Another year, and another successful Aluminum USA show for the GO2 Material ID team, is in the books.
Hosted by the Aluminum Association in Nashville, Tennessee, the Aluminum USA show is a weeklong, biennial event covering the entire aluminum value chain — from mining and smelting, to casting, extrusions, finishing and fabrications. The Aluminum USA show is the opportunity to see firsthand the forces, applications and technology impacting the industry.
In this guide, we’ll be reviewing what we saw and heard at the show, and give our insider’s take on the state of the aluminum industry.
The Aluminum Industry Today
By bringing so many in the industry together for face-to-face meetings, networking, education, seminars and more, discussion ranged across a number of topics — everything from trade wars and tariffs, healthcare and insurance, the supply chain and regulations, to attracting new talent and technical expertise.
For this guide, we’ll focus on one area, an area that GO2 is an industry leader in — asset and material tracking.
Here’s what we heard from the show floor.
Many businesses are still tracking materials and assets using dated and inefficient techniques. These businesses are forced to rely on chalk, spreadsheets and paper to track expensive assets and materials. They are working at a disadvantage in an increasingly competitive industry, putting their business at risk.
For businesses in these situations, the Aluminum USA show offered a chance to upgrade. “Many (companies) came straight to our booth and said, ‘I need to talk to you,’ ” explained GO2 Account Executive Tim Doyle. “They know they can’t wait for a solution. They need it now.”
The time for waiting has passed, and the industry is changing rapidly.
The pressure to implement and use new asset and material tracking solutions isn’t only coming from customers in the aluminum industry, or manufacturing managers, but also IT and executives.
Manufacturers know they need to better use their data, and that means better integration. They need to get production data to the ERP faster and more efficiently, so they can eliminate silos of information and get people access to the data they need.
In today’s manufacturing environment, handwritten notes on a spreadsheet no longer provide the functionality business needs.
In the past, there was a gap in asset and material tracking — extreme environments. The hope was that ingots, billets and sows could be tracked well enough in extreme environments, and minimal guesswork would be needed, to compensate for the gap.
Today, with increasingly strict regulations and the need for quality control and ISO certification, guesswork isn’t good enough. Manufacturers need to reduce that gap and better track even in extreme conditions. Companies are looking to stay a step ahead of problems using the latest products and processes.
Automation is more than replacing humans with robots. For some businesses in the aluminum industry, automation means helping employees work better, faster, safer and with fewer errors. It’s letting an automated system handle the low value tasks so employees can focus on more important work — work that can only be accomplished by a human.
More and more businesses are looking at automation not to eliminate jobs or save money, but to eliminate errors and better support employees. Identifying areas where technology and automation can add value and reduce costs, and then integrating the new processes, is the key to success.
An error in production means lost time and money, even lost product. Some processes that manufacturers have adopted, like marking an ingot or sow with an engraving stamp and hammer, are not only a waste of time and effort, but also error prone.
These businesses are evaluating processes to better identify the source of errors to optimize and drive improvements. This means taking a long look at how things are currently done and evaluating whether changes can bring improvements. It means prioritizing support for barcodes, RFID and automation rather than support for the status quo.
Change is coming to the aluminum industry, and many are excited to see it happen.
Looking to the Future of the Aluminum Industry
The days at the Aluminum USA show in Nashville were exciting, busy and intense. It will take time to process everything and see the ripple effect of change happening across the industry. But, there are a few key takeaways from the show:
- More than any time in the past, companies and managers are willing to embrace change as long as they see the value and benefit.
- Technology is making its way into processes that have long been resistant to change.
- Change is being driven not only from the top down, but also from the bottom up. This cultural shift is doing more to motivate the change than any new application or technology.
- New processes and new applications are not only adding value for aluminum industry customers, but also the businesses and employees in the aluminum industry.
We left the Aluminum USA show excited for the future of our industry. We also know that change is coming quickly, and the show we go back to in Louisville, Kentucky, in 2021 will be very different than the one we just left.
If you have any questions or want to discuss any of the topics, products or applications we covered here, then contact the experts at GO2. Schedule time to talk with one of our asset tracking or material ID experts about your manufacturing needs, and see how far a new solution can take your production and operations team.