Marketing for Manufacturers

What starts as an idea sometimes becomes a product; an opportunity for commerce, economy, jobs and prosperity. That production line is lubricated by hard work, quality control and customer service. Today, to ensure legacy and growth the manufacturer must utilize the same communications tools as the retailer, service industry and corporate entities.

The Future of Self-Driving Cars

A car that drives itself, is a car that could change the future of driving. But aren’t these cars still just material for a science fiction book? Not anymore! In fact, some self-driving cars are available now. You may have heard about some of the features that make cars more autonomous such as parallel self-parking. However, the word self-driving might make you think fully-autonomous, and that is only one definition of self-driving, but there is another definition…


Self-driving car


Two Types of Self-Driving Cars


Believe it or not, there are currently two kinds of self-driving cars: semi-autonomous cars and fully autonomous cars. Fully autonomous cars break, accelerate, and steer without the passenger inside having to do any work. Semi-autonomous cars are cars that do some of the work for you. Technologies that these types of cars feature include “Pilot Assist,” which you can find in certain Volvo cars and that help the driver maintain a safe distance from the next car while driving on a highway (Source).

When Will They be Available for Purchase?


There’s a new article every week about the release of self-driving cars, and most of them indicate they will be released soon. According to “Driverless Car Market Watch” we should see driverless cars on the road sometime between next year and 2020 (Source). Regardless of when exactly they will be available, it’s possible that there may not be a dramatic change from the semi-autonomous cars we see now and the fully-autonomous line of cars that will be built in the near future. They might simply keep adding technology until one day all cars will have all of the technologies that make a car driverless.


Will I Feel Safe in a Self-driving Car?


The Department of Transportation is responsible for regulating driverless cars and they intend to discover and determine what technologies these cars will be using. They will then share that information with government officials in order to control competition and prevent monopolies. Most importantly, they will analyze whether a technology is safe before a company can deploy it (Source).


Will car companies feel overregulated?


They might, but the intention of the Department of Transportation is not to stifle creativity or make companies smaller, but to allow producers to achieve ideal safety features while preserving their creativity. The regulations seem reasonable from an individual consumer perspective, but car manufacturers might still take issue with the regulations being too restrictive of their creativity and may protest the oversight.


How much will it cost?


Although there are no current price estimates of fully-autonomous cars because they are not yet available to be purchased, some believe that the cost of the software required to make a car more autonomous will put the cost out of the reach of working and middle-class people. The average American can afford to spend $20,806 on a car, whereas the starting price, without options, of one of the featured, less expensive driverless cars, the Toyota Prius, is around $24,000 (Source)


The Bottom Line


Driverless cars will mean safe, stress-free driving, and although the cost will probably be high at the outset, as with any product in a competitive market, the price, as consumers buy more of them and as time passes, will go down. Fully autonomous self-driving cars may mean the end of car accidents and the end of traffic jams on highways and throughways, and may end the arresting of drivers under the influence of drugs and alcohol. Car crime will be lower, and cops will probably make fewer driving arrests. IdeaEngineUSA supports driverless cars because they benefit manufacturing and because they will push the boundaries of the human capacity for change and growth.

Manufacturing Finally Has its Own Day

National Manufacturing Day


National Manufacturing Day


President Obama has officially made October 7th National Manufacturing Day. Manufacturing has come a long way since it was first introduced. Yet many young people cannot or do not envision themselves working in this industry. Manufacturing careers are such an important aspect of this country. Iconic Made in the USA goods include aircraft engines, life-saving biopharmaceuticals, and cutting-edge automobiles. American manufactures take pride in knowing they produced their goods in the USA.

President Obama spoke on October 6th, 2016 about National Manufacturing Day. He said, “Let us continue working to strengthen and expand the manufacturing jobs of tomorrow and ensure that opportunity for all is something we can keep making in America for generations to come.” Since the Great Recession in 2010, U.S. manufacturing has made a comeback as more than 800,000 new jobs have been created.


Supporting Manufacturing


On National Manufacturing Day many manufacturing companies opened their doors and allowed tours of their factory floor in order to people to show what manufacturing looks like in the 21st century. The day will feature factory tours, hackathons, career exploration panels – providing hands-on demonstrations of what the 21st century looks like in a manufacturing company – and more.

