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manufacturing adjusting to post covid reality

Manufacturing Adjusting to Post COVID Reality

While no one in manufacturing would say that workflows have “returned to normal” in the post-COVID world, many agree that a “new normal” has taken hold heading toward the end of 2022. At Cass Precision Machining we’ve settled into our new normal as far as our workflow and our customers go. Several changes have emerged post pandemic across manufacturing as the fog has lifted and the new normal takes hold. Here are some of the changes we are seeing at Cass.

Customers are very focused on managing performance of their partners by providing key metrics on scorecards.

At Cass we receive metrics on a monthly basis with two main categories – OTD (on-time delivery) and PPM (parts per million). Essentially, these metrics track quality measurements and delivery time over periods of time to highlight trends. These metrics are very important to Cass. Even though we have our own internal metrics on quality and delivery it is very important to align with our customers to ensure accuracy and highlight opportunities. Partnering on metrics helps both Cass and its customers find success.

Manufacturing Scorecards

Today, businesses measure their success based on several key performance indicators (KPIs). A scorecard is an enterprise tool for the evaluation and communication of strategic objectives and these KPIs. The Manufacturing Scorecard implements the SCOR (Supply Chain Operations Reference) model within the Scorecard framework, and enables you to effectively monitor, analyze, and respond to those measures that characterize your manufacturing supply chain performance.

Manufacturing Scorecard enables the alignment of day-to-day management decisions with the overall corporate strategy by combining best practice key performance indicators to monitor and respond to performance changes in real time. The manufacturing Scorecard comprises the following metrics – measures defined by SCOR, supplier metrics, and customer metrics.

During the pandemic many manufacturing businesses struggled to keep up with demand. This led to some suppliers being unable to meet deadlines, which can have a serious impact on production schedules. To help manage this problem, some companies are using scorecards to track supplier performance.

Scorecards can be used to track a variety of supplier performance metrics, but on-time delivery is one of the most important for manufacturers. This metric lets companies know if their suppliers are meeting deadlines and helps them identify any potential problems.

There are a few different ways to score on-time delivery. One common method is to give each supplier a score based on the percentage of orders that they deliver on time. Another option is to give suppliers a point for each order that they deliver on time and deduct points for each order that is late.

As the world enters a new era of global trade, post-COVID, manufacturers are looking for ways to secure their supply chains and ensure they are getting the best quality products possible. One way to do this is by score carding suppliers on their parts per million (PPM).

What is PPM?

Parts per million (PPM) is a unit of measurement that indicates how many defects there are in a given product or manufacturing process. It is typically used to compare the relative quality of different suppliers or vendors.

PPM is important because it can help identify potential problem areas in the manufacturing process and help improve quality control. Additionally, score carding suppliers on their PPM can help encourage them to continually improve their quality.

There are several benefits to providing metrics to suppliers on their PPM, including:

  • improved quality control
  • identification of potential problem areas
  • encouragement of supplier quality improvement
  • increased transparency in the supply chain
  • ability to compare different suppliers’ relative quality levels

Manufacturing scorecarding suppliers post COVID on parts per million is a great way to improve your manufacturing process and ensure you are getting the best quality products possible. Do not hesitate to implement this quality control measure in your own business.

Customers are looking at which vendors helped them with their manufacturing needs during COVID and are determining who they want to support in the future. While “normal” workflow has returned, you can be sure that companies have set mechanisms for future pandemic type situations. The last two years illustrated just how much disruption can happen to primary businesses, with the brunt of the impact felt by supply chain and logistics.

Supply Chain Disruption

The pandemic has also had a significant impact on manufacturing supply chains. In many cases, factories have had to find new suppliers or source materials from different parts of the world to keep production going. This has often meant making significant changes to the way that factories operate.

Anyone in manufacturing was forced to learn to have patience with the ongoing fluctuations in supply and demand. Companies learned how important it was to be agile in terms of production needs. Many businesses have adjusted by building a better onshore supply chain. Local sources are being added to the supply chain to supplement offshore production as a type of insurance policy against unexpected supply chain disruptions. The last two years have illustrated how much sense it makes to bring manufacturing back to the U.S.

