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Distributor's Link Magazine Fall 2020 / Vol 44 No 1


36 THE DISTRIBUTOR’S LINK GLOBALFASTENERNEWS.COM by JOHN WOLZ EDITOR IFE PANELIST KERR: ROBOTS ‘PERVASIVE’ BY 2030 Charlie Kerr envisions more “lights out” manufacturing in the fastener industry. As a panelist in a 2020 International Fastener Expo virtual session on fastener manufacturing, Kerr of Kerr Lakeside recalled when fastener factories began using computers in the 1970s. Remember early cell phones just a few years ago and how fast they developed? he asked. Responding to a question about robots in fastener manufacturing, Kerr noted that while a small robot may cost ,000 today, robots can work 24/7, don’t show up late for work and don’t call in sick. The first place for robots in fastener manufacturing is in the packaging department, Kerr said. By 2030 robots will be “pervasive,” Kerr declared. Matt Boyd of Parker Fasteners envisions much more use of QR codes with end users having all the information “at their fingertips.” Prototype sampling has begun with 3D printing and there will be more. Reflecting on the year of the Covid-19 pandemic Boyd said aerospace fastener sales may have declined but health and semiconductor business is up. Military is steady, Boyd added. Among the products Kerr Lakeside has traditionally manufactured are fasteners for musical instruments such as trombones and trumpets. Given the pandemic, that business has dropped to “zero,” Kerr said. Larry Kelly of Buckeye Fasteners said business took a hit for April, May and June but certain sectors such as food and beverage and medical did well. Buckeye received urgent orders for ventilator fasteners, Kelly noted. Is there more reshoring of fastener manufacturing? “Yes for now,” Boyd responded. But that “is not guaranteed for the next round.” There are Covid-related products where customers are seeking the reliability of domestic fastener supply, Boyd observed. “Especially when they want delivery within a week,” he added. Kerr reported “an uptick in requests for quotes,” especially with certain material grades. Kerr Lakeside can spot it based on the material grade based on the IFI’s converter. But requests for quotes don’t necessarily turn into business, Kerr pointed out. Kerr said some of the searching for alternative product sourcing can move business from China to India, Vietnam or Taiwan and “not necessarily back to the U.S.” Kelly reported an increase in quotes for 2021. “Freight costs are giving us an advantage,” Kelly said. Kerr pointed out that “it is not what it costs to purchase fasteners, it is what it costs to own them.” Freight and quality are part of those costs. Kerr cited as an example of costs to own by recalling buying a cheap bicycle in 1986 for 0, which didn’t last. But a 0 bicycle in 1990 is still serving him three decades later. Reacting to Pandemic The effects of Covid-19 will continue “well into next year,” Kelly expects. Kelly said Buckeye’s 1905 plant is not easy to reconfigure for a pandemic. It is hard to move heavy fastener manufacturing equipment. But Buckeye has created more cellular environment for operators. Operators often have two or more machines, giving them spacing and less operator interaction. BUSINESS FOCUS ARTICLE CONTINUED ON PAGE 101

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