Back in October, we highlighted the FIRST Robotics organization and the team that D+M Metal Products sponsors, That One Team. The team completed their season and sent us some information about the FIRST Robotics competition process and how they finished. They had a very successful 6th season learning, building, and demonstrating their robot.
The FIRST Robotics competition works like this: In January FIRST gives teams around the world a challenge. These teams then have six weeks to build a robot that can accomplish this challenge. When they are finished building, they compete against each other in tournaments to discover which team’s robotic invention accomplishes its goals best. Teams receive awards for design, performance, interaction with other teams, and team spirit.
The FIRST organization 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.”
That One Team qualified for the state championships and from there went all the way to the FIRST World Championship which was held in Detroit. They earned the Autonomous Award for their efforts. Here’s what That One Team had to say:
“It was an amazing year for our team. We had a few rough times but we still made it through all the way to the World Championships! Our season is now over and we are all very happy with how far we have come.”
D+M Metal Products is proud to have sponsored That One Team and to have fabricated parts used in their robot. The robot achieved these goals:
As we all know, robotics already plays a part in many sectors of the economy and will be a big part of manufacturing in the future. It’s important for kids to learn about robotics and their applications to everyday life and work. That’s why FIRST Robotics and the encouragement and opportunities they give to kids is so vital as a part of our education system.
Last November Michigan legalized marijuana for recreational use. This decision by the state’s voters has already had a number of ramifications for employers. Most people do not understand how legalized marijuana can affect their employment, so here we will talk about that and also how the legalization of marijuana affects the manufacturing sector.
Some in the workforce are under the false impression that because marijuana is now legal for both medical and recreational use that means employers must hire them or continue employing them when they use or consume marijuana products. That is not the case.
Michigan’s adult-use recreational marijuana law, the Michigan Regulation and Taxation of Marihuana Act, states:
“This act does not require an employer to permit or accommodate conduct otherwise allowed by this act in any workplace or on the employer’s property. This act does not prohibit an employer from disciplining an employee for a violation of a workplace drug policy or for working while under the influence of marijuana. This act does not prevent an employer from refusing to hire, discharging, disciplining, or otherwise taking an adverse employment action against a person with respect to hire, tenure, terms, conditions, or privileges of employment because of that person’s violation of a workplace drug policy or because that person was working while under the influence of marijuana.”
Michigan may have legalized marijuana, but the Controlled Substances Act (CSA) is still federal law, and cannabis is still prohibited under the CSA as a Schedule 1 drug. Federal employers and companies in industries regulated by the federal government or that hold contracts with the federal government are expected to administer random drug tests to their employees and test them for drug use when they are hired. If those employees test positive for marijuana, they will take action against them even if employees consumed the marijuana during their off hours or for medical reasons.
Private employers in Michigan have more leeway in their drug testing policies now because of the MRTMA, however. They can continue to enforce drug-free workplace policies that follow CSA guidelines, or they can choose to be more lenient with their workers.
Legalized marijuana is a particularly important issue for workers in the manufacturing industry because so many of them operate heavy machinery. It can be very dangerous to drive a forklift when impaired, for example, and not just for the worker but for other workers, anyone else in the vicinity, and the company itself. The company bears the liability when an accident happens, and it’s the company that must pay for workmens compensation. Higher premiums, lost time, property damage, and downtime in the facility are additional costs the business bears if management does not establish and strictly maintain safety protocols.
No one wants to see workers hurt - not workers and not management. Unlike with alcohol, the majority of people cannot easily determine how impaired people who consume marijuana are or how long that impairment lasts. It’s a hard call for a manager to determine if a worker is sober enough to do his job if he is a regular user, and there is no breathalyzer test for weed - yet.
Workers may believe they are entitled to do what they like on their own time and that they should be able to relax and enjoy marijuana especially now that it’s legal. This is true only as far as it does not affect other people negatively. It is now on employers to make hard calls to determine if marijuana use poses a safety or productivity problem for their companies. They should not be blamed if they decide employing workers who use marijuana is too much of a risk to take.
The bottom line on legalized marijuana is that employers have the authority to fire or not to hire workers who use it. If you are looking for a job or want to keep the one you have, check to see what your company’s policy on marijuana use is and follow it to the letter. While its short term impairment effects pass fairly quickly, marijuana stays in bodily fluids for 1 to 30 days after you consume it. That means it can be detected weeks after you used, again unlike alcohol.