The COVID-19 pandemic has also had a significant impact on manufacturing supply chains. In many cases, factories have had to find new suppliers or source materials from different parts of the world in order to keep production going. This has often meant making significant changes to the way that factories operate.

While Cass has gotten back to business development, we are more aware than ever of the importance of employee safety and employee health. Many of our pandemic protocols are still in place, we keep our machines and equipment as clean as possible and hand-washing protocols remain.

The changing trade landscape necessitates a change in the approach to manufacturing in the future. Automation, skilled labor, local US manufacturing facilities, and a robust supply chain will form the bedrock for the future of manufacturing in the post-pandemic world.

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Avoid Downtime on Your Production Line with Quality Parts

The hallmark of any machine shop is the quality of the parts they produce. While quality is supposed to be a given, the pandemic led to plant shutdowns and slowdowns, including difficulties for manufacturing shops to attract new employees even with competitive pay and benefits. COVID-19 brought on other challenges, including workforce vaccination, travel restrictions, social distancing needs, and rapid shifts in the market for certain goods because of the pandemic, which has strained the demand for the materials and components needed for those in-demand goods.

At Cass, we’ve developed a baseline quality assurance system that guarantees we will ship high-quality parts on every order. Everything we make passes several in-process checks and a final inspection or won’t go out the door. When your requirements dictate, we can customize our baseline system to your specifications, tailoring our quality assurance system to fit your business needs. We have 75 years of experience with quality assurance tools—SBP, PPAP Cpk, 1st Articles, and more—to help you get exactly the results you require in your precision machined parts.

Cass strategically invests in automated quality control and inspection equipment and strictly maintain and calibrate to NIST traceable standards all of our inspection equipment.

Material Requirements Planning (MRP) helps streamline the manufacturing process through production planning, scheduling, and inventory control. MRP systems allow manufacturers to plan and calculate material requirements, coordinate personnel and machine workloads, and optimally plan purchasing to meet customer demands. In short, MRP helps to determine what is needed, how much is needed and when it is needed.

At Cass we utilize MRP by taking inputs of material costs, material availability, expected demand, forecasting demand, staffing ability, and machinery capacity–all to ensure we can satisfy customers as well as our own production goals.

The main steps in the MRP process include a master production schedule that must account for resource, staffing, and inventory needs, purchasing planning, demand forecasting (a product’s lead time can be shortened and production downtime can be avoided), a bill of materials (includes raw materials, parts, and sub-assemblies needed to manufacture a part).

At Cass we rely on honest conversations with our customers concerning everything from raw material availability, production planning, and JIT order releases to resolve shortages. We use MRP via a clear and understood bill of materials process that helps eliminate waste in materials and to better coordinate machine usage and labor.

Customer satisfaction is always our number one goal – which is usually tied to product quality and on-time delivery. Quality is defined as providing parts that are free from defects, deficiencies, and significant variations. At Cass we excel at high-volume production – producing large numbers of an identical part or product in one run. The cost of poor quality parts can be severely damaging, from product recalls and defects to loss of customer loyalty and damage to brand reputation.

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4 Ways to Mitigate the Labor Shortage in Manufacturing

The manufacturing industry continues to suffer from an acute labor shortage. By the end of 2021, employment across the industry was down by nearly 400,000 personnel from pre-pandemic levels. Beyond causing stress, the lack of skilled workers has heightened workplace injury, product liability, and property damage risk for these businesses.

And the pandemic isn’t the only cause of the manufacturing labor shortage, despite dominating the headlines. The labor shortage in manufacturing predates the pandemic by a decade, with the large number of baby boomers retiring leading an exodus of workers from the industry. Meanwhile, many younger workers have declined to enter the sector, wooed away by other industries, such as technology and healthcare.

Is there good news on the horizon? The industry will continue to face labor shortages for the foreseeable future. Despite increasing wages, providing more flexibility and improving working conditions, the problem persists. Looking ahead, competition for labor with other industries, planned retirements and reshoring efforts are expected to widen the gap between labor supply and demand.

