The second full week of February is recognized as National Secondhand Wardrobe Week. The intent of this observance is dedicated to encouraging people to shop secondhand and donate, or sell, old clothing rather than throw it away. The reasons behind this initiative are to support local thrift stores while helping people reduce the estimated 92 MILLION tons of textiles that end up in landfills every year. These are worthy goals by themselves, but I’d like to encourage you to observe this week for a different reason. I’m hoping you’ll clean out your closets for National Secondhand Wardrobe Week 2023 to help support the future of skilled trades.

Why Support the Skilled Trades

The skilled trades have opportunities for everybody in America. Regardless of your skills or experience, we have a professional home just waiting for you somewhere in construction, agriculture, or manufacturing. But these careers can go hand in hand with real barriers to entry. We’re most familiar hearing about these barriers when people talk about the skills gap that exists in our worldwide workforce today. However, things much simpler than skills can often prevent a person from pursuing work in the skilled trades. Most commonly, these areas include tools, boots, or specialty clothing required for employment.

Where to Donate

There are many groups and organizations that will collect donated clothing for specific purposes like cold weather (Salvation Army Coat Drives) or job interviews (Dress for Success). These are fantastic programs that do a lot of good, but they rarely focus on, or benefit, people in and around the trades. A number of programs are operating with a focus on shoes (Soles4Souls) and other footwear, (Samaritan’s Feet) while other organizations will provide new work boots (Charitable Union) to qualified applicants. Unfortunately, none of these options put a true emphasis on used work clothing or footwear aimed at people trying to get into the trades.

How You Can Help

By now you’re saying, “This is all great to know, but how can I help support the trades with my used work boots and clothes?” I’m so glad you asked because I have a solution!

I’d like you to consider the example of Darnel Royal and Work Boot Ministry. Darnel had an opportunity to give away a pair of work boots and went to social media to make it happen. In doing so, he uncovered a huge need and a mission. In about 4 years, Royal and his colleagues have donated 567 pairs of boots to support 567 different trades careers.

You can do the same thing, and you don’t have to be a local social media influencer like Darnel! My challenge to you is simple and can be accomplished in four easy steps.

  • Go through your closet and find any old clothes, boots, gloves, hats, outerwear, or specialty items that are fit for trades work (and still in good enough condition to donate).
  • Do a mental inventory of your network. Who do you know that’s connected to training programs, technical schools, shelters, workforce development centers, relevant employers, etc. (Hint: if the answer is nobody, a quick Google search and a phone call or two will change that quickly!)
  • Schedule a drop off and let them take things from there.
  • Repeat annually.

Pro-tip: If you’re willing to put up a post on social media and handle follow-up / delivery yourself, you can cut these four steps down to three.

Make a Difference In Your Community

Here at FlexTrades, it’s our intention to make a difference every day, in every way that we can. This is reflected in every one of our core values. It’s my sincere hope that this article inspires you to try to make a difference in your own community today while making it a little easier for you to do so too.

Would you like to read about other ways we try to make a difference? Check out our blog page today! Do you have ideas on how we can help? Send them to our Writing Team, and you might be reading about your idea in our next blog article.

In general, there are two types of job markets.

  1. The candidate-driven market
  2. The employer-driven market

As it stands today, the United States is in a candidate-driven job market. What exactly is that and what does it mean for job seekers?

What is a Candidate-Driven Job Market?

A candidate-driven job market sees candidates with the upper hand rather than employers. What this means is that jobs are abundant, employers are in need, and job seekers call the shots.

What Does It Mean for Candidates?

  1. There is plenty of room to negotiate pay, perks, and benefits.
  2. Companies are reducing experience requirements. This can open up the path to a new (or dream) job for candidates.
  3. Upskilling and training are more prevalent, and companies are more willing to provide these opportunities to get someone in the door. With this, candidates turn “weaknesses” into strengths and build their repertoire of skills by participating in the upskilling and training process.
  4. Companies are changing “must-haves” to “nice-to-haves.” Candidates should (and can) apply for jobs even if they can’t check the box for every requirement.
  5. Passive candidates can get to know the playing field. What’s out there? How in-demand are their skillset? Where can they earn more, and how can they use that information to negotiate better pay with their current employer?

In this current, candidate-driven job market, it’s all about the job seeker. But that’s nothing new for FlexTrades.

FlexTrades values and, has always valued, its Technicians (candidates).

Join the FlexTrades team today to experience top-notch pay, the opportunity to travel, and the ability to work and learn new skills with some of the best manufacturers in the United States!

If you’re new(er) to manufacturing, don’t worry. We have that covered, too! Join our ReTool team for the opportunity to learn from the best, increase your skillet and train for your dream job.