“In Warren, MI, Department of Education Secretary John B. King, Jr. saw first-hand how production molds are designed and manufactured for the plastics industry at Proper Tooling, followed by a roundtable with students, employees of Macomb Community College, and employees of Proper Tooling to discuss the foundational role of STEM education in advanced manufacturing.” (Source)

Today, local organizations across the country are announcing steps to help more students and adults acquire the skills and resources to tinker, invent, and eventually manufacture their ideas at scale.


(STEM) Education Improvements


K-12 STEM Education Pipeline needs to be improved in order to provide the correct and necessary education of young people interested in this field of work. The manufacturing sector relies on students who are skilled within the different divisions of STEM. STEM stands for:

S- Science

T- Technology

E- Engineering

M- Mathematics

These important tools need to be taken seriously throughout the all levels of education. Once numbers begin to improve within these categories, the manufacturing sector will improve. When obtaining a job in this line of work, you must have a well-rounded education from the STEM topics.

Despite occasional minor downturns this year in manufacturing productivity, some believe that the US is actually experiencing significant growth in the manufacturing sector. In fact:

“For the last four years in a row, global CEOs have named the United States the best place to make and invest, and new capital investment is flowing in to a broad range of manufacturing technologies.” (Source)

Attracting Millennials to Manufacturing

Millennials in Manufacturing


You can’t attend a manufacturing event in Connecticut without running across at least one conversation where a manufacturer complains about the lack of young people in manufacturing. The good news is that recent programs enabling high school students to get college certificate and degree credits during their junior and senior years is having an immediate impact. Yet most manufacturers I’ve talked to are still disappointed at the general public’s belief that the key to a successful career has to pass under the rigid gates of a four-year college.




Precision Metalworking Association launched an interesting program earlier this summer. On June 29th, PMA launched MFG NXT, a recruitment and retention organization aimed at young manufacturers and potential manufacturers. PMA calls MFG NXT “an ideas hub and support network for Millennials and Gen Xers.”

“We need to nurture a new generation of leaders to ensure that the manufacturing industry continues to keep growing, embracing new technologies and adapting to a changing world,” said PMA President Bill Gaskin.  “MFG NXT is all about bringing together talented young manufacturing leaders who are committed to success in their companies and to the future of the U.S. manufacturing sector.”

During this event on the 29th, in Independence Ohio, the young manufacturers heard speeches from workforce experts and also heard differing opinions in a roundtable discussion on issues facing the next generation of workers and manufacturers. For those unfamiliar with the group, PMA is a trade organization supporting the $137 billion metalforming industry in North America. They have over 900 members comprised of manufacturers, equipment suppliers, materials suppliers and suppliers of services. Local Connecticut metalforming companies participated in the event.


Challenges to the Metalforming Inudstry


The metalforming industry, like so many manufacturers, has been facing several challenges that the next generation will inherit. The industry has been fighting the general partisan bickering in Congress that has shaped much of the legislation during the post-recession period and slow economic recovery. That bickering indirectly led to metalworking companies not being able to invest in equipment.

Companies depend on tax incentives to afford technology and equipment, and they often need take a while to make decisions on purchasing and acquiring the equipment. The stagnation in congress repeatedly caused several important business investment tax provisions to expire at the year for many years, which now have to be renewed. This uncertainty greatly hurt companies’ ability to manage their purchases.

Manufacturers did catch a break at the end of last year. Congress and President Obama signed legislation making the R&D Tax Credit and Section 179 Equipment Expensing permanent. Congress and President Obama also passed a bill extending Bonus Depreciation through 2019..


How Millennials deliver solutions in Manufacturing


It will be interesting to see in the coming years how industry millennials tackle the challenges that are currently bubbling under the surface.  These include expanding the Internet of Things (IoT,) addressing energy challenges, retrofitting new, more energy efficient HVAC and operating systems into plants, and addressing the need for an educated workforce.