There are many wonderful opportunities in manufacturing right now in Michigan. If you want to be a part of this great industry, be aware of how your marijuana use could impact that.
Do you know about the good work Mobility Worldwide does on behalf of people who are unable to walk in the developing world? This is a wonderful organization focused on providing practical tools that allow disabled people to resume their lives, interact with the world around them, and become more independent.
Mobility Worldwide is a faith-based, volunteer-powered, humanitarian, and worldwide organization. Originally known as Personal Energy Transportation, Mobility Worldwide began in 1994 when Reverend Larry Hills, a missionary in what is now Congo shared with Reverend Mel West that there was a great need for wheelchairs for victims of polio and landmines. Mel discussed specifications for a three-wheeled, hand-cranked wheelchair with Earl Miner, a product designer and mission partner, and Earl began work on a prototype.
When Earl had developed that prototype, he sent four mobility carts to Larry for testing under the harshest conditions Larry could find. Larry had asked for a cart that could be used in rural areas without roads or sidewalks. The prototypes passed this test, so Mobility Worldwide shipped more mobility cart frames to Zaire where they were attached to wooden beds and distributed to those in need.
D+M Metal Products has been working with Mobility Worldwide since the design process of these carts began. We fabricate a front fork for their adult-sized cart and a child-sized cart. There is also a third style of cart that is designed for people who can’t maneuver the carts themselves and must be pushed by others. Currently they are developing a new style of cart that they hope will reduce the cost of shipping it worldwide.
They help people who have lost the use of their legs through either disease or disaster in over 100 countries. An estimated 70 million people worldwide cannot walk. Mobility Worldwide has provided more than 73,000 of them with a mobility cart. They also collect canes, foldable walkers, crutches and wheelchairs to be refurbished and distributed to those in need.
The goal of this organization is to give the gift of mobility to all God’s people. They work with both religious and secular organizations to fundraise, create the components of the carts, assemble them, and distribute them to people who would otherwise have no way to move around.
We at D+M Metal think Mobility Worldwide has a great mission that should be supported. If you would like to provide any of your resources so they can gift mobility carts to people who cannot walk, they offer a number of ways to donate. Please check out the different types of carts they produce and the many, many success stories they share on their website.
In an earlier blog we talked about how fabricated products make the world go round. While we at D+M Metal Products are proud of the work that we do, we realize that our work is often an early step in the process of making the finished products that people see on the shelves in stores. They may be further modified or attached as pieces of larger items. Often our products leave our shop and are powder coated. The company that we send them to is Professional Metal Finishers in Grand Rapids, Michigan.
Powder coating is a dry finishing process used on a wide variety of products due to its high quality, durable finish. Powder coating is not only decorative, it also protects the underlying material from the elements. It’s available in an huge range of textures and colors. How does it work? As the Powder Coating Institute describes it:
“Powder coatings are based on polymer resin systems, combined with curatives, pigments, leveling agents, flow modifiers, and other additives. These ingredients are melt mixed, cooled, and ground into a uniform powder similar to baking flour. A process called electrostatic spray deposition (ESD) is typically used to achieve the application of the powder coating to a metal substrate. This application method uses a spray gun, which applies an electrostatic charge to the powder particles, which are then attracted to the grounded part. After application of the powder coating, the parts enter a curing oven where, with the addition of heat, the coating chemically reacts to produce long molecular chains, resulting in high cross-link density. These molecular chains are very resistant to breakdown. This type of application is the most common method of applying powders. Powder coatings can also be applied to non-metallic substrates such as plastics and medium density fiberboard (MDF).”
Professional Metal Finishers does a wide variety of work, some of which you might recognize. Their projects include medical cabinets, car parts, and high-end accessory displays. They do work on automated forklifts that are used by Amazon, Coors, and L’Oreal. Their brake-line display racks are in AutoZone stores. They powder coat Samsung appliance signs that can be seen in stores like Home Depot. They powder coat outdoor utility boxes. They also work locally with Roeda Studio doing memo boards of projects, and they powder coated the signs displayed in the above image.
Since 1986 Professional Metal Finishers has done work across many industries. Much of what they produce are components for larger items, including automotive components for semi-truck engines. They have a very diverse customer base and their goal is “to produce the highest quality finish possible while keeping our prices competitive.”
If you are looking for a company to do powder coating, D+M Metal Products gives Professional Metal Finishers our enthusiastic recommendation for work well done!
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.
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