Robots Aren’t Coming for Your Jobs

Have you heard about Industry 4.0? It’s the fourth industrial revolution. The first was about mechanization and happened in the 18th century. The second occurred during the 19th century and centered around electrification. The 20th century saw the third, which was all about computers. Now we’re in the 21st century and smack dab in the middle of the fourth industrial revolution. This revolution is about what are called cyber-physical systems – the convergence of machine and computer. Industry 4.0 is evidenced by automation, robotics, the Industrial Internet of Things (IIoT), and the ongoing move towards “lights out” manufacturing.

Most of you have heard about Industry 4.0, you just don’t realize it. This is because most of what you’ve heard has been misrepresented. In general, talk about the fourth industrial revolution starts with, “The robots are coming to take our jobs!” Does that ring a bell? I’m here to tell you, that isn’t going to happen.

Industry 4.0

133 million Jobs Expected to be Created

We expect technology (like robots and larger automation processes) to eliminate a lot of jobs around the world. According to a oft-cited study conducted jointly by Hays and Oxford Economics, it can be expected that technology will “cull” 75 million jobs globally by the end of this decade. That’s an undeniably huge number, so why am I saying that the worries about robots taking jobs are being misrepresented? Because an even larger number mentioned in that same study never seems to get the same amount of attention. That number is 133 million, and it’s mentioned in reference to the number of jobs we expect to be CREATED by technology during that same time frame. That’s an almost 2:1 ratio and means that robots and technology are expected to create 100% more jobs than they eliminate worldwide!

Why People are Worried

Why, then, is everybody so worried about robots? In my opinion, it’s mostly because people inherently dislike change. Technology’s biggest benefit to industry (whether manufacturing, finance, retail, etc.) is to move the variable (in most cases, that’s the human element – you) further and further from where machine (mill, lathe, pen, phone call, point of sale, etc.) and material (metal, wood, receipt, service, etc.) meet. This is because that intersection is where errors, inefficiencies, and injuries happen most often. By moving that wild card (you), technology can help deliver better results while simultaneously making jobs safer.

Technology will Change Today’s Jobs

There’s a silver lining – technology is making our human jobs easier, safer, and more secure every day. So, what’s the bad news? It’s that technology will cause those same jobs to change continuously and consistently throughout a career. And that’s not going to change. This is also why a skills gap exists today. We have the jobs. We have the people to fill them. But those people don’t currently possess the skills needed to fill those jobs. The skills gap has led to a hiring shortfall of over 2 million people in American manufacturing alone!

Opportunities for Employers

What does this mean for you? If you’re an employer, it means that your workforce headaches aren’t going away anytime soon. FlexTrades can help with that, if needed. Visit our website to learn more about our manufacturing solutions.

Opportunities for Employees

If you’re an employee, this means that the robots are making more employment opportunities for you than ever before. McKinsey expects somewhere between 75 million and 375 million workers will eventually be “displaced” by technology. The sheer scale of opportunity for career advancement for workers worldwide is mind boggling when you think about it. You just need to keep growing your knowledge and skills, along with the technological advances of your industry, to ensure that you can benefit.

Already in manufacturing or the skilled trades? We could be a good employment option for you! Browse our jobs and bookmark our blog page.

Do you have a topic you’d like to learn more about? Send it to our Writing Team and we’ll try to cover it in a future blog.

Manufacturing Associations That Make a Difference

By now, you’re likely well aware that FlexTrades is committed to manufacturing. But we’re not the only ones. There are many other industry leaders, promoters, nonprofits, and for profits that are committed to ensuring the manufacturing industry is the best it can be and gets the credit it deserves. Below is a short list of some of these leaders.

National Association of Manufacturers (NAM)

NAM has been supporting manufacturing since 1895! They’ve done everything from advocate for the creation of the U.S. Department of Commerce to developing the National Manufacturing Institute.

The Manufacturing Institute (MI)

The MI is all about changing antiquated ideas of manufacturing careers, providing various support initiatives for American manufacturing workers, and acting as an adviser to U.S. manufacturers.

American National Standards Institute (ANSI)

ANSI has been a private, non-profit organization since 1918 and always with the same goal in mind – identify and develop standards for manufacturing on a national and global scale.

The Association for Manufacturing Excellence (AME)

AME is a not-for-profit of 4,000+ members consisting of anyone from middle management to executive status who are focused on productivity, performance, and continuous education.

The Association for Manufacturing Technology (AMT)

The name says it all. AMT is all about technology in manufacturing, a hot topic right now due to Industry 4.0.

Fabricators & Manufacturers Association, International (FMA)

FMA is all about Metal Fabrication – advancements, training, the future – and it has been for over 50 years.

Manufacturers Alliance/MAPI

The main goal of MAPI is diversity in the manufacturing industry. This includes diversity in skills, experiences, people, and voices.

National Council for Advanced Manufacturing (NAFCAM)

NAFCAM is focused on manufacturing in Washington, DC – how to revitalize and maintain the United States manufacturing sector at a policy level with Congress and the Executive Branch (among many other things).

