How 3D Printing is Disrupting the Supply Chain
Supply chains must be efficient to be successful, which is why innovative ideas are always hitting them. Processes are refined, added to, taken away from, and improved over time. Each improvement takes effort, creative ideas, money, and time. As digital technology improves, and automation becomes more common, changes have happened more frequently. The biggest advancement is coming in the form of 3D printing technology.
The 3D Printing Revolution
With 3D printing making an impact on almost every industry, it’s no surprise that it is making a mark in the supply chain. Two big names, GE and UPS, are investing in 3D printing equipment to expand their businesses and cut down on the supply chain logistics.
GE has been in the manufacturing business for a long time, but they are looking to the future and how they can become a bigger name with 3D printing. The company has invested billions of dollars into 3D printing technology and recently made headlines for creating the largest additive machine in the world. This 3D printing device is going to be used to manufacture 40,000 jet fuel nozzles by 2020. They also hope to replace more than 850 parts included in a regular aircraft engine with only 12 components created by the 3D printer.
UPS is creating a national network of facilities that will house 3D printing equipment, hoping to capitalize on the ability to create products on demand. Customers follow the simple process of contacting the company when they need parts and UPS produces them with this equipment. This significantly cuts down production time and since they also deliver the products right to the customer’s door, it reduces the number of companies involved. UPS is hoping to really increase their worth by becoming a leader in manufacturing on top of shipping the products.
The Impact on the Supply Chain
With companies getting into more than one component of a product, it disrupts the supply chain. This cuts out any additional companies that contributed to parts before, reducing time and costs. Where several businesses were involved in designing and creating products before (through materials, manufacturing, and shipping), there are fewer hands involved.
This is still a developing idea, with facilities being outfitted. As 3D printing becoming more readily available and applications are still being discovered, this is just the beginning of how it can change the manufacturing industry and supply chain. Other businesses are already looking into how they can adapt their companies to similar strategies. With more qualified staff members becoming familiar with 3D printing processes, there is more availability for training and hiring too.
Companies are not the only ones benefiting from these innovations. The savings are ultimately passed down to the consumer. As more companies adapt, the competition in the market helps to keep those prices low. When everything is done under one roof, by one company, it makes everything more efficient overall.
As businesses learn how to do all the steps of manufacturing themselves, others follow the same pattern. It’s certain that the supply chain will start looking and functioning in a very different way within the next ten years.
Virtual Reality and Its Impact on Designing Products
Virtual reality is more than just a fun way to play video games. This technology is becoming more prominent across multiple industries, especially in product design and manufacturing. It is helping to create better products in less time and with less money.
In a traditional form of production, manufacturing companies go through several different steps and stages before the final product is produced, which are:
- Creating the initial design on a computer
- Making a prototype of the design
- Work out problems, then make an improved prototype (repeat until product is right)
- Produce the final product
Virtual reality gives a three-dimensional view of products from the design stage. There are a lot of limitations to only using a screen to spot details in more complex products, so using virtual reality helps designers and engineers see their products on a life-size scale. This improves chances of spotting potential problems before the first prototype is even manufactured, reducing the amount of time spent on finding problems.
Once production on prototypes begins, there are fewer revisions overall because problems were found using the virtual reality. With 3D software, you can not only look at the designs better but experience the elements of the products the company is making. You are essentially creating prototypes faster and making changes in less time too.
Producing prototypes takes money. Manufacturing prices are usually low because products are ordered in bulk amounts for selling over many markets. Producing a prototype takes more money per piece because specifications are still being figured out and only one product is made. The less money put into making these prototypes, the better the overall costs are when it comes time for production.
Creating all the prototypes in virtual reality software costs less money than continually producing a physical one with each change. This means you don’t waste materials or take up valuable machine time on bigger jobs, saving everyone more money on the entire job.
While many of the wealthiest corporations in the world have used this technology in their companies for decades, it hasn’t been available to everyone. The high costs of the software and the equipment used to support it have limited smaller companies from having access to these benefits. In the long run, the upfront costs are less than the time and costs spent on each project, freeing up these valuable resources for other businesses and projects, but funding that initial purchase is just out of reach for many companies.
