With COVID-19 hitting the economy hard and quarantine still dragging out in many states and nations, machine shops are taking initiative to stay productively sane.
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As of the writing of this article on April 22 manufacturing had been hit pretty hard. Aerospace alone had suffered numerous order cancellations on top of Boeing’s 737 Max production suspension. The Institute for Supply Management (ISM) Manufacturing Index for March was not too bad, but new orders and prices were down by close to 10% each. What’s more, the situation still seems to be bottoming out.
Between the quarantine and steep decline in new orders, like it or not, many machine shops have a lot of free time on their hands. That’s not a good thing for anyone who needs to keep busy. So it’s not surprising to see machinists pushing through the doldrums and taking positive action. But it is inspiring to see them doing just that.
4 Things Machine Shops Are Doing with Downtime
1. Taking that loan
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Without as many orders coming in, shop owners are putting on their financial hats to figure out how to make ends meet in the short-term and also the long. The decision to take out a loan requires a plan to pay it back. And with the economy in such turmoil, that decision isn’t easy for everybody — no matter what interest rate.
Chris and Laurie Heon out in Easthampton Massachusetts went on record with their financial response to the pandemic. Many of their customers, larger manufacturers mostly, either reduced or stopped ordering in early March. It was so sudden that they were forced to take immediate action. They laid off 4 out of 7 employees so that they could pay anyone. But they never planned on selling or closing their shop.
Speaking with Nick Leiber of Bloomberg Businessweek, Laurie explained, “People always need stuff made; that’s not going to change.” The couple took action with PPP and EIDL programs at the earliest opportunity. Neither has yet made it through yet. PPP notified of their approval on April 7, only 4 days after the program opened, but no updates had been received eight days later.
Easthampton Machine & Tool Inc. is not alone in its financial battles over the last two months, and it is possible that even more shops will join them before the situation improves. But staying alive is one of the best decisions any shop can make, for themselves and the economy. Laurie Heon could not have put it better.
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It has never been a prouder moment for machine shops across the world. Many have coordinated efforts with healthcare and med tech entities to create new pipelines for much-needed parts and supplies. Efforts have ranged from GE’s huge commitment to build 50,000 ventilators by July 4, to Medtronics, who open sourced their ventilator tech so that any manufacturer with the right tool assemblies and machines could produce top-of-the-line, full-featured ventilators.
Other manufacturers like Fullerton Tool Company are rounding up face masks, gloves, and clear safety glasses and donating to local healthcare facilities. The industry is banding together to deliver help exactly where it is most needed.
3. Start a special Quarantined Machine Shop Series on Youtube
If you’ve seen The Martian, then you already know that a personal record can make even the most isolated and severe environments livable. That’s exactly what John Grimsmo is doing with his new series “Quarantined Shop Life.” Down to a two-man crew and each to a building John is documenting their progress, continuing to fill orders and tweak tool assemblies. Life goes on.
4. Creating Tool Assemblies on MachiningCloud
We think MachiningCloud usage is a good indicator of what the industry is going through right now. Purchasing is down, but our usage continues to grow steadily. In fact, more tool assemblies were created in March than in February. Similarly, the number of Jobs our users created continued upward at the same pace, unaffected.
At least from our perspective it is clear that machinists aren’t going anywhere. Purchases are in a temporary holding pattern, but when the dust settles it looks like even more machine shops will be saving time on their sourcing than before.
If you do find yourself with some free time and no cloud-based tooling solution definitely come give us a try. MachiningCloud web app reduces the time it takes to find, select, and assemble tools by 75% or more. You might have all the time in the world now, but when those orders come back you know you’ll need every second!