Despite popular belief, the introduction of automation has increased the number of open jobs. After all, somebody has to operate these tools and they must have the required skills to do so. With the labor shortage, however, came a lack of operators. Technology cannot function in a vacuum, and thus, efficiency in shipping and logistics has significantly dropped. This has certainly been a factor in accounting for widespread supply chain interruptions across the U.S. and abroad.

There is obviously no easy answer to the labor shortage in manufacturing, but here are four ways manufacturers can create more value with fewer people.

  1. Increase the level of automation on the factory floor

We’re not suggesting full robotics, that’s not the right decision for a wide variety of reasons. What manufacturers can do is analyze the potential for cobots (collaborative robots) or lightweight automation solutions to reduce the amount of effort required by the team member. This approach provides a couple of benefits – it will reduce labor time and it can broaden the workforce able to perform the work.

At Cass Precision Machining we are currently utilizing a cobot with plans to add a few more. Our cobot reduces labor by picking up and placing steel to feed the machines, reduces repeat production work for employees, and reduces fatigue.

THE CASS COBOT

“A collaborative robot allows us to have our machinists run multiple machines. The cobot is loading machines while our machinists are attending other machines,” said Ted Biorn, Cass Precision Machining Director of Operations. “Bringing the cobot into Cass has helped us free up a lot of our machinists. It allows them to do more with their minds and less with manual labor. Definitely pick and place, very easy to program, we’re definitely going to be purchasing more of them – they’ll help with the tight labor market.”

  1. Lay the groundwork for machine learning and artificial intelligence

Over time, team members build knowledge and expertise that enables them to make complex decisions as if it were second nature. In an environment where the staff is stable and has a long tenure, companies can rely on these individuals to effectively run complex operations. However, when turnover is high and skills are limited, there is a need to invest more heavily in building the capability for machine learning.

  1. Embrace Worker-Friendly Scheduling

A key labor insight that has emerged during the pandemic is that workers today clearly want a say in when they work. This marks a departure from traditional workforce operations at many production facilities, where schedules are created far in advance using a rigid, top-down approach. To effectively address worker dissatisfaction with shift work, organizations should rethink the way work is scheduled to provide employees more flexibility.

  1. Champion Hourly Employee Development

Advancement training for first-level leaders and cross-training programs for the workforce as a whole are two vital components of hourly employee development that pay huge dividends in terms of hourly employee job satisfaction and operational resilience.

Advancement Training — Developing those workers who supervise your frontline staff is an important strategy for building a sustainable workforce. Employees in complex industries tend to get promoted because of their technical skills, but they often have limited training and skills for supervising people. These new leaders may have previously worked side-by-side with people they’re now supervising, so it’s crucial to equip them with the skills they need to lead, train, and discipline their staff in a way that doesn’t erode relationships.

Cross-Training — Another aspect of employee development that reaps broad benefits in the near and long term. Your best employees may not want a traditional leadership role, but they love doing the hands-on work. These workers want opportunities to broaden and deepen their skills on the job. Offering cross-training opportunities helps hourly workers feel valued and keeps them engaged over time, two factors that heavily influence hourly worker perceptions when considering employment opportunities.

manufacturing_brighter_problems_persist

Manufacturing Looks Brighter in 2022, But Challenges Persist

Manufacturing Looks Brighter in 2022 But Challenges Persist. Volatile market conditions have created significant challenges for the manufacturing industry since the pandemic began. Manufacturers have been forced to reexamine nearly every step of their process and look for ways to improve efficiency with their data, resources, and workforce.

The last two years brought some unique challenges to manufacturers including rising costs, supply chain issues, and material shortages. Most manufacturers have been forced to implement changes in order to meet these challenges, including acquiring new talent, adding capabilities, and diversifying product portfolios to act as a foundation for growth.

Since the pandemic began, manufacturers have had to deal with the very real challenge of a lack of resources – both supplies and actual workforce. Cass Precision Machining has worked to remain agile and has taken action to be resilient in the short term to set up future success. Future success in manufacturing depends on deriving actionable insights from the last two years to improve decision making and to drive value.

