One advantage of my job is that I get an early look at some of the OEM's
most innovative ideas. As we begin a new year, here's a brief sample of trends
that emerged during my travels in 1995--
One more sign that the era of the specialist is passing: Hewlett Packard's Instruments' division finds that more design engineers now handle product testing, rather than test "gurus"...There are also strong sales of new instruments to test wireless electronic devices...A hot CAD offering: easy-to-use software from Saltire and Knowledge Revolution for modeling the moving parts of a machine, such as a mechanical arm or pump... Look for plastics companies this year to stress fast delivery and enhanced customer service. Companies like GE Plastics and Allied Signal Plastics will be relying more on their online Web sites to provide product information--a trend that is spreading throughout the OEM.
The drive to cut development time is prompting suppliers to offer new services. At very economical costs, Apple Rubber helps engineers develop early prototypes of designs. Kollmorgen's new "Servo Express" delivers design advice and servo motors in 48 hours to help engineers prove out new motion control systems...In Carpenter Technology's new Project 7000 steel alloy will sharply reduce processing time for customers...The metal powder business has been booming--not just in its traditional automotive base but from in power tools, lawn and garden, and office machines.
In the fast-growing field of motion control, more suppliers are offering one-stop shopping for everything from brakes and clutches to sensors, motors and drives. Some examples: Warner Electric, American Precision Industries, Cutler-Hammer, International Motion Control ...Noise and vibration control are becoming a bigger priority for engineers, particularly in aircraft and automation, says Lord Corp., which sells both active and passive noise control systems.
Now that ISO 9000 has become entrenched, there's a new standard looming ahead: ISO 14000, which tracks a company's environmental procedures...Many engineers have been caught off-guard by tough new European standards on electromagnetic interference, says Instrument Specialties, which operates a testing center for EMI in Pennsylvania...Meanwhile, more companies are targeting China, including Vickers, Lucas Control Systems, Numatics, and NMB.
Everywhere, OEM suppliers are striving to be more responsive to customers and more competitive globally. It's a formula that should help produce a healthy business climate in 1996.