Strategies to Engage Your Manufacturing Workforce

Manufacturers are struggling with a growing skills gap. Over the coming decade, the industry could see as many as two million jobs could emerge that can’t be filled by the current labor pool.

In the face of such challenges, it’s become more important than ever to improve employee retention in the manufacturing industry. Fortunately, recent approaches in talent recruitment could help manufacturers find the workers they need to ensure their continued success.

How to Attract Manufacturing Talent

Many younger workers mistakenly regard manufacturing as a field for the unskilled or uneducated. Dispelling these opinions is a necessary step in lessening the growing skills gap. The following measures can help you educate prospective employees about your company while giving you an opportunity to discover young talent that will add value throughout your company.

  • Attend local job fairs

Meeting and talking with young professionals can generate leads, raise awareness of the benefits of a career in manufacturing, and introduce possible candidates to your company’s current opportunities.

  • Host open houses

By opening up your facilities to prospective employees, you can expose them to your operations, working environment, and company culture, as well as the types of benefits and compensation you provide. Transparent hiring processes always leads to increased retention in the future.

  • Partner with local schools at all levels, including trade schools and public schools

Partnering with schools will undoubtedly attract more talent to your company. Trade schools in particular might prepare their students for your specific work, which only simplifies onboarding for your company.

Improving Employee Retention in Manufacturing

Since it’s more expensive to assemble a team of trained workers than it is to keep current employees, a high retention rate can make all the difference between success and failure. The following steps can help you minimize turnover throughout your company.

  • Work Community

Host BBQs and other seasonal events to promote team building. When employees feel as though they belong, their jobs will matter more to them.

  • Fun with Competitions

Create competitions between staff and families to get everyone involved. When an employee’s family likes their employer, you’re much more likely to keep him or her for the long term.

  • Giveaways

Give prizes to celebrate achieved goals or significant milestones. This not only raises productivity, but it promotes competition and boosts the moral of the company.

  • Competitive pay, training opportunities, and benefits

Continued learning through training can stimulate employees and keep them connected to your company. Similarly, competitive pay and good benefits only lowers the risk of turnover.

Consistency is essential to manufacturing, but in order to achieve it, manufacturers require an experienced workforce with the training and preparation needed to operate complex industrial equipment. An engaged team and a modern recruiting strategy can help you ensure that your company is never understaffed.

At Pentaflex, we constantly work to improve our company to better meet the needs of our clients and employees alike. As the manufacturing period approaches a period of transition, we’re doing whatever we can to reward our current employees and persuade the next generation of American workers that a career in manufacturing might be the most rewarding path they can take. If you’d like to learn more about the benefits of working with an engaged manufacturing company, contact us today.

 

What the Steel Tariffs Mean for U.S. Metal Forming Businesses

In recent weeks, the United States implemented new tariffs on steel and aluminum to promote a policy of “America First.” The theory is that increasing import taxes on foreign steel and aluminum encourages U.S. companies to use U.S.-supplied steel and aluminum boosting production capacity toward a goal of 80% capacity utilization.   Increased usage of American steel should drive more jobs for US steel and aluminum manufacturers and less business for competing suppliers in other markets, such as Europe and China.

What the Tariffs Mean for U.S. Industry and Consumers

While these steel tariffs were put in place to put American suppliers at an advantage, many drawbacks are now occurring that are affecting manufacturers and consumers alike.  The Coalition of American Metal Manufacturers and Users has said that companies that make products using steel and aluminum employ more than 6.5 million workers across the country compared to 80,000 workers at steel plants.  Any company that uses the materials will be faced with higher production costs. A report published in June shows that US steel is at the highest point in 16 years at $982 per ton and the widest price differential compared to $644 in Western Europe and $566 in China.

When manufacturers face increased steel costs, they must offset the added expenses incurred in other ways, which has the following effects:

  1. U.S. consumers will pay an increased cost for products containing steel, such as cars and appliances.
  1. U.S. manufacturers cannot pass on the increased cost to their customers. Higher tariffs lead to smaller profits, unless manufacturers are able to obtain steel from domestic suppliers at pre-tariff costs.
  1. With domestic steel at a premium, American steel suppliers may continue to increase their prices, though they will likely keep it just below the combined cost of foreign steel and its tariffs.

In typical supply-and-demand fashion, the limited supply of steel within the U.S. has already caused the price to go up. Since April of 2018, the price of steel has increased almost 26%.

This makes U.S. manufacturers that rely on steel far less competitive, and leaves some worrying for the future of their businesses. Rather than face intense profit losses on U.S. soil due to the increased material costs, some manufacturers are already outsourcing some operations to China instead, where they can use cheap Chinese steel tariff-free.

