Gears Matter Blog

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(Photo from Artificial Intelligence Boosts Efficiency for Solar and Wind; DNV.GL) The wind and solar industries fall into a newer technology category when comparing to that of general manufacturing. It is interesting to think about these industries’ development versus a much older sector, like gear manufacturing. The renewable technologies grew up in a time of computers and technology. Wind turbines and solar panels have had built-in sensor technology gathering data for many years. In a way, these technologies have an advantage to utilize big data through artificial intelligence practices because one of the needs for AI is big data dumps of information. ...
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Labor is in short supply. “Finding Qualified, Hourly, Plant Staff” was identified as the top workforce development concern for U.S. gear manufacturers in an August, 2017 survey conducted by the American Gear Manufacturers Association (AGMA) Foundation. Interestingly, the gear manufacturers’ second top concern was the closely related—“Aging Workforce, Including Knowledge Transfer Issues.”  In other words, not only do gear manufacturers have a hard time replacing retirees, the retirees’ wealth of knowledge is not being transferred to the next generation.   I walked the floor at Gear Expo this year looking for the real stories behind the survey data. I heard ...
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Let’s talk 3D printed gears again. There was an interesting article published in 3Dprint.com earlier this month that has some photos that I think you will find interesting. The content of the article itself is really worth a read — it discusses a company that wanted to reduce the downtime of a MIG welder that had a failed gear. So they created a temporary replacement gear using their desktop 3D printer. The original gear for this machine was made from nylon. The temporary replacement gear was made using Folgertech PLA. The 3D printed gear (which only took 30 minutes to print at a cost of .20) held up for 7 months in the gearbox!  3DPrint.com posted some ...
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The Speed of Standards

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One of the most frequently asked question I receive from members of the gear industry not intimately involved with AGMA Technical Committees is: When will you have a standard addressing this new emerging technology? This question makes me smile. On one hand, it is encouraging that there is interest in a new, exciting technology in the industry, and the questioner understands the impact that having a standard for that technology will have on the industry. On the other hand, it is frustrating because I know that even the rosiest estimate I could give will probably be very disappointing to the questioner. Realistically, the answer is five to ten years away. ...
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The Long View

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"Invest for the long term." This statement is a no-brainer, but I fear too many gear manufacturers replace this with "invest in a good deal."   A good deal is great ― don't get me wrong. But if the good deal means a company settles for decades-old technology, it will remain equipped only to handle basic manufacturing. I might go so far as to predict that the company's quiet end is not over the horizon; the company will simply be "tech-ed-out" within a generation. As access to information continues to spread and becomes seamless, manufacturing will be dramatically transformed, and the good deals won't even be enough to stay in business.   ...
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Many talk about the gear industry suffering at the hands of disruptive technologies and certain innovations that will remove the manufacturer and replace them with machines. Although there is challenge ahead of current manufacturing processes, is there a real reason to fear that robots and automation will swallow up all gear industry jobs?   Probably not. However, what I do know is that there is a much more pressing situation that many are experiencing but not a lot are talking about: what is my succession plan? Manufacturing and Millennials seems to work like oil and water. Companies have a difficult time finding a strong work force in the younger generation. ...
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Let’s take a minute and talk about Crowdsourcing. It is not a new concept, Linux was developed by an open community process back in the late 1980s. But in the past few years it seems to be not only trending, but thriving. The idea of bringing together people from disparate industry to conceptually work together on a problem is fascinating stuff. It is interesting to consider brain surgeons working with mechanics or marketing specialists collaborating with economists providing viewpoints that together have led to some interesting, and profitable, ideas. At Gear Expo, one of our keynote presenters, Jay Rogers - CEO of Local Motors, discussed his online ...
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Can you provide our blog audience with a quick overview of your company?   MakeTime uses software and technology to streamline the procurement and production management of CNC machined parts. We have built an online network of over 1,000 suppliers across the US and continue to grow it everyday. By collecting data from parts uploaded to our platform and suppliers in our network, we connect manufacturers who need CNC machined parts made, to the right supplier for the job. These manufacturers range from multi-billion dollar OEMs to small hardware startups.    In a nutshell, for no upfront additional costs, our suppliers have ...
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Vuzix is a leading developer of smart glasses and video eyewear. Their technology end users run the gamut from consumer, industrial, commercial, academic and medical markets. Mary Ellen Doran, AGMA Director, Emerging Technology recently spoke with Joe Surprenant from Vuzix.   Hi Joe. I am really excited to have Vuzix be a part of Gear Expo both with Paul Boris, COO as a Keynote speaker and having you in the new Emerging Technology Pavilion this year. It fits well with our work to bring emerging technologies in front of the AGMA membership. I say that this is an emerging technology, but I know that Vuzix has been developing this type of technology ...
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  We all know Phineas Taylor Barnum.   Of course, American lore remembers him as PT Barnum.   PT, renowned as the quintessential hoax-ster and one of the most astounding businessmen of the 19 th century, still reigns in our minds as the greatest showman on Earth.   Proving his “sale-ability,” Barnum even mastered his craft enough to be elected to the Connecticut State House of Representatives four times.   Barnum’s innate sense of “what the people want to see” and even more importantly to PT, “what will they fall for while paying for it?” is rivaled by maybe, maybe, no one in American history.   After all, Barnum did coin the phrase “A sucker ...
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According to the International Standard Organization(ISO), “ISO creates documents that provide requirements, specification, guidelines or characteristics that can be used consistently to ensure that materials, products, processes and services are fit for their purpose.” I use this ISO description because it demonstrates that standards are used to provide a best practice, not necessarily a competitive advantage. This reflects AGMA processes regarding standards as well. Gear standards function as a common language through which gear manufacturers and users can evaluate various gear products. They provide users with reference points as to the reliability and performance ...
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College is expensive. The College Board reports that 2016 tuition averaged $33,480 at private colleges, and $9,650 at public universities. With these high price tags, finding scholarship applicants should be easy. But, like everything else, finding scholarship recipients is all about effective marketing. When my small Association Foundation (the American Gear Manufacturers Association Foundation) established a scholarship program in 2010 it was hard to find applicants. The scholarships were for students interested in a career in gearing, which is a small niche in mechanical engineering. One student applied in 2010, zero in 2011, and one in 2012. Marketing ...
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For The Overall Good

