Manufacturers in the United States are looking for ways to move the needle on cutting costs, improving productivity, and being more competitive. As a leading distributor of metalworking and maintenance, repair, and operations (MRO) products and services, MSC Industrial Supply Co. has taken a lead role in identifying and creating industry-relevant innovations that directly impact the productivity and success of American machining businesses.
Bridging the Skills Gap
One of the primary concerns we hear from the manufacturing community is how to address the manufacturing skills gap. A recent study by the National Association of Manufacturers (NAM) revealed that 4 million manufacturing jobs will soon be available, with more than 2 million of these jobs going unfilled by 2030. Though that forecast is down the road, many of our customers are struggling to find and retain talent today.
We’ve seen manufacturers have success in navigating this challenge through investments in training and skills development, which of course improves their capabilities, but also creates a long-term career path for these prospects. Through upskilling or training programs, employees can become eligible for other roles within their organization. For example, companies can showcase the benefits of moving beyond machining into supervisory or programming roles. Manufacturing jobs are no longer relegated to operating a single piece of machinery without a vision for future growth.
Some manufacturers also offer profit sharing to help employees feel a greater stake in the success of the company, fostering a long-term vision for mutual success.
Competing and Winning
The COVID-19 pandemic highlighted the need and resulting desire to become supply chain independent in the U.S. In order to achieve that, the U.S. needs to become more competitive with other countries. This will not be achieved through labor costs or raw material costs. However, it can be achieved through productivity enhancements and technology that reduce operating expenses. This will help manufacturers produce more in less time and gain more productivity out of their equipment, tools, and people. This also will enable businesses to grow revenue through the capacity gained from the speed and productivity improvements.
When it comes to adopting technology, larger manufacturers have dedicated employees who seek out, adopt, pilot, evaluate, and create return on investment for deployment. Smaller manufacturers should look to an industry partner for assistance in finding the right ways to become more profitable and productive, which will enable them to win more work.
Inflation hampers competitiveness. It’s highly unlikely businesses are able to buy a grinding wheel, bandsaw blade, cutting tool, or workholding product cheaper than a year ago. So, what is the best way to reduce costs?
Industry leaders cite cutting tools as approximately 3% to 5% of the cost to manufacture a part. However, the performance of the equipment and labor associated with that equipment make up about 60%. Focusing on the 60% will help make machines and employees more productive and position machining businesses to compete internationally.
There are technologies in the marketplace helping American manufacturers gain competitiveness and improve productivity. For example, MSC MillMax, a service focused on identifying optimal stable milling speeds, is a game-changing confluence of science and the physical world. It identifies improvements possible in milling applications, which make up approximately 40% of manufacturing cutting tool applications. We deployed MSC MillMax in collaboration with the Department of Energy and Oak Ridge National Laboratory and have seen our customers achieve millions of dollars in improved competitiveness. A large percentage of the savings is due to improved speed, which also positively impacts capacity gains and shop productivity.
With our front-row seat in manufacturing, we’re able to take the best practices from our work with large manufacturers and collaborate with smaller manufacturers to solve their challenges. At IMTS last September, for example, we released Accupro ST Series, an off-the-shelf, all-in-one milling assembly that uses machining dynamics for stability and optimized output. The dashboard visualizes optimal zones of spindle feeds and speeds according to parameters and desired results, helping cut down on quoting and programming times, and eliminating any trial and error at the machine to fine tune operating parameters.
These types of simple applications can help manufactures achieve significant savings and improved productivity and capacity in their operations, ultimately helping American manufacturing regain its position as a global leader.