Learn More

The effects of the new U.S. steel tariffs are widespread, touching aspects of the entire economy. But nothing has been more impacted by it than the manufacturing sector. Even if the results from the tariffs are good for domestic suppliers of steel, many other businesses that use the steel are feeling the pressure as they are negatively affected by the rising prices.

As a U.S.-based metal stamping company and a metal forming leader, Pentaflex continues to be on alert and up-to-date with information regarding this rapidly changing situation.

For more information about the recent tariffs, or to learn about our products and services, please contact us.

Forming Our Future – Things to Look Forward to in Metalforming

Forming Our Future

This past spring, Pentaflex took part in the latest installment of Forming Our Future: Leadership Conference and the PMA Annual Meeting from March 7-10. This is a major event not only for our industry, but for Pentaflex in particular. In addition to our sponsorship of the event, our President, Dave Arndt took a lead role as Chairman of the Board for PMA.

The event brought together metalforming executives and offered a chance to explore emerging trends and learn new skills. Topics such as the skills gap, government regulations, and managing changing the marketplace were all discussed. Conferences such as this allow companies to share what has worked for them, while learning about new techniques and opportunities to help their businesses thrive and grow.

Automotive Parts Suppliers Conference

The following month, Pentaflex hit the road again to take part in the 25th Annual Automotive Parts Suppliers Conference from April 25-26, 2018.

The event featured educational sessions, networking opportunities, and discussions related to the current outlook for the automotive industry. Attendees learned about new advancements in this sector and how they can apply these trends to their businesses.

Because this was a milestone 25th anniversary for the event, there was an additional networking cocktail reception, hosted at the Detroit Athletic Club.

Pentaflex President and PMA Chairman Dave Arndt delivered Welcoming Remarks, and leaders from manufacturing shops and well-known publications discussed issues such as NAFTA updates, lightweighting trends, modern quality control methods, and more.

Why the Events Are Vital to Our Industry

Taking part in industry events benefits companies in a number of ways; first and foremost, they help business leaders stay informed. There are so many advancements coming out every year that it would be near impossible to keep track of everything while continuing to run your business as usual. These events bring together subject matter experts who can discuss current trends and provide helpful insights. They also encourage networking with peers to build connections that may grow your business down the road.

Pentaflex is committed to helping companies in the automotive sector stay competitive in the changing supply landscape. Be sure to look for us at the next PMA event, or reach out directly for more information.

Making Manufacturing Day Count

While the entire month of October is designated as Manufacturing Month, each year there is one day set aside to focus on this sector. On Friday, October 6th, Pentaflex celebrated Manufacturing Day by hosting 180 middle and high school students.

STEM students in shop tour

Students learn about manufacturing processes

The children came from our local Career Technology Center and our new STEM school, so they already had a good grasp on technical concepts and the manufacturing sector overall. We invited them to tour our facility, walking them through each stage of the business, from assembly to delivery.

While these students are fortunate to have access to a STEM-focused curriculum, being able to see how things work up close offers a whole new perspective. More than ever, as we face a shortage of skilled workers who are interested in pursuing industrial careers, it’s important that we expose children to hands-on careers.

This introduction to the shop floor shows students the many opportunities open to them within the manufacturing sector. There are so many high-tech options available now thanks to advancements in AI and robotics, making it an exciting time to join this growing field.

As a metal stamper for complex components, we understand the value that manufacturing brings to the United States economy. Through our Manufacturing Day activities and other community efforts, we aim to share this knowledge with the general public whenever possible. We are pleased to work with local schools to boost manufacturing exposure and inform young people about the many exciting career options available to them once they graduate.

Encouraging Women in STEM Through Manufacturing Internships

In recent years, there has been an overall decline in the number of people entering manufacturing, although there is an increase in manufacturing jobs.

With a decline in skilled workers entering the market, companies are having to find ways to attract good talent. One way Pentaflex is doing this is by hiring and training interns. Not only can students get valuable experience working on the job, they can also get a better understanding of the many opportunities available to them.

Female Manufacturing Intern

Intern Claire Lavoie standing with Director of Quality Jim Zerkle

This summer, we worked with Claire Lavoie, an intern from Ohio State University. After completing her freshman year she joined us to experience all aspects of the shop floor.

Claire worked in our Stamping Department, the Assembly Department, and in Quality Control. Near the end of her time with us, she was assigned several projects to work on which involved data gathering and analysis. Claire led a team through a problem solving exercise which resulted in her assisting in the design of a gauge to be used in the Stamping Department. This new gauge will ensure better quality for parts used in an automated assembly process.

