A Completely New Era for Labor within Manufacturing and Design
Capturing this week's zeitgeist
From “Will Young Americans Want to Work in Semiconductor Manufacturing?”
Broadly speaking, the semiconductor industry has manufacturing and design jobs. Design jobs help create the designs that the foundries fab out into real chips. Manufacturing jobs are the guys who might have to put on a clean suit and go into the fabs. Interestingly enough, TSMC hires a lot of IC design engineers to work with customers on how to best prepare their chips for fabrication. They also hire a lot of software developers too. For instance, they hire AI engineers to develop algorithms that help make their machines perform better. I would say that these non-manufacturing jobs are a lot like software engineering. You sit in a comfortable air-conditioned office or work from home and earn lots of money. These jobs are fine. Let’s talk about the other kind.
There is a reason why 9 out of 10 Berkeley EECS majors graduating in 2018 ended up going into software engineering. EECS literally has Electrical Engineering in it, yet for them EE is just an intriguing extra thing they have to do before joining Google or Meta. Or if they do stay in the semiconductor field, many of them end up going into chip design. Which has a lot in common with software development. It makes sense. Working on the semiconductor manufacturing line may require them to put on a clean suit and head into the factory. Most very smart, highly educated human beings … would rather work remote from their bedrooms writing code.
From Stephan Biller in “Digital twins: Smart manufacturing’s DNA for a bright future”
On a personal note, I worked at General Motors when we went through bankruptcy and it was not clear if the U.S. auto industry would survive. The industry’s demise would have meant that most of Michigan (and maybe Ohio and Indiana) would have been deindustrialized. I had a newborn and a 4-year-old at the time, and I was worried for their future. I still vividly remember the depressed mood of the community, where nobody smiled anymore. I understand and empathize with communities where manufacturing has disappeared, and understand the societal impact on those communities.
Smart manufacturing can help keep existing manufacturing in the U.S. and contribute to reshoring efforts. The key innovation is the seamless integration of digital tools to create the smart manufacturing loop in order to continuously improve product and manufacturing throughout the entire value chain, making it more profitable, more sustainable, and more resilient — hitting the refresh button on the American dream.
This week's most influential Industry 4.0 media
Labor shortages have forced manufacturers to adopt collaborative technology
Robotic screwdriving differs from more traditional applications, such as fixed or handheld screwdriving. Among other things, robots make it easy to do quick changeovers and run small, varying size batches of related assemblies. In addition, robots can drive screws from all directions without ergonomic concerns and with varying degrees of torque. They also have the ability to drive different sizes of screws using various feeders for each type of fastener. Manufacturers can achieve higher cycles per screwdriver spindle and faster cycle time per screw, while improving quality.
“[Automated] screwdriving used to be a task that was complex, costly and took up a large footprint on the assembly line,” explains Leclerc. “As such, it was reserved for use in vast plants with big automation budgets producing in high volumes. “There are screwdriving systems that can be bought off the shelf, shipped within a few business days, easily installed and adapted to production changes,” claims Leclerc. “It’s a completely new era.”
Our connected future: How industrial data sharing can unite a fragmented world
The rapid and effective development of the coronavirus vaccines has set a new benchmark for today’s industries–but it is not the only one. Increasingly, savvy enterprises are starting to share industrial data strategically and securely beyond their own four walls, to collaborate with partners, suppliers and even customers.
Worldwide, almost nine out of 10 (87%) business executives at larger industrial companies cite a need for the type of connected data that delivers unique insights to address challenges such as economic uncertainty, unstable geopolitical environments, historic labor shortages, and disrupted supply chains. In fact, executives report in a global study that the most common benefits of having an open and agnostic information-sharing ecosystem are greater efficiency and innovation (48%), increasing employee satisfaction (45%), and staying competitive with other companies (44%).
How Honeywell Achieved 7X Faster Lead Times for a Critical Component
A 3D Printer Isn’t Cool. You Know What’s Cool? A 3D-Printing Factory
Instead of trying to build a single machine that can print three-dimensional objects, Freeform is looking to turn entire buildings into automated 3D-printing factories that would use dozens of lasers to create rocket engine chambers or car parts from metal powder. The company, which has never before discussed its approach publicly, says the technique could allow it to make metal parts 25 to 50 times faster than is possible with current methods and at a fraction of the cost.
Freeform is creating machines that can fill a warehouse. Its current factory, in Hawthorne, California, used to serve as Keanu Reeves’s motorcycle storage facility. (Freeform still ends up with some of the actor’s mail.) Inside, machines shuffle objects back and forth along rapidly moving conveyors, so the system can work on many things at once. Other companies have set up multiple printers in a single facility, but this strategy doesn’t improve their speed, it just increases scale by having them work in parallel. Freedom, by contrast, is redesigning the process by which 3D printing can turn raw materials into finished products. In a sense, it’s akin to the establishment of the assembly-line process pioneered by 20th century industrialists like Henry Ford. “We have to achieve a state of mass production to open this up to more industries,” says Palitsch. “And you simply can’t get there with a conventional machine.”