SME

This nonprofit is one of the biggest promoters of the manufacturing industry with a mission to promote manufacturing technology. It also focuses on developing a workforce of skilled professionals ready to advance manufacturing into the future.

Want more cool insights about manufacturing? Check out our FabTech 2022 Highlights Recap for more information about automation, safety, 3D Printing, and more!

FABTECH is the North American metal fabricating industry’s premier event every year. It is run in partnership by some of the biggest trade associations in the sector. The intent of the show is to bring buyers and sellers into a convenient venue to conduct business, make connections, share ideas, AND learn. The event occurs annually in the US rotating between Chicago, Atlanta, and Las Vegas. An identical event takes place in Mexico annually on a rotation between Monterrey and Mexico City. FABTECH Canada is a biennial event exclusive to Toronto. You can learn more about FABTECH at your convenience. FlexTrades was in Atlanta for the entire event last week. We wanted to share some of our biggest takeaways with you. 

 

Automation 

Lead times were such a giant part of so many conversations at FABTECH 2022 that they almost got their own place on this list. The concern with how to deal with long lead times from suppliers and reduce lead times for customers is one of many primary drivers for the prevalence of automation at FABTECH this year. From reducing injuries to improving workflows to increasing efficiency, it seems most exhibitors and attendees consider a robot or cobot to be at least a partial solution for their problems. Automation of every kind was on abundant display. This great highlight video does a fantastic job of showing you as many of them as possible in 90 seconds! 

 

Sustainability 

It’s no secret that consumer taste is changing. No longer is it enough to deliver the best product or the best price. The market has evolved. Manufacturers still need to deliver on quality and price point, but people buy for the story now too. At least part of that story has become focused on sustainability. Mainly, end users want to know how you’re improving the environment of your facility for employees and how you’re maintaining the environment for your communities and consumers. FABTECH 2022 taught us that producers who don’t already have a focus on sustainability need to develop one quickly or they’ll be left behind. Meanwhile, companies who have been early adopters of processes with an ESG and sustainability focus are already reaping the benefits. 

 

Safety 

We’ve been saying for years that today’s facilities are no longer our fathers factories. The image of the dark, dirty, dangerous facility that news reels from the 50s and 60s accustomed us to are just no longer accurate. That doesn’t mean our current workforce doesn’t want manufacturers to continue to move the line forward regarding safety. Filtration systems to improve air quality, lighting advances to improve visibility, lift assist systems of all kinds, and even drones to inspect confined spaces were evident in displays or conversations at FABTECH this year. This prevalence indicates that an improved safety focus is something that all generations currently represented in the workforce agree upon. COVID protocols and practices brought safety front of mind for all of us (finally), and that’s here to stay. 

 

3D Printing 

Recent studies tell us that a full third of manufacturers are putting additive manufacturing on their short lists for investment. FABTECH 2022 echoed these findings in a big way. Additive was everywhere across this year’s expo. There were new powders to create metals, new machines to layer them, and everything in between. This expo made a point of teaching the industry that additive processes are much more than just 3D printing these days. 

 

Workforce 

The lack of available talent in the skilled trades pipeline to manufacturing was as big a topic as it has been in recent years. That has traditionally been a huge driver for interest in automation. This year, especially among keynote speaker panels, we’ve heard a bigger emphasis placed on the role we play as employers in developing the workforce. These presentations are intended to make deciders across the industry aware that younger employees want the same things previous generations wanted. Millennial and Gen Z jobseekers are just willing to ask for it up front, and they’re capable of doing their own research to know if your competition is offering it. Panelist Will Healy III put it best when he said, “If you’re hiring a welder for $15 base rate and you offer full benefits but McDonalds down the street is hiring people for $15 base rate and full benefits AND a free cheeseburger at lunch – what you’re really competing with is a cheeseburger. You need to think differently and bring more to the table than the competition if you want to win.” 

 

Next FABTECH 

The next FABTECH happens in Mexico this coming March. But we don’t want you to wait until then to see and learn more! If you found this content interesting and informative, we put out new industry content all the time. Check out our YouTube page for yet to be released interviews we captured in Atlanta. You can always follow FlexTrades on your social media platform of choice or check out our blog page to make sure you don’t miss out. And, of course, if you have other ideas for topics you’d like to know more about, or questions for FlexTrades, just send them to our Writing Team and we’ll be happy to cover them in a future article or video.

There are a lot of things made in America and FlexTrades helps make them. FlexTrades has a presence in many, many states across the United States. We work with manufacturers of all types, and we employ many talented engineers and skilled trades personnel. American manufacturing is important to us and we’re doing what we can to power manufacturing nationwide. As a result, we thought we’d share some great products manufactured here in the United States! Go American Made. 