Here is how Cass has responded to some of the questions brought on by the two-year pandemic.

What have been the biggest changes at Cass over the last year and a half, due to the pandemic and all of its ramifications?

Cass has always been known for its outstanding customer service.  For more than 75 years, serving our customers has been the fuel driving our company.  In the past 18 months, our customers have asked us to do even more on their behalf.  We have redoubled our efforts aimed at taking the best care possible of our entire customer base.  This has caused us to rethink old standards in how we do business.  We’ve implemented new tracking tools, become better at smaller lot sizes, and have enhanced how we work with our outside processing partners—all in the name of taking even better care of our customers.

As the country recovers from COVID-19, what new things will Cass implement to better support customers?

We are improving our internal systems to ensure responsiveness and drive the best possible value for our customers.  We are focused on reducing lead time, improving our quality management and execution systems, and ensuring we have the best-trained workforce in the industry.

There is a lot of talk of manufacturers needing to diversify their supply chain. What does that entail for Cass Precision Machining?

Cass’s broad range of capabilities and experience uniquely enables us to provide services nobody else can.  We can offer a variety of manufacturing solutions aimed at helping our customers reduce risk within their supply chains.  We can accommodate service or preproduction parts and can scale up volume better than anyone to provide the best total cost of ownership for our customers.  In terms of our own suppliers, we have expanded our supplier base and developed new partnerships aimed at reducing risk and opening more channels.

What changes have been implemented to ease disruptions to the supply chain? 

Cass has been working hard to procure material in advance of customer needs, enhance partnerships with leading suppliers, and partner with customers in long term agreements to ensure reliable supply.

Is localizing the supply chain a legitimate pursuit?

A localized supply chain has always been a good idea—there’s no better way to ensure timely delivery at the highest quality than dealing with local partners who truly care about your business.  The need for localization has only been emphasized in the past two years due to world events.

Is Cass continuing to digitize its supply chain? Will that make a big difference when further disruptions arise? 

Cass has fully implemented its ERP solution and is now looking forward to working with suppliers to fully integrate them into the system.  We will always strive for the human touch and meaningful relationships, and we believe a digital future supporting those values is key to success.

How long will it take for the supply chain to return to “normal”? Or will it ever?

We anticipate that shipping delays and supply shortages will begin to ease in late 2022 and into 2023, but underlying impacts mean the future will not look much like the past.  There will be more emphasis on transparency in the supply chain, reliable local supply, and long-term partnerships that will benefit everyone involved.

What’s next for Cass Precision Machining in 2022?

As we continue to grow and serve our customers better, we believe that we are in a unique position to attract more top-level talent.  We will also continue to make significant investment in automation and training to enable even more consistency and reliability.

The realities of the pandemic combined with existing trends in the manufacturing landscape means that companies must be more efficient and nimbler than ever in addressing the skills gap and labor shortages. With demand for manufactured goods always on the uptick, Cass continues a top-to-bottom evaluation of all processes, identifying ways to increase efficiency and to continue to support our customer base in any way we can.

picture of James Larson

Cass announces James Larson as new President

Cass Precision Machining is Proud to Announce James Larson as Its New President!

Cass is proud to announce that it has named James Larson as its new President. James is an experienced business leader who has been optimizing the customer experience, driving operational excellence, and developing new products for more than 30 years. Larson’s work history spans manufacturing, supply chain, product launches, and sales in a variety of global and domestic businesses.

As a business executive, Larson has a history of optimizing operations, customer experience and profitability. With a reputation for seeing the big picture and being the go-to person to put a strategy into action rapidly and efficiently, while maintaining focus on taking care of customers and team members.

“I couldn’t be more excited to join a team with such a long history of success and a sterling reputation in the industry that Cass has,” said Larson. “We look to move forward with a focus on sustainable improvement and scaling for growth with a high-trust and winning culture that achieves both quick wins and long-term results.”

