Forecasting and AI for Manufacturers

#USAMfgHour Twitter Chat Recap for May 21, 2020

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On May 21, 2020, Tony Nash, the CEO and Founder of Complete Intelligence (@complete_intel), hosted a #USAMfgHour Twitter chat on forecasting and AI for manufacturers.  Below is a summary of Tony’s (@TonyNashonAsia) questions and answers on this very important topic.

Question 1:  What are some of the trends manufacturers can expect to see in 2020 and in the next few years? 

Answer 1a:  “Procurement and category leaders will increasingly become strategy players within their companies. With AI/ML tools for cost transparency & scenario planning for manufacturing, these leaders can show ROI, significantly improve margins” 

Answer 1b: “#Supplychains will become more regionalized over the coming years. #Manufacturers will need #AI #ML cost technology to quickly run scenarios on cost estimates, supplier comparison and risk assessments for each new #sourcing location”.

Question 2: Why choose an #AI solution for cost control in #manufacturing? 

Answer 2:  “Non-AI forecasting methods are limiting. As companies are reforecasting, decision cycle time is critical. AI/ML models compute millions of calculations to optimize cost outlooks. Better information & forecasts = more informed clients = better decisions”

Question 3:  Did you know the average consensus forecast error is double digits? Do you know the accuracy of the forecasts you are using?

Answer 3:  “We regularly test our #AI #ML forecast accuracy compared to consensus forecast. Our core belief is that data & math should drive the forecast results without human intervention or bias. What we found was astonishing. CI outperformed consensus 88% of the time.”

Question 4:  If enterprise BOM materials aren’t publicly traded commodities, can these material costs be forecasted accurately? 

Answer 4:  “Yes! One of the challenges we see for product lines is that consensus forecasts & indexes lack context and detail for specific products, components, and raw materials. Our #AI #ML platform incorporates enterprise & market factors for specific cost & revenue items.”

Question 5:  Should my company build an #AI #ML cost analysis model in-house or outsource? 

Answer 5:  “Consider the budget, time to results, and expected outcomes. Looking for value and access to results quickly? Look to outsource those #AI #ML projects. Commercialized AI applications like @complete_intel’s CI Futures & CostFlow have a track record & proven success.” 

Visit Complete Intelligence to learn more about its #AI and #MachineLearning platform that gives highly accurate revenue and cost #forecasts

The #USAMfgHour chat is founded by @CVTPlastics @DCSCInc @witzshared and @SERVICECASTER.  Be sure to follow the official account for chat highlights, recaps, and information at @USAMfgHourChat and visit us on other platforms to keep in touch between chats.

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Generating Sales and Building Relationships in Manufacturing

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USAMfgHour Twitter Chat Recap for February 20, 2020

This week, Dan Bigger of CVT Plastics (@CVTPlastics) hosted a #USAMfgHour chat all about sales and relationship building.

After introductions by the participants that included what they do and what industries they primarily sell to, Dan started off the chat by asking what CRM, or customer relationship management systems, they use and what their recommended follow-up time frames are. Act! 365, Salesforce, Pipedrive, Zoho, Microsoft Dynamics 365, and Streak were some of the ones mentioned by participants as helping to track their leads. All the participants had different follow-up procedures. Some reach out fairly consistently while others follow predetermined schedules such as weekly, monthly, or quarterly based on whether the lead is “hot” or “cold”. But @AxisNJ’s comment that, “…it is key to keep in touch continuously even if a project is set to move later on,” summed up the topic nicely.

Next, Dan asked participants to name their best lead sources. Word-of-mouth recommendations and referrals from their networks were, by far, the most popular lead generators. Others included inside and outside salespeople, trade shows, social media, email marketing, SEO, website contact forms, targeted direct mail, data-driven lists, and PPC advertising. @NJMEP stressed the importance of generating leads from various sources so as not to put all your eggs in one basket and @GraphicProducts mentioned it often generates leads by sharing product knowledge for free to new connections.

