Podcast: The month in manufacturing – Safety stats, data difficulties, technology trends, and much more

Podcast: The month in manufacturing – Safety stats, data difficulties, technology trends, and much more

March 12, 2024
In this episode of Great Question: A Manufacturing Podcast, editors from the manufacturing group share their insights from the past month and predict what lies ahead for the industry.

Once a month, the editors from Endeavor Business Media’s Manufacturing Group get together to talk about the stories they’ve written, how industry trends are affecting their readers, and what is in the works for the weeks ahead. In this episode, the group talks about:

  • Workplace safety statistics
  • The current state of logistics and transportation
  • New technologies for automatic pouring of molten metal into molds
  • Manufacturers’ struggles with data and data-related issues
  • Industry news, including trade issues with China and automation in commercial trucking

Below is an excerpt from the podcast:

Dave Blanchard, editor in chief, EHS Today

First of all, let me talk a little bit about something that’s kind of depressing in a way. Well, not in a way. In many ways. The U.S. government, they do a really good job of keeping track of how many workers get hurt, serious incidents, and fatalities in the workplace. They keep track of all of that. It does take them a while to come up with those numbers, but we've recently learned that in 2022, so a year or so ago, the number of workplace fatalities in the U.S. was up by nearly 6% over the previous year. That's nearly 5,500 workers who died on the job. That's just a terrible number by itself.

I will point out that's for an entire year. However, on a worldwide basis, more than 8,000 workers die every day. And that translates to nearly 3 million workers worldwide die every year. So again, horrible numbers. There's an international effort underway, run by a group affiliated with the United Nations, that's aiming to do something similar to what OSHA is trying to do here in the United States. And that's to get companies and organizations to be more intentional about workplace safety. How do you do that? Well, some of the ways are using technologies and implementing what are known as safety management systems, which is basically an organized, structured approach to safety. So being very intentional about safety.

Another area that we're focusing on that’s kind of related to all that is training and education. So, studies have shown new hires and temporary workers are among the most frequently injured workers. And that could be for a number of reasons, but one of the main reasons is these people just weren't trained sufficiently to know how to operate equipment, how to protect themselves from getting in harm's way. So new tools such as micro learning, augmented reality, safety apps and other ways of customized learning are becoming more prevalent. And EHS Today recently launched a portal called EHS Education, which offers on-demand training resources in many, many different areas to improve on-the-job safety skills. 

Scott Achelpohl, managing editor, Smart Industry

We have gotten a lot of traction on our site from the results of two recent surveys of manufacturers. Very eye-opening results. One survey points to almost all manufacturers are struggling with data and data-related issues. Data is the foundation for a lot of the digital transformation efforts. It's erecting roadblocks to the ability to use technologies such as AI, most notably, and automation as well. And certainly, it does present significant challenges to their digital transformation efforts. That report was called the Advanced Manufacturing Report, and it was released just this week, conducted by Forrester Consulting and sponsored by manufacturing giant Hexagon. That survey also revealed that 97% of manufacturers also reported facing hurdles in collaboration and productivity, and that nearly 40% are falling behind, becoming what the report calls digital laggards by failing to adopt automation in their factories and warehouses. Coincidentally, taming data is going to be part of the topic of an upcoming March 26th episode, Smart Industry’s contribution to the Great Question podcast.

Another newly released survey of security professionals, specifically in the U.S. and the EMEA region of the world, served as kind of a wakeup call about industrial OT and how extremely vulnerable it is to intrusion. The report identifies significant gaps in securing access to connected OT environments, connected OT environments being one of the real keys to help manufacturers converge their IT and OT functions for greater scalability. Overall, this survey revealed that most industrial organizations, most of them meaning close to 75% of them, lack visibility into their OT assets, and only a bare majority, 55%, believe their organizations effectively or very, very effectively mitigated risks and security threats, meaning cyber threats to the OT environment.

We've got some exciting programs coming up from Smart Industry, including a webinar on how to get the IT and OT personnel in your manufacturing company to get along. It's a cultural discussion as well as a technological discussion, so we're looking forward to that.

Robert Brooks, editor in chief, Foundry Management & Technology, American Machinist

In February, in Foundry Management & Technology, we took a fairly deep look at the technology available for automatic pouring of molten metal into molds. It's a fairly emerging, I would say, technology, not entirely standard but becoming a standard and involving various methods of laser tracking and so forth, as well as a high degree of automation, depending on the volumes that are being poured. The interesting point about all of this is that it necessarily follows the ongoing boom in new plant construction. Somebody who's investing many millions of dollars in a new plant is not going to count on the availability of the very brave and strong men to stand over those molds and pour the molten metal, so automatic pouring is becoming more and more common and more and more necessary.

