The Appeal of Wearable Technology in Manufacturing

manufacturing technology

Wearable technology and its many applications are all around us. Without looking too far, there’s a good chance you’re already familiar with wearables through the technology of an Apple or Samsung Watch, a Garmin model or a Fitbit. Compact, versatile and smart, these fitness trackers multi-task allowing a range of actions from counting steps or minutes spent exercising to answering phone calls or even taking an electrocardiogram on the spot.

Impressive, but when it comes to flexible electronics think of applications that are smaller and potentially even smarter. These incredibly thin electronics contain traces and circuits printed on paper-based flexible substrates.

Produced on foil, paper and even in ink, these electronics retain a high level of conductivity even on curved products and are flexible enough to bend or fold. Such a flexible application, pun intended, offers the potential of roll-able TVs and displays, electronic paper, transparent and smart sensors, not to mention a range of other applications in clothing.

Advantages of Flexible Technologies

Use inexpensive plastics

Low manufacturing costs

Lightweight and bendable

Easily portable

Potentially cheaper

Internet of Things

Over the last five years, tech companies have begun forming collaborations with clothing companies to produce a range of custom apparel products using stretchable electronic inks and flexible substrates. Today it’s easier than ever to find applications of the paper-thin, form-fitting circuits in smart clothing. Companies such as DuPont are manufacturing Intexar, an advanced material. By adding Intexar to clothing like shirts and sports bras, the technology can provide its users with a range of biometric data. Wearing a smart shirt with Intexar has the potential to offer a user or a designated medical provider with information such as heart and breathing rate, form awareness and muscle tension, according to DuPont.

With real-time monitoring and data collection, smart apparel has the potential to not only supply information but also adjust to a range of user needs, like the self-heating jacket created by Ralph Lauren for the Winter Olympics. Use of flexible technologies extends far beyond the world of athletics. Flexible technologies are finding application within the medical, military and first-responder markets. This includes the potential of contact lenses adept at monitoring the glucose levels of a diabetic patient, clothing that can keep first responders safer and jean jackets that offer internet connectivity.

Building Synergies

Akin to the ability to place more and more semiconductors on a chip, flexible technologies show a growing range of possibilities. Imagine a thin layer of film that can regulate the temperature on a home or building or a strip of plastic embedded in a bag that charges the devices inside. Such advances are not only real, they are happening on a small scale now. Research continues as more are discovering the abilities and inherent restrictions of this exciting technology.

This article is brought to you by The Cleveland Deburring Machine Company. CDMC can provide a deburring solution for gears, sprockets, aerospace and defense, automotive deburring, power transmission, powdered metals, fluid power and custom deburring applications. 

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Veterans are Ready and Willing to Fill the Skills Gap

veterans skillsgap

Could the solution to the manufacturing industry’s skills gap be patiently waiting in plain sight? The possibility is appreciable when you consider the U.S. workforce has a ready demographic who possess prior experience working with technology and machinery. This is a group who is trained in precision, leadership and discipline. The demographic is veterans; a group former Defense Secretary Robert Gates calls, “one of the most underutilized talent pools in our country.”

Veteran’s Cross-Functional Skill Set

Teamwork

Responsibility

Perform under pressure

Trustworthy

Integrity

Comfort with diversity

Critical thinking

More and more companies are looking for ways to incorporate the hiring of veterans into their workplace, including hiring managers within the manufacturing industry who are discovering the cross-functional skills this group offers. Such benefits include prior experience working within defined processes and workflows while having the ability to improvise and apply critical-thinking skills. The group is experienced in working with technology and comfortable using frequent application of problem-solving and math skills, all which have complementary applications within the manufacturing industry.

Making the Transition

Despite possessing transferable skills, currently veteran-related employment lags that of the employment of non-veterans. This is due to several factors such as the need for buy-in from management before hiring and an experienced mentor/adviser who can translate Military Occupation Specialty (MOS) codes into comparable open positions within a company, according to the National Institute of Standards and Technology, U.S. Department of Commerce. Mentoring from former military personnel can also ease the transition as veterans move from military to civilian life.