Two other limitations have been having space for the equipment and availability. Over time, virtual reality has become smaller in size, just like other computer-based products. It still takes a lot of room and equipment, but it is easier to set up.
As for price and availability, virtual reality is becoming more commonplace in other industries, which helps bring the costs down for everyone. The more companies invest in it themselves, it helps open the market to other creators for selling similar software programs and equipment, leading to competition and lower prices too.
Manufacturing companies are anxious to bring this immersive technology to their design teams. It is projected that within the next decade, it will become a more affordable option for everyone, which will bring a bigger impact to the manufacturing industry.
A Guide to Safety Management in Manufacturing
Manufacturing is an industry with unique safety risks because of the work involved. In 1970, Congress passed the Occupational Health and Safety Act (or OSHA) help reduce hazards in the workplace for employers and employees. With safety management, there is a focus to put proper protocols in place and everyone takes preventative measures, workplaces injuries are avoided.
The regulations instituted under OSHA help create a healthy working environment. They have set the framework for the entire country for standards on electrical equipment, electrical hazards, machinery guarding, permit use, and preventing accidents. In October 2015, the Institute of Scrap Recycling Industries, or ISRI, joined with OSHA to help promote these standards in the recycling industry. There are specific areas that OSHA has improved safety on, including transportation, radiation, chemicals, explosives, machining, inspections, and training.
Manufacturing isn’t the only industry that depends heavily on transportation for services and products. Whether they are delivering or picking up materials, it’s important that the drivers in transportation are properly trained in safety protocols. The costs involved in hiring, training, and ensuring drivers is a large amount, but they are much less than the costs associated with accidents.
A well-trained fleet of drivers and transit directors often choose safety practices naturally. They are trained to identify hazards and know how to avoid them with:
- Loading and unloading trucks
- Special considerations, like drums on a ramp
- Safety features on each vehicle
- Laws for drivers and specific types of loads
Transportation is an area that benefits a lot from technology. There are products that help track efficiency, diagnose problems, and even monitor activity in trucks to suggest better ways to do the job, and make sure safety protocols are being met.
Society has known the risks of too much exposure to radiation for a long time now and knows the importance of tracking it. To avoid injury or death, it’s vital that employees are trained to leave the proximity of radiation immediately. This helps limit the amount of tissue damage because the exposure is minimal.
Regulations require proper clothing to be worn, including eyeglasses and side shields. Bodies must be covered with long-sleeves in proper materials, sunscreen, and lead aprons. Warning signs should be posted in appropriate areas, where they are visible to all and warn sufficiently of the dangers. These precautions can help limit the amount of damage done to employees, but it also takes training on when to leave the area and seek medical help.
Safety management for chemicals involves two very important steps. The first is properly labeling all chemicals, with an extra label warning if the chemical is hazardous. The other steps are sufficient training in the use and storage of chemicals. This training should also cover precautions to take to avoid exposure injuries, improper mixing, and how to treat injuries. If all employees know this information, they can watch for signs and administer help if a co-worker is in trouble, potentially saving their lives.
Inspections are one of the most effective ways to prevent explosions in the workplace. They help reduce risk by helping to monitor proper use, storage, and any potential electrical malfunctions. There are regulations on storage that are important to follow, such as
- Never store them underground with only one exit
- All facilities must be approved
- No smoking areas or open flames within 50 feet
When inspections are ongoing, employees are more aware of the expectations and problems are stopped sooner.
Most manufacturing facilities have many kinds of machines, from forklifts to expensive machines that complete automated tasks. Training in properly operating machines is an important part of preventing accidents, limiting access to select employees. Those who are around machines at any time should be aware of their surroundings and watch out for any moving parts, staying out of the way during operation.
