Machining manufacturers are a diverse group. Some focus on consumer products or support other small businesses, while others are connected to larger industry segments, such as aerospace. Typically machining manufacturers have smaller volume orders and less standardization.
The technically focused issues for machining manufacturers are the following:
- The integration of new materials and the adoption of advanced computer technologies.
- New materials such as ceramics and advanced high strength steels and stainless steel require new or modified tooling and techniques.
- Machining and forming manufacturers are also concerned about integrating advanced computer technologies into manufacturing processes.
Smart manufacturing – information networking, monitoring, and connecting – are transforming many aspects of production and logistics. These technologies create the potential to catch and correct production and quality problems quickly. At the same time, they create the needs for computer and technology skills that have not been previously needed.
Like other types of manufacturers, machining firms are experiencing difficulties with their workforce.
- A third of those surveyed indicated that they could not find workers with the skills that they needed.
- Approximately 19 percent remarked that they could not find employees with enough experience.
- Another 19 percent said that they could not find workers with the right soft skills.
Manufacturers are also confronted with changing customer expectations and pressures to lower costs. They find it difficult to find internal resources to innovate.
- Most innovation comes externally, often from customer demands or from suppliers making suggestions on product or process improvements.
- Innovation investments are often for capital expenditures (e.g, buying new equipment), and not development of personnel.
- Approximately 57 percent of manufacturers expect to make innovation investments in the next three years.
In summary, innovation and the development of new technologies are key to continued success and prosperity, as is addressing workforce issues. Another important issue discussed in other roadmaps is energy efficiency and sustainability. Reducing energy consumption and costs can provide a significant competitive advantage to manufacturers. New materials, such as ceramics, high temperature alloys, and advanced stainless steels, provide opportunities for manufacturers to produce new and improved products for customers.