Additive Manufacturing For Batteries Of The Future: Will 3D Printing Transform Battery Making
Sakuú, a California start-up hoping to bring the main benefits of 3D printing to the battery market, plans to open its first full production factory this year. The company says its Swift Print battery cells can be manufactured in any shape or size and even customized to order on the company’s proprietary 3D printers. Complex shapes not possible with traditional manufacturing methods are a hallmark of 3D printing, which also enables production flexibility and speed because there’s no waiting for molds or manufacturing tools to be produced.
3D printed battery start-up Blackstone Technology says its approach is more sustainable than traditional methods because it can not only save on battery metals during manufacturing, but the process will use 25% less energy. Blackstone is further along in product maturity than Sakuú, having printed its first functional battery in 2021. Its technology, called Thick Layer Technology, is vastly different from Sakuú and relies on the 3D screen printing method. The company says the technology will be 30% cheaper than traditional battery manufacturing and can be used for both liquid-electrolyte and solid-state batteries.
Still in R&D, Photocentric’s technology, unlike Sakuú’s or Blackstone’s, is based on resin 3D printing using photopolymers Photocentric has, so far, developed polymer electrolyte binders, along with anode and cathode powders into a printable photopolymer resin. Its patent-pending approach promises to enable low-cost mass manufacture of lightweight batteries for the UK market.
Mexico’s Industrial Hubs Grow as Part of Trade Shift Toward Nearshoring
“Being able to hire enough people at our U.S. plants to support our growth was a real challenge. That was a major interest for us to open up a facility in Mexico,” said Sam Rosen, president of Ollin Plastics, the plastic molding unit of Minnesota-based ATEK Companies.
Mattel Inc., the maker of Barbie dolls and Mega Bloks, expanded its Monterrey plant into its largest manufacturing facility worldwide with an investment of $47 million between 2020 and 2022. The toy maker more than doubled its workforce to 3,500 at the plant as part of a global supply-chain restructuring to boost output and productivity, with immediate access to the U.S., the world’s largest toy market, said Roberto Isaias, Mattel’s chief supply chain officer. The company exports toys from Mexico to nearly 30 countries.
As demand for industrial space picks up, insufficient electricity infrastructure is limiting the speed at which manufacturers can move into Mexico, said Alberto Villarreal, managing director of Chicago-based Nepanoa, which does project management and consulting for U.S. companies setting up or expanding in Mexico.
How EVs Are Reshaping Labor Markets
The impact of EVs on auto manufacturing and supplier jobs is hard to assess. Electric vehicles require new or retooled factories, each requiring thousands of employees. How many will be new hires versus existing workers who are retrained is not clear. BMW, for example, claims it will not cut jobs in the transition to EVs, but it is likely that it will still reduce its workforce by both reskilling and attrition as other German automakers are contemplating. Further, given that EVs are said to need 30 percent less labor to produce than ICE vehicles, coupled with more automation that will be used for their manufacturing, many assembly line jobs may disappear.
High-end engineering and computer software and systems jobs at auto suppliers are also at risk, as auto manufacturers are moving to shift those jobs in-house. Former Volkswagen CEO Herbert Diess said, for example, that he expected by 2030 that software “will account for half of our development costs.” VW, like every other automaker, wants to control those costs.
The state of Michigan has been the epicenter of the U.S. auto industry for the past century with 11 assembly plants, 2,200 auto-research or design facilities, and 26 automaker and supplier headquarters. However, Michigan is finding the auto industry center of gravity moving away, as EV battery factories pop up across the Midwest “battery belt.” Automakers like to colocate EV factories near their battery factories, meaning the auto industry will not be the job creator in Michigan it once was.
Weekly mergers, partnerships, and funding events across industrial value chains
Green Steel Technology Company Boston Metal Announces $120M Series C Financing Led by ArcelorMittal
Boston Metal, a company developing technology to fully decarbonize steel production, today announced the $120 million first close of Series C fundraising led by multinational steel company, ArcelorMittal S.A. (NYSE: MT). Microsoft’s Climate Innovation Fund and SiteGround Capital also joined as new investors in this round, alongside current investors.
Boston Metal’s patented Molten Oxide Electrolysis (MOE) process is being commercialized to produce both green steel and high-value metals, such as tin and niobium. The Series C funds will expand the production of green steel at the company’s pilot facility outside Boston and will support the site selection and preliminary design of its first green steel plant. The new resources will also support the construction and commissioning of a manufacturing facility for high-value metals at the company’s Brazilian subsidiary, Boston Metal do Brasil.
