On the Institution of Electrical Engineers (IEE) and the Institution of Manufacturing Engineers (IMfgE) merger, we express concerns about Incorporated Engineer and Engineering Technician representation, a category within which most sub-degree-educated production engineers fall. And while moves are afoot to tackle that, we observe that the role of the production engineer is changing and, therefore, so should relevant education and training. Detailed process planning and personal intervention on the shopfloor of yesteryear are becoming more a selection of third-party solutions and implementation of reliable systems within which they operate. Technology suppliers are more and more the repository of knowledge, we say. Any new representative body should take note of that, we conclude.

We also note that multi-machine-cell-based manufacturing, where there is manual workhandling between units, is being rediscovered after recent years of emphasis on fully automated flexible manufacturing systems that boast multiple machines and automated part handling. In today’s competitive, buyers’ market, they offer a solution that more easily allows companies to navigate feast-and-famine business swings, we suggest.

The Single European Act’s single market will come into force on 31 December, so concerns about increased competition will be a regular issue. So in news, we report the launch of CAD/CAM/CAE software expert Computervision’s first Manufacturing Attitudes Survey. The company’s managing director prophetically says that as global competition enforces a uniformity of product price and quality, time will increasingly be the competitive element. But the survey finds that few British companies are signed up to that thinking, while they are focused more on UK, rather than international, competition, it finds.

In news:

  • Yamazen Matchmaker (today Matchmaker CNC) is introducing an all-round faster model of the highly successful Tsugami FMS line of horizontal machining centres
  • MACH exhibition organiser the Machine Tool Technologies Association (Manufacturing Technologies Association today) is to introduce exhibition pre-registration for MACH 1992
  • Tooling supplier Iscar’s success, built on regular cycle time savings of 25% and up
  • A new type of insurance policy for subcontractors sees payments vary as business fluctuates
  • Aerospace expert speaks to UK machine tool makers, suggesting a collaborative approach to machine development to deliver reliable machines for a sector that is under competitive pressure, where the focus will become people not machines and where subcontracting will also increase. At the same event, an automotive speaker also addresses the UK machine tool industry, saying the sector wanted technology to solve real problems, not for its own sake. He also highlights a Japanese machine tool user that is progressively painting its machines in lighter colours as coolant and hydraulic leaks are eliminated, with the aim being a white factory
  • The Engineering Industries Association rails against increasing government interference via high taxation (at 37%), excessive costs of communication, energy and health & safety regulation, as well as Europe-driven legislation, saying manufacturing should be 33% of GDP, not its current 23% (10% today), driven by £15 billion government funding for 15 years, paid for by reduced social spending (£50 billion/year)
  • Machinery details government funding for multiple industrial projects
    Nottingham University reveals layer-by-layer metal weld build of prototype components (early metal 3D printing).
In features, we look at: machine tool servicing by independent companies; low-cost vertical and horizontal machining centre availability; the technology and practice of high speed machining; CNC punch press use; and publish an aerospace special report, with cell manufacturing a production emphasis.

In other news this month:

  • Maastricht Treaty sees European Community become European Union and heralds the euro
  • UK recession continues: GDP falls 0.3% in Q4 1991
  • The Queen celebrates her Ruby Jubilee (40 years)
  • Presidents George H W Bush (USA) and Boris Yeltsin (Russia) formally declare Cold War over
  • Albuquerque, New Mexico; McDonald’s coffee burns 79-year-old Stella Liebeck, who wins $2.86 million pay-out
  • Winter Olympics in Albertville, France; no medals for host country

This feature was published in the February 2017 issue of Machinery magazine.