United States

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.

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.

machining job openings

Cass Has Machining Job Openings–Operators and Machinists Wanted

Are you feeling underappreciated and under-stimulated at your current job? Were your hours cut, or did you lose pay because of the pandemic? If so, we have good news for you, as Cass Precision Machining has machining job openings, with both operators and machinists wanted. Cass can be the great change in careers you’re looking for–offering premium shifts with full-time and part-time positions!

The following are the most important attributes people look for in any workplace:

  • That the job is stimulating and challenging
  • The ability to learn new things and develop your skillset
  • That you’re able to achieve measurable results
  • That as an employee, you feel valued and a core part of the team
  • That you have opportunities to grow and progress within the company
  • That you are a part of a positive culture where contributions are appreciated

At Cass Precision Machining, we can confidently and proudly say that we knock all six of those attributes out of the ballpark. Lester E. Cass started Cass Precision Machining in 1945 as a family business, and to this day, our staff remains one big family. The leaders at Cass know that our machining tools would be useless without the people who run them. We believe in investing heavily in our staff and treating them like family, which results in low turnover, longevity, and high productivity. We are thrilled to employ workers who take pride in our company, who are invested in the products they are making and in who they are making them for.

We don’t lose sight of the big picture at Cass—our first mission is to provide good livelihoods to our employees and their families.

Currently, at Cass Precision Machining, we have machining job openings for precision machinists and operators of CNC, Swiss, lathes, mills, multi-spindle machines, and grinders for second shifts, full-time (4×10 shifts).

We know that COVID-19 and the pandemic pushed many people out of work and made many people reconsider where they wanted their future employment to be. Cass Precision Machining provides competitive pay with great benefits and a culture of training, development, and advancement opportunities. We are fast-paced and fun. We have a great family culture.

Benefits of Working at Cass

  • Market-competitive pay
  • Competitive premiums for health insurance
  • FREE dental insurance
  • 401k contribution of 3%
  • Free prescription safety glasses
  • Partial work boot reimbursement
  • Referral bonuses
  • Company-paid life insurance
  • $100 refund for annual physical
  • Accrue two weeks of paid time off (PTO), earning more as years of service increase
  • Eligible for an all-employee year-end bonus
  • Military Leave Policy
  • Bereavement Leave Policy
  • Tuition Reimbursement

If you’re looking for a place to work that values you as a person first and foremost and that offers you control of your work-advancement destiny, Cass might be the place for you. Working at Cass isn’t just a job; it’s a career.

Please check out our careers page to see what positions we currently have open.

Industrial Manufacturing

Understanding Industrial Manufacturing | Cass Precision Machining

The industrial manufacturing industry is responsible for the fabrication of products intended for industrial use from raw materials. When asking the question, “what is industrial manufacturing?” one has to look at the output itself (the products produced) which ranges from large machinery like bulldozers and cranes to smaller products such as wheelchairs and circuit boards. No matter what type of machinery is used, industrial manufacturing is crucial in producing many of the goods and services vital to any economy in a cost-efficient and timely manner.

Equipment Segments Produced

Equipment used in industrial manufacturing can be grouped into seven different segments. Agricultural, construction, and mining machinery; industrial machinery; commercial and service machinery are all special-purpose machinery designed for a specific industry. The four other segments include machinery used by all sectors: ventilation, heating and cooling equipment, metalworking equipment, engine-related equipment, and other general-purpose machinery.

How do companies separate themselves when it comes to industrial manufacturing? In one word: efficiency. The more efficiently a company can produce a product, the more products it can make at a lower cost, which results in higher profit margins. A major trend in this industry is using increasingly high-tech production techniques. Firms are introducing more technology in response to pressure from both domestic and foreign competitors. Robotics, computers, and programmable equipment are common, resulting in increased productivity with more efficiency and a decreased need for labor.

What’s the Difference Between Industrial Manufacturing and Custom Manufacturing?

The manufacturing industry is made up of two core branches—industrial and custom manufacturing. While there are some similarities between the two, each one has its different processes and priorities. As a result, the role their ERP (enterprise resource planning) platforms play within the organizations is naturally different.

In industrial manufacturing, products are configured to order. Customers can order a stock product, and while they have the flexibility to alter certain features of the order, they are still limited to a catalog of pre-designed products. In custom manufacturing, unique products are designed or engineered to order. Custom manufacturers place a premium on ERP systems that bring flexibility and agility. Industrial manufacturers, on the other hand, covet operational efficiency. Unlike in custom manufacturing, where every product is different, industrial manufacturers benefit from predictability and repetition throughout the process.