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When working for a non-profit, it is easy to develop a work ethic of using less to create more. Budgets can be tighter, resources are limited and being short staffed is a normal way of operating. It never surprises me to see the hard work of associations, foundations and non-profit folks that put the needs of others before their own. The bottom line is important but not always the focus. What does surprise me; however, is how the “for-profit” gear companies put the gear industry needs at the forefront of their interests, and many times at their own expense. The amount of time, money and personnel that businesses allocate to improving the overall industry ...
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Let's Get Ready

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Traveling for trade shows is expensive, stressful and exhausting. It is the season for expositions and many companies are already on their third or fourth for the year. In about two weeks, hopefully you and 2500 other industry professionals, will leave from cities all over the world and travel to Columbus, OH for Gear Expo 2017. Wouldn’t it be great if everything went off without a hitch?   By now, you most likely have completed all the internal company details. You have scheduled where employees will be, you have ordered and packed the booth items, organized the shipment and confirmed your booth appointments. Now, what’s left is getting you there ...
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Jill Johnson and I just returned from Greenville, SC where AGMA hosted 25 members for a networking dinner.  It is one of the best ways to connect with our members to see what is going on in their businesses. It was great to visit with members including Baldor, Griffin Gear and SEW Eurodrive.   All great companies, doing great things as they work hard to serve new and existing customers – and taking different paths to foster long term growth.   While visiting SEW-EURODRIVE, we had a chance to talk with Mathias Loewen, who manages many of the critical functions at its Lyman, SC facilities.  The locations they have include a 125,000 NSF assembly ...
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We recently went over the advantages to having a foundation connected to a trade association. Foundations serve the public good, and are restricted by the IRS to activities of a religious, charitable, scientific, literary, or educational purpose. It is important as an association member to understand how trade association foundations receive their funding so you can choose how to be involved. Many association foundations receive funding through: ·          grants from other Foundations. Often times, these grants come from members of the trade association that have established a company or family foundations. ·          grants from ...
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I have been discussing the importance of social media for your business. I highlighted the fact that even those in manufacturing need to have a presence online to keep up with their competitors and the new technologies out there. Articles, blogs, op-ed pieces filled with intelligent words are only one way to share your expertise. My suggestion is that if you want to show your potential customers, your peers or your competition how good your product is, then you need to actually show them. When you use pictures and videos, your viewership will increase. MIT News reported that tallied posts on the MIT Facebook page showed: “Of the top 20 posts, 70 percent ...
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IMTS, Gear Expo, Westec, Eastec and plenty more trade shows remain an important part of manufacturing. Wasn't the internet supposed to make finding new products and technologies effortless? Why do we still spend gobs of money and time exhibiting and attending these things all over the country?   As an exhibitor of machine tools, I know firsthand the heavy cost of being part of a trade show. Instead of exhibiting, we could just hold a lottery and give away a machine. Same cost! Ok, perhaps not a new machine—maybe a used one. . . But, that would be missing the point. I shake my head when I hear gear industry personnel say something like, "Gear Expo? ...
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Have you ever attended a trade show and seen exhibitors who don’t have any business in their booths?   Or, have you ever wondered why some booths (even small in size) are jammed with people?   Trade show b ooth traffic isn’t necessarily a reflection on the quality of your product is–it’s a reflection on the quality of your personnel running the booth. When I attend a trade show, it’s always amazing what people think is acceptable booth behavior.   You’ve seen these people too–they have their backs to the aisles, sitting down reading a magazine, talking on their phones and looking at the floor.   These exhibitors are missing sales opportunities.   When ...
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A big part of my job is to stay on top of developments in our emerging technology areas. I spend a good deal of time reading new studies, research reports, and articles on new applications in 3D printing, robotics, and Industrial IoT. Today I thought it would be fun to share some of the odd and new that may not completely help you to make your factory smart, but just may be inspiring. So my tribute to the weird and the wild: Hyperloop I have been following the Hyperloop development for the past couple of years now. I am sure I am not brave enough to be a volunteer on their first full runs, but I am amazed at the ingenuity. And WIRED posted ...
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