Inspections and Training
Regulations require specific inspections, so OSHA has provided checklists to make sure they have an acceptable minimum standard. Some examples include:
- Proper communicating for reporting accidents
- An emergency plan for specific scenarios, including risks mentioned early, plus more risks including fire prevention and proper exits
- Properly made and maintained surfaces for walking and working, limiting risks for falling injuries
- Available first aid stations and medical supplies
Since training is the largest factor in a safe and healthy workplace, employers should provide continual opportunities to receive more. Never train on the first day and then expect employees to remember for their entire careers there. Keeping safety standards at the front of everyone’s mind helps improve efficiency, limits citations, and reduces costs in the long run, but it also keeps everyone safe, which is the main goal.
Artificial Intelligence and How It Could Transform Manufacturing
The manufacturing world has had a lot of innovative changes in the last two decades, but none are bigger than the advances in artificial intelligence companies are seeing now. Artificial intelligence is defined as “human intelligence exhibited by machines”. When businesses apply it to their systems, it helps optimize their processes and bring on new ideas.
Breakthroughs that improve companies are everywhere in artificial intelligence. Some of the examples of artificial intelligence in companies using it are:
- Speech recognition eliminates the need to type or use a touchscreen.
- Analyze data and information
- Scan and respond to surroundings
- Optimizing processes
This has helped doctors diagnose cancers more effectively, simplify taxi routes in major cities, and make underground pipeline leaks easier to detect. It seems to be improving businesses by cutting out unnecessary labor costs and damage control in every industry. That is, except for manufacturing.
Manufacturing Challenges and Changes
Why does the manufacturing sector fall behind other industries in the adoption of artificial intelligence? While no one can say for sure, Brent Dykes, the director of data strategy at Domo, a software company, believes it has to do with data collection. To really apply artificial intelligence to a company, first, there must be mature analytics to help make decisions.
The global consulting firm, McKinsey, says that only 20-30% of the data and analytics needed have been collected in manufacturing. Since most of this is done by the leading companies in the industry, it doesn’t provide enough information across the board for individual companies.
Despite this information, artificial intelligence does exist in manufacturing. It mostly involves preventative maintenance and automated tasks. Depending on the product, quality control might also be done with artificial intelligence, but even that varies. Using this technology to help collect data and analyze areas that need improvement can only increase the chances that more technology will be used in the future.
With the rate that improvements are made in technology, manufacturing companies are looking at a radical change in the next decade. Once the data shows the best applications for it, the technology will become the new standard, making room for even more improvements in the future.
Reaching Zero Emissions in the Largest US Port Complex
Joining in the worldwide effort to improve air quality for everyone, the largest port complex in the United States has set a goal to make a difference. The twin ports, located in Los Angeles and Long Beach, cover more than 23 square miles of land and water and produce most of Southern California’s air pollution. This is because they handle approximately 40 percent of container import traffic for the United States. As the ninth-largest port complex in the world, they also see a quarter of the total exports for the country.
The pollution comes from both barges and equipment in the ports. The framework to the plan to significantly reduce the amount of pollution they see by 2035 was just approved by the governing board, after hearing from environmentalists, community groups, elected officials, and industry leaders such as Tesla. The more detailed plans have yet to be released, but here is what we know so far.
Improvements will happen each year until there are zero emissions. These changes are not going to be inexpensive either. The estimated costs are going to be between $7 billion and $14 billion. The details of the plan are not all figured out, like who will ultimately pay the bill for the new equipment. Once the plans are fully planned, each program will require individual approval by each of the port’s harbor commission.
There are some lofty goals in the plans, including strategies aimed at improving efficiency and equipment when moving cargo. Some of the main points involve strategies for trucks such as:
- Clean-engine milestones for vehicles
- Incentives to turnover fleets to more efficient trucks with fewer emissions
- Programs for efficiency in truck reservations and staging yards
- Requirements for terminal operators to use equipment with zero-emissions
Terminal equipment will also undergo changes by implementing a goal of using electric trains to move half of the cargo out of the ports. The on-dock rail will be expanding to help accommodate this plan.