Dan followed that question by asking how participants develop their leads in hopes of turning them into customers. @GetProdio said, “We regularly improve our product based on customers insight, suggestions, ideas. We are for them, not just to make profit. We are in regular touch (chat, mails, phone calls, social media, visits in person). It’s for us more than just B2B, rather H2H (human to human).” Other participants stated calls, emails, in-person visits, and facility tours as ways to gain trust of potential customers when they’re looking to bid a project or buy a product. @Amatrol stated “Really, we want current and potential customers to see they’re getting the most robust service possible in our market,” so its development activities reflect that goal. Dan added that he developed a survey that enables customers to state when they want to be contacted and in what ways and allows the company to collect testimonials, referrals, and gain insights.

Dan closed the chat by asking the participants to share their 2020 sales goals. Not surprisingly, everyone stated their desire to add new clients to the roster this year. Other goals included expanding into new markets, increasing brand awareness, utilizing digital or traditional advertising, continuing existing marketing efforts and maintaining high levels of customer service to existing customers in order to encourage repeat or referral business.
On February 27, 2020, Joanna Johnston of Estes Group (@EstesGroup) will be leading a chat on ERP and manufacturing IT security. Will you be joining us? The #USAMfgHour chat is founded by @DCSCInc @BIllGarlandSpkr @CVTPlastics @witzshared and @SERVICECASTER. Be sure to follow the official account for chat highlights, recaps, and information at @USAMfgHourChat and visit us on other platforms to keep in touch between chats.

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Tags: @DCSCInc @BIllGarlandSpkr @witzshared @SERVICECASTER @AxisNJ @CVTPlastics @NJMEP @GraphicProducts @GetProdio @IndeeLiftInc @Amatrol @dpistulka @specialtaps @socialsmktg @WMPaintingInc_ @EstesGroup @LiftWisco @NesbitMarketing @envmfilter @SpaceGuard @ProTapes @Solution_System

Caster and Wheel Bearings

A confusing term at times can be bearings in regards to their use in casters. Bearings are used in casters for both wheels and swivel heads, and here we will discuss both.

Wheel Bearings

Wheel bearings sit between the wheel and axle, and provide a way for the wheel to easily spin on the axle. These bearings come in a number of different types, each with its own advantages.

Delrin bearings are inexpensive, and need no maintenance. They are a simple bushing made of Delrin, a plastic material. Delrin bearings work well in wet applications since they have no moving or metal parts that could corrode.

Roller bearings are best suited to low speed, manual operation with intermittent use. The roller bearing consists of a series of rollers arranged to sit on an axle and easily roll around it. Roller bearings can be solid or split caged. Split cage roller bearings do not handle side thrust as well as their solid counterpart, which is inserted into the wheel with a press. Roller bearings require regular maintenance.

Precision Bearings are a high quality ball bearing. These are excellent for applications that require high speed, quiet, and/or continuous operation. Precision bearings do not require regular maintenance to function properly. Semi-Precision bearings offer a less expensive, low speed and light duty option for those that still want quiet, maintenance free operation.

Tapered bearings are used on the heaviest duty casters. These bearings can handle high speeds and power driven application. Tapered bearings also handle side thrust well, and excel at continuous operation. They do require regular maintenance for good performance.

Swivel Head Bearings

Swivel Head bearings are typically ball bearings inside of a raceway. The swivel head assembly and its bearings allow for the wheel to easily turn and add steerability to applications. This raceway can be sealed or exposed. A sealed raceway protects the bearing assembly from dirt and other debris that is harmful to the bearing. The raceway can also be precision made and hardened to increase the longevity and performance of the swivel head.

Please visit our caster wheel bearings page for additional information.

Flanged Wheels for Controlled Workflow

The flanged caster wheel is perfect for any situation requiring the use of a track. The flange (whether dual or single) keeps the wheel from jumping off the track during use.

Flanged wheels set themselves apart from other wheels by having a lip around one or both outside edges of the wheel. Most people will be familiar with flanged wheels as those on trains or old mining carts, however they are popular for many industrial and factory setting applications.