 

Please keep in mind, according to the Federal Trade Commission, the term “Made in the USA” means “all or virtually all” products are made in the USA. As a result, some of these companies may outsource materials or some components but the actual product is made here in the United States of America.  

 

Alabama – Cougar Claw Tree Stands 

Cougar Claw Tree Stands are made in Foley, Alabama. This company not only makes the product in Alabama, but they also extract the aluminum needed to make the product from northern Alabama.  

 

Alaska – Bambino’s Baby Food 

Manufacturing in Alaska can be hard to do since most products are exported and that requires additional costs. However, Bambino’s Baby Food has found a way to do it. Bambino’s uses certified organic produce from Alaska farms as well as sustainable Alaskan seafood to produce their product. All products are manufactured in Anchorage, Alaska. 

 

Arizona – Nest Bedding 

Nest Bedding manufactures their products in Phoenix, Arizona. Not only does Nest Bedding manufacture in the US, but they also use USA sourced materials.  

 

Arkansas – Allied Cycle Works 

Allied Cycle Works is 100% made in America in Rogers, Arkansas. They not only manufacture and assemble in America, but they also design and source raw materials from the USA. Check them out! They care not only about their product, but also about the people who make their product.  

 

California – American Giant 

American Giant makes high quality, durable (not disposable, as they say) clothing, in the United States. 

 

Colorado – Bell Mason Jars 

Ball Mason Jars has been manufacturing glass jars in Broomfield, Colorado for 130 years!  

 

Connecticut – Atlas Cutting Tools 

Atlas Cutting Tools has 40+ years of experience manufacturing high quality cutting tools for CNC machining. They’re manufacturing in the United States for American manufacturers. Atlas Cutting Tools is located in Waterbury, Connecticut. 

 

Delaware – James Thompson & Co Inc.  

James Thompson & Co. Inc. was established in 1860 making their presence in the textile industry a long one (162 years to be exact). Check out the link to read the history of this company – it’s very interesting! The Dying and Finishing operations are located in Greenwood, Delaware. 

 

Florida – Beard & Company 

Beard & Company makes high quality beard, skin, and haircare products in Apopka, Florida. All products are handmade!  

 

Georgia – All American Khakis 

All American Khakis are made in Thomson, Georgia. This is a family-owned company with the goal to bring apparel manufacturing back to the United States. 

 

Hawaii – Island Slipper 

Similar to Alaska, manufacturing in Hawaii is difficult because of export costs and logistics. However, in Oahu, there is one company making slippers (in other words, sandals) by hand. Since 1946, Island Slipper has been making slippers out of green and healthy materials and production techniques. 

 

Idaho – Buck Knives 

Buck Knives has a great story that dates back to 1902 and is currently operated by a fourth-generation family member. Buck Knives are manufactured in Post Falls, Idaho. 

 

Illinois – First-Light USA 

First-Light USA makes high performance tactical flashlights in their facility in Seymour, Illinois. 

90% of the materials and components used in the flashlights are sourced within the United States. 

 

Indiana – Suns Out 

Suns Out manufactures their puzzles in Marion, Indiana. Originally outsourced to other U.S. manufacturers, Suns Out most recently invested in their own facility, and started in-house production of their puzzles in 2020. 

 

Iowa – Jon Kammerer 

In a town with a population of just over 9,000 residents, you can find a craftsman like no other. Jon Kammerer hand makes acoustic and electric guitars. What a skill! 

 

Kansas – Yoder Smokers 

Yoder Smokers are American made grills and smokers. All of these are handcrafted in Hutchinson, Kansas, which many consider to be one the most famous states for BBQ. 

 

Kentucky – Briggs & Stratton 

85% of small engines produced by Briggs & Stratton are made in the United States. This plant opened in 1985 and manufactured their 85 millionth (yes, millionth) engine in 2017. 

 

Louisiana – Zapp’s Potato Chips 

Zapp’s Potato Chips have quite the origin story and flavor options. These delicious snacks are made in Gramercy, Louisiana. 

 

Maine – Pride Golf Tee 

John Lloyd Wright, son of famous architect Frank Lloyd Wright is the founder of Logs. After nearly 60 years of being made in China, Lincoln Logs are now made in Burnham, Maine (a state known for its lumber industry) by a wooden golf-tee manufacturer,  Pride Golf Tee. 

 

Maryland – Poze Candle Co.  

Poze Candle Co. handcrafts and hand pours luxury soy candles (with wooden wicks) in Laurel, MD. Soy wax contains nothing artificial like paraffin wax, making it non-toxic and better for the environment. 

 

Massachusetts – Randolph USA 

In a family-owned and operated factory in Randolph, Massachusetts, Randolph USA makes superb sunglasses. It all started in 1973, when a former Royal Air Force navigator and machinist immigrated to America and opened doors to a factory to produce an eyewear (sunglass) company. The company built the machines that make the glasses with one goal in mind- make a product for the toughest of tough: Aviator sunglasses for the US military and the US Department of Defense. 

