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Good to be back in the blogosphere!

Thought technology was replacing humans in the workforce? Think again.

While it is true that certain industries, such as the manufacturing industry, have been impacted and we live with the realization that anything that can be automated will be automated, luckily, there is still hope for the future. Robots and machines may be replacing workers in certain areas of manufacturing, but this displacement will only lead to more opportunities in other areas as technology continues to advance. Eliminating the need for one job will often open the opportunity for other jobs to fill the void that require new skills that are more relevant to future product and service demands.

Take driverless cars for example. Many people make the assumption that if autonomous cars take over the roads, certain industries, such as driver’s education, may take a hit as a result. While there may be some truth to this, there will inevitably be other opportunities for mechanics and engineers working to design more advanced technology.

Another example would be in the area of retail sales. As job losses mount due to the ever-expanding presence of e-commerce, automated distribution centers and even the use of drones for delivery, new opportunities beckon for savvy companies to pick up the slack in brick and mortar sales operations. It is important to note that still only 10% of sales are consummated online. Even here at Production Materials, Inc., technological improvements have enabled us to expand and shift our human capital, to upgrade our website, rotate labor to accommodate changing customer demand, communicate more efficiently with our customers/suppliers and increase our face to face exposure to current and prospective clients.

Please check back for more blog posts going forward.

Posted on: June 9th, 2017 | Posted in: Uncategorized

How to Get ISO Certified

Getting ISO certified takes time and commitment, although it will result in improving your company. There are a number of reasons to get ISO certified, such as: improve the operations process, increase customer satisfaction, save money by increasing efficiency while reducing waste, give clear expectations to employees, promote quality, and make a statement about your organization’s commitment to continuous improvement.

After talking with clients, Production Materials decided to get ISO certified since it’s one of the best ways for companies to let their customers and employees know they are committed to adhering to high quality standards. The process of getting ISO certified starts with deciding what resources are required. Then, all processes and work procedures must be documented to align the company’s goals with ISO quality standards.

The next step is to train all employees on the new standards, to ensure everyone fully comprehends the new system and begins to implement the new standards. After training is completed, your company needs to find a registrar that can review documentation if necessary, help to improve the overall process, and answer any questions. Registrars will proceed to certify the company as ISO complaint. All literature, letterheads and even your websites should be updated to reflect this certification.

Yearly audits will be established to ensure compliance and identify areas for improvement. When the auditor comes they want to make sure the company is doing what it says it does. It’s important to have training records, any customer feedback recorded, and inspection records on hand for the auditor to look at. It’s a good idea for companies to do a dry run at least a couple weeks before the actual audit to allow time for any necessary adjustments.

Along with the many benefits of getting the ISO certification comes an understanding of the company’s commitment to being a leader in their industry with your employees, suppliers and customers.

Posted on: September 14th, 2015 | Posted in: Quality

A RETURN TO FORMER GLORY? PRODUCTION MATERIALS INC. MUSES ON THE FUTURE OF US MANUFACTURING

Manufacturing in the US has always been the lifeblood of the nation. From the nostalgia evoking 60s when the production sector was in full swing to the image of picturesque suburbs with blue collar workers, everything related to this domain and its glory is held sacred by economists hankering for a rejuvenation post the recession onslaught.

Over the past few years, some positive trends have been cautiously observed and experts have issued the statement: A comeback is imminent!

THE HARD NUMBERS

According to the Bureau of Labour Statistics and that of Economic Analysis, the ROI on manufacturing is a decent 37% and is poised to improve if the promise of growth actualizes. On an average this sector contributes 12% of the GDP which is about $2.09 trillion. Most importantly, one out of every six private sector vacancies hails from manufacturing and the number is rapidly rising as 60,000 new jobs are introduced every year.

But perusing data is rather like observing the symptoms of a change without investigating the forces at play beneath the surface. There are logical arguments based on facts which support the numbers and despite scepticism from many lobbies, it does seem that the US factories and units are all set for a grand revival.

DELVING DEEPER:

The following global events have influenced the expansion and strengthening of the manufacturing domain and need to be taken into consideration if the possibility of a true-blue comeback is to be evaluated.

