FABTECH 2011: Metalworking in Chicago

Last week, FABTECH, the largest North American metal forming and fabricating expo, returned to Chicago. The conference is always a fantastic showcase for metal manufacturers and equipment suppliers, as well as a great opportunity to learn about the best ways of managing procurement, personnel, and other business aspects of the industry. FABTECH’s site provides a full listing of exhibitors, seminars, lectures, and other events that happened at the expo. See the detailed schedule here (PDF). Here’s a recap of a few events that were most interesting to us:

  • Monday: Error-Proof Metalforming session. The tight tolerances of our four-slides allow us to come as close as possible to perfection – but who wouldn’t want to learn more?
  • Tuesday: Shipbuilding professional program. With our past experience performing metal stamping for submarine components, this session immediately appealed to us.
  • Wednesday: World Class Safety and How to Compete Globally session. Worker safety is always a primary concern of ours, and it’s great to see that our colleagues share this view.
  • Thursday: Cloud Computing Basics session. For more information on cloud computing, click here. In short, this technology can help us be more efficient in sharing the results of services like design and inspection with our customers, and can help streamline our own in-house processes as well.

Please get in touch or leave comments with your own impressions of FABTECH 2011!

Demand Issues Affect Steel Prices

Worldwide production and economic issues have joined to produce some unfortunate side effects for steel manufacturers and metalworkers. As described in this article, ArcelorMittal, the world’s biggest steelmaker, is dealing with the aftereffects of a global recession, facing lowered demand and higher raw material pricing. This convergence of events, with market competition pushing commodity pricing down even as raw material procurement costs increase, creates a very uncertain climate in the industry.

Here at Keats Manufacturing, we pride ourselves on putting our customers first and offering as much assistance in purchasing as possible. Through our long experience in metal stamping, we’ve seen a lot of market ups and downs, and we’ve found that the best way to deal with them is to proceed with business as usual. That is, it’s rarely beneficial to attempt to “play the market” with steel, and costs over the long term will reflect this principle. Please contact us at Keats with any further questions!

A Question of Industry: Are Four-Slide Machines Obsolete?

Reading some LinkedIn posts recently, we came across a discussion that we couldn’t help but jump into. A fellow engineer asked whether the reliable and versatile four-slide machine had become obsolete. You can probably guess our answer! Although four-slide machines were originally invented to fabricate springs and wire forms (and continue to do so today), technicians from other industries have continually found new and innovative ways to use them, far beyond their original applications. Rather than being outdated, four-slides are contributing to cutting-edge, efficient and accurate manufacturing just as much as ever.
We were pleased to see that we were just one of a chorus of many voices answering the LinkedIn query with a resounding “No!”, whether from job plants with their own four-slides, or manufacturers that use those plants’ services. Just a few advantages mentioned throughout the discussion were:

  • Increased speed as compared to die presses
  • Superior product design applications
  • Ability to produce more complex pieces
  • Close tolerances

One of the best ways to ensure those advantages is to dedicate enough time to employee training and machine maintenance, and we cannot overestimate the importance of this to other four-slide users and customers out there. With over 100 machines at our facility, and the expertise and creativity to continue to push their boundaries, we look forward to proving their viability and usefulness for years to come.

Circuit Breakers and the Environment: Two New Products

One of the many diverse uses for metal stampings is in circuit breakers, which prevent electrical circuits from blowing out or short circuiting. Two new circuit breaker products that we’ve learned about are used in cutting-edge environmental technology that provide a great look at the continually evolving nature of the industry: Siemens’ electric car charging column and Eaton’s wind farm breaker .
The Siemens charging column represents a real turning point for the electric car industry. It’s expressly designed for use in public places like parking garages and curbside parking spots, and it can recharge two vehicles at once. Siemens’ investment in this type of product – one designed to be used outside the home – illustrates the increasing popularity of electric cars as much more than niche vehicles. The Eaton wind farm breaker uses a unique vacuum interrupting technology designed specifically for wind farm energy-collection points. It also doesn’t require cooling or ventilation. It’s great to see this type of innovation made possible by products like metal stampings, and we’re excited to see what’s next.

An International Outlook: Metal Manufacturing in Mexico

As discussed in this article, Mexico is now the largest supplier of metal automobile parts to the United States. In addition, 11% of cars sold in the U.S. are manufactured in Mexico. Although a large number of car manufacturing jobs are moving back to the U.S. from Mexico, it’s apparent that automotive manufacturing there is a force to be reckoned with. We consider it an exciting time to be part of the industry through our metal stampings, and look forward to partnership opportunities.
One of our biggest strengths here at Keats is our location. Our El Paso, TX facility allows us to be part of the manufacturing chain on both sides of the border. This is a great way to contribute to manufacturing in both places, increasing and improving auto parts production. We’re proud to be part of the resurgent automotive industry as it enters its next phase, here in the U.S., and worldwide. Visit our site for more info on all applications for our metal stampings.