Success for this plan depends largely on collaboration between the two ports and all the responsible governments and communities. In a statement to the press, Lou Anne Bynum, Long Beach Harbor Commission President, said: “Moving the needle to zero requires all of us- the ports, industry, regulatory agencies, environmental groups and our communities- to pool our energy, expertise, and resources.”
While the goal is one everyone can agree is beneficial to the area and the planet, it has yet to show how the plan will play out in the years to come. Everyone is hopeful that the clean air will draw others in rather than push out traffic to other ports in the East and Gulf coasts. This would not only increase emissions in these other parts of the country, but many fear it will harm the local economy that relies on the ports.
The varying groups couldn’t agree on the right path to meeting all the lofty goals, but they all agree it is important to make changes. As these ports set out to make a difference, everyone will be watching to see how it gets done.
3D Printing in Manufacturing
The introduction of 3D printing has changed the manufacturing industry. While it is still in the early stages, it is expected that this form of manufacturing will continue to evolve and change much more. In the short amount of time 3D printing has been around, there have been remarkable improvements in the manufacturing industry in its processes, production, fulfillment of orders, and impact on the assembly line.
Improving the Process
The way that manufacturing has been done in the past is to use a subtractive process to make parts. What this means is that a shape is cut out of a material for manufacturing, whether that is a block of aluminum or rubber. Once the part is taken out of the material, the excess is considered scrap. To reduce waste, the scraps are melted down and formed into blocks to be used to manufacture another part.
The process for 3D printing is referred to as an additive process. Rather than cutting from a block, raw material is added to the shape of the part so there are no scraps. This reduces waste, product costs, and time to melt down scraps. Just about any shape or complex product can be produced with this method, including false teeth, jewelry, auto parts, replacement bones, shoe soles, and more.
The real downfall of using 3D printing for manufacturing is that it takes too long and is still more expensive. While it cuts costs elsewhere, it comes with a hefty upfront price tag. It isn’t ideal for mass production either because the process is slow, taking longer than traditional manufacturing processes. As more people use this and systems become improved, it will only be a matter of time before it becomes possible to do mass production.
Fulfilling Orders Better
One of the biggest benefits that 3D printing offers manufacturers is the freedom to reduce their warehouses. Many manufacturing companies must take up large amounts of land with warehouses full of spare parts and materials for production. With 3D printing, parts are made to order, using less space to hold everything. The turn-around time for fulfilling orders is also decreased because inventory is easier to track.
Another traditional process changed by 3D printing is the assembly line. Most manufacturers depend on this operation, but it takes time to switch out different orders. With each new product and customer, software must be updated, materials changed out, and tools adjusted. Since 3D printing is a single operation, there is more flexibility given to the production team and set up time is minimal. With updated printers, rush orders become the norm because they are pushed through faster.
The Tip of the Iceberg
While this is still an emerging territory for manufacturers, the sky is the limit with possibilities available. The software is already improving and capacities being changed. There are already many ways to increase production, improve processes, and cut costs with a 3D printer on hand. It is exciting to see the way it is changing the industry and the possibilities of shaping it in the future.
Manufacturers Around the World
Manufacturing is a giant industry with a hand in almost every business sector. While many people will rank the top ten companies in each category, the real manufacturing leaders are spread across different industries. Here are the top 10 companies under the manufacturing title, by revenue, from around the globe.
As the largest chemical producer in the world, this German company operates on five continents. With a revenue of €57.55 billion ($65.72 billion) in 2016, they are on five different stock exchanges. BASF started out in chemical products like dyes, ammonia, soda, and sulfuric acid, but now manufacture in plastics, biotechnology, oil and gas, and agricultural solutions.
While headquartered in New York, they have offices all around the world, making them an international manufacturing company. They are best known for computers and processors, but they also are involved in the supporting systems like cloud computing, data, analytics, software, IT infrastructure, and security. They had a revenue of $79.9 billion in 2016.