Today, Connecticut is fortunate to have many public servants friendly to manufacturing. US Senators Richard Blumenthal and Chris Murphy, US Representatives Jim Himes and Elizabeth Esty, have all been strong proponents of manufacturing.

Maybe some of those high school students earning their certificates should reach out to one of our elected officials. If CT manufacturers have learned one thing over the years: it’s always better to do things to influence Washington, before they do things to influence you.


Material from this article was in part sourced from the PMA website ( The website did not cite a writer’s name.

More Robots, Fewer Problems

Robot giving cup of coffee to woman


What impact will robots and artificial intelligence have on our future? There are two ways to think about this question. Some people believe that robots will make life worse for humans by stealing our jobs.   There are others, however, that believe that although robots may take the mundane, repetitive, and laborious industrial jobs, they will create other supervisory and higher-skilled jobs. At IdeaEngineUSA we support all manufacturing endeavors, especially those that save money, make the workplace safer, and that are more productive, all of which robots do.


Taking Some Jobs, while Creating Better Ones


It’s understandable that, with the rise of robotics, people might fear that robots will take our jobs. This is not an accurate assumption,  in fact, many believe that by taking certain jobs they will create others. For example, the Dusseldorf Airport has a robotic valet service that lifts your car into an aerial parking lot. By creating this system, it allows people to maintain and repair these robots(Source).  In fact, we will need to maintain and repair all sorts of types of robots because they are not fully self-aware.  As long as robots do not have a consciousness, we can build robots that will be instrumental in helping our businesses, which will create additional jobs in fixing, and supervising them.


Productive and Safe


Robots make fewer errors and perform their job more safely when doing certain jobs than humans do. Humans have flaws, as do robots, however, our flaws include becoming fatigued and distracted which contribute to making occasional mistakes on the job. Robots can carry much more weight without becoming fatigued, and will not become injured unlike human workers who can(Source). They can also work in difficult conditions, like in poorly lit buildings or with toxic chemicals.


Saving Money for Businesses


Businesses save money by building robots to work for them. Although robots cost anywhere from $50,000 to $150,000 (Source), depending on whether you add extra applications onto them, the return on investment pays for itself. Depending on the exact amount, this cost is equivalent to about one year’s salary of a factory employee. This means that after one year has passed, the robot’s productivity pays for its initial cost, and the robot can last for many years.


Don’t Fear Them, Embrace Them


Robots may seem intimidating to most people who are not familiar with their true limitations.  Robots do not have a consciousness, and probably never will.  That is why it’s important for the public not to fear them, and instead embrace them in the manufacturing industry because of their enormous benefits.

AMHoF 2016 Inductees

AMHofF Image #2 Better one

The American Manufacturing Hall of Fame (AMHoF) has announced the 2016 Inductees of the American Manufacturing Hall of Fame at Housatonic Community College.  The American Manufacturing Hall of Fame celebrates the innovative history of American manufacturing,  raises funds for educational programs, and promotes awareness of Advanced Manufacturing, which is critical to the economy.


The new inductees will formally join the AMHoF in a ceremony on October 6, 2016 at the Trumbull Marriott, beginning at 5:30 pm. All are welcome to join the celebration. More information about attending and/or supporting the event can be obtained by contacting Emily Hyde at or (203) 249-9859. For more information about the AMHoF, please contact Dan Wisneski at



Bead Industries                                                                                 

Benedict & Burnham Manufacturing Co.                          

Platt Brothers & Co.

C. Cowles & Co.                                                       

Chance Vought


Bead Industries, was formed in 1914 to design, develop and create innovative electrical chain pull switches for the electrical business.  Today, Bead is a leader in the telecom, automotive, connector, and lighting industries.  The company’s original product, the bead chain, is still used on vertical blinds, securing gas tank and other marine parts, window treatments, inside toilets and other plumbing fixtures, keychains for dog tags, and many other products.


Benedict & Burnham Manufacturing Company, began in 1812 in Waterbury, Connecticut. As the US went to war with England, founder Aaron Benedict realized that soldiers and sailors needed uniform buttons, but England would obviously no longer supply them. Benedict bought up every brass kettle, pan, and pot he could find, established a rolling mill, and began making buttons for the armed forces.  The business that Aaron began, right here in the CT valley, was the start of the brass industry in the United States.