At Cass Precision Machining, we pride ourselves on our efficiency and our dedication to customer service. Contact us at Cass Precision Machining.

global supply chain issues

Supply Crunch Continues to Push Prices Suppliers are Charging Businesses

As we wrote last year, the global supply chain crunch will continue to impact pricing, lead times and deliverables well into 2022 and beyond. Prices paid to U.S. producers posted a record annual increase of almost 10% in November, a surge that will sustain a pipeline of inflationary pressures well into 2022.

The producer price index for final demand increased 9.6% from a year earlier and 0.8% from the prior month, Labor Department data showed in December. Both advances topped economists’ forecasts.

Materials costs have risen rapidly this year amid transportation bottlenecks, robust demand, and labor constraints. Many businesses have successfully passed those added costs on to customers through higher prices, and the latest report suggests additional consumer price increases in the coming months.

Manufacturing companies have all had to adjust to the realities brought on by the global supply crunch, and here at Cass Precision Machining we are collaborating with our partners as much as possible, doing the best we can to alleviate costs and concerns for our customers. This partner collaboration includes daily logistics, tracking materials via spreadsheets, and shuffling and prioritizing schedules etc. and communicating as often as possible with our customers.

According to the Wall Street Journal, the higher-than-expected producer-price numbers suggest that consumer inflation, which hit a nearly four-decade high of 6.8% in November, will stay elevated into 2022 as price pressures persist. The index, which generally reflects supply conditions in the economy, rose 0.8% from October, an acceleration from the 0.6% gain in each of the previous three months. Higher prices for energy, wholesale food, and transportation and warehousing contributed to the pickup in inflation.

“This is a testament to the fact that inflation continues to broaden out,” said Stephen Stanley, chief economist at Amherst Pierpont, in the WSJ article.

Persistently high prices in large part reflected clogged supply chains, as manufacturers scrambled to keep up with unusually strong consumer demand. The rise in prices of goods continued to outpace that for services, as consumer spending on goods remains elevated, while that on services is up just slightly from pre-pandemic levels.

Prices for good, excluding food and energy, climbed 0.8% in November from October, faster than the 0.6% increase the previous month. The service index advanced 0.7% on the month, up from 0.2% in October, driven in part by a pickup in hotel room rates and airfares.

According to Reuters, trillions of dollars in COVID-19 pandemic relief from governments across the globe fueled demand for goods, leaving supply chains overstretched. The normalization of economic activity has also juiced demand for services, with the delivery of some being hampered by worker shortages, driving up prices.

The easing of inflation for goods used to make other products, though still high, signaled that producer-price inflation is nearing its peak, said Gus Faucher, chief economist at PNC, in the Wall Street Journal. “PPI inflation will slow in 2022 as prices for energy and other raw materials decline thanks to greater production, weaker demand, and a gradual waning in supply chain problems,” said Faucher. “But PPI inflation will remain above its long-run levels due to continued strong demand for some goods and services and higher wages.”

At Cass Precision Machining we continue to partner closely with our customers to manage the challenges around material availability, material price, delivery needs and shipping.  We are committed to developing creative solutions to optimize customer success.

Supply Chain Shortages

Assessing Supply Chain Shortages in 2022

China’s Battle with Decarbonization Poses Business Risks

In Assessing Supply Chain Shortages in 2022, Climate Change is a major factor in the equation.  In August UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres called the report released by the UN’s Panel on Climate Change, “A code red for humanity.”  The report says that humans are unequivocally warming the planet and the results will be more heat waves, droughts, flooding, and hurricanes. The impact of all of that on global businesses is infinite and its ripples will impact business commerce across the globe.

In a much-anticipated announcement at the United Nations General Assembly in September, China President Xi Jinping stated that his country would peak carbon emissions by 2030 and aim to achieve carbon neutrality by 2060.

Regardless of ongoing trade tension between the two countries, meetings between the countries in the spring positively affirmed U.S. and Chinese cooperation in bolstering the implementation of the Paris Agreement and underscored the importance of ambitious climate action by the world’s largest greenhouse gas (GHG) emitters.

