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Design Insights: Good News/Bad News for Manufacturing; the ‘New Age’ of Machine Controllers; Final Week for IDEA! Awards Entries

July 5, 2021
A review of the day’s top trending stories from Machine Design editors.

Good News/Bad News for Manufacturing

The current state of manufacturing in the United States right now is summed up in one quote from a committee member that puts together the Institute for Supply Management’s monthly PMI Index. This executive in the furniture industry commented, “Other than material availability/volatility and rising prices, the outlook for our company is good.”

Except for the problems—inflation, rising material prices (the Prices Index component of the PMI was at a 42-year high), a balky supply chain and a weak labor market—manufacturing is going great. As Machine Design reported last week, the PMI for June was 60.6%. The threshold for manufacturing growth is 50%, and in April 2020 at the onset of the pandemic it had fallen to 41.5%.

Not all of the problems with manufacturing were created by the pandemic. The 2018 trade war with China disrupted supply chains and the PMI fell from a high of 60.8% in August of 2018 and bottomed out during five months at the end of 2019 when the index was below 50%. After the immediate shock of the global pandemic shutdown, manufacturing started to rebound, recovering above the 50% mark by June 2020. It hasn’t looked back since then.

Manufacturing’s general strength is in spite of all of the current concerns. That should be good news for all levels of manufacturing as it contemplates investments in the people, processes and long-term growth needed to move the sector through the challenges. It is worth contemplating how much growth there might be in manufacturing if the issues of inflation, labor and supply chain were brought under control.

The ‘New Age’ of Machine Controllers

As a recent Machine Design article notes, the workhorse technology of machine controllers is getting renewed attention—and as a result, renewed functionality.

“If a manufacturer wanted to be able to monitor and collect machine performance data from all its machines plantwide and cleanly link up that data through cloud applications for real-time analysis and long-term systems management, that kind of functionality often had to be specially developed through custom drivers and specialized communications,” notes author Allen Tubbs of  Bosch Rexroth Corp. “However, a new generation of machine controllers is emerging to overcome these limitations and free the automation community to leverage the openness and sophistication of these new tools to drive manufacturing innovation.”

You can read the full article here.

Final Week for IDEA! Awards Entries

The deadline to enter the 2021 IDEA! Awards is July 9 at 5 p.m. CDT. The 2021 IDEA! Awards will highlight the top innovative products created in the last year. The awards program is a showcase for new engineering solutions. It also provides great value for everyone who enters.

Machine Design readers will review the entry submissions and vote on the innovations they think can best help them run their operations more efficiently.

Get your entry in today. Also, please plan to join us at the 2021 IDEA! Conference in Cleveland. It will be three days of great information and an opportunity to reconnect after more than a year apart.

The entry fee is $500. Click here for a link to the entry form.

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