Mass Business Blog

News and Perspectives on Massachusetts Business and Economy

Millennials and Manufacturing: Can They Work Together?

An Incredible (and Daunting) Opportunity for Manufacturers US manufacturing is an absolute behemoth of an industry. CNBC recently reported that manufacturers contribute over $2 trillion to the US economy each year, and remarkably, it’s still growing. Experts predict that over the next ten years, there could be more than 3 million jobs opening up in the manufacturing industry. This is fantastic news for Massachusetts, whose manufacturing industry generates over $45 billion annually. The caveat, however, is that these 3 million new jobs need to be filled . . . fast. About 10,000 Baby Boomers retire every single day, and we’re now seeing the need for skilled workers to take their places. Who is going to step in? Millennials. No, we’re not kidding. This young generation, seemingly defined by selfie sticks and social media accounts, is rushing toward the workforce with skill sets and abilities we’ve never seen before. They’re no longer just kids, and like it or not, manufacturing companies need them—their futures depend on it. Companies in the manufacturing industry and elsewhere are realizing that the best (and possibly, the only) way to assure long-term success is to funnel Millennials their way. They’re now asking a few questions: Why would we want to hire Millennials? Why would they want to work for us? How do we make it happen? Addressing the Stereotypes: Do Manufacturers and Millennials Even Want Each Other? There is a huge elephant in the room, and it’s name is “The Age Gap.” Many manufacturing executives are Baby Boomers (born 1946–1964) and Generation X-ers (born 1965–1980); Millennials are those born between 1981 and the early 2000s. What this means is that the age gap between existing employees and new hires can stretch forty years or more. Bridging that gap in the workplace presents discernable challenges. As reported by ThomasNet, some employers are standing at one side...

Massachusetts Colleges Team Up to Create a Bright Future in the Photonics Industry

The Massachusetts Institute of Technology and Worcester’s Quinsigamond Community College will be teaming up with SUNY Polytechnic Institute and several other educational institutions on a Federal project to advance the applications the photonics industry in manufacturing. The partnership, known as Advanced Manufacturing Partnership 2.0, represents $600 million in Federal funds which will go toward establishing the nation’s first Integrated Photonics Institute of Manufacturing Innovation. Massachusetts will be teaming up with educational institutions across the nation, utilizing the Commonwealth’s higher educational strengths to explore the applications of the photonics industry in manufacturing. MIT will lead in the development of cutting-edge technology such as robotics and complex medical devices. Meanwhile, Quinsigamond will provide practical training for the development of a middle-skill workforce that will be ready to fulfill a growing number of job opportunities in the manufacturing industry as a whole. “Massachusetts is a key partner because of the technical expertise of the faculty and researchers here at MIT, and in part, because AIM photonics MIT is coordinating the education and workforce development program for the entire nation in this area,” said Krystyn Van Vliet, a professor of materials science and engineering and MIT’s faculty lead for the project. The American Institute for Manufacturing (AIM) began an integrated photonics program in July that was announced by Vice President Joe Biden. The AIM integrated photonics program is one of nine such institutions dedicated to different areas of the manufacturing field. Massachusetts has a long tradition of manufacturing and industrial production. Although textiles and mills may be a thing of the past, burgeoning industries have provided a new realm of opportunity for a state that is already familiar with manufacturing and its challenges. New tech sectors such as biotechnology, wearable devices, and robotics, combined with easy access to the educated work force needed to produce them, has put the Bay State in a favorable position to spearhead the...

Massachusetts Manufacturers Continue to Reshore Operations

The reshoring trend continues as Massachusetts manufacturers bring their operations back home. Companies, such as Energid Technologies Corp., are making the leap back to US soil to avoid external costs from unpredictable tariffs, foreign bureaucracy, and additional shipping charges. It seems the emerging economies of countries such as China and India have finally made outsourcing the less profitable option. Energid is in good company among more than 350 US businesses that have chosen to reshore their operations. The influx has brought nearly 40,000 manufacturing jobs back to the United States over the course of the last five years. 3,000 of those jobs have returned to the Northeast, with 600 to Massachusetts, according to the Reshoring Initiative. While these new positions still represent a very small portion of the available manufacturing jobs in the US, expert economists say they are a very positive sign of the industry’s post-recession rebound. Competitive production, automation and the complexity of today’s products have created a need for increased collaboration between designers, engineers, and production lines. Massachusetts remains a prime location for most manufacturing industries due to access to highly trained engineers and innovators from places like MIT. Despite this, there is still an observable labor shortage in the manufacturing industry as skilled workers are retiring with fewer young people coming in to take their place. Manufacturing resources like MassMEP are exploring initiatives to increase the number of motivated and highly trained workers coming into the manufacturing industry. MassMEP is currently teaming up with UMass Lowell to deliver the Advanced Computer Numerical Control Training Program in Massachusetts, which would value and merit to the industry while encouraging young individuals to get their certification and consider a career in manufacturing. Other resources are helping businesses overcome the initial expenses of re-locating their operations back to the US. MassDevelopment, a quasi-public industrial development agency, has helped several...