 

Michigan – American Plastic Toys 

American Plastic Toys produce just that- plastic (but safe) toys and have been doing so since 1932.Although Michigan is not the only state this company manufactures in, it should be noted that all plastic and colorants are purchased domestically (within the US). Less than 4% of toy content is imported (mostly sound components and fasteners) and only 9% of total products have imported components. Wow! 

 

Minnesota – Duluth Pack 

Duluth Pack is THE oldest canvas and leather bag and pack manufacturer in the United States. Since 1882, this company has been making high-quality, hand crafted canvas and leather gear. As you might have guessed, this company is based out of Duluth, Minnesota.  

 

Mississippi – C&W Companies 

C&W Companies is a woman-owned enterprise since 1990 and is located in Rienzi, MS. C&W is one of the largest contract embroidery firms in the US and operates in the screen print industry. 

 

Missouri – Red Wing Shoe Company 

Technically, the family-owned Red Wing Shoe Company has two locations – Red Wing, Minnesota as well as Potosi, Missouri. Since their inception in 1905, every pair of Red Wing boots has been handcrafted. All the tanning, cutting, fitting, lasting, bottoming and finishing is done by hand, and in total, it takes 230 different steps to make them complete! 

 

Montana – Fisher Blacksmithing 

Fisher Blacksmithing is a rare find these days. Owner Tule Fisher is a blacksmith who hand forges gardening tools in Bozeman, Montana. You’ve got to check these out. They look useful and they’re pieces of art!  

 

Nebraska – Accu-Strike  

Accu-Strike weld helmets are made in America in Ord, Nebraska. A welder made these helmets, so you know they’ve got to be good. This producer guarantees that not only is the Accu-Strike helmet dark before the arc is struck, it’s also a clear lens to view through when grinding and/or positioning parts. A very useful tool for all welder fabricators. 

 

Nevada – American Barbell 

American Barbell has been making gym equipment for over 40 years. You can find them in commercial gyms, military bases, and strength conditioning facilities domestically and internally. It’s located in Las Vegas, Nevada. 

 

New Hampshire – New Hampshire Clocks 

The title is in the name. New Hampshire Clocks are high-end clocks made in Franklin, New Hampshire. Although not all components come from American suppliers, it’s New Hampshire Clock’s goal to get there. The US region of New England mills, handcrafts, and finishes the wood. The glass comes from New York and the handles come from Michigan. Additional parts come from Wisconsin, California, and Massachusetts. 

 

New Jersey – WeatherWool 

WeatherWool is a small family company making great outerwear out of their own home. They operate out of South Orange, New Jersey. 100% of their processing operations are American including the ranchers, the shearers, the truckers, the engineers, the dying, scouring, and milling. It even includes those who supply threads, buttons, zippers, etc. What an accomplishment! 

 

New Mexico – Golightly Cashmere 

Golightly Cashmere is craft knitted in Santa Fe, New Mexico by true artisans. Not only is Golightly Cashmere proud of their product, but they are also very proud of their ability to sustainably source ethically produced cashmere in the United States. 

 

New York – Cutco 

Cutco is the largest manufacturer of kitchen cutlery in North America. They have been manufacturing for over 70 years in their Olean, New York factory. Cutco is proud of their American-made product, they have a “Forever Guarantee.” If for any reason their customer is not happy with the knives, correction is always taken (sometimes replacement). They do free sharpening as well! 

 

North Carolina – American Giant 

American Giant makes high quality, durable (not disposable, as they say) clothing in the United States. Much of the company’s supply chain sources and manufacturing is in North Carolina with additional manufacturing and sourcing in California and South Carolina. I will enthusiastically endorse American Giant. They have GREAT clothing, and I highly recommend you check them out! 

 

North Dakota – Dot’s Homestyle Pretzels  

Dot’s Homestyle Pretzels has a great story. I can’t leave them out even though they have bakeries in two states now. Dot’s started with Dorothy Henke. Dorothy lived in North Dakota, but she spent winters in Arizona. A cousin of Dorothy’s husband asked if Dorothy could bring 30-40 bags of seasoned pretzels as gifts for her clients. Over the course of time, and even more interesting stories, Dot was able to grow the business into what it is today.  

 

Ohio – American Mug & Stein Company 

American Mug & Stein Company is located in East Liverpool, Ohio where they hand cast and glaze coffee mugs, steins, and other customized items. It makes sense that American Mug & Stein Company is located there. It was once considered the “Pottery Capital of the World.” 

 

Oklahoma – Cookshack 

Cookshack is a company making headway in the world of grills and smokers. Located in Ponca City, Oklahoma Cookshack connected with a Kansas BBQ entrepreneur called Fast Eddy. Between the years and experience, they created a “Fast Eddy” grill, now one of their most common units. 