Supply Chain Challenges

For thousands of U.S. companies that have supply chains or operations in China, particularly companies that have not yet developed sufficiently rigorous greenhouse gas emission reduction goals, the Chinese national response to climate change represents complicated new opportunities and challenges.

Since Xi’s announcement was made, multiple industries and municipal and regional governments have begun increasing action related to decarbonization. These actions, along with past precedents in pollution control in China, provide guidance for how companies might consider preparing for business risks and disruption related to China’s quest for decarbonization.

As the number and scope of binding regulations for reducing carbon emissions increase in the coming months and years, it remains essential for companies with supply chains or operations in China to stay abreast of emerging business risks driven by the country’s timelines for emission reductions. 

According to an August article in GreenBiz, emerging business risks and opportunities will include:

  • Sourcing (through the need to qualify lower-carbon raw materials)
  • Process (upgrading production processes and equipment)
  • Emission controls (carbon emission reductions and capture)
  • Reporting requirements, both to regulators and to the finance sector
  • Access to capital, particularly domestic Chinese capital
  • Adverse reputational impact in China arising from ineffective or incomplete response to Chinese requirements
  • Industrial structure adjustments including replacing industrial processes and equipment and the elimination of outdated industries; and economic adjustments, such as a carbon tax

Shipping Problems

Just last week, Reuters posed the following question: What happens when the market of last resort, the London Metal Exchange (LME), runs out of metal? The 144-year-old exchange, which sets benchmark prices for the global industrial metal markets, has always prided itself on its role as ultimate buyer and ultimate seller of physical metal.

Total registered LME inventory has fallen by almost 600,000 metric tons since the start of the year. Stocks of all metals stand at 1.469 million metric tons, the lowest since 2008.  The strength of the post-COVID manufacturing recovery, first in China and now in the rest of the world, has impacted not just aluminium but all of the LME metals to varying extents.

Supply-chains, by contrast, are stressed by continued disruption in the global shipping sector, where container rates remain high and many ports, particularly U.S. ones, log-jammed.

How To Decarbonize?

The world needs more aluminum to go green.  But the smelters that produce aluminum use huge amounts of power and account for around 2% of all man-made emissions each year. Squaring that carbon circle is not going to be easy for China or the global market.

Welcome to aluminum’s decarbonization paradox.

Aluminum market rallies during the year were rooted in China’s own supply-chain tensions. Output curbs following energy restrictions are proliferating as provinces scramble to meet mandated energy efficiency targets.

The 10 aluminium producers participating in the CNIA (China Nonferrous Metals Industry Association) meeting committed to “continue to ensure supply and stabilize market expectations”. Only, however, if their power-hungry smelters have sufficient supplies of electricity. Aluminium is produced by electrolysis not by blasting it in a furnace. No power, no aluminium. And power in China is becoming a problem.

Aluminium curtailments earlier this year in Inner Mongolia were modest but a sign of things to come as the coal-dependent province tried to meet new quarterly dual-control targets for energy usage and efficiency. The province of Guangxi, another laggard in the energy league, last month ordered smelters to reduce run-rates to preserve power over peak demand periods.

Since China is by far the world’s largest producer of aluminum, both at a raw metal and semi-manufactured product level, this collective powering-down places a big question-mark over global supply. A market that has lived with Chinese over-supply for two decades is starting to price in a very different future. The country remains a large exporter of aluminum in the form of semi-manufactured products, which is starting to look anomalous as the huger for commodity-grade metal grows.

According to Reuters, stresses on China’s power system have turned the world’s largest supplier of aluminum into a regular net importer of primary metal. China’s problem today could be the rest of the world’s problem tomorrow. Estimates that the world will need another 25 million metric tons of primary metal production to meet an expected 80% rise in demand by 2050, fueled by the demands of decarbonization. Building that capacity while simultaneously “greening” existing capacity in a world that needs ever more renewable power is the conundrum facing the global aluminum industry.

