This year’s annual MCAA Convention for the Mechanical Contractors Association of America was a huge hit.
I am pleased to announce that Wheatland Tube – Council Ave plant has completed the final phase of Project Phoenix, a six phase plant upgrade with new inline finishing equipment. As previously noted the project was eliminating 4 major bottlenecks in the production and shipping areas (facing, testing, painting and shipping). This upgrade was the largest undertaking the facility has ever gone through in its roughly 81 years of operation.
We currently are at phase 5.5 of 6 phases of the project. We started up from our winter shutdown on January 4, 2016. During the shutdown we tied in additional capacity to our straightening, facing and testing operations. Since the start-up we have increased our finished tons per week by 17%.
Additionally, our shipping capacity has improved by handling the finished bundles as opposed to our previous method of manual order breakdowns. Our average time to load the customer trucks is around 35 minutes. We also have additional capacity by adding crews and/or shifts as needed.
We continue to make improvements to our coatings and stencil through rigorous testing and process improvements.
Our in-line threader, a PMC model, has outstanding thread quality and the hex packaging with off-set coupling ends and capped ends blend nicely with our other hex finished bundles.
Our final phase will be completed over the mill shutdown in July of this year. This phase is the installation of a second MAIR plain end. This plain end will be a twin machine to the high-speed 4-spindle machine we installed last summer. The new plain end will be in line with our mill and testing operations. The newly designed plain ends have length and inspection systems. This machine will replace a 45 year old facing unit.
Back in July, we announced the revitalization program that our Council Avenue plant is undergoing and how it will benefit our customers. Since our last post, we’ve made great progress with the upgrades, and we continue to work diligently to complete this project so our customers receive an even better product from Wheatland Tube.
Well into phase five of six total phases, here are some highlights of the project:
• We have installed and commissioned an 8-head high speeds hydro and flush system. The high speed hydro tester will help eliminate operational bottle necks, enhancing our product throughput, and improving cycle times and customer service. The flush system will improve the ID (inside diameter) of our product, and both systems will add MIC shield to our product.
• We have installed and commissioned a new 4 head PMC threader. This new threader is an upgrade from our current threading machine. It will produce a world-class thread, while the unit automatically installs thread protectors. The new threader will install thread protectors (TPs) on one end of the pipe, while a coupling is applied to the other end. The pipe is then put into a hex-bundle which helps in stacking/storing the material.
• Improved painting, stenciling and packing expertise, resulting in an overall higher quality product.
When people think of careers in manufacturing, it’s safe to say they think of the plant workers and not far beyond that. And there’s no question the production workers are the heart of our operation. Without our plant employees, we wouldn’t be able to produce anything – even given the increase in automated plant tasks. However, there are more careers in manufacturing than skilled/unskilled positions. In fact, manufacturing is home to a wide range of careers that require varied levels of education and training.
Science, technology, engineering and mathematics education have been a topic of conversation lately and we think it’s a great thing to see and hear. The STEM areas of education are critical to our growth and success as a company, as well as for manufacturing as an industry.
For the US and the rest of North America to continue to reshore manufacturing jobs, we need to “step up our game” when it comes to educating tomorrow’s manufacturing workers. This begins at the elementary level where we must introduce the vast opportunities available in STEM careers to young boys and girls, specifically manufacturing. This education and awareness has to continue through high school and college, showing students the possibilities available to them.
Leaving the education to the teachers and professors (for now, anyways), we’re going to review some of the neglected careers of manufacturing. The careers students don’t give a second thought to, careers that are vital to the success of a manufacturing production, and careers that are simply overlooked if you’re unfamiliar with the industry.Engineering and Technology
Typically speaking, engineering and technology jobs require post-secondary education, from gaining an Associate’s degree to a Bachelor’s degree and beyond, if you want to be involved with designing and building things, you will have to do some schooling.
In our latest blog post, we talked about manufacturing’s greatest, most underutilized asset, which of course, are women. And that got us thinking about the Wheatland women. During a time when women in manufacturing has become such a hot topic, we are doing what we can to grow the workforce and put people back to work.
Although we can’t say enough about the men working in our facilities, we wanted to take the time to highlight a few of the many women working at our facilities.
In celebrating our women, we sat down with three outstanding employees and discussed a variety of topics, including why they think there is such a significant gap in the number of women who work in manufacturing and how we can get more young girls and women interested in manufacturing.
Meet Lisa Beers, Christine Walczak and Sue Preston: three women who have collectively contributed more than 50 years of service to Wheatland Tube. Let’s get to know these women and their thoughts about the state of manufacturing and the future of women in the industry.
The US manufacturing industry is flourishing. The skilled manufacturing workforce is not.
Promising numbers, manufacturing isn't going anywhere: it's primed to grow. According to the Accenture 2014 Manufacturing Skills and Training Study (a study about the state of manufacturing and potential threats to its continued growth), 82% of survey respondents plan to increase production, with 50% saying that they plan to increase US-based production by at least 5 percent over the next five years. What's more, almost 25% of those surveyed intend to increase manufacturing roles in the US by more than 10% in the next five years.
However, despite the slated growth over the next five years, US manufacturers are facing quite the dilemma: a shortage in skilled workers.
Although there's been an influx in automation within manufacturing, resulting in the need for a smaller workforce, there continues to be a high demand for skilled and highly skilled workers. In fact, according to Accenture's study, 80% of the manufacturing roles fell into the skilled and highly skilled categories.
And this is where the problem lies: there aren't enough qualified job seekers in the industry. And unfortunately, this supply and demand issue will only continue to grow as the current skilled workforce reaches retirement age over the next 10 to 15 years.