Microphone with IDEA! logo

IDEA! Conference 2021, Day 2: Addressing the Elephant in the Room

Nov. 12, 2021
If there was one topic occupying the minds of conference attendees and exhibitors, it was the dysfunctional supply chain.

The IDEA! Conference wrapped up its second and last day of in-person sessions in Cleveland on Wednesday, and talk in the exhibition hall frequently touched on the current breakdown in the supply chain and the shortage of raw materials. Several sessions focused on it, but presenters had little advice other than to establish and maintain good relations with suppliers and to be prepared for change.

The one prediction most people seemed to agree on, at least then it comes to chips and semiconductors, is that the shortage will likely last through 2022 and into 2023.

The first conference on Thursday was on “Manufacturing as a Service” (MaaS) by Aaron Lichting, VP of Xometry, a company deeply involved in the new trend. In MaaS, a firm acts as a networked middleman, connecting people and companies who want to have parts manufactured to shops with the capability and capacity to make them.

Customers at Xometry, for example, can upload a CAD file for a part, tick off what material finish and manufacturing process they want used, and how many parts they need, and the program spits out a quote they can count on. This seems like a game-changer for inventors and companies with few manufacturing resources or expertise of their own.

In the second session of the day, Jeff Christiansen, a VP at Seegrid, gave a good rundown on electric vehicles, the kind that move parts and products around factories—one more link in the automation chain. He noted that “Automation is hardly new, but it is very different from what it was 20 years ago. But the question for companies remains the same: “Are you applying it in the right place?”

He also recommended that companies setting up an EV network should ensure it be easily changed down the line when technology or circumstances dictate. The network should be “designed for change.”

Meanwhile, at the Safety Leadership Conference hosted by EBM’s EHS Today at the same venue, awards for America’s Safest Companies were handed out. The judges for the competition looked at several factors that affect safety in deciding the winners.

These include leadership and management for safety efforts; employee involvement in the safety process; innovative solutions to safety challenges; injury and illness rates lower than the average for their industries; comprehensive training programs; evidence that prevention of incidents is the cornerstone of the safety process; good communication about the value of safety; and a way to substantiate the benefits of the safety process.

The winning companies for 2021 are:

  • Ampirical
  • CJ Drilling
  • Fastenal Company
  • Honeywell
  • KHS&S Contractors
  • Middough Inc.
  • RMF Nooter
  • Rosendin Electric
  • SBM Management LP
  • Yonkers Contracting Co.

For more information on the competition and winning companies, click here.

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