The use of a track with a flanged wheel can provide several advantages over a standard wheel rolling on the floor. The floor itself will see less wheel wear, and the caster unit and wheel will have less chance to pick up debris on the floor. Flanged wheels also provide tracked workflow to maintain controlled mobility as well as providing the ability to easily raise or lower the work.

Another distinct advantage is the ability of the flanged caster to bring the work overhead. A good example of this is on cranes and hoists that use flanged wheels to roll on an I-beam.

Check out our flanged wheel page for more information!

Choosing a Hardwood Floor Furniture Caster

You have a beautiful hardwood floor, but your chairs, tables, and other furniture on casters are all hard plastic and nylon. These hard material wheels will cut and scratch the floor easily. What solutions are there, you might ask?

Hardwood floor casters are available for any common connections types out there. These casters are made of soft polyurethane, rubber, or other materials specifically designed for hardwood floors. In most of these cases, the casters will not only be hardwood safe, but they will also roll and perform better. Materials that have more grip will roll easier than harder wheels, so you won’t skip or skid across the floor but instead roll smoothly.

Is a caster hardwood floor safe just because it’s rubber or soft material? No! A small diameter rubber wheel can cause as much damage as a hard wheel. When choosing a caster, get one that distributes weight over a wider area. Twin wheel casters are a good idea, or a large soft single wheel caster.

The investment of some quality hardwood floor casters greatly outweighs the cost of replacing or fixing a hardwood floor.

Toolbox Casters

One of our most popular products is our sets toolbox casters.  Customers in many industries, from DIY and “garage shop” users to mechanics and other technicians, have found our toolbox casters especially useful for their light and medium duty toolboxes, as the polyurethane wheels will not develop flat spots from periods of inactivity.

The wheels roll smoothly with integrated ball bearing design. And the polyurethane wheel will not mark or mar floors, performing well on most surfaces and excelling on hard surfaces like concrete, tile, and wood. 

Alternate uses for these wheels also include material handling, carts, equipment, and shop projects. 

Ready to order some for yourself?  Call 800-215-8220 or order online.

What kind of grease should I grease my casters with?

This is a pretty popular question posted to our customer service team at Service Caster and, unfortunately, we don’t have a simple answer for it.

All caster bearings need to be lubricated with a high-quality multi-purpose grease. The grease should have good extreme pressure, anti-wear characteristics, and should be able to withstand the temperature range that fits the application requirements.

Everyone uses their casters and wheels differently, so some may be required to grease their casters and wheels more often than others. Wheel and swivel bearings last longer if they are regularly lubricated. We recommend applying grease to friction points on the wheel hub, washer, and leg surfaces. This will reduce drag and improve rollability. Normal conditions may require lubrication every six months where extreme conditions may require lubrication monthly.  Extreme conditions include corrosive or exceptionally dirty environments. Finally, if the application experiences wash downs, lubrication may be needed after each wash. 

Using the correct grease for your casters and wheels is vital to their lifespan and performance.   Have questions? Give us a call at 1-800-215-8220 and we’ll help you out.

Three Tips to Make Lawn Maintenance a Breeze

It’s summer.  The grass is growing.  And growing. And growing.  It grows so fast that you barely have time to enjoy the fruits of your lawn mowing labor before you’re back at it again.  And that cute little flowerbed you planted in the spring? Well, now it’s a bed of weeds interspersed with flowers.  

Lawn care is serious business.  And, apparently, also a competitive one. Who hasn’t looked over at their neighbor’s lawn and gotten a case of comparisonitis?  When your lawn looks better, there’s an added swag to your step. When it looks worse, well, you make a beeline to wherever you store your lawnmower and fire it up.  

But these three tips can help make lawn maintenance a little easier on you.  Of course, all our tips involve the use of wheels. But, hey, we’re a caster company, so some shameless self stealth promotion is to be expected.

