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Monthly archive for August 2010

Mixed Hiring Situation in New Hampshire’s Monadnock Region

“Geoff Forester photograph, courtesy of the New Hampshire Community Loan Fund”.

In a recent LinkedIn group discussion on the state of business in New Hampshire’s Monadnock Region, one of our members, a recruiter, indicated that she’s seeing an increased level of hiring activity. Lots of applicants for the entry level jobs, but few for highly technical jobs. She’s also noticing many applicants have been out of work for up to two years, with many lacking the skills for an alternative career.  This seems to be the same stalemated situation for the entire economy. The old jobs are going away, along with the economy that supported them, and the new jobs are expanding, carrying an alternative economy with them.  Two separate economies; one up, one still down. Sound familiar?

Graphicast’s Design and Prototyping Service Continues to Receive National Recognition in Design News

“Geoff Forester photograph, courtesy of the New Hampshire Community Loan Fund”.

Graphicast’s Design and Rapid Prototyping Service (DRPS) continues to receive national recognition. The most recent issue of the Design News website features our process as the lead article. Unique to other prototyping processes, Graphicast will produce a prototype in our ZA12 alloy with all the features present on a finished, machined castings. This way, our customers can test an exact copy of their machined casting before we even begin to cut the graphite mold! Prototypes such as these confirm design intent and casting performance to ensure the final design meets all the design criteria. Having the finished part design and machining program in place with the prototype shortens the time to produce the mold and first production runs of the machined casting. Our customers and prospects are discovering the value of this service, as we see more new parts going through this prototyping process first.

What’s the More Likely Road to US Manufacturing Growth – Re-shoring or Exporting?

“Geoff Forester photograph, courtesy of the New Hampshire Community Loan Fund”.

There’s been a lot of talk from the Obama administration about increasing exports as a way of expanding manufacturing in the US. While tax and tariff relief, or some other programs may help our exports, you can’t force someone to buy your products. Saying you want exports to double and actually doing it are not the same thing. But exports are not the only way to boost manufacturing. Re-shoring can have the same impact on manufacturing output without the anguish of finding global customers. Parts that are already in production, perhaps moved in the past from the US to another country, can be re-shored at the stroke of a pen. The ease of communications, design collaboration, problem resolution, more certain transportation, capacity availability, competitive pricing, and other factors all favor re-shoring. With the rising costs of labor in foreign production areas and the increasing costs of transportation and quality, re-shoring can be a win-win for all parties. This is becoming a more common topic of blogs and editorials and appears to be gaining momentum in practical efforts to bring manufactures and supplies together in “re-shoring purchasing fairs“.

There are generally many ways to achieve a goal, most of which can be applied at the same time. The government should be pushing re-shoring just as hard as it’s pushing exporting. The end result may be the same, and maybe even bigger and quicker, if re-shoring gets the attention it deserves.

Manufacturing Lessons from a 150 Year Old Factory

“Geoff Forester photograph, courtesy of the New Hampshire Community Loan Fund”.

I had the pleasure of touring the 150 year old Beech River Mill last Friday. This company, a manufacturer of custom made wooden shutters and doors,  is the last mill operating on the Beech River, a short river flowing through Ossipee, New Hampshire. Mills  have been on the Beech River since the late 1700s, and many building foundations remain along the riverbank. The mill was busy, fulfilling orders for many building restoration and custom home projects throughout the northeast.  The operating floor, still residing on the original wooden planks, was an interesting mixture of modern and Victorian era woodworking equipment. Of particular interest were the comments from the workers. Although the Victorian equipment had a dozen oiling ports on it that needed to be filled before the machine started, as long as the machine was lubricated and the blades were sharp, the machinery worked beautifully. If a component wore out, a visit to the local blacksmith generally solved the problem. The modern equipment, with its computers, sensors, and other technologies is far more sensitive. Breakdowns are more frequent and repairs are more difficult and expensive.

Lean manufacturing is about eliminating waste.  Sometimes that waste  is not apparent. Modern, high productivity equipment would seem like an easy choice to eliminate  labor intensive, lower production rate equipment.  And sometimes it is. However, aren’t  higher downtime rates and delays in repairs of the modern equipment wasteful? Maybe slower and steady is the least wasteful way to operate some of the steps in your production. You must look at the entire operating system and the interaction of all the components on the final product and the output of the factory before you make any changes. How many of us have heard the regrets of manufacturers who bought equipment that didn’t work the way they thought it would?

Proponents of Goldratt’s Theory of Constraints look at the entire manufacturing system and its throughput in ways that make these types of decisions less troublesome and more effective. In fact, in Goldratt’s popular business novel, “The Goal”, an old piece of equipment saved the day for a factory trying to eliminate a production bottleneck.  As the economy improves and you’re looking to expand, step back and consider a Theory of Constraints approach to your situation before you make any decisions.

Prototype Part? Looks Like a Machined Casting.

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The Recovery Continues at Graphicast

“Geoff Forester photograph, courtesy of the New Hampshire Community Loan Fund”.

The recovery continues at Graphicast, although we have yet to see a nice straight line to the numbers. Orders in June and July were very strong and our backlog is now up to pre-recession levels. We’ll see if the surge continues, but we see few signs of any backsliding in the trends. The analysis of our orders and shipments indicates that a weak recovery began for us in Dec 2009/Jan 2010.

An Interesting View of Global Manufacturing Trends

“Geoff Forester photograph, courtesy of the New Hampshire Community Loan Fund”.

The Wall Street Journal has published a country by country look at manufacturing output and the manufacturing trends in each country. This finer look at the global economy indicates where the ebb and flow of economic activity is taking place. The chart is sortable by any heading and past months are available for analysis.

Taking Innovative Casting Technology to Your Bottom Line™

Graphicast Inc.

PO Box 430 36 Knight Street,
Jaffrey, NH 03452
phone: 603-532-4481
fax: 603-532-4261