Tau concludes €9m series-B round to scale up production for e-mobility
Technology company Tau has concluded a series-B round raising €9 million with Solvay Ventures as a lead investor. Solvay Ventures is joined by existing shareholders including Finindus, a Belgium-based joint venture of ArcelorMittal and the Flemish Region, as well as management and private individuals.
Recently, Tau reached an important commercial milestone when its wire products completed diligent validation processes of several automotive OEM and Tier 1 suppliers in Europe, Asia and North America. The company is currently ramping up capacity, providing early adopters with immediate competitive advantages, and is preparing industrial scale carbon-neutral winding wire production in Italy with the goal to start worldwide deliveries by 2024.
Yokogawa Enters Investment and Collaboration Agreement with Ideation3X
Yokogawa Electric Corporation (TOKYO: 6841) announces that it has made a US$10 million Series B investment* in Ideation3X Pte. Ltd. (i3X), a Singapore-based venture company that is targeting the rapidly expanding integrated solid waste management (ISWM) sector in India with a process that adopts a circular economy approach. The two companies have also signed a business collaboration agreement. With this investment in the high-growth ISWM field, Yokogawa aims to develop its business in the Indian market.
Recurrency raises $22 million to revolutionize ERP for distribution
We started Recurrency with the mission to modernize the world’s supply chain software. Today, our team is overjoyed to share a key milestone: Recurrency has raised $22 million in funding from Bessemer Venture Partners, Lachy Groom, Elad Gil, Y Combinator Continuity, and numerous other world-class investors. This new capital will enable us to further invest in our product, our team, and – most importantly – our customers.
B2B cloud manufacturing startup CapGrid raises $7 million in fresh funding
Gurgaon-based CapGrid, a B2B cloud manufacturing startup for precision parts and components, has raised $7 million (about Rs 57 crore) in a Series A round led by Nexus Venture Partners. CapGrid said it is currently getting over 5,000 different precision components manufactured through its supplier network of more than 300 partners. CapGrid’s AI-powered platform and network of suppliers allows manufacturers to reduce the complexities in the direct material sourcing and procurement process.
Nextracker Announces Launch of Initial Public Offering
Flex Ltd. (NASDAQ: FLEX) announced today that its subsidiary, Nextracker Inc. (“Nextracker”), has launched the roadshow for its initial public offering of 23,255,814 shares of its Class A common stock (“Common Stock”). The underwriters of the offering will also have a 30-day option to purchase from Nextracker up to 3,488,372 additional shares of Common Stock. The initial public offering price is expected to be between $20.00 and $23.00 per share. Nextracker has applied to list its Common Stock on the Nasdaq Global Select Market under the ticker symbol “NXT.”
Berkshire Grey and Locus Robotics Announce Partnership Offering Industry-First, Cross-Platform Robotic Automation
Berkshire Grey, Inc. (Nasdaq: BGRY), a leader in AI-enabled robotic solutions that automate supply chain processes, and Locus Robotics, the leader in Autonomous Mobile Robotics (AMR) for logistics and distribution warehouses, today announced their formal partnership with the unveiling of their combined solution that integrates the Berkshire Grey Robotic Shuttle Put Wall (BG RSPWi) with Locus Origin and Locus Vector bots. This innovative integrated solution deploys end-to-end robotic automation solutions for retail and eCommerce customers looking to maximize their supply chain productivity and throughput while addressing growing labor shortages.
Yokogawa Acquires Fluence Analytics, a Pioneer in Digitalizing the Monitoring of Polymerization Reaction Processes
Yokogawa Electric Corporation (TOKYO: 6841) announces the acquisition of Fluence Analytics, Inc., a US-based startup that provides real-time analytics solutions to polymer and biopharmaceutical companies worldwide. Since signing investment and collaboration agreements in August 2021, the two companies have been exploring potential business opportunities. Through this acquisition, Fluence Analytics will integrate its operations with Yokogawa’s existing business and further enhance its technological capabilities. Starting today, Fluence Analytics will operate as Yokogawa Fluence Analytics.
MiddleGround Capital Announces Acquisition of Megatech
MiddleGround Capital, an operationally focused private equity firm that makes control investments in North American middle market B2B industrial and specialty distribution companies, today announced it has acquired Megatech (the “Company”), a new digital manufacturing platform investment focused on computerized numerical control (“CNC”) machining of highly-complex, highly-precise, low volume engineered parts.
AVEVA announces the completion of its acquisition by Schneider Electric
AVEVA, a global leader in industrial software, today announced the completion of its acquisition by Schneider Electric, a leading global industrial company specializing in digital automation and energy management. Since its foundation, AVEVA has grown from a niche design software developer to a leading global industrial software company with a value of more than £10bn.