  • The rising awareness amongst consumers and governments of the often difficult conditions in which workers from South and South-East Asia are forced to labour. As a result of the expansive effect of the American dream, employees in China have negotiated for themselves pay-hikes that have bumped their remuneration to. The tax and cost benefits responsible for luring business away from the US have eroded considerably in value and in conjunction with logistics and transportation the recurring investment gap for manufacturers has reduced to a mere 4%.
  • The discovery of new oil reserves and the feasibility of shale drilling. The price of both oil as well as natural gas in the US has plummeted and is expected to drop further. Peers in Germany need to spend twice as much on fuel and power as their American counterparts. This is an immense advantage and the journey back home (or reshoring) is being led by stalwarts like General Electric (GE).
  • Elimination of quality testing hassles. Buyers are empowered with knowledge and as a result they expect the very best from their purchased products. Items sourced and created off-shore are tested under relatively ‘alien’ conditions. Such goods may react unpredictability when exposed to radically different surroundings. This effect is particularly pronounced on electronic equipment and vehicle spare parts. Instead of investing millions in simulating the ‘right environment’, manufacturing R&D teams are suggesting re-shoring as a way to ensure robust performance and lasting value.

A host of issues such as lead-times and logistics within the supply chain when operating offshore has also provided impetus to reshoring and thus a subsequent boost to manufacturing. However the real story will be unveiled by time and Production Materials Inc. is proud to contribute to the upcoming transformation of the economy.

THE MANUFACTURING WORK FORCE NEEDS YOUNG BLOOD: PRODUCTION MATERIALS INC. TAKES A LOOK AT DEMOGRAPHICS

If ThomasNet and the data mined by it are to be believed, the manufacturing workforce is ageing rapidly with little to no genuine interest amongst fresh blood to answer the call of production.
As per the survey results revealed three-fourth of all manufacturing employees are above the age of 45. Honda has recently come public with the acceptance that almost 50% of its work force will exit over the next few years and keeping this in mind it has initiated a branding exercise for its vacancies aimed at making them more appealing and less ‘dingy’ to the Gen Y candidates who are all set to dominate the market by 2025.

2015 IS NOT 1985:
Demographics suggest that baby boomers are standing on the precipice of retirement and generation X employees (born between 1960 and 1980) have already dedicated the better part of their careers to manufacturing. If the imminent boom that is being predicted by economists and evangelists actualizes, the impetus of growth and the ability to capitalize on the myriad opportunities will require the participation of young millennials.
“The plant floor of 1985 is nothing like the plant floor of 2015! So we know we really have to work on the technical skills of the incoming workforce,” notes Honda Vice President Rick Schostek.
Hard-work and the willingness to adapt to changing conditions may no longer cut it. New production units and factories have been revolutionized with computer-aided-design software consoles and automation in the form of robotic arms. An employee needs to possess the know-how to manage the high-tech equipment under his surveillance and also wrap his head around incoming challenges to respond in time to the agile marketplace.
In short, blue collar is not something to be discounted. It has eventually come to stand for a unique blend of theoretical knowledge and practical implementation skills.
ARE COMPANIES READY?

With less than 25% of the present manufacturing employees hailing from Gen Y and with potential growth on the horizon, most companies are not prepped to handle the exodus of its reliable work-force. Millennials are keenly interested in IT and software oriented projects and their misconceptions about the unrewarding (and unsafe) nature of manufacturing jobs keep them away from the sector quite successfully.
If the current scenario is to change and the skill gap is to be reduced, companies must make a synchronized effort to present manufacturing as a desirable alternative with competitive pay and benefits. Columbus State Community college has responded with foresight and has tweaked several of its vocational courses to better educate and prepare interested students to thrive in the sector of manufacturing.
Production Materials Inc. wholeheartedly supports these endeavours and prides itself on being a part of one of the largest employment generating sectors of the US economy.

Posted on: July 13th, 2015 | Posted in: american manufacturing

What to Expect From National Safety Month

Safety is a concern for everyone, but risks are significantly increased within the manufacturing industry. Approximately 34 percent of deaths occur in a labor intensive job (such as manufacturing due to a fall), according to the United States Department of Labour and the Occupational Safety and Health Administration, while 9.8 percent occur from being struck by an object, 8.1 percent by electrocutions, and 1.6 percent by being caught in-between.

As you can see, it is that much more important to engage employees about the importance of safety within the workplace of a company using heavy machinery. To raise awareness, each June, National Safety Month is celebrated as an opportunity to bring everyone’s attention to the safety measures which need to be taken.

