The Metalworking Industry is Having a Moment
Robotic and automation solutions take center stage as shops rise above labor constraints and increase efficiencies.
Posted: January 17, 2023
The revolutions taking place in the development of affordable and entry-level robotics and automation manufacturing equipment allows shops of all sizes to make these investments and take their businesses to the next level. Thanks to simplified training and easy to program machinery, lesser experienced employees, for instance when it comes to robotic welding, can step in and make an immediate impact.
As this month’s cover story demonstrates, advances in manufacturing equipment create safe environments for human and robot interactions in a variety of production and material handling applications without the need for expensive fencing and guarding, as examples. Digitally enabled equipment minimizes the need for operators to oversee entire production processes, freeing them up to perform other duties while machines operate unattended. Software that facilitates manufacturing connectivity, pairing laser cutting machinery, for example, with automated loading, retrieval and storage solutions, provides flexibility in moving materials.
These industry revolutions increase productivity and improve job satisfaction, which is always important in a constrained employment market in a challenging economy. While the ISM’s December Manufacturing PMI registered 48.4%, a 0.6 percentage point lower than the 49% recorded in November, the outlook for 2023 remains healthy. For example, the primary metals sector reported growth, and increases in new orders in December; transportation equipment also had an influx of new orders. Primary metals also reported an expansion in production, as did electrical equipment, appliances and components; transportation equipment; and machinery.
In other reporting, the Precision Metalforming Association’s December report showed that 10% of companies predicted an increase in general economic activity in the next three months, up from 5% in November. Also in December, U.S. cutting tool consumption totaled $200.6 million in October, which was up 3.4% from September’s $194 million. The figures are according to the U.S. Cutting Tool Institute and the AMT – The Association for Manufacturing Technology. At that time, the year-to-date cutting tool consumption totaled $1.8 billion, up 9.4% compared to 2021.
While there are pain points and uncertainties on the horizon, metalworking shops benefit from supportive partners. By collaborating with their customers to develop leading edge solutions, suppliers continue to develop the next iterations of smart factory connectivity, cobots, robots and many more functions.
Metalworking businesses are embracing these innovations and fully enjoying this moment.
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