 

Oregon – Leatherman 

I am not surprised one of the most versatile tools comes from Portland, Oregon. Even though the Leatherman brand and multi-tools are used all over the world, they have always been made in Portland. 

 

Pennsylvania – Slinky 

Every Slinky in the world is made in Hollidaysburg, Pennsylvania. Check out the story of the Slinky here! 

 

Rhode Island – Seaside Casual 

Seaside Casual has been making outdoor furniture for over 25 years from Coventry, Rhode Island. This company is a big believer in US manufacturing, so they do their best to source from US partners. If they can’t, they clearly let you know what furniture components they haven’t yet found a US partner to produce. 

 

South Carolina – Kentwool 

Kentwool socks are made in Pickens, South Carolina from Merino Wool. It all started during a game of golf. The vision for better socks, a need for better socks. Now, PGA Tour caddies and players favor these socks. 

 

South Dakota – The James Valley Co. 

The product line at The James Valley Co. makes sense considering its location in Mellette, South Dakota. Although a unique blend of products, they really tie together. The first products for the hunter in you are scents (deer, elk, moose, bear). Got a favorite dog you like to hunt with? James Valley Co. has treats. And after a long day out tracking, cook up something tasty with the James Valley Co. barbeque sauce. 

 

Tennessee – Lodge Cast Iron 

Lodge Cast Iron in South Pittsburg, Tennessee has been making cookware and cookware accessories since 1896. To make this classic, timeless, sturdy cookware, Lodge operates two foundries in this small town (population just over 3,000). 

 

Texas – Stetson 

Stetson hats have quite the history on how they came to be. What they are now is iconic. From 1865 until now, Stetson hats have been a part of the American image. At their factory in Garland, TX there are 200 workers and roughly one million felt and straw hats produced every year, with a typical hat requiring 100 sets of hands for making and shaping. The felting process occurs in Longview, Texas. 

 

Utah – Liberty Safe 

Liberty Safe in Payton, Utah is the #1 producer of gun safes, fire safes, commercial safes, and home safes – all since it was first founded in 1988. 95% of Liberty Safe’s products are made in the United States and all materials are American made steel. On top of that, Liberty Safe has an environmentally safe paint system AND recycles the overspray from their powder coating booth.  

 

Vermont – Cobble Mountain Hammock 

In a world of automation, it is quite rare to see handmade items. However, Cobble Mountain Hammock, in East Corinth, Vermont, still makes all their products in just that way. Production occurs in a century old bobbin mill with local employees. Additionally, the oak used for the hammocks is harvested from sustainable forests and the rope comes from Tennessee.  

 

Virginia – American Merchant 

American Merchant is located in Bristol, Virginia where they weave, dye, and finish raw yarn into premium bath towels. Every towel uses 100% US grown cotton. (Note: America is one of the largest producers of cotton in the world). 

 

Washington – Hammerless Impact Technology 

Hammerless Impact Technology (H.I.T) makes just that – hammerless nail sets, pin punches, and roll pins. They are based out of Spokane, WA. 

 

West Virginia – Fiesta Tableware 

Fiesta Tableware in Newell, West Virginia has been manufacturing its very popular dinnerware since 1871! Fun fact – the factory is so old (19th century old), manufacturing workers have made claims reporting ghostly phenomena. Reports include everything from hearing footsteps, experiencing tugs on their hair, and ghostly figures showing their presence. 

 

Wisconsin – Sussex Injection Molding 

Sussex Injection Molding has been headquartered and manufacturing in Sussex, Wisconsin for over 40 years. They serve the medical plastic injection molding industry among many others. Sussex does everything from engineering to molding to post-molding value add. 

 

Wyoming – Marc Taggart & Co. 

If you’re looking for unique furniture pieces, go no further than Marc Taggart & Co. They are based in Cody, Wyoming. This company makes their product from ethically sourced material in the American heartland. 

G&M Code vs. Conversational Programming  

When you get down to the nitty gritty, there are MANY ways to program a CNC machine. Deciding which one is the best for you depends on a wide variety of factors. The following options are available.  

  1. CAM (Computer Aided Manufacturing) software programming (such as Mastercam) 
  2. G&M Code programming  
  3. Conversational programming  
  4. Macro programming  

 So, what are all of these?  

CAM Software Programming 

 Having CAM software such as Mastercam is very helpful. Oftentimes, you can use 3D models and blueprints to not only create the program but also simulate and verify the program. CNC programmers access CAM software through a computer (either at the machine or in an engineering/programming office). 

G&M Code Programming 

List of G&M Codes for machining

G&M Code programming is done on the machine. Rather than working on a computer or laptop, CNC programming occurs within the controller screen. 

G&M Code programming uses a series of codes, either G-codes or M-codes.  

