunds, regional vice president at Manpower in Chicago.

At FactoryFix, there is something else going on. Some 60 percent of workers in the network already have a full-time job, O'Rahilly says. They use FactoryFix for extra hours. The other 40 percent are a mix of semiretired tradespeople staying active or small engineering shops that use the site for sales leads.ADVERTISINGinRead invented by Teads, 
"There's just not enough of these people, so these companies are going to have to start borrowing from each other," O'Rahilly says. "That's part of the whole gig economy movement. That's part of the future of work."

O'Rahilly, 31, started FactoryFix in 2015. As one of the founders of Elgin-based Compass Automation, which builds custom manufacturing equipment, he informally brokered deals with other companies that wanted to hire his engineers for one-time projects. That convinced him there was a market for the service.

Two former executives at Navistar, a Lisle-based truck and engine maker, have invested in the four-person company, and O'Rahilly raised $150,000 from friends and family. FactoryFix brought in about half a million in revenue last year from a base of 60 customers, including Illinois Tool Works and BWAY, which makes metal cans for paint and food at its Little Village factory.

A robotics engineer fixed a machine at BWAY when it stopped stacking cans on pallets, idling the assembly line, says maintenance manager Harold Whitecotton. The engineer arrived "three hours after we called him, he reset everything, and we were able to get back into production."

Employers pay $100 per hour to hire a robotics or automation engineer or $65 to $75 per hour for a machinist. FactoryFix takes a 30 percent cut. The company notes that by hiring contract workers, the employers save on payroll taxes, liability and unemployment insurance, and the cost of paying wages during production downturns.

The key question contingent labor raises is whether it complements or cannibalizes the existing job market, whether it creates new work opportunities or replaces traditional jobs that offer built-in protections for minimum wage, overtime and unionizing. Researchers from the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics have estimated that the share of manufacturing workers employed by a staffing agency rose to 9.7 percent in 2015 from 6.9 percent a decade earlier, with more temporary workers concentrated in low-skilled jobs.

Temporary work can benefit those who have been laid off or who want to supplement their income, says Frank Manzo IV, Countryside-based policy director of the Illinois Economic Policy Institute. Problems only arise "if this temporary work becomes . . . essentially a long-term employment relationship."

The economy as a whole is shifting toward increased use of contingent labor, says Mark Muro, a senior fellow and director of policy at the Metropolitan Policy Program at the Brookings Institution in Washington, D.C. His research suggests that in some industries "freelance marketplaces may well cannibalize competing payroll businesses," like cab companies moving to adopt Uber and Lyft's independent-contractor model. But unlike those companies, he says, FactoryFix appears to solve "an authentic problem because these are increasingly quite specialized occupations. . . . These workers are, in fact, hard to find."

O'Rahilly has had to scour the market himself, recruiting workers to his network through referrals. Retirees, he says, generally aren't scanning "help wanted" ads on Facebook.