Ready Pool of Candidates

2 million post-9/11 veterans

250,000 service members transition out of the military every year for the foreseeable future

1 million+ veterans currently in college

100,000 veterans graduate from college each year

Two-thirds of veterans will leave their first post-military job within two years

George W. Bush Institute

In addition to employing individuals who’ve been schooled in the transferable skills of leadership, flexibility, discipline and teamwork, companies who employ veterans can also take advantage of tax credits. The Returning Heroes Tax credit offers a maximum credit of $5,600/veteran hired, and the Wounded Warriors Tax Credit offers businesses hiring individuals with service-connected disabilities a tax credit of $9,600/veteran.

Future Investment

Manufacturing companies that are interested in exploring the hiring of veterans in their manufacturing operations are encouraged to host a booth at a local military job fair. This is a way to meet veterans face-to-face while increasing the visibility of manufacturing jobs that demonstrate the positive changes within the industry.

This article is brought to you by The Cleveland Deburring Machine Company. CDMC can provide a deburring solution for gears, sprockets, aerospace and defense, automotive deburring, power transmission, powdered metals, fluid power and custom deburring applications. 

 

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The Manufacturing Industry has Reason to be Optimistic in the New Year

manufacturing new yearThe manufacturing industry is kicking off the New Year with cautious optimism. The GDP is expected to remain within the 2 to 3 percent range with a 2.5 percent increase in 2019 and 2.6 percent industry growth. 2019 is also the ninth year of economic expansion, the second longest in U.S. history, according to William Strauss, senior economist and economic adviser for the Federal Reserve Bank of Chicago.

The pace predicted for the manufacturing industry in 2019 is somewhat faster than that of other segments in the general economy with sales and revenue expected to grow. Part of this increase can be attributed to the health of the industry and an improving competitive position for the U.S. in the global manufacturing market, according to FABTECH, an exhibiting company that showcases what’s new in metal forming, welding, finishing and fabricating.

Not surprisingly, the industry’s top priorities haven’t deviated much from those of the past five years. Industry leaders, tasked with orders from boards and shareholders, will continue to look for ways to grow sales, cut costs and address talent gaps. What is new is a greater emphasis on the use of digital technologies to improve business and a changing focus on teaming artificial intelligence (AI) and the human element of business. Leaders surveyed in KPMG’s 8th edition of the Global Manufacturing Outlook report stressed the importance of looking at AI as a partnership with human intelligence. The blend of AI and the human element will put an increased focus on the need for extensive retraining and educating workers on new roles.

Impact of AI on Workforce

64% say it will create more jobs than it eliminates

36% say it will eliminate more jobs than it creates

Building Partnerships

Such an approach will require new partnerships that extend inside and outside the industry. Manufacturers will need to continue to look for ways to build up a pipeline for new workers. This will be necessary as more Baby Boomers retire from the industry, leaving an information drain that could be difficult to replace.

Companies will also need to build and maintain strong supply chain partnerships on more than a handshake and prior contracts. KPMG stressed that with the threat of cyber security it will be more important for a business to know who they are considering a partnership with. The safety of a company’s data will only be as secure as those connected to the data throughout the supply chain. This includes the use of intrusion detection and a firewall to protect the perimeter from outside attack, secure communications through a VPN or SSL, increased securing measures using intrusion-detection software and network elements and upgraded monitoring systems.

Other Possible Obstacles to Growth

Higher inflation

More stringent immigration policies

Tariffs impacting trade protectionism

NAFTA uncertainty

Rising borrowing costs

By applying a mindset of digital and embracing the human element of business, the manufacturing industry can continue to adapt to customer needs in a changing competitor landscape.

This article is brought to you by The Cleveland Deburring Machine Company. CDMC can provide a deburring solution for gears, sprockets, aerospace and defense, automotive deburring, power transmission, powdered metals, fluid power and custom deburring applications. 

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