Platt Bros. and Co. history Platt Bros. goes back over 200 years, when a grist and saw mill were established on the Naugatuck River, in Waterbury, Connecticut. Around 1847, the Platt Bros. became innovative in their design and manufacture of rolled zinc products and metal buttons. The Platt’s began producing stampings and drawn eyelet components about 1875.  Today, the Platt Bros. manufacture in such diversified markets as lighting accessories, communications, aerospace, sensing devices, control valves, primary and after-market automotive components, and electronics.


Cowles & Co. was founded in New Haven, Connecticut over 175 years ago. The company has evolved from a manufacturer of lanterns for horse drawn carriages to a world-class, precision metal stamping company, producing components for U.S. and Japanese automakers.  Today, with five operating divisions, C. Cowles has diversified into plastic injection molding, automotive accessories, boiler controls as well as burners, controls and ignitors for the heating industry.


Chance Vought founder, Chance M. Vought, had energy and vision as aircraft designer, engineer, builder, and company founder. He created a tradition of innovation and performance excellence that became the heritage of all who created and built Vought aircraft.  Their Corsair, powered, by the 2,000-horsepower Pratt & Whitney R-2800 engine, flew at 404 miles per hour, faster than any U.S. fighter in production. The classic airplane would stay in continuous production until December 1952, by which time 12,571 had been built. The speed, strength, and firepower of the Chance Vought F4U Corsair enabled it to dominate Japanese opposition, downing 2,140 enemy aircraft against a loss of 189.


Last year, acting under the Housatonic Community College Foundation, the AMHoF helped raise funds that directly contributed to 18 scholarships for students at the Advanced Manufacturing and Technology Center at Housatonic Community College. The Center prepares students for advanced manufacturing jobs through a rigorous certification program. Last year the Center placed 100% of its certificate students in advanced manufacturing jobs. The certified students starting salaries were $30,000 and higher. As a result, the final funding of the 18 scholarships by the AMHoF resulted in more than $550,000 in income directly injected into the local economy.


The face of the American Manufacturing Hall of Fame is Founding Chairman John Ratzenberger. The actor and manufacturing advocate is best known as the colorful mailman on the TV show “Cheers,” and as the voice of multiple characters in all of the Pixar animated films. Currently, Ratzenberger is the Chief Advisor for Industrialization at Elite Aviation Products, a company that makes aviation products for the likes of Boeing and NASA. Ratzenberger was born in Bridgeport and has a home in Milford. Ratzenberger founded the AMHoF with Barbara and Carl Johnson and a group of local volunteers to call attention to the rich heritage of American manufacturing while raising money to train the next generation of the advanced manufacturing workforce.


On October 6th the AMHoF will celebrate the great companies being inducted and, at the same time, support the growth of the next generation of a much needed skilled manufacturing workforce. Each inductee will receive a custom-made award that is created by Platt Tech students using the advanced manufacturing techniques they have learned in their coursework. Each inductee will also have a custom three-minute video made that will illustrate its accomplishments that will be shown at the event. The evening is billed as THE night for manufacturing, both past and present.

5 Ways Wearables Will Change Manufacturing

Have you been wearing your smartwatch or fitness tracker that you got for Christmas as often as you thought you would?  If you work in manufacturing, you may soon be wearing them on the factory floor. Smartglasses and wearables are taking off as manufacturers realize not only that they are replacing the smart pad in the workforce’s’ hands, but they’re adding many other features that make them a necessity to gain a business advantage. While I use the term “smartglasses” universally, the wearable could be an attachment to traditional safety glasses rather than a separate unit or be attached to another body part. Here are five ways having a computer to remotely interact with both the wearer and others will change manufacturing forever.

Smart glasses.

One – Training:

Instead of having a trainer stand next to the trainee on the shop floor and go teach the worker how to run a machine or use a new tool, the trainer can be in another room, even remotely, and observe and coach by watching the camera in the smartglasses. The trainer can give real-time feedback to the trainee while also viewing any additional information the tool provides. He can also send information to the smartglasses in the form of drawings, videos, photos or any other information that he wants the worker to see. By adding a finger-pointing tool that works with the glasses, every motion of the worker can be recorded in real-time, in order so that it can be reviewed and improved later.