Pandemic Recovery

Like nearly every walk of life, industrial manufacturing was severely impacted by COVID-19. The pandemic posed sudden and drastic challenges as demand for products fell while others increased, and geopolitical trade conditions severely disrupted access to markets, distribution channels, and suppliers. The speed of recovery for industrial manufacturing is highly dependent on the rate of recovery for supply and demand.  While customer orders soared for many companies the backlog of material availability has continued and costs have risen.

Companies in this industry will need to utilize key market data to inform long-term strategic decisions based on shifts in demand and their own downstream impacts.  Creativity, collaboration and communication will be key to the success of many industrial manufactures.

Do you want to learn more about how Cass can help with your industrial manufacturing needs? Check out our full list of capabilities here, and our list of industries served here.

prototype machined parts

Cass Delivering Prototype Machined Parts

In 2020 Cass Precision Machining launched C-RPM (Cass Rapid Proto Machining), a new service that supports Cass customers with build-to-print rapid prototyping parts. The response from customers has been exceptional and Cass has now produced over 30 prototype parts.

The goal of C-RPM is to supply customers with machining expertise and design for manufacturing engineering consulting to deliver the finished part they desire.

The expert C-RPM team at Cass offers quick-turn responses in each prototyping phase:

  • Feasibility Review
  • Small-quantity fitment builds
  • Refining of prototype
  • Concept/pre-production demonstration runs
  • Full production runs

The goal of the C-RPM team is to supply customers with a “complete” part based on the customer’s print that can then be easily turned into production parts. Cass provides C-RPM material consulting, machining expertise, and coordinated services to deliver the finished parts customers are looking for. Your C-RPM team is ready to provide rapid responses to your prototype parts needs with part size ranges from up to eight inches in diameter to 26 inches in overall length.

Opening our C-RPM service adds another key step in Cass’s evolution of providing a broader range of solutions for our customers,” said Jim Garvin, Cass’s President. “This new business unit adds another facet to supporting clients’ supply chain needs over the full life cycle of their parts.”

The C-RPM cell can handle a wide range of materials, including alloys, carbon, stainless steel, titanium, aluminum, brass, bronze, machinable plastics, and more. CNC milling and complex turning capability are the cornerstones of the C-RPM unit.

Finishing services include anodizing, heat treating, plating, shot peening, custom packaging, light assembly, and more.

“At Cass, we’re proud of our long tradition of listening to our customers and taking the appropriate actions as a reliable partner that our clients can trust,” said Garvin. “Cass-Rapid Proto Machining lines up with the growing needs of clients and enables us to support more creative design solutions.”

Cass Precision Machining has made a concerted effort to ramp up our C-RPM initiatives by investing in two machines that help us turn out quality parts in a timely fashion.

The Tsugami M08SY Turning Center with Y-axis allows Cass to perform highly complex machining, such as turning, drilling, boring, cross-drilling, and CNC milling. The main and sub-spindle are equipped with integral built-in spindle motors, which minimize vibration and provide superior accel/decel for heavy-duty cutting and fine finishing.

The Doosan 5700 Mill is part of a series that offers larger cutting space by 6%, bigger table sizes by 14%, and heavier loads by 25% while maintaining the same overall footprint as the previous generation. The new DNM series features direct-coupled, thru-coolant type spindles as standard, providing 8,000 rpm (15/11 kW) and 12,000 rpm (18.5/11 kW). Vibration and noise are greatly reduced during high-speed operations, and thermal displacement is also improved. The direct-drive spindles also contribute to faster accel/decel rates, and tool change times have also been optimized to reduce non-cutting time.

Send our C-RPM team your prints, or we can discuss your design ideas online. Our prototype team can handle a wide range of materials as mentioned above—challenge us with your material requirements!

C-RPM Machining—CNC Milling and Live Tool Lathe machines are the cornerstones of the cell.

The finishing services Cass customers have come to expect lead to the rapid delivery of prototype parts that boost your production line.

 

 

cass air force project

Cass Does its “Part” for the Commemorative Air Force

Sometimes a job is about far more than the bottom line.

Cass Precision Machining was honored to recently volunteer their time, material, and machines to produce a part for the Commemorative Air Force Airbase, located in Mesa, Arizona.

The Commemorative Air Force are flight museums dedicated to the education and enjoyment of present and future generations of Americans with a fleet of historic aircraft that recreate, remind, and reinforce the lessons learned from the defining moments in American military aviation history.

With a mission to educate, inspire, and honor through flight and living history experiences, the Commemorative Air Force offers flights to museum visitors four days a week in various planes, including the B-25 “Maid in the Shade” bomber, built in early 1944. With so many flights under its belt, the B-25 bomber had worn out its bushings on the arms for the Cowell flaps—parts that open during takeoff to allow air to flow through the engine and close during landings.