Hack Your Weed Wacker

A few weeks ago we had an elderly customer call into us to order wheels for his weed wacker.  It seems that due to some physical issues, he was no longer able to hold it up for long periods of time.  So, he thought, “Why not put some wheels on it?” Then he could push it around like a lawnmower. Pretty cool, huh? 

Make Your Garden Tools Mobile

So, that flowerbed we mentioned that’s overgrown with weeds?  Well, you probably won’t want to use a weed wacker on that because the flowers you so painstakingly planted will become collateral damage.  And you definitely don’t want to use one on that garden you planted lest your hard work cultivating those fruits and veggies will be for naught.  We can’t make pulling the weeds by hand any less painless for your lower back, but sharing our hack for keeping your tools close at hand will at least make the process a little easier and save you the inconvenience of having to travel to the shed or garage for the one garden tool you need at that moment.

Use a Utility Cart

Utility carts and wagons are great for hauling away those freshly-pulled weeds to your trash can or another area of the yard.  Coincidentally, they’re also useful for transporting the flowers from your car to the flowerbed in the first place. (Got kids toys strewn all over the yard?  You can go through the yard, pick them up, and put them in the cart instead of running them back to your toy storage one by one.)

Check out our Pinterest board for visuals of each one of our tips and then let us know which one you think will be most useful for you.  

Need some wheels?  Give us a call at 800-215-8220 and we’ll hook you up.

Five Motivational Quotes We’re Living By Right Now

Great things never come from comfort zones.

We’ve been in business for 25 years and are thriving, but are we stopping?  Nope. We have a well-oiled sales funnel in place to sell our casters and wheels; however, we know that there is room to grow, so we’ve been focusing on building brand awareness on social media in both our business-to-consumer and business-to-business markets.  It’s the one piece of the marketing puzzle that we haven’t leveraged to date and we’re super excited to see how we can utilize it to grow.

“Price is what you pay, value is what you get.”

Most people don’t think about their casters.  “But my office chair came with wheels. Why should I buy new ones when these are totally fine?”  Sure, they’re fine, but why settle? Manufacturers put casters on the bottom of a lot of products, however, they don’t put the BEST casters on for the application because it doesn’t make sense for them to lose profit-margin over something so small, literally and figuratively.  You’d be surprised by the difference an upgraded set of casters makes on the bottom of your product.  

“A satisfied customer is the best strategy of all.”

We strive to provide our customers with superior customer service throughout the sales process.  There is nothing more frustrating than having a question about a product or an issue with a product and being unable to get a live human being on the phone work through it with.  Our customer service representatives are all located in our West Reading, PA headquarters and are available to walk our customers through the sales process, answer questions, and resolve complaints five days a week during business hours. 

“Surround yourself with people who are only going to lift you higher.”

We’re very proud of our collaborative staff here at Service Caster.  Our staff members are quick to step outside of their designated roles to pitch in on projects that will grow our brand awareness and increase sales.  Our customer service team has been working closely with the social media team to produce behind-the-scenes photos for our Instagram feed. The website store team is helping the social media team, too, by coordinating the back end of our new soon-to-be-launched facebook shop.  And the marketplace and web store teams constantly have their heads together on one project or another. We absolutely love it.

“Success doesn’t come from what you do occasionally, it comes from what you do consistently.”

Consistency is what matters in the end.  Being consistently visible on social media, in Google searchers, and through other marketing channels.  Having staff available to handle customer inquiries, sales, and complaints. And selling quality products.  If we lack in any one of those three areas we will miss out on providing the best customer experience possible, which threatens our ability to obtain new customers and keep existing customers buying from us over and over.  But all three together, well, they’re pretty powerful tools for ensuring we’re here to serve you for another 25 (or more) years.

Like this post?  Share it with your friends on social media.  Then, let us know your favorite motivational quote below.

Oh, and if you need some casters or wheels, our customer service team would be happy to help you find the perfect set  for your application or project. Just give us a call at 800-215-8220. #shamelessselfpromotion #wehaveacasterforthat