The theme this year is Safety: It takes all of us. Each week throughout the month, it’s important to look at a different sub-theme and educate people on the role that they play in maintaining the safety of their surroundings. One example of a needed focus is ensuring that anyone who enters a plant at any time, will be safe. With focus, we hope to continue to reduce the occurrences of all types of accidents.

While safety should be practiced every day of the year, the month of June will bring a focused effort to proactively identifying potential hazards, understanding the risks and taking steps toward prevention. It is a time to put increased effort into coming up with creative solutions to make the workplace a safer environment. Stay tuned to learn more about Production Materials’ safety practices in our next blog.

Posted on: June 1st, 2015 | Posted in: National Safety Month

Reshoring

The U.S. manufacturing sector has seen a revival in recent times, with an increase in outputs and an increase in jobs. The Great Recession saw the manufacturing sector take a massive hit, and while the current condition of the manufacturing sector is still not back to the levels of the start of the millennium, it is in the middle of a comeback, and has great promise for the future.

Reshoring and Asian Expansion

Part of the manufacturing comeback is an increase in jobs on the shores of the United States. This is coming mainly in two forms – reshoring, and Asian expansion. Reshoring refers to American companies bringing jobs back to the country. This has been encouraged by the increase in wages in the countries traditionally used for offshoring and the rationalization of the costs of logistical support.

The expansion of Asian companies, in particular Chinese companies, has also helped. In 2012, Chinese foreign investment in America eclipsed American foreign investment in China for the first time. Mergers and acquisitions are part of this, with Chinese companies taking over American companies. However, in some cases, it is a matter of the Chinese companies moving jobs to American shores. Companies such as Shandong Tranlin Paper, the Keer Group, SANY and Lenovo either have already developed new manufacturing plants on U.S. soil or are in the process of building them.

Growth of the Job Force

Another factor in the comeback of U.S. manufacturing is the changing dynamics of manufacturing jobs and the required skill set of the work force. Aside from the cost factor, an additional reason behind offshoring was the lack of qualified manufacturing workers in the United States given the rapid changes in technology and consumer expectations. During the late 20th century, manufacturing was unjustly labeled as a “dirty” job. An entire generation of potential manufacturing workers pursued other directions.

The comeback has been partially fueled by a push to improve STEM education and shrink the skills gap, as we have talked about in previous blogs. Another reason for the change is that the work force is beginning to see that manufacturing is not an inherently “dirty” sector. Finally, many are finding out that there is plenty of room in the manufacturing sector for innovation and technological advances, that it is always evolving and rarely stagnant. This has caused an increase in interest at all education levels.

As the U.S. manufacturing sector continues its comeback, we at Production Materials look forward to help keep it moving. Our customers are continually looking for ways to lower costs and offer innovative products. As American manufacturers continue to improve their ability to quickly adapt to these requirements through investments in technology and upgraded labor skills more of the products we require can be procured right here in the good old USA.

Posted on: May 11th, 2015 | Posted in: manufacturing

Illinois Manufacturing Facts

Manufacturing in Illinois is alive and well. Recent total manufacturing output from Illinois was $92.4 billion with the industry’s share of gross state product at 13.3%. The state is responsible for the production of a range of products from machinery and chemicals to food, beverage and computer products. In 2011, machinery manufacturing accounted for over $16 billion of the total manufacturing output of the state. The industry also provides well-paying jobs to the residents of the state, averaging over $78,000 annually and over $20,000 more than the average non-farm payroll job. Additionally, 9.3% of the workforce in Illinois is employed in the manufacturing industries, with employed individuals at almost 600,000 by 2011.
The manufacturing industry in Illinois is not only vital to the economy of the state, but also the nation. Manufacturing’s share of Illinois exports is 93%, and employment due to the export of manufactured goods from Illinois is 284,300. Goods manufacturing in Illinois are not only exported to states, but globally. Exports with free-trade partners (FTA) exceeded $35.8 billion in 2011 and accounted for 56.5% of total exports from the state. International exports support many of the jobs in the state, with almost 285,000 jobs associated with the export of products from the state. Large companies are not the only exporters. In fact, 90.3% of Illinois exporters are small business (2011).
Illinois will continue to be a hub for manufacturing, and its economy will be deeply connected to the growth of various manufacturing sectors. In this context Production Materials continues to support manufacturing in the state by sourcing a significant portion of our primary and secondary product requirements through many of the small and medium size businesses that provide employment and revenues to the local and state economy.

