Merry Christmas! Everyone’s favorite holiday is almost here, and though we are busy as a company, it’s a good time to review what we’ve accomplished in 2018. There were challenges we faced, improvements we made in how we operate as a company, and lessons we learned along the way. Looking back gives us a sense of accomplishment and also helps us to plan better for 2019 as a metal fabrication company.
One of the biggest challenges we faced this year was the effects President Trump’s tariffs had on imported steel and aluminum. As a result of these tariffs, prices on the metals we use to make all products for our customers increased. This was unfortunate. We couldn’t help it; all metal fabricators were in the same boat. We are grateful for the patience that the companies we work with showed us. In a situation like this it’s hard to know what the costs will be until the countries involved come to agreements and the market sorts itself out. We all have to adjust and make changes as best we can.
Throughout 2018 as a company D+M Metal retrained in the 5S system. 5S is “a system for organizing spaces so work can be performed efficiently, effectively, and safely.” We received an FMA safety award in 2017 as a result of our training and attention to procedures and surroundings. We want to make sure we continue to review and retrain so that we keep using best practices that ensure the safety of our workers and our productivity as a company.
The year has a certain rhythm to it in terms of what we do for and with our employees. This year we brought back our Lunch and Learn series in the summer. For this program we invited chaplains in to talk about issues that concern us all. This includes things like anxiety, family crises, and finances. Talking together or with a chaplain is good for all of our mental and social health, and it helps us understand each other and work together better.
To relax and enjoy ourselves, we had our company golf outing in September. We will also spend time celebrating the holiday together during our annual Christmas Lunch on December 21. This is always a good time.
The year closes out with one of the most profound holidays we have, the celebration of the birth of Jesus Christ. When we gather together with our families and friends this Christmas, let’s remember the reason we are celebrating. It’s not about opening presents, eating good food, or even family time. It’s to remember that God so loved the world that he gave his only begotten son, and that he sent him to this very imperfect earth to live and die in order to redeem us. What a wonderful gift - the best gift of all.
We would like to thank our customers, our employees, and our community for what D+M Metal Products accomplished this year and wish you all a Merry Christmas and a very Happy New Year! We could not do what we do without you.
The American economy runs on products that most people overlook all the time. That does not make them any less important. Cars, electronics, and oil are what people tend to think of as important - items they use often, are heavily marketed, or are mentioned on the news. People rarely think about the kinds of manufactured goods that are used to build, display, clean, or maintain other goods, but they are equally vital. If you’ve ever wondered how fabricated products - the kind we produce in house at D+M Metal - support the larger economy and keep it running, read on.
One of the reasons that fabricated or welded products are often overlooked is that they often are parts of larger products that we more easily recognize. D+M Metal Products does metal fabrication which is “the process of building machines and structures from raw metal materials...[which] includes cutting, burning, welding, machining, forming, and assembly to create the final product.” We often manufacture parts instead of salable products, but the parts we make are necessary for those products to exist or operate.
For example, D+M Metal makes components for Grand Rapids furniture companies like NuCraft Furniture. They manufacture tables and chairs, and we make the housing for table bases which will be powder coated or plated before they will be attached to their corresponding table tops. We also make backs for barstools and tubing for chairs made by Grand Rapids Chair. We fabricate the back of this Melissa Anne Chair, and we make the seat of the Sadie II Outdoor Chair. We fabricate the table base for their Apollo table as well.
Some of the products we manufacture that you see all of the time but probably overlook are display fixtures. Almost all stores depend on shelving and display fixtures. They display their inventory on metal shelving, and we fabricate those shelves or parts of those shelves. Warehouses also rely on fabricated storage rack systems. We make aluminum trays and metal panels for Best Buy and NAPA Auto Parts. For Target we fabricate the trim bands they use on their recycling and their mannequin displays. We make library shelving and do work for Pipp Mobile Storage Systems too. Our work can be seen all over Grand Rapids and elsewhere in the state and the nation, although it does not come with a D+M Metal Products label.
Most of the fabricated products we make would be classified as “intermediate products” instead of end products. They will be one part of a finished or end product. Companies rely on metal fabricators because it’s more efficient to subcontract certain kinds of work out to companies that specialize in certain skills. These skills - our skills - include forging, stamping, bending, forming, and machining to shape individual pieces of metal and welding and assembling them together.
If your business has a need for specific fabricated parts, call us at 616-784-0601. We would love to discuss any special needs you have and quote you a price for the work you want done. We are proud of the fabricated products we manufacture and the vital roles they play in creating other finished products and keeping the economy running.
Do you know about the FIRST® Robotics program? D+M Metal Products has been proud to sponsor a local team for this educational competition in robotics for a number of years now. We think this is a great way to encourage young people to learn about robotics and think logically and creatively. Michigan is a manufacturing state, and the participants in the FIRST Robotics program are part of the future of Michigan manufacturing. They will one day design the products that will help make our lives safer and better.
Dean Kamen, the inventor of the iBOT and the Segway PT and many other patented devices, founded FIRST (For Inspiration and Recognition of Science and Technology) in 1989 as a program for generating interest in STEM. FIRST offers many robotics programs for students in grades K-12. The FIRST Robotics competition is for high school students.
The FIRST Robotics competition works this way: In January FIRST gives teams around the world a challenge. These teams have six weeks to build a robot that can accomplish this challenge. Then these teams compete against each other tournament style to learn which team’s robotic invention works best. Teams are awarded on design, performance, interaction with other teams, and even team spirit.