The Realities of Reshoring US Manufacturing

Offshoring—or outsourcing—is the practice of moving factories and jobs overseas. In the last 20 years, American companies have started sending manufacturing operations to countries with cheaper labor, fewer regulations, and more forgiving tax schedules. The phenomenon is familiar to anyone talking to tech-support in India, but it has also occurred in the manufacturing industry. Before 2000, US manufacturing grew almost as fast as the nation’s Gross Domestic Product (GDP) at ninety-four cents on the dollar, but since the turn of the millennium that number dropped to only 45%, until this year.  Currently, US manufacturing has grown faster than the GDP. The reason for this is called reshoring—returning factories to US soil. Many companies are finding good reasons to move their operations back to America, and the result is higher domestic manufacturing rates, and in some markets, more general growth. Companies have returned to the US to: reduce the complexity of their management and supply chains, avoid the costs and delays of shipping, ensure quality control, and to take advantage of some lower energy costs. Some corporations are not moving their existing operations, but instead opening new facilities. This geographic diversification insulates businesses against economic hardships like labor disputes, natural disasters, political upheaval, and more. Unfortunately, reshoring is not a marvel of American job-creation. Companies are choosing to move back stateside because it is the most economically feasible option. They are utilizing automation and optimization consultants to make their operations as lean as possible. The cost of healthcare and other benefits, coupled with government labor regulation, makes reshoring labor-intensive industries less likely to return. Those who do reshore have reported problems finding qualified employees, as too many applicants cannot pass drug screenings, do not have a grasp of basic math skills, or are unreliable. Bill Conerly, an economics expert writing for Forbes, sums it up perfectly when he writes, “The...

FLEXcon Gains Space-Age Flexibility in Spencer Business Market

FLEXcon, a family-owned business in Spencer, Massachusetts, has recently landed national attention with their new space-age business partnership. NASA’s Glenn Research Center has agreed to license the production of a special insulator to FLEXcon, a local business in Massachusetts. “We are delighted to secure a licensing agreement for Glenn’s technology,” said Glenn Research Center Director Jim Free, in a press release. The special insulator is a significant improvement over other products. The material is a polyimide aerogel film that insulates against both heat and cold. The film, which is 500 times stronger than traditional silica aerogels, is currently patent-pending. FLEXcon’s license will allow the Massachusetts business to manufacture and market the film, as well as develop new applications for it. FLEXcon won’t need to install any new equipment, as their existing  manufacturing equipment can be re-calibrated to create the new technology. “We know how to take their invention and make it commercially feasible, … We’re excited about this. We’re proud of it. … This is a good win for FLEXcon.” —Bill Sullivan, Vice President of Performance Products, FLEXcon While the product was developed for use in space suits, it can also be used in a variety of every-day applications. The efficient, lightweight insulator can be used in household applications like refrigerators, dishwashers, and to insulate pipes. It can also be used in clothing.  Sullivan explained that, “You don’t want to put on a big parka when you’re climbing up Mt. Everest. You want to put on something that’s light but will give you good thermal energy.” The polyimide aerogel also has applications in the medical industry as it can be used to insulate the containers used for organ transport and blood storage. The ability to manufacture and distribute a brand-new bleeding-edge product can be a significant boon for the town of Spencer. The product will be a new sales...

Hologic plans to move HQ to Marlborough

Marlborough is about to become home to another life sciences company. Bedford-based Hologic Inc. plans to move its headquarters to the city. The relocation would add 150 employees to the 450 who currently work at two Hologic offices in Marlborough. Hologic, a manufacturer of a variety of testing and diagnostic equipment, has asked the City Council to extend a tax-increment financing, or TIF, agreement for five years through the city’s 2020 fiscal year. The company’s current TIF took effect in July 2007 and is scheduled to expire at the end of June, the close of the city’s 2015 fiscal year. “Hologic’s interest in expanding their operations in Marlborough is an affirmation of Marlborough’s continued economic growth,” said Mayor Arthur Vigeant in a letter to the council. According to Mayor Vigeant, Hologic is making the move to benefit from Marlborough’s location and the area’s “well educated workforce with a high degree of knowledge within the life sciences sector.” The agreement between Vigeant’s administration and Hologic comes amid the city’s preparations to welcome GE Healthcare Life Sciences. The division of General Electric announced last year it would move its headquarters from New Jersey to Marlborough. The addition of a GE division within city limits is expected to add more than 200 jobs to the approximately 300 already slated to move into a new headquarters on Forest Street. Hologic said that under the current agreement with the city, it expects to generate 150 new jobs within two years. The company plans to fill those positions by drawing from qualified residents of the city and surrounding communities. The company has an annual revenue of about $2.6 billion. In its most recent quarterly statement, the company reported a 5 percent gain in revenue with net profits of $47.8 million. Hologic’s tax deal with the city is expected to save the company approximately 10 percent,...

A New Era of Manufacturing for Central Mass

Central Massachusetts is no stranger to the manufacturing industry. The region has a long, proud history in the field. Though the products being produced may have changed, Central Massachusetts remains at the forefront of a new era of advanced manufacturing. At this time, nearly 56 percent of all manufacturing positions in Massachusetts are considered “advanced.” The old stereotype of the industry as being dark, dirty and declining is quickly being replaced with a brighter, 21st Century vision of advantageous and accelerating growth. To keep this positive, forward momentum going, and to promote the new manufacturing brand, the New England Council and Deloitte Consulting recently released “Advanced to Advantageous: The Case for New England’s Manufacturing Revolution.” The report evaluates the region’s strengths and advantages. It also identifies opportunities for investment and collaboration which can be used as a road map for growth and developing a competitive edge. Collaboration seems to be an important part of the detailed report, which includes six recommendations for manufacturers, lawmakers, educators and others to help reinforce regional cooperation. In a small regional community like New England, it becomes even more imperative for stakeholders in the area to work together to create viable educational pathways which will ensure lifelong learning and the ability to transfer credits for acquired knowledge. The council also advises that we should focus on improving the smoggy manufacturing image to attract new workers. The manufacturing industry of today is safe, innovative, and pays well, especially in advanced manufacturing positions. The effort will require aligning both state and federal regulations with industry needs. State policy makers have been urged to include advanced manufacturing as a part of state economic development job creation plans. Massachusetts is already leading the way in the effort, with Gov. Charlie Baker’s Workforce Skills Cabinet, which is made up of the secretaries of labor and workforce development, education development,...

