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Facing a shortage of skilled workers in manufacturing

A number of U.S. manufacturers are facing a growing challenge: job opportunities without enough applicants with the necessary skills to fill them. This shortage has another name:  the skills gap.

quality_assuranceExpansion in the field of manufacturing over the last 3 years has played an important role in supporting and strengthening the overall economy — and it’s generally expected that manufacturing will continue to play a crucial role in our country’s economic future.  It’s imperative that the right workers are in the right jobs for continued growth… but where are they?

In some areas of the country, demographics are to blame.  The workforce consists of baby boomers ready to retire; estimates suggest that nearly a quarter of U.S. manufacturing employees are 55 or older.  Boomers bring expertise and experience to the job — and that knowledge could be lost if apprenticeships and mentoring opportunities aren’t continued with the next generation.

Once baby boomers retire, there are fewer and fewer young employees to take their place. Why? Possibly, it’s misconceptions about the industry as a whole.  For years young people have been told that manufacturing jobs are headed overseas, or that these types of employment aren’t worthwhile as an educational investment. They’ve heard that the industry is volatile… or it’s “dying.” This negative information has influenced the areas of study and career choices of millions of young Americans.

Many companies, Keystone included, have increased automation to keep up with demand but that’s not the whole answer.  Talented production and manufacturing team members can’t be replaced with machines.  We’re facing the possibility that the lack of qualified candidates could impact future growth.

Government, schools, and employers must all join forces to create a long-term strategy. Workforce and education programs that link the training of participants to the needs of employers are the best solution. Schools must improve their technical curriculum. Graduates need easy access to training programs.  And employers must do their part by providing on-the-job training and good wages. Keystone is currently starting a program to combat this by hiring employees with basic skills, and having our skilled employees mentor them.

In the meantime, the manufacturing industry continues to have opportunities for skilled workers ready for the challenge.

Manufacturing output is positive right now – why?

precision-roll-threaded-bars-heat_largeManufacturing output is at its highest level in months right now – and that can be attributed to rising factory output, innovation, and strong manufacturing production gains. That in addition to the natural gas boom has made American workers appear much more attractive than they have in the past. Lower energy costs doesn’t necessarily mean that manufacturing output will increase from 9% of the total workforce to 30%, but it does mean that there will most likely be a steady increase within the next few years.

Countries with strong manufacturing outputs have a competitive edge in the global economy. According to the article “Is the U.S. Manufacturing Renaissance Real,” for every $1 of manufacturing output in a community, there’s another $1.48 of wealth created. Natural gas prices are at an all-time low, and with supplies plentiful in the U.S., it translates to affordable electricity and production for manufacturers.

The U.S. also remains consistent in its position as the leader in innovation across the global industry. 31% of U.S. spending comes from research and development, which is nearly double the spending of countries like Japan and China. As a manufacturer that prides itself on staying at the forefront of technology and up-to-date with the most technologically advanced products and services, we see the importance of keeping R&D as an integral part of our business practices at our facility.

In a recent survey conducted by Buying Consortium Prime Advantage, manufacturers are confident about their revenues, and anticipate growth in their current workforce. Manufacturing employees are working more hours than they have ever done before, and we that number is expected to continue to rise going forward.

Threaded Products for Use in Heat Exchangers

precision-roll-threaded-bars-heat_thumbAt Keystone Threaded Products, we’re known for providing the highest quality roll threading for a wide range of products and applications.  One of the popular uses of our precision roll threading services is for threaded bars and nuts used in heat exchangers.  So what exactly is a heat exchanger, and what do our services do for them?

In simple terms, a heat exchanger is a piece of equipment that assists in the transfer of heat from one fluid to another.  Common uses for heat exchangers include refrigeration, air conditioning, sewage treatment, power plants, automotive production, petroleum refineries, and natural gas processing.  Along with tie rods and special tabbed nuts, heavy steel end plates compress a series of internal plates, together forming a heat exchanger unit.  As opposed to other types of heat exchangers, plate and frame heat exchangers are considered to be advantageous, as the fluids are exposed to a much larger surface area, and as such, are the design of choice.

As specialists and leaders in our industry, we at Keystone Threaded Products can provide a complete range of tie bars and specialty tabbed nuts in sizes and designs specific to your manufacturing applications.  We are also able to provide corrosion-resistant materials at highly reasonable prices, making us the preferred supplier of some of the most premier, renowned heat exchanger manufacturers in the country.  Our experience and expertise has made these industry-leaders value and trust our products with theirs, and we’re confident in our work in this area, as well as with all of the industries and applications we serve.

You can visit our website for more information and contact us with any questions you might have.

Thread Rolling: How it’s Done, and What Makes it the Best Choice

Since 1920, Keystone Threaded Products has manufactured the highest quality roll-threaded products available.  Thread rolling, which is the most common process of thread forming, offers numerous advantages over the alternate method of cut-threading.  These advantages include cost-savings in both raw material and overall manufacturing, improved thread strength and consistent quality.  Rolling is also a faster process than cutting.   Cold working of the material during thread rolling makes the threads stronger and more fatigue-resistant than cut threads.

materialsavingsSo how exactly do we do it?  Thread Rolling is a process whereby threads are formed essentially through rotation and compression.  Material is displaced or squeezed between rotating tools or dies  which bear the size, pitch and shape of the thread.  We begin with a raw round bar steel (stainless, aluminum, etc.), that is slightly smaller in diameter than the desired diameter of the finished product.  As the material is fed through the dies, the thread pattern is replicated onto the bar using hundreds of pounds of pressure.  In the process, the diameter of the bar also increases to the specified size.  Once the threading process is completed, the bar is checked for dimensional accuracy and straightness.

Chances are, you’ve been in contact with threaded rods as their applications are vast.  For example, your favorite roller coaster is secured to the ground using anchor bolts.  The orchestra pit at the theater is raised and lowered using threaded rods.  Your car, truck or camper may have a screw jack.  Water control systems, heat exchangers, gates, mines, satellite trucks, even coffins have threaded rods as components.

Whichever application and product you need, we are confident you will be thrilled with the quality of our manufacturing.  We’d love to discuss thread rolling in more detail. Please feel free to check out our website, or give us a call at 216-524-9626 for more details!

Keystone Threaded Products: Over 90 Years of Quality

With close to 100 years of experience in the industry – we’ve earned the title of ‘the custom thread rolling experts!” We’re family owned and operated, and we’ve worked hard to develop and manufacture reliable products that surpass your needs. As a result of all of our hard work, we’ve been recognized industry-wide for providing quality products to our customers.

Here at Keystone, we manufacture acme threaded bars and a complete line of standard threaded products. We have our process down to a science! Our roll threading process produces a smooth tear-free surface that doesn’t have chatters or cutter marks. We make our rolled surfaces with anti-galling properties — so they provide an additional contact area with mating parts.

We assure quality service by utilizing both an in-process inspection and a final inspection to monitor the parameters of our manufactured parts. Our products can be traced, which allows us to create certified test reports that include heat analysis and any testing that is necessary.

In addition to exceptionally manufactured products, our employees contribute to a large part of our success. The average Keystone employee has tenure of 25-30 years of hands-on industry experience, and an average of 30-40 years for our machinists.

Our commitment to our customers is what makes us unique. We make it a point to understand your needs, and do our best to fulfill it. When placing an order, we’ll make sure we have an in-depth understanding of the scope of your project – and then complete it to your exact specifications.

Stay up-to-date with Keystone! We’ll be blogging each month – providing our readers with company news, new trends in technology, and industry news, so we’d love to hear what you think! Please visit our website to learn more about our company, or give us a call at 216-524-9626.