Two – Safety:

Using the Internet of Things (IoT) and linking the glasses with the machine being worked on, sensors in the factory, and all of the other workers’ glasses on the floor, will allow new multiple layers of safety on the shop floor. Sensors can pause a machine if they sense the worker is about to make an error that will damage a workpiece or the machine itself. Sensors can alert workers to unsafe material handling, an unintended danger from another worker, and many other daily interactions that pose a safety issue. For example, the sensor worn by a worker crossing a hallway can send a signal to the cloud that automatically slows the forklift being operated by the worker around a blind corner from the intersection. The forklift operator also sees the sensor warning in his glasses. Think of every application where a sensor can be used, rather than just through traditional human observation, and one can quickly see the endless possibilities of this technology.


Three – Compliance:

The massive amounts of data that will be collected from the various sensors and glasses can quickly be filtered in real-time and prepared in a continuously updated report for regulatory agencies. Managers can also sort through the material looking for potential patterns that need to be addressed or equipment that may need updating. Having the data and the analysis constantly available means shorter inspection time, less down time, and the ability to more fully plan for scheduled versus emergency repairs.



Data recorded from both the machine and the wearable can be analyzed in real-time and combined, then run through data analytical software. Data can be graphed by hour, shift, day, week, month, etc. to drill down and identify process improvements. Data analysis positions are currently the fastest growing segment of ALL workforces, not just manufacturing. Two and four-year colleges are currently expanding their curriculum to include certificate classes, both for undergraduate and graduate students on data analysis. Classes specific to manufacturing are sure to follow.


Five – Workforce Review:

Imagine you had a complete, record of everything your workforce did on the shop floor with data analysis weighing the worker against your other workers with similar job time and training. Now add data from the averages in your manufacturing field from around the country, and you have a snapshot that can show performance or lack thereof with a targeted improvement plan. After one year you can take the data and create performance goals around the averages, work experience and training for your workforce. All of this helps you run a smoother, more effective operation.

In just two years, it appears wearables are already making an impact in manufacturing. As they become more prevalent on shop floors and the natural innovation of any new product takes hold, it will not be long before they are as common as the safety glasses they are attached to.

Makers and the Next Manufacturing Workforce

The Institute for Supply Management issued its manufacturing report in early February, and the outlook was less than rosy. Economic output in manufacturing contracted for the fourth straight month and as a result of the strong dollar, the weak state of other countries’ economies, and the generally low cost of energy across the world, that trend may continue.

US News and World Report’s Andrew Soergel sat down with Scott Paul, the President of the Alliance for American Manufacturing, to get his feedback on trends. The entire article can be found here, but one of the most interesting segments of the interview was when Soergel asked what legislation should be passed immediately to help the manufacturing sector. Paul said,

“ I think the most useful thing policymakers could do involves shoring up on the domestic side our competitiveness, which means investing in skills and training [and in] our infrastructure; continuing investments in research and development between the public and private sectors to ensure we maintain a technological lead that we’re incorporating on our factory floors.”


Programs like the Advanced Manufacturing Technology Center at Housatonic Community College have beefed up their training in technology at the college level, and Platt Tech in Milford has had 3D printing for a few years. The real question is: how do we reach middle schoolers more frequently than through the few days dedicate to learning about manufacturing during the school year, and possibly a manufacturing camp in the summer?

One answer is the Maker movement. I sat down last week with Mark Mathias, the creator of the Westport Mini Maker Faire. The Faire is on April 30th and is in its 5th year. It has approximately doubled in attendance and size every single year. The Faire sprawls across 3.5 acres at the Westport Library and the surrounding area under both open skies and under large tents. While there are vendors, the admission is free and the mission is simple: get the kids involved and doing maker activities.

Maker activities lead directly to kids asking questions about engineering, science and manufacturing. Mathias has been pushing the “A” for “ART” in the STEAM acronym in recent years. This year there will be an art competition using 3D printers as the artists’ canvas. For more information on attending the event and to discover what activities are highlighted, click here.