Raytheon buys 80% of Websense for $1.9 billion

In an effort to improve its cyber-protection technology, Waltham-based Raytheon has reached agreement with private-equity firm Vista Equity Partners LLC  to acquire an 80 percent share of Websense Inc. for $1.9 billion. Vista acquired Websense two years ago for about $990 million. Raytheon plans to integrate Websense into its existing  Raytheon Cyber Products unit and operate the new division with Websense incumbent CEO John McCormack at the helm. In addition to contributing the $400 million cyber products unit,  Raytheon will infuse $1.6 billion in cash, $600 million in the form of a loan. For its 20 percent stake, Vista will contribute $335 million to the venture. Websense’s Triton platform, which allows companies to adapt and respond to future cyber attacks, is said to be what particularly appealed to Raytheon. In November, Raytheon spent $420 million to bolster its intelligence business by acquiring surveillance and cybersecurity company Blackbird...

Advanced Manufacturing Report Urges a Change in Public Perception

The New England Council released a report on Wednesday that urged for increased training for advanced manufacturing workers throughout New England. At the same time, they recommended changing the public’s view of these industries by focusing on its safety. The report, titled “Advanced to Advantageous,” identifies influential industries in New England that are setting the pace in advanced manufacturing. These industries include aerospace, defense, medical devices, software and biotechnology. The report praised certain programs as being progressive “islands of excellence” that combine existing advantages while encouraging other industries to adopt them. The report provides recommendations to increase growth and improve global competitiveness. Below are highlights of the recommendations: Improve partnerships between government, educators, and industry. Create a federally funded manufacturing center in New England. Transition the public’s perception of manufacturing from dangerous to safe. Increase industry partnership and apprenticeship opportunities for students. James T. Brett, president and CEO of The New England Council, commented that “manufacturing and higher education organizations across New England have told me how invaluable our report has been to them.” Brett hopes that the report will encourage broader discussion among the public and private sectors, improving collaboration between the two. Brett added that this was necessary in order to “support advanced manufacturing to promote sustained economic growth in every corner of New England and strengthen our regional competitive advantage.” Manufacturing and education sectors will mutually benefit from increased training, apprenticeship opportunities, and partnership ties. The public also needs to understand that manufacturing is a safe career choice. If this can be accomplished, advanced manufacturers in New England will be stronger and more competitive....

GE Prepares for Marlborough Site Summer Launch

General Electric’s decision to move its Healthcare Life Science division from New Jersey to Marlborough was initially met with tempered enthusiasm by those gauging its economic impact on the region. However, recent projections predict that the center will employ over 500 full time employees no later than 2017. Luckily for the already stressed recruiters at GE, the Life Sciences center will not begin operations at full-scale levels; the current timetable calls for a partial launch early this summer, requiring an operational staff of approximately 215 employees. Filling even a limited number of these extremely technical positions would be a challenge for any company. Luckily, General Electric chose the Marlborough site specifically for the hiring advantages it provides. According to releases from Erica Bell, senior global resource leader at GE, highway accessibility made Marlborough an appealing location compared to several other potential locations, with both Boston and Worcester seen as academic pools from which the facility can draw. Another benefit that Bell mentioned was the reasonable commuting times it afforded to Western Massachusetts. These factors ensure that a vast majority of the positions available now and in the future will be filled by candidates from within Massachusetts. The location is also in the midst of what is fast becoming a regional hub for the life sciences. Life sciences technology is the fastest growing sector of the Massachusetts’ economy and, by relocating to Marlborough, GE was able to position themselves closer to customers and partners within the industry. They are also extremely close to the hospitals and universities that serve as training and testing centers for staff and...

Baker Takes On Skills Gap

Massachusetts Governor Charlie Baker has assigned three of his top deputies to oversee an effort that would better align the state’s education and workforce training systems with the needs of employers. The decision underlines the skills gap as a remaining obstacle to real economic growth. Baker signed an executive order formally establishing a “Workforce Skills Cabinet”, which will develop goals, objectives and metrics with the input of individuals, businesses, government agencies and community-based organizations and advocacy groups. The Cabinet will be responsible for implementing by region the various suggestions for improving vocational and educational opportunities within the state, reporting their progress back to the governor. The Workforce Skills Cabinet will be chaired by Labor and Workforce Development Secretary Ron Walker. Walker, a Democrat, was a cofounder of Next Street, a merchant bank that provides capital to entrepreneurs in urban areas. Baker said he anticipates that Walker will bring “the new, innovative approach he took in his role at Next Street” to his new position. “I share the governor-elect’s emphasis on connecting education to work, his commitment to workforce development, and look forward to helping carry out his mission to make Massachusetts a great place to live and work in every region of the Commonwealth,” Walker said in a statement. The inability to locate and hire skilled employees was by far the top concern expressed by Massachusetts employers last year.Over the coming months, Walker will be collaborating with Education Secretary Jim Peyser and Economic Development Secretary Jay Ash to create an effective plan to address the disconnect between available jobs and skilled workers by the summer. “More than anything, we need to make sure we find a way to link our workforce to job opportunities that exist out there for our citizens. These are inseparable goals and critical strengths for the commonwealth to continue to be successful over time,” Baker...

Boston Scientific Purchases American Medical Systems Unit for 1.6 Billion

Boston Scientific, a Marlborough-based life sciences company, announced on Monday that it has agreed to acquire the urology division of American Medical Systems for $1.6 billion. Boston Scientific expects to close the acquisition in the third quarter of 2015. This will be the company’s largest acquisition since it purchased Guidant Corp, a manufacturer of cardiovascular products, in 2006 for $27.2 billion. American Medical Systems (AMS), a division of Endo International, published reports last week that Boston Scientific was to close a deal with Endo for an unspecified AMS unit. The urology unit of AMS, based in Minnetonka, Minnesota, employs roughly 800 workers worldwide. It covers the men’s health and prostate health divisions of AMS. The unit is being sold for $1.6 billion up front, plus a potential for another $50 million based on the unit’s sales in 2016. Acquisition of the urology branch encompasses AMS products that treat erectile dysfunction, male urinary incontinence, and benign prostatic hyperplasia. Boston Scientific (BSX) states the company’s technologies complement their portfolio of products that treat other urological conditions, including kidney stones, pelvic organ prolapse, female incontinence and abnormal uterine bleeding. This follows their purchase of Bayer AG and IOGyn last year. IOGyn, based in California, received FDA approval for a system treating uterine fibroids and polyps. AMS products that treat urology related issues in women will not be included in the deal. Over the course of the previous year, the AMS unit generated $400 million in sales and adjusted operating income of about $130 million, with net income of around $60 million according to BSX. President and CEO of Boston Scientific, Mike Mahoney, expects the acquisition will create a business with annual sales of nearly $1 billion and will enable “strong future growth prospects through portfolio innovation and international market expansion.” BSX anticipates more than $50 million in annual pre-tax cost savings by...