Cass Acquires Micro-Fab Handshake

Cass Precision Machining Acquires Micro-Fab

 

Cass Precision Machining announced that it acquired Micro-Fab, a precision machining company based in Brooklyn Park, MN, on July 1, 2021. Micro-Fab will operate as a division of Cass Precision Machining. Serving the aerospace, defense, and medical industries, Micro-Fab has offered precision machining for over 30 years in Brooklyn Park, MN.   They also specialize in microparts for machining used in defense, aerospace, and medical, among other industries.

“It’s a great fit for us,” says Cass President Jim Garvin.  “Micro-Fab expands the market spaces we’re in and there are synergies with the machining and prototyping.  They provide very precise parts with high tolerances and adding such a strong group expands our capabilities at Cass. It also makes us a more diverse company.”

Micro-Fab Director Bob Past added, “At Micro-Fab we deal with more finite orders that are governed by documents,  which is more of a technical niche that we bring to the table for Cass.  It’s a win-win deal for both sides and we’re excited to be a part of such a great company like Cass”.

Micro-Fab works with nine milling centers, ten CNC turning centers, two fully equipped testing centers for quality assurance.  The new acquisition also has CAD/CAM equipment with the ability to download IGES, Parasolid, STEP, and autocad DXF/DWG files.  Their 15 employees will continue working on their site in Brooklyn Park as a division of Cass Precision Machining.

Founded in 1966 and in 2010 began focusing on manufacturing more precise parts and end-to-end solutions.  Mico-Fab specializes in aerospace, agriculture, defense, and medical industries.  They are also an ISO 9001 certified, AS9100 compliant, and NIST cybersecurity framework compliant division.

Read more “Cass Precision Machining Acquires Micro-Fab”

Supply Crunch Cass

How to Find Manufacturing Success During the Post-Covid Supply Crunch

As the global economy slowly recovers from the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic, the worldwide supply crunch is intensifying, spreading from one country to another and from one industry to another.

Breaking Down the Supply Crunch

When the pandemic spread in the spring of 2020, there was a lot of panic buying by consumers who were led to believe there would be shortages in things like toilet paper, hand sanitizer, and disinfectant wipes. Fast forward 15 months, and it’s companies that are stockpiling, buying more raw materials than they need in an attempt to keep up with rapidly recovering demand. This panic buying is causing a shortage in raw materials, including copper, iron ore, steel, wood, semiconductors, plastics, cardboard, etc. As a result, there is a “supply crunch” in nearly every industry, with inventories of seemingly every raw material around the world running low.

What The Experts Are Saying

Economists and business executives say those supply-chain disruptions, key labor shortages, and resurgent demand will persist through the end of 2021, if not longer.

“Supply shortages are affecting almost every industry,” said Michael Pearce, Senior U.S. Economist at Capital Economics. “What started out as a shortage of semiconductors affecting mostly the auto industry is now a shortage of basically everything, including lumber, metals, and plastics.”

According to Reuters, “U.S. factory activity gathered speed in early May amid strong domestic demand, but backlogs of uncompleted work are piling up as manufacturers struggle to find raw materials and labor, boosting costs for both businesses and consumers.”

Suffice to say that with all of the raw material and supply shortages in North America, it is hardly “business as usual” in manufacturing. According to the Wall Street Journal, the squeeze on U.S. businesses shows little sign of letting up, particularly in the manufacturing sector.

“It turns out it’s a heck of a lot easier to create demand than it is to—you know, to bring supply back up to snuff, Fed Chairman Jerome Powell said in June. So what we know is that there are global supply shortages that are impacting manufacturing and that the supply crunch will have medium- and long-term impacts.

Work With Your Manufacturer

Yes, the pipelines are seeing logjams; there’s no way around that. Understanding that issue, smart businesses will work with their manufacturing partners to make the best of their situation.

