Monday, December 21 marked the longest night and the shortest day of the year. Known as the winter solstice, it marks the first day of winter and the day that Earth’s Northern and Southern Hemispheres trade places in receiving the sun’s light and warmth most directly. Because Earth is tilted on its axis by 23 1/2 degrees, the tilt of the Earth is what causes winter and summer.
It’s hard to believe that we’ve closed the books on yet another year. In 2018 customers talked to us about the convergence of Information Technology (IT) and Operational Technology (OT). The Internet of Things (IoT), Industrial Internet of Things (IIoT), the Cloud and big data have changed the landscape for metal parts suppliers. We saw the demand for 100 percent part inspection increase and reshoring efforts grow. These trends have pushed the CMM into a larger measurement and inspection role on the shop floor.
Five-axis machine tools are becoming more cost efficient as the technology evolves. The capability to produce higher quality parts and increased throughput has pushed 5-axis machine tools into the spotlight over the last few years. Inherent limitations are also being ushered out of the way with updates in cutting tools and CAD/CAM software. The combination means operators can generate smooth, accurate 3D surfaces in challenging materials faster while extending tool life. Mold and die makers are already reaping the benefits but these improvements also support a number of 3D applications for aerospace and orthopedic applications.
A strong economy is providing a much needed boost to the manufacturing industry but many companies will tell you they are being squeezed by an increasingly tight labor market. The Manufacturing Institute projects that by the year 2025, some 2 million jobs within the industry will go unfilled. Experts say the lack of workers is due to a combination of economic expansion and baby boomer retirements. But there’s a third factor behind the scarcity of experienced employees— the skills gap.