Study Foresees Continued Medical Technology Growth

The medical technology industry is growing as an increasingly significant sector of the Massachusetts economy. According to predictions from Evaluate Ltd., a market research firm, it is expected to grow at a 5 percent annual rate for the next five years. The report, entitled “EvaluateMedTech World Preview 2014, Outlook to 2020” (free registration required for download) shows that medical technology sales are expected to reach $514 billion by the end of that period, with influential mergers and emerging players reconstructing the faces of industry leaders. Westborough-based Coghlin Companies, Inc. recently announced that their subsidiary Cogmedix, a medical device manufacturer founded in 2008, had outgrown its space and was relocating to its new location in Worcester, more than doubling the size of its facility to keep up with growth and demand. The announcement of the merger involving Medtronic and Covidien, estimated at $42.9 billion, is  is anticipated to form the new market leader in an industry that will be worth over half a trillion dollars by 2020. Research has also shown that spending on global research and development will reach $30.5 billion by that year, a growth of 4.2 percent. In the first half of 2014, $1.3 billion was raised in completed medical technology IPO offerings, a 44 percent increase from the same period in 2013. During the first half of this year, the value of mergers in the medical technology field rocketed up by 363 percent compared with the same period the year before, a huge indicator of what can be expected in the near...

The End of AstraZeneca in Westborough

The AstraZeneca plant in Westborough has announced it will shut its doors permanently by the end of 2015. This is the final step the company has taken to shut down the plant, having already decreased employee levels there from 800 to just 180.  More employees will be relieved by March, but others will remain employed until the company closes at the end of 2015. The closing of the facility means the city of Westborough will lose its biggest taxpayer. The AstraZeneca plant pays the city an estimated $2 million in total; $360,000 in property taxes and $1,548,547 for equipment taxes. Residents and businesses in Westborough will begin to feel the pinch of the revenue loss in fiscal year 2017. City officials hope to fill the vacancy quickly.   The building is 420,000 square feet and could be a great site for a wide spectrum of businesses. The AstraZeneca plant processed the asthma treatment Pulmicort Respules, which will now be produced at the company’s locations in Sweden and Australia. A company representative stated the move is to attain “increased efficiencies in our global supply chain.” AstraZeneca will continue to house its research-and-development operations in Massachusetts, with facilities in both Waltham and...

Snow Throws Wet Blanket on Economy

Starting in late January, Massachusetts has been battered by major snowstorms that have blocked roads, buried parking spaces, and caused widespread power outages. MBTA service has been limited, and even shut down in places. Snow and ice continues to block roads, keeping people away from shops and restaurants and impeding industrial and agricultural operations. According to Christopher Geehern of the Associated Industries of Massachusetts, employees are having trouble getting to work, and companies are having difficulties distributing their products. Industrial businesses are also spending a lot of time on snow removal. Here are some other ways the snow is impacting the economy. The Mystic Generating Station, an eight unit oil and natural gas power facility on the Mystic River across from Charlestown, lowered output to keep snow and ice in the river from making the plant malfunction. Workers also shoveled the flat roofs on the facility constantly. Kevin Thornton, a spokesman for the plant’s owner Exelon, said that the plant put workers in a hotel and provided food to make sure that they could get to work despite the snow. The plant has about 100 workers and the ability to power roughly two million homes. “The biggest costs have been snow removal,” Thornton said. Insurance broker Marsh & McLennan in Worcester is seeing more claims for ice dams on roofs that have caused leaking and collapses. Jerry Alderman, president of property and casualty in New England, expects an increase in auto claims from snow and ice as well. Snow removal services are stretched very thin. Economist Michael Goodman said that all the bad weather in January and February could cost the state billions of dollars while, according to a study by IHS Global Insight, a one day shutdown due to snow in Massachusetts would cost the state’s economy about $265...

Medical Device Manufacturer Moves to Worcester

Cogmedix, a wholly owned subsidiary of Westborough-based Coghlin Companies Inc., recently announced the relocation of its world headquarters to 17 Briden Street in Worcester.  The medical device engineering and manufacturing services provider has become quite a success story in an increasingly important sector of the Commonwealth’s economy. Chris Coghlin, President and CEO of the Coghlin Companies, stated “We are very excited about the trajectory of Cogmedix and the recent relocation, renovation and expansion of this world-class facility. For more than 100 years, our family has shared a deep-rooted passion for the economic success of Worcester and its surrounding communities, and we look forward to adding many new jobs in the greater Worcester area for years to come. The proximity of this facility lends itself well to attract highly skilled technicians as well as engineering and supply chain personnel as our growth continues into 2015 and beyond.” Matt Giza, Vice President and General Manager of Cogmedix, said, “This move was made necessary by our steady pattern of growth. We really needed the additional space and these newly outfitted facilities are more than twice the size of our former location. This expansion will allow us to increase capacity to accommodate the needs of our customers, both existing and new, as well as provide improved inventory and supply chain management operations.” Addressing Cogmedix’ growing niche in manufacturing finished laser and optically-based medical devices, Giza noted that upgrades included the installation of five purpose-built, independently climate-controlled, laser-safe test labs. Amenities include new cafeteria spaces, modern conference rooms, and a new Customer Convenience Center featuring fully equipped workspaces exclusively for visiting clients to enable a more intimate and efficient product launch experience with total transparency. In addition to expanded production capacity and other benefits made possible by the much larger facility, the address itself has significant advantages. “Our new location,” Giza explained, “is at...

