2014 Tooling & Workholding Outlook: Fit for Purpose Innovation
To remain relevant in an increasingly competitive marketplace, Chris Weiler of Weiler Corporation manufacturers and their suppliers must be more agile in their customer implementation to ensure not only the delivery of the right products and solutions at the right time, but also the technical expertise and application knowledge to choose and apply those solutions quickly and collaboratively.
We expect to see stable and increasing business in 2014 in both of our core metal fabrication and industrial production markets. Several of the end-use metal fabrication segments where we expect relatively higher growth opportunities are being driven by the oil and gas boom.
Pipelines, power generation and transportation are a few such segments where we see stronger opportunity driven by infrastructure development needs in the coming years. Power brushes and abrasives are critical for ensuring the high quality welds and surface finishes needed in all of these segments.
Within the industrial market, the automotive segment is a highlight. U.S. auto production continues to rise and the outlook for 2014 is for continued expansion. Construction equipment has been a key detractor in 2013 and we are not anticipating a strong turnaround next year. The most likely outcome will be stabilization at the current depressed production levels.
In today’s economic environment, shops are always looking for ways to be more efficient and save money. This will be even more important as we head into 2014. Visiting shops and viewing their applications and pain points is critical in determining how to develop winning solutions for them.
Metal fabrication shops demand more out of their consumables, including wire brushes and flap discs. While flap discs save time and money by grinding and finishing in one step, wire wheels help ensure weld quality by preparing and cleaning joints and welds. Investments in state-of-the-art manufacturing equipment, research and development, and new advances in materials will extend the life and performance of these products.
Some of the latest developments to help shops be more efficient and save money include a wire brush line with a unique dual-hex nut that greatly eases flipping of the wheel and eliminates interference issues that pose a safety hazard. Flipping the wheel allows the user to “self-sharpen” the wire to maintain maximum cleaning action.
Another is the innovative weld cleaning brush with a higher knot count and shorter trim length that allows more wire tips to strike the base material at greater speeds, resulting in a 35 percent improvement in cleaning action, up to 20 percent reduction in wire loss and 50 percent longer brush life. All of this translates into improved productivity and efficiency for shop processes.
To remain relevant in an increasingly competitive marketplace, manufacturers and their suppliers must continue to accelerate their development of new targeted solutions for improving productivity, efficiency, and quality. They must also be more agile in their customer implementation to ensure not only the delivery of the right products and solutions at the right time, but also the technical expertise and application knowledge to choose and apply those solutions quickly and collaboratively.
With capacity constraints facings companies across the auto industry, cycle time reductions are more important than ever. While productivity increases have always been cornerstones of cost-reduction initiatives, in 2014 their importance will be elevated further.
Investing in product development, capacity, and training are key to addressing your customer’s growth plans. Manufacturers can’t wait for good times to make investments in product development or capacity if they intend to capture the full market potential. Shops can expect to benefit from innovation investments in more “fit for purpose” products specifically designed with critical applications in mind. They should also expect to benefit from capacity investments which ensure increased demands for growing product lines will be satisfied on-time to customer request dates.
Metal fabricators often do not have time for lengthy trial-and-error studies to develop the ideal welding consumables for their application. Manufacturers and suppliers must be prepared to bring the technical expertise and application knowledge to bear to solve a problem quickly and collaboratively with the engineer or end user onsite. That is why we continually invest in technical training for our already seasoned field support teams as well as arm them with the best technology tools to provide real-time data and solutions at the application to improve production efficiency and end product quality.
We are excited about the economic potential in 2014. Performance has always counted in business, and as companies try to differentiate themselves in the market, they will depend on manufacturers to provide not only cutting-edge products and industry expertise to facilitate selecting solutions for application challenges, but also in-field experts who can deliver and help analyze large amounts of technical and business data to generate value beyond product. Manufacturers and suppliers who neglect to invest in tools and capabilities to reach this new level of value delivery in a big data world will be left behind.