Cass Precision Machining was more than happy to volunteer their time and expertise to get the B-25 bomber back up in the air, flying more safely than ever. Airbase Arizona offers a rare and exciting opportunity for a living history flight experience. Guests are allowed to take a ride and soar among the clouds in the B-52 “Made in the Shade,” and hear the rumble and roar of the engines, feel the wind in their face, and imagine themselves as part of the flight crew from over 70 years ago. The B-25’s most famous exploit was the April 18, 1942, Doolittle Raid on Japan.

Whether you visit the museum in Mesa, Arizona, or catch them on one of their many summer tours, people are able to schedule a flight on one of the warbirds and commemorate history.

“Cass Precision Machining was fantastic for us. They got us the parts we needed for the B-25 faster than we expected, and we were able to get our planes back up in the sky,” said Dick Clifford, Commemorative Air Force Airbase, Arizona. “Cass could not have been nicer to work with; they provided high-quality parts to make our deadline.”

Cass’s bushings for the Commemorative Air Force plane are much better than the original as they are heat-treated, centerless ground and fit better, and last longer.

“The bushings Cass made for our planes are far superior to the ones they replaced, and will help in allowing us to fly these historic planes for years to come,” said Clifford.

“It’s an honor for Cass to be able to volunteer our expertise to help restore and keep the B-25 bomber flying for the Commemorative Air Force,” said Jim Garvin, Cass President. “Cass started as a company the same year WWII ended, and we’ve always done everything we can to help support the armed forces. To be able to provide a part that lets the B-25 bomber continue to fly and to fly safer than ever before is a thrill for us.”

Cass was more than happy to volunteer their time and professional expertise with the replacement bushings that allow the famous B-25 bomber to remain flying.

We were also happy to see that the story of our contribution was picked up by newspapers and websites across the country, including Yahoo Finance, the Associated Press, and the Chicago Herald.

Quality Machined Parts

Cass is More Than Quality Machined Parts

When Cass Precision Machining rebranded itself just over three years ago, we added a pretty simple tagline that speaks volumes: Consistent. Reliable. Trusted. Those are three personality traits that we all look for in the most important people in our lives—our parents, teachers, coaches, significant others, and our closest friends. What it comes down to is quality. The more quality people you have in your life, the better off you’re going to be.

It’s the same in business. The more quality people you work with and work for, the more successful you’ll be. At Cass, we take our tagline to heart every single day. We want those three words to be among the first ones anyone who does business with us thinks of when they think about our business relationship.

What goes unsaid in our tagline is quality. But without quality, none of those three words would be applicable, now would they? Quality is supposed to be a given in a machine shop. Unfortunately, there are too many occasions in business when one of those three traits are breached. Production lines and business flows are damaged when any of those adjectives falter.

Our mission every day at Cass is to make sure that doesn’t happen.

Investment Leads to the Best Products

Cass has customers that have been with us for over 50 years. Those long-term relationships last because we’re continually willing to invest in efficiency improvements, new technology, and our employees. Not necessarily in that order. Yes, we’ve outfitted our machine shop with the best CNC Machining, Precision Grinding, and Screw Machining Products, but without a significant investment in our employees, we wouldn’t be able to live up to your quality standards. With those investments, we’re able to offer our customers the best solutions at quality pricing.

            “At Arctic Cat, we refer to Cass as our ‘rock-star’ supplier. We’ve worked with them for over 20 years, and they’re always really fast and helpful with great quality. I love their shop, it’s immaculate, and they have the benefit of actual machinists on staff, emphasizing the quality of product they deliver. If we are ever in a pinch, our first call is to Cass, and they came through for us like they always do.”—Sean Sorteberg, Lead Commodity Manager, Arctic Cat

At Cass, we’re proud of everything in that testimonial from Arctic Cat; how could we not be? Obviously, it’s great that they mentioned quality and speed, but we might be most proud of the line about our machine shop being immaculate. That’s workers taking pride in what they do and having respect for their coworkers and their company. That leads to having a quality business.

We have worked with Cass now for several years, and not one problem. The quote response time, price, quality, manufacturing, flexibility, and lead times are far superior to other suppliers we have worked with in the past. They do what they say they’re going to do and nothing less. Suppliers like Cass are few and far between, and at the end of the day, they make our jobs at UniPunch easier.“—Mark Smith, Operations Manager, UniPunch

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 machines 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.

Our promise to our customers is high-quality machined parts delivered on time, from prototyping to high-volume. At Cass we understand that it’s our team that makes the difference that drives best-in-class results for our customers.