Technology Skills for Manufacturing are Lacking in Region

With recent trends toward onshoring and reshoring, manufacturing jobs are gradually returning to the USA from overseas. Most do not, however, seem to be finding their way into Central Massachusetts. While manufacturing – and the technology propelling it forward – is projected to continue to grow, albeit slowly, during 2015, the focus here remains on locating workers qualified to help the local manufacturing sector expand. Workforce Sharpening A suitable workforce is still not available to help grow the manufacturing industry back into the social fiber of the region. Key manufacturers in Worcester County point to the lacking workforce as a major factor in re-establishing manufacturing in the Bay State. Some companies have actually reached the point of having to sell off capital equipment because they simply can’t find anyone to operate it. “The trend is going to be virtual training and online training,” says Torbjorn Bergstrom, the director of the Haas Technical Education Center at Worcester Polytechnic Institute. These are both rather inexpensive and could provide some workers in a short amount of time. They have proven helpful in other fields and should be just as helpful in restoring industry to its rightful place in Central Massachusetts. Economic Innovation Before a product can launch in the public marketplace, someone needs to manufacture it. Massachusetts has become world-renowned as an incubator for technologies useful in many industries, and it continues to rely on local small and medium-sized businesses (SMBs) to nurture that reputation. “Almost all of the manufacturing companies here in Massachusetts are SMB companies,” Bergstrom commented. The City of Worcester has many multi-story brick buildings sitting vacant since the day a toy, shoe, textile, or furniture manufacturer left – often several decades ago. Worcester is also the center of finance and education in the county. It would seem as though all the pieces were in place. However, unlike some...

Study Foresees Continued Medical Technology Growth

In recent years, the medical technology and medical device manufacturing industries have become an increasingly significant sector of the Massachusetts economy. According to predictions from Evaluate Ltd., a market research firm, it is expected to grow at a five percent annual rate for the next five years. The report, entitled “EvaluateMedTech World Preview 2014, Outlook to 2020,” shows that medical technology sales are expected to reach $514 billion by the end of that period, with influential mergers reconstructing the faces of industry leaders. The announcement of the merger involving Medtronic and Covidien, estimated at $42.9 billion, is one such example. It is anticipated that together they could become the new market leader in an industry that will be worth over half a trillion dollars by 2020. Research has also shown that spending on global research and development will reach $30.5 billion by that year, a growth of 4.2 percent. In the first half of 2014, $1.3 billion was raised in completed medical technology IPO offerings, a 44 percent increase from the same period in 2013. During the first half of this year, the value of mergers in the medical technology field rocketed up by 363 percent compared with the same period the year before, a huge indicator of what can be expected at least in the near future. The Evaluate Ltd. report predicted that activity among the major players in the sector will continue on a large scale. The Medtronic-Covidien union represents the biggest merger in the industry’s history and marks the beginning of a period of rapid change for the market. This, and other megamergers, will continue to dominate and reshape the various areas of the field in the immediate and possibly extended...

Massachusetts Emerging as Robotics Leader

In the Commonwealth of Massachusetts, one need not look very hard to find robots under construction, being tested or in action. The state is fast becoming the robotics capital of the country. A long list of companies make their headquarters here including iRobot Corporation, the creators of the Roomba vacuum cleaner. Bluefin Robotics Corporation manufactures underwater units, CyPhyWorks Incorporated designs spying hover crafts and Rethink Robotics creates robots used in manufacturing. Massachusetts also boasts MIT and WPI, both schools that remain on the cutting edge of developing new technology every year. Altogether, there are 100 robotic companies and 35 research and development facilities that design and manufacture robots for consumer, industrial, law enforcement, medical, military and research purposes. In the past four years alone, 11 new companies emerged. Massachusetts sells and exports more robots than any other location on the planet. Studies estimate that annual sales are close to $2 billion. The industry also currently employs approximately 3,200 people. Robotics companies are thriving in the state, as manufacturers and other organizations are expressing an ever-growing desire to incorporate the machines into daily operations. While some fear that the automated devices will replace humans in the employment sector, the machines are largely being created to perform the work, not replace worker. In military scenarios for example, robots have the capability of entering dangerous areas, which saves the lives of troops. The phenomenal growth of robotics also influenced the University of Massachusetts Lowell to construct the New England Robotics Validation and Experimentation Center. The 10,000 square foot facility will serve as the testing grounds for manufacturers desiring to test their robots in a variety of environments. The site will feature indoor and outdoor testing centers that include sand pits and splash pools. The ideal location means that the facility will be readily accessible to dozens of companies. Massachusetts Technology Leadership Council chief executive...

Columbia Tech Names Laura Deming Senior VP Engineering

Columbia Tech, a contract engineering, design, and manufacturing services provider based in Westborough, MA has announced that Laura Deming has joined its team as Senior Vice President of Engineering. With more than 25 years of experience building and leading talented teams in delivering innovative solutions to meet customer needs, Deming has led the development and commercialization of numerous capital equipment and consumable products for medical device, life science, and other applications. Columbia Tech’s Senior Vice President and General Manager Gerry Burns was enthusiastic in welcoming Deming. “We could not be more excited about Laura joining our leadership team. She brings a background that is highly compatible and the depth of experience that will be required as we continue to grow.” Commenting on leadership style, he added, “I’ve had the opportunity to work closely with Laura over the past few months and she leads with intelligence, experience and passion and has already made a significant impact with our Engineering team. “I’m thrilled to join the team here at Columbia Tech and to contribute to the success and growth of the organization,” said Deming. She added, “My overriding goal is to further strengthen Columbia Tech’s commitment to realizing the incredible potential that exists to deliver services and products that meet and exceed our customer’s expectations.” Prior to joining Columbia Tech, Deming held the position of Senior Vice President of Product Development at RainDance Technologies. She has also held senior leadership roles in Product Development and Operations at WaveRx, Cytyc, Applied Biosystems, PerSeptive Biosystems, and Millipore. Deming holds a BS in Professional Chemistry from Bridgewater State College, an MS in Chemical Engineering from the University of Lowell, and an MBA from Worcester Polytechnic...