Apprenticeships are the perfect way for companies to find quality workers and to increase gender diversity in the workforce by reaching out to women. Historically, manufacturing has been a male-dominated industry, but with more women entering the STEM fields, companies may have a better time closing the skills gap.

Attracting younger people is key to manufacturing. Getting the word out that manufacturing is no longer what it used to be means letting young adults explore the many career paths manufacturing offers.

To learn more about our career openings and hiring efforts, please call us at 937-325-5551. We look forward to hearing from you!

Filling the Trucking Talent Gap with Autonomous Vehicles

There are 1.7 million truck drivers in the country. But more are needed!

From retail and ecommerce deliveries, to garbage collection, to even manoeuvring difficult terrains like underground mines, almost every aspect of civilized life requires powerful big-rigs to come to the rescue.

The Trucking Talent Gap

Unfortunately, trucking has developed an image that is turning away the next generation of workers and value driven Millennials from a career in this crucial field.

The list of complaints is long, and for-hire truckers have it rough. They must contend with issues like unavoidable traffic, long hours on the road with few rest areas, and less time at home with their families.

This has led to a talent gap in the trucking sector, with many jobs going unfilled. While many firms have been offering sign-on bonuses and other incentives to drive hiring efforts, the number of applicants is still falling short.

Autonomous Technology to the Rescue

To fill the gap, self-driving technology is being explored for trucking fleets. While autonomous passenger cars have been getting a lot of attention, autonomous trucks have already been hitting the road to research their capabilities. Embark, Amazon, Daimler and the automotive stalwarts are all toeing the same line.

Currently, the self-driving technology is being tested alongside human drivers to ensure safety. Autonomous trucking will in most cases identify obstacles that dozing eyes miss, provide long haul relief to exhausted drivers and improve the quality of their lives. It is in no way ready to completely replace human drivers.

Most prototypes that have seen road action come heavily equipped with sensors and cameras that can masterfully handle darkness, glare, fog and natural hurdles. Added benefits of running on electricity and constant relay of performance feedback for fuel optimization are also in the works.

All in all, companies are eager to invest in trucking and return the sector to its former strength. This time with the help of technology.

Pentaflex has been the supplier of choice for customers who require complex, heavy gauge deep drawn components and sub-assemblies for their big-rigs and trucks. We believe that the disruption on the horizon is one that will positively impact trucking and the many industries served by this sector.

MEMA Comments on Proposed Changes to NAFTA

The new US administration has brought with it a number of proposed changes. One of these changes involves updating the North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA) between the United States, Mexico, and Canada.

As the Motor & Equipment Manufacturers Association (MEMA) represents 1,000 vehicle and component manufacturers and suppliers, the organization aims to educate policy makers on the current role of NAFTA in the supply chain.

According to MEMA, the vehicle manufacturing sector is the largest of the US industrial segment, employing more than 871,000 Americans directly. When factoring indirect and supporting jobs, the number rises to 4.26 million jobs supported by motor vehicle parts manufacturing.

This is a major factor to consider when reorganizing trade deals and strategies. For this reason, MEMA has submitted comments to the US trade representative highlighting the benefits NAFTA has had in the development and growth of North American motor vehicle supply chains.

Currently, suppliers in this segment depend on an international network of vendors and customers to maintain their competitive edge. Even within individual companies, there are often multiple plants located in each of the NAFTA countries. This freedom of trade and commerce has allowed US manufacturers to thrive, which has led to increased employment and productivity within the US.

This is an exciting time for the vehicle design and manufacturing sector, as researchers continue to innovate with new processes and technologies. Autonomous vehicles aren’t the only advancement – though strides are being made in this area – collision avoidance systems, vehicle-to-vehicle communications, fuel efficiency and alternative fuels are all important developments that rely on strong economic support. Keeping costs low by working with other nations allows US manufacturers to invest more heavily in these high-tech improvements.

The role of MEMA is to foster growth among vehicle manufacturers, and NAFTA has been an integral component of this mission. While the Association supports efforts to strengthen US manufacturing, they want to be sure that all sides are well considered before action is taken. This is a delicate proceeding that could potentially impact millions of workers. As Pentaflex is a manufacturer of heavy vehicle components, we are monitoring this topic to see how everything plays out.

Would changes to NAFTA impact your business? Feel free to discuss this topic with us on Twitter. We look forward to hearing your thoughts.

What Manufacturers Need to Know About Changing NOx Requirements

Reducing harmful emissions from engine exhaust has been a goal for years, with new designs and energy sources constantly being introduced to combat pollution. Recently, numerous government agencies petitioned the EPA for stricter regulations surrounding nitrogen dioxide (NOx) emissions.