Quality people lead to producing quality products. Consistent. Reliable. Trusted.

single-spindle screw machining

Announcing Single-Spindle Screw Machining Availability at Cass

At Cass Precision Machining we hope the end of the year finds you and your business safe and healthy. We are encouraged to see that, according to Deloitte Insights, the global manufacturing sector performed exceptionally well in November. The global manufacturing PMI (purchasing managers’ indices) increased to 53.7, a 33-month high and one of the highest levels in the past decade. Deloitte states that the PMI (forward-looking indicators meant to signal the direction of activity) was driven by strong growth of output, new orders, and favorable sentiment. The PMI in the United States alone is at 56.7, a six-year high.

That’s great news for everyone in manufacturing as we head toward 2021!

We have more great news for all of you who are trying to fill all of your year-end orders and need parts. Cass has availability on our 17 single-spindle Brown & Sharpe automatic screw machines. These machines feed single bars at a time and ideal for making washers, smaller pins, service parts (that are smaller orders), smaller bushings, and some specialty parts that are usually under a ½”. These single-spindle screw machines typically do short runs, anywhere from 100 to 1,000 pieces at a time, and can process a wide-variety of materials, including cold-rolled carbon steels, alloys, aluminum, brass, bronze, some series of stainless steels, tubing, and selected plastics.

The bar diameters our machines can handle range from .125 inches (3.175 mm) up to 2 inches (50.8 mm). From a part geometry perspective, the overall length of parts start at .030 inches (.762 mm) and run up to 4.0 inches (101.6 mm). When work on one or both ends is exclusively required, part lengths as high as six feet can be run on this equipment. Standard tolerances on our single-spindle screw machines are +/- .005 inches (.127 mm); however, depending on the material selected, +/- .002 inches (.050 mm) can be achieved.

Again, our Brown & Sharpe single-spindle automatic screw machines can handle part diameters up to 2 inches (50.8 mm), and lengths up to 4 inches (101.6 mm) and in some instances up to six feet.

If you’re in need of short runs on smaller parts, give us a call immediately at 763-535-0501 to see if the availability of our single-spindle screw machines can help you expedite your parts manufacturing needs!

reshoring manufacturing

Reshoring Manufacturing Will Trend in 2021 and Beyond

That collective sigh of relief you hear is that 2020 is winding down. Let’s be honest, some words nobody ever wants to hear again include pandemic, unprecedented, protocols, and coronavirus. 2020 was a rough year for a lot of different reasons, but as always, a new year brings with it a renewed optimism and new things to look forward to. Plenty of business models were stretched to their limits in 2020, and reshoring manufacturing looks to be an obvious trend in 2021 and beyond.

Nobody was prepared for a pandemic in 2020, and one of the issues brought to light in the manufacturing world is just how many domestic brands relied heavily on China for fulfilling some, part, or nearly all of their supply chain. The economic challenges brought on by the disruption in the supply chain have forced manufacturers to change their business models in a hurry to stay competitive. What they’re learning is that reshoring manufacturing can not only help in recovery but bring about unprecedented growth.

The Reshoring Initiative was founded in 2010 and is focused on bringing manufacturing jobs back to the U.S. by helping manufacturers realize that in some cases, local production reduces their total cost of ownership of purchased parts and tooling.

Harry Moser is the founder and president of the Reshoring Initiative and is also on the Commerce Department Investment Advisory Council. Moser was recently asked what the key considerations are for reshoring pre-and-post COVID-19.

“Multi-step, multi-country manufacturing was already under stress even before the COVID-19 pandemic, which has severely disrupted the global logistics network,” Moser said. “Our intellectual understanding of trade wars during this crisis now reveals the supply chain weakness—we simply don’t make enough components on our own shores. The global supply chain as we knew it is essentially a dangerous supply chain which has lead us to the current result of death and economic disaster.”

Manufacturers Revaluate Shoring & Sourcing

The Reshoring Initiative has worked. Reshoring manufacturing—bringing imported goods or materials back to domestic production—was well on its way to becoming common practice amongst U.S.-based manufacturers before COVID-19. According to some reports, well over 700,000 jobs were brought back to the U.S. between 2010 and 2018 as a result of reshoring.

Along with the initiative, there are a number of reasons for this:

  • The cost of transportation continues to rise
  • Manufacturers now use advanced software programs and robotics to automate many of the processes that once required human work
  • Many of the go-to offshoring countries have seen their economies strengthen in recent years, leading to an increase in wages for their citizens
  • Countries in which labor remains inexpensive lack the infrastructure to support complex manufacturing operations

The pandemic of 2020 adds an exclamation point to that list.