  • G-code stands for Geometric Code.  
  • These codes direct a CNC machine to perform the operations needed to create geometries and profiles in the material.  
  • An example of a G-code is G84 which directs the machine toward a tapping cycle.  
  • M-code stands for Machine Code or Miscellaneous Code. 
  • These codes direct the functions of the actual machine rather than the geometry or feature requirements.  
  • An example of an M-code is M05 which directs the machine to stop the spindle.  

Conversational Programming 

Conversational programming is a type of programming that uses prompts. The prompts are questions asked of the programmer or machinist. These prompts gather answers regarding part geometry, type of material or metal, as well as the tooling needed to complete the desired features. In summary, someone performing conversational programming is answering questions which allows the machine to create a program from which the machine will operate.  

G&M Code Programming vs. Conversational Programming 

So, what’s the difference between the two? A fitting example is the process of giving someone directions to an agreed upon location.  

  • In G&M code programming, directions are given in a step-by-step nature. If someone needs to get to the local grocery store, as a direction teller you will share all the lefts and rights that need to be taken, the stores that you’ll pass by, the miles to travel, etc.  
  • In conversational programming, directions are less specific. In this example, as a direction teller you will tell someone the cross streets at which the grocery store is located (I.e., Main Street and First Avenue). However, the traveler will determine the best route needed to get to Main Street and First Avenue. 

Macro Programming 

metal drill bit make holes in aluminium radiator on industrial drilling machine. Metal work industry.

Macro programming is done when there are repetitive operations on a part but different variables for each operation. In this type of programming, the main operation (or repetitive operation) is programmed via CAM, G&M, or Conversational programming. Macro programming creates a “sub program” to alter that main program.  

  • An example would be a part that needs multiple holes drilled but the holes are of different depths. Typically, feed rates change according to depth. Therefore, you program the machine to “drill a hole” as your main operation but the macro programming within that program details the depth and the feed rate for each individual hole. 

You now have a tight grasp on what differentiates these types of programming. It’s easy to see why they were all created. Each programming style lends itself to greater job efficiency depending on the task at hand. Perhaps you’ve been searching for a better way to program the task of hole drilling in a project you have. You now know that Macro may be the way to go. 

If you find that you have a propensity for any of these programming styles, and need employment, don’t hesitate to reach out to our hiring team via this website! We’d love to have you join our team of talented technicians. 

If you are a CNC Programmer or would like to become a CNC Programmer, you’ve likely heard of or read about Mastercam. Mastercam is just one many computer-aided manufacturing (CAM) software packages available for use when CNC programming, but Mastercam is the most common. Whether it’s the best programming software is a topic for another time, for CNC Programmers. I won’t get into that here, but the prevalence of Mastercam in manufacturing cannot be denied. As of 2020, there were 274,096 installed seats of Mastercam in manufacturing, with the closest competitor at just under 150,000 installed seats. Mastercam has shaped the past and will continue to shape the future of manufacturing but how did it get here and why?  

One Tool for Every Machine 

  • With Mastercam, you can program a wide variety of machines including CNC mills, lathes, routers mill turns and multi-axis machinery, and wire EDM. The ability to program so many machines with one universal software is of great benefit for manufacturers across multiple industries.CNC Mastercam Machine-operator-programming

Leading CAM Package in Education  

  • Not only is Mastercam the leader in manufacturing, but they are also the leading CAM software in Machine Tool Technology programs throughout technical and trade school in the US. As of 2020, there are 142,969 seats installed for educational purposes with the next competitor at just under 75,000 seats.  

A Long History  

  • Mastercam was founded in 1983 and is one of the very first PC-based cam software in manufacturing. Mastercam started as a 2D cam tool and over time, has evolved into a 3D CAD/CAM package. With 39 years in the industry, it’s hard to deny the reason for Mastercam’s dominance in CNC programming.  

Interested in learning Mastercam? Check out local trade or technical schools for available opportunities or learn from the comfort of your own home with incredibly helpful online courses from Titans of CNC Academy, a free CAD/CAM and CNC Machine Training program by Titan Gilroy.  

It’s a common misconception in manufacturing that production numbers and output are of the utmost importance. However, that’s all wrong. First and foremost, safety is the number one factor in manufacturing. Right behind safety comes quality (PMG’s Project Manager Stephen D. talks about these priorities) and critical to quality are CMMs.   

What are CMMs 

CMM stands for Coordinate Measuring Machine. In short, CMMs are machines that measure physical dimensions and geometric characteristics of manufactured components. These same dimensions, features, and characteristics can be measured manually with precision hand tools and instruments. Unfortunately, manual inspections leave room for error (human error), so CMMs were created. CMM Machine Wensel LH87

At the most basic level, a CMM consists of a table on which the part is set for inspection processes and a probe that performs the inspection with a computer program that guides and controls the inspection probes.  