FIRST describes it this way:
“Under strict rules, limited resources, and an intense six-week time limit, teams of students are challenged to raise funds, design a team "brand," hone teamwork skills, and build and program industrial-size robots to play a difficult field game against like-minded competitors. It’s as close to real-world engineering as a student can get. Volunteer professional mentors lend their time and talents to guide each team. Each season ends with an exciting FIRST Championship.”
D+M Metal Products sponsors That One Team which is made up of high school students from Rockford, Northview, and a number of homeschooling families. The components that are used in robotics can be expensive, so we have been happy to create and supply some of their needs. That One Team is self funded outside of what they receive from their sponsors.
As we’ve discussed before, automation is becoming hugely important to manufacturing and to our industry in particular. New technology is changing the way businesses run and workers do their jobs. The teamwork and engineering skills that kids learn in the FIRST Robotics program will help them as they progress through high school, college, and in the workforce. If you would like to join That One Team or help or officially sponsor this team, contact them here.
D+M Metal Products has both the experience and the expertise to produce a large variety of large weldments for our clients. We’ve highlighted some of our weldment projects before on this blog, specifically our sculpture work, but here we will define what large weldments are and what challenges are involved in steel weldment fabrication services.
D+M Metal Products fabricates any number of weldment units by welding one-half to one-inch-thick plate steel or metal pieces together into one weldment assembly. We do a broad spectrum of work with steel, alloy, and metal, and our engineers are proficient at weldment assembly design. They translate designs into CNC machine code, then the components are cut out and welded together. Many industries need large, heavy metal weldments, including the fork truck, AGV, pallet manufacturing equipment, and other heavy equipment industries.
Fabricating large weldments can be a complex and unforgiving task. Do it wrong the first time, and fixing it will be costly for the shop and result in delays. The weldments that go into large pieces of equipment often weigh thousands of pounds, for example the bucket on an earthmover. Some parts or components are even larger, but no matter how large they are and how much stress they may place on other parts of the structures they are attached to, they need to fit and to hold up over time.
Parts can also move as they are welded. “A very large metal part heats up as it is welded, and as the part heats up, it begins to shrink. That’s why it’s important to include slip planes in large-fixture design. The slip planes are incorporated into fixture designs to allow for some movement of the part. In some instances, the part can move as much as 0.197 inches during welding.” This means the fixture must hold the parts securely and accommodate these parts’ movements as they absorb the heat and twist or bend. Again, only an experienced welder has the knowledge to predict and accomplish this type of welding.
After a fixture is fabricated, it must be tested. This must be done right the first time as multiple retakes are not a viable option for large weldments, and the fixture must be perfect before it is shipped to the customer. When the fixture is right, it has to be disassembled for delivery, shipped, and then reassembled when it reaches the customer. Shipping is challenging, often requiring special permits and accommodations, but it needs to be done with care and efficiency so the customer is not waiting too long for delivery.
All of the above challenges are ones we understand and handle regularly for our clients. Some of the weldment projects D+M Metal Products fabricates include:
If your company needs weldment design or fabrication done, please contact us at 616-784-0601. We would be happy to talk to you about any special requirements your weldment projects need and how we can accommodate them.
Manufacturing Day was this past Friday, and there are plenty of articles written about Millennials and why they need to be recruited in order to ensure that manufacturers continue to have the labor they need to succeed. One aspect of generational change that is often overlooked, however, is that Baby Boomer workers are retiring from manufacturing in increasing numbers, and certain skills they have will be lost - unless companies encourage collaboration between these workers and those from younger generations.
So much of the emphasis in manufacturing is on breakthroughs in technology and increased automation and how these affect process and output. It’s assumed that Millennials, since they’ve been exposed to continuously updated technology since they were children are better suited to the new tech. However, Baby Boomers have their own skill sets. Baby Boomers, for example, learned a strong work ethic from their parents. They also have longer attention spans and need less encouragement to complete their tasks. They don’t have the same expectation Millennials do that their daily tasks will be exciting or important. They just want to be paid and promoted, not praised.
Baby Boomers also have a lifetime of experience under their belts. They watched the progression of technology from mechanical to computer-driven. They also have a lifetime of knowledge about workplace interactions. While Generation X workers have the reputation for wanting to work independently and disliking micromanagement, both Baby Boomers and Millennials are comfortable working within groups, and Boomers make for good mentors - something Millennials consistently report wanting more of at work.
Given that Baby Boomers have a lot to teach, if at all possible they should be paired with Millennials to transfer their knowledge and their ideas about work to younger coworkers. In some industries, Baby Boomers are being let go because companies think younger workers are more of a bargain. Their wages or salaries are lower, and benefits far less expensive. This is a short-sighted approach. Many Millennials come out of the school system unfamiliar with the way the workforce runs and struggle with absorbing the rules and norms and settling in. They are known for bouncing around from job to job and not staying in one position for very long - the opposite of Boomers.
Manufacturing needs workers who can be trained and who will stay in the positions they were trained to do. Pairing a Baby Boomer who has experience, knowledge, good social skills, and will pattern necessary workforce habits with Millennials who need guidance and crave connection in the workplace is a win-win. Some companies are rewarding late-stage Boomers for this mentoring with time off and other benefits. They want them to postpone retirement to do this critical work.
Older workers often feel like the high tech world we live in is passing them by, but Baby Boomers already have a lifetime of experience adapting to change and a host of other skills. This Manufacturing Day we should focus on how workers of all generations can help make our industry stronger and better by using the variety of strengths and skills they possess and helping each other to succeed.
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