Manufacturing Day 2014

For the past three years, the annual observance of Manufacturing Day has been a time for manufacturers from across the United States to come together as a group in a concerted effort to take charge of the nation’s perception of the industry and to demonstrate the different ways domestic manufacturing benefits local, national and global economies. This year, these voices will be heard on Friday, October 3. There is currently a significant labor shortage in the U.S. manufacturing sector and, while there is a strong economic drive to reshore manufacturing operations, domestic companies face a real hurdle when it comes to maintaining a sustainable workforce. Not only does Manufacturing Day provide companies with an opportunity to shape the industry’s image, it also gives them a chance to reach out to the younger generation, with many companies inviting local students to tour their facilities and learn more about the industry. One example of a local company that had this figured out well over a decade ago is Lampin Corporation, a precision machining company in Uxbridge, MA. This year, Lampin will be recognizing Manufacturing Day in a manner consistent with it’s intended purpose of spreading the message about, and generating interest in, the manufacturing industry. They will be hosting at least 40 students from local high schools who, during their tour of the factory and after hearing from several of Lampin’s employee-owners, will gain valuable insight about the manufacturing industry that would be difficult (if not impossible) to accomplish in a traditional classroom. The benefits of working in such a creative industry are many, and the annual observance of Manufacturing Day serves as a reminder that the sector is in the unique position of being able to turn ethereal concepts into finished products ready for market, and driving the economy forward in the...

Here Come the Robots

A new type of worker is being introduced in factories across the United States: small collaborative robots. These machines can increase a factory’s production output while simultaneously lowering production costs. Less costly than more bulky and complex machines, collaborative robots are most often being employed by small factories and are fundamentally changing the way these companies operate. Robots are certainly not new to the manufacturing industry, but, due to safety concerns, most have had to be kept separate from human employees. The term “collaborative” robot is used because these machines are now able to work safely directly alongside their human counterparts. An example of an early player succeeding in this emerging market is Lampin Corporation, a precision machining and critical component manufacturing company located in Uxbridge, MA. Among other components, Lampin machines precision parts for the HV-100 (The “Harvey”) built by Harvest Automation, a material handling company headquartered in North Billerica, MA.  Lampin manufactures the gearboxes that enable The Harvey’s arms to move, a critically important component for a robot that is designed to lift and move flower pots. Lampin’s President Bill DiBenedetto said “In addition to our right angle gear drives, our company produces shafts, pulleys, gears, bushings, housings and other components used in robotic manufacturing; and our employee-owners are excited to participate in this new and growing market.” While some may be concerned about robots reducing the number of available jobs, in cases like that of Lampin Corporation, these robots are clearly creating a job market....

No Room for an Education?

A recent study by Northeastern University Law School yielded an unexpected tidbit of information; many vocational and technical high schools in Massachusetts have a significant waiting list for admissions. What was once a path chosen primarily by those unable or unwilling to go to college, gaining admission to a vocational/technical school has now become a highly competitive contest among thousands of local young people. Unfortunately, most of these schools do not have the capacity to admit all who apply, and many otherwise qualified students are being left behind. What does this mean for the future of manufacturing-related industries here in Massachusetts? Is it a sign of a rebounding industrial sector or simply an indicator of a bad economy where the less well-off are left with few options for a post-secondary education? Or, is it a basic redefinition of a vocational/technical education that appeals more to a broader spectrum of students? When asked why he thought vocational and technical schools have such long waiting lists, Peter Enrich, a law professor at Northeastern who oversaw this survey said, “The reasons are complex. A lot of them come back to money. The funding of vocational schools is largely the responsibility of the state. They use a formula that has a couple of big problems with it. [The] first problem is, in our view, it underestimates the cost of vocational education, and so the schools are short of money to start with. The second problem is, to determine how much money a school gets, they look at its enrollment in the previous year. So, if you had a waiting list last year, you’re going to get funded based on how many students you had in the school. [It] pays no attention to your waiting lists, so you’re going to have exactly the same problem year after year after year — there’s no allowance...

3D Printing – Not for the Masses?

Somerville, MA-based Formlabs, a relatively new company on the scene of 3D printing, stands poised and ready to revolutionize the market. The driving force behind the company’s advancement, Colin Raney, has some ideas about how the technology will change industry in the future, and not all of them are mainstream. The major advancement made by Formlabs is the creation of a relatively inexpensive and small 3D printer that costs only $3,300 and is of desktop size. This is a sharp departure from the refrigerator-sized earlier models that cost $10,000 or more. Raney said that this will make the advantages of 3D printing far more accessible. He tempered that, however, with a judgment that 3D printing is likely to remain primarily in the professional field. Raney’s reasoning behind this was simple. While 3D printing technology is getting less expensive, it is not yet cheap enough to justify common household use. It would be far more expensive to buy a 3D printer and the resin materials needed to create basic household items than it would be to simply buy those items. Raney suggested that household 3D printing is still a long ways off despite his recent advancements. This view is in contrast to other’s views on the topic and also to much of the hype surrounding 3D printing. On the other hand, the advantages to the professionals of the more portable and less-expensive 3D printers are great. Raney believes his work will allow professional designers and engineers the ability to work better and faster. It will also be of benefit to smaller design businesses that previously had great ideas and potential but were unwilling to deal with the bulkier and far more expensive earlier models. 3D printing technology allows the creation of structures that would be impossible using any other currently available technology. Raney promises that his technology will allow designers...