We also had an interesting report at the more metallurgical level about research into modeling of aluminum alloy oxidation. This is more important than most people probably think. The high sensitivity of molten metal to atmosphere is an incontrovertible fact. There's a degree of acceptance involved here. The top layer will oxidize and seal what's below it from further impurity, but how that happens and why that happens is something of a mystery, and the research that's underway now is attempting to apply a mathematical model to that. And if they succeed, it could be very important in the availability of more metals and alloys for things like additive manufacturing and the ability to produce by 3D printing or metal laser centering with a variety of alloys in larger dimensions and shapes.

My other bailiwick is American Machinist, and during February, it seemed like every story pointed back to Boeing. As most people know, there was an incident aboard a Boeing 737 Max 9 aircraft on January 5th in which the side plug door blew open in flight. Happily, no one was seriously injured in this incident, and everyone returned to the airport safely, but the investigation is ongoing and will be ongoing for some time. You can read much about this at American Machinist. I won't go into all the details, except one upshot here is apparently the permanent or semi-permanent presence of the FAA now in the manufacturing plants of these aircraft. I don't know that that will actually be permanent, but for the foreseeable future, that's going to be the case, and it will certainly affect how things are done and production levels that may be achievable for a company like Boeing.

About the Podcast
Great Question: A Manufacturing Podcast offers news and information for the people who make, store and move things and those who manage and maintain the facilities where that work gets done. Manufacturers from chemical producers to automakers to machine shops can listen for critical insights into the technologies, economic conditions and best practices that can influence how to best run facilities to reach operational excellence.

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About the Author

Dave Blanchard

During his career, Dave Blanchard has led the editorial management of many of Endeavor Business Media's best-known brands, including IndustryWeek, EHS Today, Material Handling & Logistics, Logistics Today, Supply Chain Technology News, and Business Finance. In addition, he serves as senior content director of the annual Safety Leadership Conference. With over 30 years of B2B media experience, Dave literally wrote the book on supply chain management, Supply Chain Management Best Practices (John Wiley & Sons, 2021), which has been translated into several languages and is currently in its third edition. He is a frequent speaker and moderator at major trade shows and conferences, and has won numerous awards for writing and editing. He is a voting member of the jury of the Logistics Hall of Fame, and is a graduate of Northern Illinois University.

About the Author

Robert Brooks

Robert Brooks has been a business-to-business reporter, writer, editor, and columnist for more than 20 years, specializing in the primary metal and basic manufacturing industries. His work has covered a wide range of topics, including process technology, resource development, material selection, product design, workforce development, and industrial market strategies, among others. Currently, he specializes in subjects related to metal component and product design, development, and manufacturing — including castings, forgings, machined parts, and fabrications.

Brooks is a graduate of Kenyon College (B.A. English, Political Science) and Emory University (M.A. English.)

About the Author

Robert Schoenberger

Robert Schoenberger has been writing about manufacturing technology in one form or another since the late 1990s. He began his career in newspapers in South Texas and has worked for The Clarion-Ledger in Jackson, Mississippi; The Courier-Journal in Louisville, Kentucky; and The Plain Dealer in Cleveland where he spent more than six years as the automotive reporter. In 2013, he launched Today's Motor Vehicles, a magazine focusing on design and manufacturing topics within the automotive and commercial truck worlds. He joined IndustryWeek in late 2021.

About the Author

Laura Davis

Laura Davis is the editor in chief of New Equipment Digest (NED), a brand part of the Manufacturing Group at Endeavor Business Media. NED covers all products, equipment, solutions, and technology related to the broad scope of manufacturing, from mops and buckets to robots and automation. Laura has been a manufacturing product writer for six years, knowledgeable about the ins and outs of the industry along with what readers are looking for when wanting to learn about the latest products on the market. 

About the Author

Scott Achelpohl

Scott Achelpohl is the managing editor of Smart Industry. He has spent stints in business-to-business journalism covering U.S. trucking and transportation for FleetOwner, a sister website and magazine of SI’s at Endeavor Business Media, and branches of the U.S. military for Navy League of the United States. He's a graduate of the University of Kansas and the William Allen White School of Journalism with many years of media experience inside and outside B2B journalism.

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