“COVID-19 has really gotten people’s attention. It’s revealed the U.S. dependency on offshore manufacturing, especially China,” said Moser. “As the pandemic shows, we can suddenly be in the impossible position of not having enough critical supplies. That is not because we didn’t try it; it’s because we had almost no base from which to build here in the U.S.”

In addition to prompting a renewed reshoring effort, COVID-19 has also led manufacturers to reevaluate sourcing. The pandemic has caused great disruption to the global supply chain, making it more challenging for manufacturers who source from other countries to get a hold of materials.

An Uptick in Reshoring Manufacturing

Establishing solid partnerships with domestic manufacturers makes all the sense in the world heading into 2021 and beyond. As Moser says, “The supply chain math is obvious, and developing partnerships is the new reshoring. Customers, in most cases, are willing to pay a premium for on-time, as-promised delivery commitments. The goal is to convince companies to do the math and decide what to re-shore now.”

Look for both reshoring and near-sourcing (also known as local sourcing, is the process by which a business brings operations closer to where its finished product is sold; in manufacturing, it typically refers to sourcing raw materials from U.S. suppliers) to be leading trends in 2021, as manufacturers try to reduce or eliminate dependence on foreign materials. These trends will not only help manufacturers remain resilient to future COVID-related disruptions they will also provide a much-needed boost to the U.S. economy.

Cass Precision Machining has a long history as an established and trusted U.S.-based manufacturer committed to delivering on-time, high-quality machined parts. We welcome the opportunity to help your organization establish a reliable and consistent partnership. Please don’t hesitate to contact us at 763-535-0501 to see if we can service your needs!

prototype machining

Top 5 Questions to Ask When Considering Prototype Machining

Cass Precision Machining is proud to unveil Cass Rapid Prototype Machining (C-RPM), a new independent business unit operating within our five-building campus. C-RPM significantly ramps up our ability to serve you with prototype build-to-print contract machined parts services with accelerated delivery responsiveness. Operating as a business within a business, C-RPM’s “high touch” service connects you directly with our prototyping team. C-RPM continues our 75-year commitment to providing the “Best-in-Class” service.

News of the launch of our C-RPM unit was recently in the news, getting featured on websites MarketWatch, the Chicago Daily Herald, and Minnesota Metals News.

When considering outsourcing your prototype machining requirements, here are five questions you should be asking your supplier candidates:

1. Will I have access to DFM (Design for Manufacturing) resources?

When optimizing functionality and cost of new parts, the most experienced design engineers will seek to collaborate with production engineers to assure that their designs take full advantage of the lowest cost options available for the part, while still achieving desired functionality.  Your supplier should be able to provide your design team access to the right folks to review and confirm your prototype design or suggest options that assure production-ability within cost targets.

2. Are design intent, application specifics, and life cycle requirements part of the pre-order dialogue?

Best DFM practices suggest that designers collaborate with the supplier to understand the fit of the part into the overall design, the functional requirements, and the life cycle volume expectations so that your supplier comes to the table with recommendations to improve your design while optimizing your cost position.

3. Are material selection, critical tolerances, and general manufacturing standards addressed and confirmed at time of order entry?

Industry experts claim that 70 to 80% of the life cycle cost of a part is locked in once the design is finalized and released to production.  Before building that first prototype part, checking in with your supplier to confirm that your material selection is the lowest cost alternative for your application and that the critical tolerances can be achieved, but also have been reviewed and optimized with your supplier helps assure that the best starting point for cost can be delivered.  Don’t forget to compare your general drawing requirements (e.g. tolerances, finish specs, etc.) with your suppliers’ shop standards as another means of identifying areas where production costs can be minimized.

4. Can the supplier provide you with a “complete part”?

It is a challenge – particularly under design-build schedules calling for breakneck speed to market responsiveness – to choose a supplier and then have to vet, select and qualify additional suppliers for finishing services or value-added features on your part. Shop for the prototype supplier that can coordinate it all for you and relieve some of the hassles that quick turn manufacturing presents to your supply chain professionals.

5. Can the supplier support the full life cycle requirements for your parts?

There is no doubt that when working with rapid prototype machining, there is an advantage to being able to partner with the same supplier. Clearly, the costs of switching suppliers can be prohibitive and logistically challenging as well. An often overlooked benefit is the ease of processing rev changes over the life cycle of the part to respond to functionality needs or to aid in cost reduction/management when your supplier remains a constant.

We encourage you to build these five questions into your prototype machining supplier selection process. We look forward to being challenged to reply to your specifics when you include Cass into the mix. We think you’ll like our answers and look forward to building strong partnerships with you for the long haul!