Located in Japan, Hitachi has many different manufacturing companies and reported a revenue of ¥10.34 trillion (or $88.63 billion) in 2016. Their main areas of expertise are in information, components/devices, construction machinery, and telecommunication systems with a focus in defense systems. They are also considered the most prominent and reliable hard disk manufacturer in the industry and a trusted leader in information storage media. Batteries, LCD screens and other components are also manufactured here.
Headquartered in Germany, Siemens in the largest European manufacturing company. Their main manufacturing industry is healthcare, especially medical diagnostic equipment. They also manufacture products that are energy related like power transformers, generators, and turbines for gas, steam, and wind. Siemens and its subsidiaries had a global revenue of about €79.64 billion ($90.94 billion) in 2016.
6. Cardinal Health.
In 2016, this company had a revenue of $121.5 billion for manufacturing and distributing medical and surgical products. Cardinal Health provides items like gloves, apparel, and fluid management products to over 75% of U.S. hospitals. They teamed up in 2013 with CVS to also become the largest generic drug operation.
5. General Electric.
A steady company on the Fortune 500 list, GE had a revenue of $123.7 billion in 2016. Their main manufacturing industry is in energy, including oil, gas, power, lighting, and renewable energy. This branches into appliances, aviation, medical devices, software, automotive, and engineering.
4. Hon Hai Precision Industry.
Also known as Foxconn Technology Group (trading name), this manufacturing company is headquartered in Taiwan and considered the largest contract electronics manufacturer. In 2015, they posted a revenue of $136.12 billion. Some of their most notable customers and products are BlackBerry, Apple products, Kindle, and gaming systems from Nintendo, Playstation, and Xbox.
3. Samsung Electronics.
Located in South Korea, this company has a strong focus on electronics in different areas. Cellphones, tablets, and other devices are their most well-known products for, but they also manufacture components like lithium-ion batteries, chips, hard drive and memory devices. Their 2016 revenue was ₩201.87 trillion ($174.5 billion).
In 2016, Daimler posted a revenue of €153.26 billion ($175.1 billion), selling 3 million vehicles. Headquartered in Germany, they are considered the world’s largest truck manufacturer. Some of the brands owned or partially owned through shares include Mercedes-Benz, Detroit Diesel, Thomas Built Buses, and Mitsubishi Fuso.
1. Volkswagen Group.
This German manufacturer became the world’s largest automaker in 2016 when they overtook Toyota, based on sales with a revenue of €217.267 billion ($248.2 billion). There are many companies that sell under the Volkswagen Group umbrella, with the most well-known brands being Audi, Bentley, Bugatti, Lamborghini, Porsche, and Ducati. Much of the company’s success has come from adapting with changes in engineering, including their most recent goal to offer more electric of plug-in hybrid models by 2020.
The History of Manufacturing
Manufacturing is an ever-changing industry. Using different processes and materials, there are so many aspects to manufacturing that innovation is constantly happening. To understand modern manufacturing, it helps to know its past. Manufacturing hasn’t been around for too long, and most of it started with the industrial revolution.
A Historical Perspective
Through history, factories were not where most products were made. Blacksmiths, carpenters, and other craftsmen had shops or sheds attached to their homes where they made goods with hand tools or basic machines. During the mid to late 1700s, Britain experienced a significant change to industry with the introduction of the steam engine and spinning wheel mechanisms.
In the early 1800s, Samuel Slater brought some of these technologies to Massachusetts from Britain and the Industrial Revolution began in America. It didn’t take long for other innovators to start finding ways to create new machines and devices to make work easier in other areas, especially the mining, agricultural, and textile manufacturing industries. This new way of production increased supplies and decreased the sale prices for consumers.
Factories and Assembly Lines
It didn’t take long for factories to start popping up all over the world using different production machines. In the early 1900s, another significant change came to factories when assembly lines began. Henry Ford and Charles Sorenson are credited with figuring out the key elements to this process and it once again spread to many industries. The entire process was streamlined and improved over time, especially when Toyota started “lean manufacturing”. This idea involves identifying and eliminating waste, while still improving production flow.