CMM Programming 

When explained, CMMs seem very simple. However, there is much more to it including the way in which the CMM is programmed. Some parts have very few characteristics needing inspection while others have hundreds. Regardless of the number of characteristics to be inspected, a CMM cannot perform the inspection tasks unless it’s been programmed to do so. Similar to PLC programming or CNC programming, CMM programming is a sequential set of instructions directing the machine in all of its operations. A CMM program is written through software designed specific for CMMs and will seem like a foreign language unless you are a CMM Programmer.  

CMM Programmers 

CMM Programmers write the long list of code and sequential instruction needed for a CMM machine to operate. CMM Programmers ensure that each and every feature, characteristic, and dimension of the part is measured by the probe on the CMM and in the way that keeps the inspection process as efficient as possible. Not only does a CMM programmer determine the path of instruction, but a CMM programmer will also ensure that the program clearly outlines the dimensions and tolerances required of the part. These two details (dimensions/tolerances and inspection path) must align once the machine is running. If these two factors are not aligned, the part does not pass inspection. Does this still sound easy? It’s not. This process has gotten increasingly more difficult over the years, due to the much more complex and geometric forms of machined components. CMM Programmer in background automatic coordinate measurement machine (CMM) during inspection automotive or motorcycle industrial part in quality control manufacturing process

Interested in Being a CMM Programmer?

A great place to start is school where you can earn degrees or certificates in Quality and Manufacturing Technologies. You will need to gain work experience (as a Quality Inspector or CMM Operator) once you receive the degree or certificate of course but it’s still a great place to start. If you’ve already got work experience in manufacturing (in the field of quality or elsewhere), make it clear that you’re interested in operating CMMs and/or programming CMMs. Often times, CMM Programmers become CMM Programmers through on-the-job training.  

Are You a CMM Programmer or CMM Operator?  

Join the PMG team for the opportunity to travel and explore new places, learn new techniques, create flexibility in your schedule, and work with some of the greatest manufacturers in the US. Apply Here! 

Nearly everything around you is made in a manufacturing facility. These facilities combine the power of human hands and machinery to produce the consumer goods you want. With consumer demand comes the need for not only reliability, but also repeatability. As a result, manufacturers look to automate production processes as much as possible and with automation comes PLCs.

What are PLCs?

PLC stands for Programmable Logic Controller. In short, PLCs are computers connected to machinery to automate and monitor the machinery and its operations. To do this, PLCs scan input devices from the machinery, process what that input means, and send reactionary (programmed) functions to output devices. This process creates the desired operation in the machinery. Input devices include sensors, switches, thermometers, etc. while output devices can include valves, pumps, fans, and alarms, among others.

For a simple example, think of a light switch and a light bulb. When the switch is flipped (input), a PLC would realize that a light needs to turn on. The PLC sends a programmed action to the lightbulb (output) and the lightbulb turns on.

PLC to Lamp on wall

Another simple example (specific to manufacturing) would include a temperature sensor (input device) reading that the machine is operating at levels that are too hot. The PLC then analyzes that input and determines that a fan (output device) needs to turn. The PLC program pushes out a programmed command to the fan which then turns on and cools the temperature to an acceptable level.

In addition to scanning the inputs, programs, and outputs, the PLC also performs what’s called housekeeping. This step is where the PLC consistently monitors itself and internal diagnostics among other items.

The PLC scan process is continuous and cyclical in nature. It’s a never-ending loop.

PLC Scan Process

The PLC Scan Process

PLC Programming

When explained, PLCs seem simple. It’s an “if this, then that” equation. However, it’s complicated work to determine all of the potential “if this, then that” occurrences in a machine, especially in high-tech or complex machinery. Writing this “if this, then that” PLC program takes careful thought, an in-depth understanding of the machinery (which can include all mechanical, electrical, pneumatic, and/or hydraulic systems and components), an in-depth understanding of the desired machine operations and knowledge of every input and desired output. Once these details are attained, the program is ultimately a long list of “if this input, then that output,” but a complicated list.

Picture of a programmable logic controller in working state.

How is this done? By a PLC Programmer or a Controls Engineer.

PLC Programmers

Not only do PLC Programmers write the long list of code for machine operations according to inputs and outputs, but they’ll also create and design schematics, install (or assist) in the installation of the PLC (remember, it’s essentially a computer connected to the machine), and also test the PLC and the program that’s written to ensure it’s operational.

Interested in being a PLC Programmer? A great place to start is at school. Employers prefer master’s degrees in electrical engineering, computer science or other similar programs. However, relevant experience would include a bachelor’s degree in either of those studies with hands-on PLC experience, as well. If you’re already working in manufacturing, make it clear that you’re interested in PLC programming or want to be a PLC Programmer. Often times, PLC Programmers become PLC Programmers through on-the-job training.

Are you a PLC Programmer? Join the PMG team for the opportunity to travel and explore new places, learn new techniques, create flexibility in your schedule, and work with some of the greatest manufacturers in the US. Apply Here!