  • Maintain Regular Communication—nobody likes surprises, especially when they negatively impact their workflow. More communication with your supplier helps to limit surprises. Remember that everyone is facing a supply crunch. The more your supplier knows exactly what you’re looking for and you understand their capabilities, the less you’ll be hit with surprises. This doesn’t exactly mean that the squeaky wheel gets the grease. Your supplier loves having your business, but they don’t want to hear from you 20 times a day. Be respectful of their situation—remember that your supplier is getting dozens of emails and phone calls every day. Be concise, don’t send a 15-paragraph email when five sentences will do. If your orders are consistent, it’s easier for your supplier to manage your supply.
  • Collaboration and Preparation—Try to establish weekly or bi-weekly meetings to troubleshoot the problems you face because of the supply chain crunch. Be as resourceful as possible and always be respectful of your supplier. Tight collaboration enables organizations to better avoid risks, identify problems early and resolve issues quickly. Many companies, for example, proactively alert suppliers immediately when demand and production changes are likely.
  • Maintain Flexibility—The pandemic crunch is very real when it comes to the supply chain. Companies having success are learning to become innovative, developing recovery plans, and looking at possible workarounds in terms of substituting materials (if and when it makes sense). Supply chain and procurement teams have been faced with a delicate but decisive balancing act. They must plot a route through the immediate and future challenges that draw on meaningful insight based on high-quality data. This will enable them to build flexibility into their cost base and transform costs – rather than simply cut them – to come back fighting when the time is right. Those who have already started to invest in new technologies to drive insight and action in the supply chain have a head start over the competition.

Maintain regular communication with your supplier so that it’s not a surprise to either side when changes in orders occur. Collaborate with your dealer and troubleshoot problems caused by the supply crunch before they can have a big impact. Recovery plans and workarounds are crucial to keeping your workflow flexible and agile.

Contact us at Cass Precision Machining.

industrial rapid prototyping

Industrial Rapid Prototyping With CNCs

Companies need to develop and introduce new products faster to remain competitive in this fast-moving modern-day consumer market. Since faster product development and technology innovation are key to a company’s success, rapid prototyping becomes the most important element of new product development.

Industrial rapid prototyping bridges the gap between concept design and manufacturing for production. The prototyping process is also an opportunity for company engineers to build physical parts that can be used to test functionality in equipment, failure rates and manage production costs prior to full-scale manufacturing.  By detecting problems in the preliminary stage, companies save time and money and create confidence that they are not releasing substandard products to customers.

The Benefits of Using CNC Machining for Industrial Prototypes

The first thing most people think of when they hear the term “CNC machining” is large-scale manufacturing. It might surprise some people to learn how effective CNC machining is in creating prototypes. When developing prototypes in the manufacturing world, many different processes are available, but CNC machining can be one of the best.

CNC machines are ideal for prototyping because the design of the CNC machine itself includes three key elements for prototyping:

1. Speed

The maximum feed and rapid rates can exceed 2,300 inches per minute (ipm), faster than three feet per second.

2. Accuracy

CNCs can hold very tight tolerances (.0001 +/-tolerance)

3. Flexibility

Almost any material can be used in a CNC machine depending on the application (aluminum, brass, copper, steel, titanium, and plastics)

CNCs also have another big benefit in prototyping which is repeatability. CNCs can repeat all process steps over and over, from part to part, and can be programmed to make slight variations in prototype parts for testing and evaluation. 

How Cass Precision Machining is Leveraging CNCs for Rapid Prototyping

Cass started its C-RPM business unit in late 2020 to help customers achieve the following objectives:

  • Faster new product development—prototyping is crucial in the process of creating successful products because it speeds up the product development process
  • Early-stage design and concept validation of form, fit, and function of the design
  • Final stage product verification against the technical requirement and business objective
  • Allows for functionality testing to test the goals of the concept and to finalize specifications
  • Prototypes give the client, customer, end-user hands-on user experience to get and give feedback

Cass’s expertise in turn parts and CNC machining created the right combination to position Cass for success in prototyping.  In fact, the CNC mill is one of the most common tools to see in a prototyping lab, and Cass added both a mill and a lathe to its prototyping cell. These CNC mills are reliable and flexible machines allowing for complex features, like threaded holes, deep pockets, and 3D surfaces.

Today, Cass partners with its customers to help shape the initial prototypes into design-for-manufacturing parts so the finished parts can easily transition from concept to full production.  Cass welcomes current and potential customers to see the process and the capabilities of the CNCs in industrial rapid prototyping.