Specifically, the EPA regulations would target heavy duty on-road trucks, buses, and other similar vehicles. The last such NOx standard revision was put in place in the year 2010, and limited NOx emissions  for truck engines  to 0.2 grams per brake horsepower-hour. The next set of revised regulations would be implemented in 2024. The California Air Rescue Board wants to see the NOx limits reduced to 0.02, which would be a 90% reduction.

But lowering certain emissions is easier said than done – especially since NOx is just one of the pollutants that regulators seek to decrease.  Current recommendations call for lowering CO2 emissions – to create an engine that meets both of these goals is very difficult for engineers. In addition, manufacturers are tasked with boosting fuel efficiency. Running engines at a higher temperature boosts efficiency but also increases the amount of NOx that’s released, so there are a number of challenges to work around in order to meet proposed regulations.

Notably, installing selective non-catalytic reduction or selective catalytic reduction systems can limit emissions. So it is possible to produce or retrofit cleaner engines on heavy equipment, it’s just a matter of updating current systems and finding the right options for each situation. With the proposed nation-wide regulations on the way, it will be interesting to see what other developments are considered to solve this problem.

Pentaflex President David Arndt Elected 2017 Chairman of PMA

Pentaflex is proud to announce that our President and CEO, David Arndt, was recently elected Chairman of the Precision Metalforming Association (PMA). The election was held on March 11 at PMA’s annual meeting in Dana Point, California. Big accomplishments like this don’t happen every day, and we are proud of this distinction.

What is the PMA?

The PMA is the metalforming industry’s primary association. The Precision Metalforming Association is highly regarded for its innovative tactics and has a history that is long and distinguished, dating back to 1913 in Cleveland.

The PMA comprises almost 900 member companies. The large association encourages excellence in competitiveness and cost-effectiveness amongst its innovative members via tools that include networking, statistics, advocacy, trade shows, and seminars.

What Does This News Mean?

Chairman of Precision Metalforming Association

President David Arndt Elected Chairman of PMA

At Ohio-based Pentaflex, we cheer one another on as metalformers. Thus, the official announcement of our President as the new chair of an association that our company so proudly belongs to is very exciting. David will lead the national association for the 2017-2018 term year.

As Chairman, David will have the opportunity to apply the strong skillset he uses to drive Pentaflex forward, now with an even larger influence as he presides over the Precision Metalforming Association. Being trusted in such an important role is impressive, and we commend our President for his fantastic achievement.

Continuing to Provide Quality

At Pentaflex, we will continue to deliver top-quality metal stamping services to customers, during David’s term as chair and beyond. For over 40 years we have been a provider of precise metal components for a range of metal stamping industries, such as agriculture, medical, energy, and automotive.

With an established reputation for providing value-laden products and the recent appointment of our President to the esteemed PMA, Pentaflex stands strong in 2017.

With New Redesign, a Trucking Industry Workhorse Meets New Standards

Big semi-truck models don’t undergo full redesigns as fast as cars. So, the 2018 model of the Freightliner Cascadia from Daimler Trucks will be the first full redesign since it was introduced to the industry in 2007. For over 10 years this model has been an industry staple.

The new design features improvements inside and out. The aerodynamically sloped body and one–piece windshield offers a sleek look and an 8% gain in fuel efficiency over the 2007 model. Body features such as longer side extenders, lower chassis fairings, drive wheel covers, and wheel fairings all add aerodynamic features that help save fuel. Daimler’s Detroit Brand diesel engine powers the rig.

Attracting and retaining drivers is a major industry issue. With this redesign, interior noise is reduced with improved door seals and there are more amenities for divers. Options include a 2-seat dinette, a Murphy-style bed, ambient LED lighting, multiple power outlets for electronics, and bigger storage and appliance options. The cab will appeal to truckers who travel long hauls.

Connectivity and electronics offer serious improvements for managing data and safety. The connectivity system provides a “virtual technician” remote diagnostic service and analytical tools for information on fuel efficiency as well as safety performance. With over-the-air engine parameter programming and remote engine and other powertrain electronic controller update ability, the company says this is the biggest electronic device on the road.

Collision avoidance with automatic braking, lane departure warnings, and blind spot monitoring add to the safety value for truckers and all others on the road. Improved performance combined with high-level safety features will make this redesign a popular choice for both trucking companies and drivers.

As a leading manufacturer of metal components used throughout the trucking industry, we are excited to see new technologies and innovative systems improving fuel efficiency and safety in these big vehicles.

For more information on the Freightliner Cascadia, read the full article here.