President Obama to Speak at High School Graduation

In an effort to draw attention to an educational success story as well as highlight the need for continuing development of a manufacturing and technical workforce, President Barack Obama will be speaking to this year’s Worcester Technical High School graduating class this afternoon. “The school’s combination of rigorous academics and hands-on learning opportunities characterizes the President’s vision for an education that works for America’s students,” according to a White House official who was speaking on the condition of anonymity in advance of the president’s speech. “He will reiterate his commitment to reforming America’s education system, as well as his challenge to redesign America’s high schools and connect our nation’s learners to high-speed broadband.” Bill DiBenedetto, President of Uxbridge, MA-based Lampin Corporation commented, “Lampin has been an active supporter of STEM education for quite some time now, and we’re excited to learn that the White House is now promoting technical education in this manner.” He added, “The future of manufacturing and technical operations in this country is the next generation of young people in our schools today. If they are not given a solid educational foundation along with an awareness of the career opportunities in the manufacturing industry, this vital domestic economic sector will ultimately die out as it is exported to other countries.” Worcester Tech is led by Dr. Sheila Harrity, a National High School Principal of the Year who was recognized last month at the White House. When she took over in 2006, the school was one of the lowest performing schools in the state. However, the school is now ranked among the best in Massachusetts in terms of testing scores. In fact, during her time at Worcester Tech, Harrity has seen the graduation rate grow by 17 percentage points (from 79.3% in 2006 to 96.4% in 2012) and the dropout rate fall from 6.5% in 2006 to...

A Snapshot of Mass. Manufacturing Translates Across State

By Bill DiBenedetto, President, Lampin Corporation In October the Pittsfield Economic Revitalization Corporation released a study on advanced manufacturing in the Berkshire region of the Commonwealth. Although Lampin is located in nearby Blackstone Valley, the birthplace of the industrial revolution, the environment of the Berkshires is similar to our own conditions in southeastern Massachusetts. In an article by iBerkshires reporter Andy McKeever, the reporter writes that while the quantity of manufacturing employees have declined in the last 10 years, manufacturing companies and their employee wages remained “fairly consistent.” He concludes, “That paints a picture of manufacturing getting smaller and smarter with mass production being replaced by precision.” As a small precision manufacturer, we believe in our business model to deliver quality manufacturing solutions to our clients. We’ve watched our customers weather the financial storms, some with success, some no longer in business. Throughout the good times and bad, we’ve been proud to remain a constant source for precision manufacturing. The recommendations from the PERC Study reads like a history of Lampin. We invest in training our employees, partner with local schools to develop the next generation of precision machinists and unique to Lampin, converted to employee-ownership in the early 2000s to increase employee satisfaction and reward. At Lampin, we see a strong manufacturing sector as critical to growth in Massachusetts after the tough economic times of the past few years. Our neighbors in the Berkshires are tapping in the brain trust and experiences of their educational, business and government leaders to chart a course. We agree that factors such as energy costs and infrastructure are best addressed from a 10,000-foot view. However, we believe if manufacturing is going to have resurgence in the Massachusetts, we, and our fellow manufacturing firms, need to continue to take action...

Coghlin Companies Manufacturers Explosive Detector

Implant Sciences Corporation contracted Coghlin Companies to manufacture a handheld explosive detector. The Quantum Sniffer QS-H150 was used at Queen Elizabeth II birthday party in Riyadh, Saudi Arabia this June. Coghlin Companies was chosen because of their ability to scale production and test highly sensitive products. The product needed had tight specifications that Coghlin was able to meet. Implant sciences is known for their explosive trace detection (ETD) and drugs trace detection solutions. Coghlin Companies is best known for contract manufacturing and  medical device manufacturing. View the press release...

New Balance Expands Footprint in Brighton

New Balance has started construction to place a new headquarters in Brighton, MA. Adding to the widespread sport and health district along the Massachusetts Turnpike, the $500 million project will be called the Boston Landing. Previously the land was to be used for a Lowe’s home improvement store but due to resident opposition the space eventually ended up in the hands of New Balance. Construction has already begun on the six story headquarters designed by Elkus Manfredi Architects. The project is expected to take up to two years to complete. Speaking about economic development, New Balances’ chaiman Jim S. Davis said, “Washington could take a cue from what’s been accomplished here in Boston.” To go along with the fitness theme of the area and the company there will be a sports complex including state of the art training facilities for baseball, track and hockey. “This is going to be a transformative project for the entire region,” said State Representative Michael Moran, “The jobs and economic development here will spur growth in other industries as well.”   Google+...

Creating Jobs in August

While August created a lower number of jobs than July, an addition of 176,000 is still a step in the right direction. According to payroll processor ADP, which measures employment using payroll data, jobs have been created largely in the goods producing and manufacturing industries. Yahoo Finance had predicted that 210,000 jobs would be produced in August. The largest industries of growth for job creation were, service providing industries, with 165,000 jobs created. Professional and business services with 50,000. Trade, transportation and utilities added 40,000 jobs. ADP states that the job increase is consistent with the growth in jobs over the past 12 months. The government has noticed the increase in jobs, saying that initial jobless claims dropped by 9,000. Creating jobs in the past couple years has been fairly stagnant in Massachusetts, these encouraging numbers will hopefully turn that trend around....