Robotics and Automation
Another significant contribution to manufacturing came when robotics were introduced to production lines in the 1950s and 1960s. This helped decrease production time significantly, as well as the variability in the quality of the products. Workers were still used to run and repair the machines, but production took a more hands-off approach. Automation came on the scene, reducing the number of needed workers in the production portion of manufacturing. Instead, an emphasis was put on hiring people to design, maintain, and operate the equipment.
Many of these operations are still in use today, especially automation and assembly lines. Some of the most significant modern contributions that we have seen, and will continue to see, are in 3D printing, lasers, and computers. These help change the landscape of manufacturing because they improve the abilities of what manufacturers can accomplish.
Another area of improvement in modern manufacturing is found in materials. Rubbers, plastics, and metals are always seeing improvements to their design which improves the quality of a product. A manufacturing company today has more options available to them than ever before when helping design products for companies. Much of the innovation in manufacturing is found with U.S. manufacturing companies who find more affordable processes and materials for consumers.
As more people have ideas and can implement them, manufacturing processes continue to improve. With a focus on worker safety, energy used, and environmental concerns, manufacturing looks very different from the factories of the industrial revolution. The impact of digital devices and machines are constantly changing the manufacturing industry and will continue to do so in the future.
Benefits of Working With a Manufacturer in the U.S.
Rubber is an important part of our lives. We depend on rubber for everything from tires to pipe fittings to the soles of shoes.
The rubber products we enjoy for everyday life are manufactured in plants across the United States and the world.
Rubber manufacturers and those working with companies that produce rubber products are tempted to work with a rubber manufacturers in other countries where they can get the rubber cheaper. After all, rubber producers and manufacturers want to keep operating costs down in order to make a profit.
Increasing Costs of International Rubber
For many years, such companies have gone to countries such as China for cheap rubber components and products.
While this offshoring has saved companies money on purchasing supplies in the past, the cost savings are now so minimal that in many cases, it is more worthwhile to work with a U.S. rubber manufacturer.
The costs of getting foreign rubber products are diminishing as the costs to attain them have been increasing.
China, once the most popular source of cheap rubber, now has additional costs that make its rubber not so cheap.
Here are some of the rising costs associated with purchasing rubber from China:
- Investments in equipment and facilities
- Production costs
- Product handling and inventory
- Transit to port
- Tariffs and taxes
- Receiving and distribution in United States
- Product inspections
- Correcting quality problems
- Trips to and from China for operations and quality control
- The frequent correcting of mistakes and poor quality work
China is not the exception. Working with rubber manufacturers in other countries such as Mexico and India which have been traditionally sources of cheap rubber results in overcoming the same cost-benefit dilemma.
More companies are turning to U.S. rubber manufacturers because of these increases in bringing the rubber to North America.
Saving money is the biggest growing advantage North American companies are gaining over their foreign counterparts. This isn’t the only benefit they offer.
Here are some additional benefits to be had by partnering with a rubber manufacturer in the U.S.:
- Comparable production costs
- Superior quality product
- Skilled, adequately compensated workforce
- No tariff, taxes, insurance, or shipping
- Less inspections are required
- Less fixing of mistakes and poor-quality work
- Easier and quicker trips and transport of products
- It supports American workers and increases U.S. jobs
- Uniform standard of operations, environmental, safety and health compliance measures all manufacturers must abide by
- Increase company public relations by making products domestically
- Offer a wider variety of shapes, sizes and thickness
The benefits of working with a U.S. rubber manufacturer outweighs the advantages of going internationally and brining in the rubber from overseas.
Whether your company sells tires, rubber-sole shoes, consumer goods, appliances or work for with the government, you can be sure to get quality rubber and rubber products by working with a U.S. rubber manufacturer.
Clark’s Rubber and Plastics is a proud U.S. rubber and plastics manufacturer with many years in the business. Our trained workers utilize the latest tools, equipment and technology to efficiently produce the highest-quality rubber products.
For more information about our products or to partner with us, contact us at Clark’s Rubber and Plastics today.