Presidential Candidates Mainly Mum on Manufacturing

The presidential campaign for both parties continues to heat up due to the surprising staying power of multiple candidates as we head into the South Carolina primary.

Bernie Sanders continues to haunt Hillary Clinton and the candidates favored by the Republican Party have failed to pull away from the largely independent-speaking Donald Trump.

At almost 17% of the state’s GDP, manufacturing is the largest sector of the economy in South Carolina, which would imply it would be a talking point on the campaign trail. However, other than Trump’s constant threat to curtail Chinese imports, the statements from the candidates have been vague at best. South Carolina presents several attractive offerings for manufacturers especially for auto manufacturing companies.

Capitol Building U.S. Congress

Among the perks that SC offers to manufacturing and all industries is: no state property tax, no local income tax, no inventory tax, no sales tax on manufacturing machinery, industrial power or materials for finished products, no wholesale tax, no unitary tax on worldwide profits, and favorable corporate income tax structure.

Many of these have been brought up by Connecticut manufacturers as possible incentives to be brought to the state to grow industry.

Ed Caruthers, a respected blogger who often writes on manufacturing, commented on the candidates’ attention to manufacturing in general:

“The best solution is to improve education so that Americans are worth higher wages than workers in other countries.  But that won’t be fast; it will cost money; and it will undermine politicians who appeal to ignorance and irrationality.”

Connecticut has made education for the next generation of the manufacturing workforce a priority, but there is a general agreement that more must be done to keep and attract manufacturers in the state.

Meanwhile, in South Carolina, a state that should be perfect for discussing how to position the country’s manufacturing future, the candidates remain largely quiet on the eve of the primary.

4D Printing and Beyond

A revolution in robotics is coming. It’s called 4D printing, a step beyond 3D printing, and it’s already being used in manufacturing, but its uses extend into various subfields of robotics.

The technology uses color-sensitive and heat-sensitive gel and can expose 3D printed materials to light and heat in order to shape the materials into something new. Time is the fourth element.

Possible 4-D Printing Image

This is an amazing breakthrough because it could make robots more malleable so that they could bend more easily. Imagine a robot that has hands and fingers that bend.  Theoretically someone could develop this type of robot to work in different job fields that involve repetitive or monotonous tasks. Some fields in which robots could work include jobs that involve gripping something or using subtle hand motions, such as: directing vehicle traffic or airplane traffic, playing more types of sports – basketball, tennis, bowling, and others – and performing more difficult tasks in the factory. Engineers could also develop robots that can practice shaking hands with and practicing other grips with someone who is recovering from a hand injury or hand weakness.


Imagine playing a game with a robot on those days that you didn’t have anyone else with which to play. In a game like tennis, in which it is almost vital to play with someone else to improve, you could improve your skills much faster by playing with a robot than you could by simply practicing your serve or by not playing or practicing whatsoever. If it was programmed to speak, it could even complement every good shot you made.


4D printing is a technology that will change almost every aspect of manufacturing and robotics. This technology will quickly and dramatically transform the way our world appears and functions.


Source cited:


Crouse, Megan. “‘4D Printing’ Could Make Robots Bendier.” N.p., 16 Dec. 2015. Web. 07 Jan. 2016. <>.

Snackable Video

Manufacturers want to let the outside world know about their industry, their unique value proposition, and the quality of their products. Bridgeport Fittings came to IdeaEngineUSA looking for a solution. The answer…short videos that busy partners and customers can watch that’ll make the point. Called “snackable content” in the marketing world, the Youtube videos now help promote BF’s business. Using a mix of historical footage with new footage taken from their factory floor and interviews, four videos were created.

Bridgeport Fittings Factory

Each video concentrated on a pillar of what Bridgeport Fittings believes in; American Manufacturing, Buying Local, Quality Material, and the difference in working with Bridgeport Fittings. These four videos are now used to directly target potential customers. The videos are hosted on the Bridgeport Fittings YouTube channel and are also cross-promoted across their various social media channels to help drive traffic and business to their website.

Their channel can be found here.