Massachusetts Firms Look to WIN-911 to Raise the Alarm

Austin, Texas is pretty far away from the rolling hills and rocky shores of Massachusetts, but a Texas firm is supplying some of the top Massachusetts companies with a software product that protects their assets and, in some cases, even saves lives. Companies such as Raytheon, EMC, Boston Scientific, Thermo Fisher Scientific and Biogen all have industrial processes that control and monitor their facilities. If part of the system malfunctions, it’s imperative to know right away. Those firms look to WIN-911, formerly Specter Instruments, the world’s most widely-used alarm notification software for the process control industry to recognize issues and raise an alert. Working in unison with a company’s SCADA system and able to push notifications through a variety of devices and network environment (smartphone push notifications, web browser, analog or VOIP phone calls, SMS messages, email, in-plant announcement system, and other devices), WIN-911 recognizes an alarming condition and notifies the appropriate party. WIN-911’s built-in logic engine also decides how the notification escalates should the alarm continue to be a problem. As a company with global clients, WIN-911 has plenty of options for service providers. Yet WIN-911 looked back to Massachusetts to keep its business at the leading edge of the online world. With a website newly designed by Worcester-based firm Applied Interactive, LLC, WIN-911 is set to launch a new version of it’s alarm notification software to the world, via touchpoints in...

Millions in Massachusetts State Tax Credits To Life Science Companies

The 2012 Mass Tax Credit Transparency report revealed that about $17 million was awarded to life science companies. In total $159.2 million in state tax credits were issued this year, with 11% going to life science companies. The $17 million was distributed to 28 different companies to improve life science research and investments The largest category in the life science is the research credit, which received just under $7 million. This is due to the yearly increases in expenses in the state. $1.8 million of that seven went to Biogen Inc., a biotechnology company, that manufacturers drugs for the treatment of multiple sclerosis as well as other diseases. Shire Human Genetic Therapies Inc. was awarded $3 million, the largest amount for investment tax credit. In 2010 Shire began a $400 million venture into Lexington Technology Park. Along with investment and research credits, job credits were also awarded. Enough was issued to create at least 50 total new full-time jobs in the state of Massachusetts.   Read more details about the tax credits to life sciences companies here....

A Family Legacy Drives the Future

After 128 years in business, the contract manufacturing firm, the Coghlin Companies knows what they are doing. Four generations of the firms have dedicated themselves to meeting the needs of companies bringing products to market quickly and cost-effectively. As a global source for contract manufacturing, the Coghlin Companies is helping clients capitalize on opportunities in their marketplace by offering flexible time-to-market design and manufacturing services. They serve clients in the military, information technology, and manufacturing industries with a penchant for new product introductions and meeting design challenges. WIth more than one hundred years of experience manufacturing complex products, the caring associates of Coghlin also provide consulting expertise, such as design modifications to save time and money, to help clients get to market faster. The strive for excellence is not just driven by the desire to help clients, but also by a family tradition of giving back to the community. The Coghlin Companies were 2013 recipients of the Central Mass Family Business Award presented by the Worcester Business Journal and recently had a record-breaking fundraising drive for the United Way. “Growing up around the kitchen table we’d hear, ‘The joy is in the giving,’” said Jim Coghlin, chief operating officer and the driving force behind the Coghlin Companies’ annual campaign to support the United Way. The Coghlin Companies also shares its community philosophies with customers and suppliers, showing that giving back is a core value of the firm. “We tell our clients the more successful we are as a company, the more opportunities we have to give back,” said Coghlin....

Offshoring vs. Reshoring

Choosing where to manufacture your goods is an important part of a company’s business model. Many companies choose to to manufacture their products offshore in Asia because low labor rates made offset the increased transportation costs. However, labor prices across Asia, especially in China, are rising, making the gap between narrowing the gap between Asian firms and US contract manufacturers, like Worcester’s the Coghlin Companies. A recent study in The Economist compared the costs of manufacturing in America to those offshore. The study found that found that California was only about 10% more expensive than China. When companies add up soft costs, such as travel, the benefits of manufacturing in Asia quickly disappear. According to the Coghlin Companies, there are many other factors to consider when deciding where to manufacture your goods. Contracting with a manufacturer in the United States provides legal coverage for your intellectual property and you can be certain that the manufacturer is in compliance with labor laws. Choosing to manufacture in the United States also allows flexibility in the volume of product you need instead of producing high volumes to maximize the shipping rates. And you get your products more quickly, meaning they get into your customer’s hands faster. New product lines or significant changes to a product often requires Engineering Change Orders (ECOs), sometimes in the final phases of production. With the product launch in balance, no one wants to have miscommunications delay production or have to wait to work through an issue because of time zone differences. Reshoring your manufacturing by contracting with a United States firm, companies can get their goods faster and with less risk of mishaps along the way....

Access Fixtures Q&A: Is LED Lighting Worth It?

Imagine every application that requires lighting in your commercial facility. Can’t wrap your head around it? Needless to say, lighting can be a huge percentage of your annual energy costs. Energy efficient lighting like LED wall packs or LED bollard lights from Access Fixtures can make a significant difference in your energy bill. Surprisingly, 22% of America’s facilities have never undergone any type of lighting upgrade, or it has been more than 10 years since work has been done, according to a survey in the April 2013 issue of Today’s Facility Manager. That means 1.1 million facilities are wasting energy—and wasting money. You can start to calculate how much you’re spending each year by using an annual cost per watt chart. For example, energy is priced at approximately $0.15 per kilowatt hour in the Boston area. A walkway in a commercial area has 20 bollards equipped with 70 watt metal-halide lamps and ballasts. If the luminaires are on 7 days a week for ten hours a day, it would cost $0.55 for each watt and $770 in total annual costs. LED lighting tells a different story. What if the same bollards are equipped with 15 watt LED modules and drivers? If the luminaires are on 7 days a week for ten hours a day, it would cost $0.55 for each watt and $165 in total annual costs. For each year they delay switching to efficient lighting, they’re losing $605—only on the bollards! By considering all indoor and outdoor lighting, the difference can be thousands of dollars. With advanced LED technology and decreasing prices, LEDs now have a faster return on investment than ever before. Calculate how much money you’re wasting on energy costs using an annual cost per watt chart. Is it time to make a change?...

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