Posted on: April 13th, 2015 | Posted in: manufacturing

Why the USDA Funding for Agriculture is a Positive Step

The United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) has recently stepped up with $52 million to fund local and regional food systems, with a portion of the funds for organic farming research. This increase in funding is a positive step, for many reasons.
The USDA allocates a portion of its funds for marketing campaigns for farmer’s markets and to educate people about the benefits of buying local produce. While the number of food markets opening across the country steadily increases, few customers understand their potential benefits. Currently, there are about 300 food hubs in the US.
One of the key benefits of the increase in USDA funding of farmer’s markets and food hubs is that it has the potential to breathe new life into the sagging US economy. When customers buy produce that is locally grown at farmer’s markets, rather than at supermarkets that get much of their fresh goods from large distribution centers, the money stays in the local community. It is, in a sense, re-invested in the local area.
In addition to having the potential to revitalize the economy, local food systems also are great employment generators. Whenever a new market or hub appears, that is easily another 20 people who have gainful employment. Reducing unemployment rates is a positive step toward getting the US government back on its feet.
Over the next five years, the USDA plans to put $125 million toward research on organic farming and $50 million toward research on conservation programs. As organic business grows across the country, investing research dollars in it makes sense. Education will reveal which organic practices work best and how to be efficient at that type of business.
The agricultural funding has the potential to produce significant benefits. We look forward to watching the impact of USDA spending.

Posted on: March 16th, 2015 | Posted in: USDA

Fixing the Skills Gap for the Future

The skills gap has become a glaring issue as the reshoring of jobs has surged ahead. Bringing these jobs back to America has shown that the American workforce has a bit of a gap. The skills that are required to perform the necessary job duties for manufacturing and the skills that are available in the work force have a separation. So what is being done to fix the skills gap in the United States for the future?

  • Change in the Attitude of Workers – Potential manufacturing workers need to be educated in the opportunities that exist in the manufacturing field, and they need to be informed about how they have changed from the manufacturing jobs of the past.
  • Change in the Attitude of Companies – In the past, some companies have been reluctant to train their employees extensively, and have been insistent on hiring people with decent skills at low wages. This attitude will have to change in order to court adept, trainable workers.
  • The Educational System is Changing – The American educational system has fallen behind other industrialized nations in terms of science, technology, engineering, and mathematics (STEM) education. STEM subjects are the backbone of manufacturing, and changing the educational system to concentrate on these skills will certainly help the manufacturing sector. The access to education for all classes needs to be considered as well, as the lack of quality STEM education for the lower class contributes to the gap.
  • Encouraging Students to Take the Chance – Changing the mindset of society, where most students are pushed toward four-year degrees, is very important. Students need to be told that manufacturing is a viable career that can be competitive with those obtained through the college track, both in terms of longevity as well as compensation.

Failing to change won’t necessary cripple the United States economy – it is likely to grow regardless. However, it will constrict the possibility of growth, and will prevent the economy from thriving.

At Production Materials, we are doing our best to be part of the growth of the American economy and the reduction of the skills gap. Get in touch with us, or with other local resources such as vocational schools, technical institutes, and other local manufacturers to find out more about how you can reduce the skills gap in the United States and set yourself up for a great future in manufacturing.

Posted on: February 9th, 2015 | Posted in: Skills Gap

Options for Safer Products

At Production Materials, we pride ourselves on supplying safety oriented products. So, with this in mind, we have decided to share information on two types of safety items: earthquake proof anchors and high grade steel bolts.

Quake Resistant Bolts

We serve industries that endure geographic anomalies. One such place is California, which requires quake resistant bolts due to being located near fault lines. We provide products that will be able to withstand the numerous challenges that buildings may face in those areas—we supply anchor bolts that are built to withstand earthquakes. These bolts anchor into concrete floors, or specially made material, to help make storage systems “quake resistant.”

High Strength Steel Bolts

In addition, we provide bolts in higher strong steel, which offer a higher level of protection against wear and load fluctuations. In addition, corrosion resistant finishes can be added for even greater reliability. The strong steel helps agricultural and construction businesses meet the end user’s safety requirements. Where required, our products will be tested to meet the safety standards of UL and CSA.

We strongly believe that safety should be practiced all throughout the year, not only in the procedures we follow, but in the products that we use to build our homes and work environments. Doing business with Production Materials Inc., gives you options in getting the materials that help improve the safety level for your products and for your customers.

Posted on: January 12th, 2015 | Posted in: manufacturing
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