TN Composites
A worker builds boats at TN Composites plant in White Bluff, Tennessee.

So That Happened: Google Funds Girls Club Lab, New CEO at Lubrizol

Sept. 7, 2022
Also from IndustryWeek's editors, expanding boat production in Tennessee and a roundup of financials in mergers and acquisitions in manufacturing.

Editor’s note: Welcome to So That Happened, our editors’ takes on things going on in the manufacturing world that deserve some extra attention. This will appear regularly in the Member’s Only section of the site.

They’re Going to Need a Bigger Boat

Ontario-based Limestone Boat Co. plans a $23.1 million expansion of its Tennessee composites plant in White Bluff, Tennessee, about 40 miles west of Nashville. Between Aquasport Boats, Limestone Boats and Boca Bay Boats, Limestone makes 20-foot-to-30-foot boats, and the upgrades in Tennessee will allow the plant to focus on the larger 27-foot-to-30-foot end of that size range.

“Our commitment is an investment in a relationship with the White Bluff and Dickson County communities that has existed for generations,” said CEO Scott Hanson. “We will continue to establish the Limestone Boat Co. as the leading employer of choice for a highly skilled workforce in a growing and recognized boat manufacturing region of the U.S.”

Phase One of the expansion will focus on existing facilities and labor force; expanding the use of technology, integrating light resin transfer molding and vacuum infusion processes and reallocating space for larger boat production. Tennessee will offer workforce training and other support during the first few years of the project.

Phase Two will expand the current facility and add a new building that will house administration and research and development teams. The company plans to fund the initiatives with equity and debt offerings in 2023 with a target completion date of Q1 2025.

Robert Schoenberger 

Google Funding Automation Lab in New York for Girls Club

Google is partnering with Stacks+Joules, a non-profit project-based learning, job placement, and career development program to transform the Lower Eastside Girls Club (LESGC) facility into a living laboratory.

The $400,000 award will support the upgrade of the 40,000-square-foot space into the Diversity in Automated Buildings Laboratory (DAB Lab), where women who are out of school and out of work will receive free hands-on training in cutting-edge building automation systems and will have access to direct placements into paid internships and jobs.

Since 1996, LESGC has been providing free innovative, community-based programming and services for young women and gender-expansive youth, ages 10-23, designed to connect them with their passions, celebrate their curiosity, and channel their creative energy. The DAB Lab will be the world’s first and only dedicated building automation learning facility entirely focused on training women for the workforce.

Sabine Lam, Workplace Tech & Data lead at Google, said, “The industry is starving for a diverse workforce and ready to embrace change. It’s incredibly rewarding to play a key role in the transition to a digitized workplace while addressing challenging environmental and social goals and supporting the next generation of talented female youth.”

As part of the larger automation industry, the hardware, software and job-specific competencies essential for success in the BAS industry are advanced and rapidly evolving. This upgrade will give students access to be trained on these emerging technologies that are critical to success.

“As the nation faces the carbon-reduction goals targeted to address climate change, it is clear that there is a lack of workforce for green energy jobs,” said J Michael Conway, founder and executive director of Stacks+Joules. “Furthermore, there is a disparity of female representation in the space and we’re proud to help bridge the gap and provide access and training on these critical technologies that are necessary to help women in this field succeed.”

This project is set to span over the next three years.

Adrienne Selko

Third Time’s a Charm for Lubrizol?

In February, global paintings and coatings manufacturer PPG announced that its executive vice president, Rebecca Liebert, was leaving the company to explore “an external opportunity.” As of this week, we know what that opportunity is: Starting October 3, she will be CEO of Lubrizol, the Berkshire Hathaway-owned manufacturer of specialty chemicals for transportation, industrial and consumer markets.

Lubrizol’s CEO role has been in flux since August 2021, when then-CEO Eric Schnur stepped down after two plant fires in two years—one in Rouen, France, and one in Rockford, Illinois—that had nearby residents complaining of lingering health problems and filing lawsuits. He was replaced by Chris Brown, a former sales and service president at wind turbine supplier Vestas who joined Lubrizol last year “to help the company with important work around safety and operational excellence.”

Brown lasted seven months, then was replaced by an interim CEO, Mary Rhinehart—board chair of another Berkshire Hathaway-owned manufacturer, Johns Manville—in March 2022.

Liebert was a keynote speaker at IndustryWeek’s Manufacturing & Technology Show in Pittsburgh in 2019. There was some buzz at the time that she was heir apparent for the CEO role at PPG when Michael McGarry, who remains CEO, eventually retired.

Prior to PPG, Liebert also served as president and CEO of Honeywell UOP and president of Reynolds Packaging. She began her career in more of a scientific role, earning a Ph.D. in chemical engineering from Carnegie Mellon University, but in her work experience gained a strong background in supply and operations planning. In 2019, Liebert was leading procurement responsibilities at PPG. She told IndustryWeek that she was focusing on strategy to build more solutions around existing and planned products and putting “world-class procurement activities in place to have a fully integrated supply chain that can ensure the best service to our customers.”

Laura Putre

Break Down Engineering Silo Walls to Thrive in Industry 4.0 Plants

We’re all in this together—mechanical engineers, electrical engineers, CNC machinists and software experts. Industry 4.0 is a team sport that demands collaboration and cooperation, not sticking to your area of expertise.

That’s the main finding of a research report from Autodesk and the American Society of Mechanical Engineers titled “Future of Manufacturing: New workflows, roles & skills to achieve Industry 4.0 business outcomes.

It’s focused on the changing roles of mechanical and manufacturing engineers and CNC machinists over the next five to10 years and how training and certification programs could and should grow to support these changes.

Even as a workforce-centric report, there are still general conclusions regarding technology trends that might be useful for manufacturers to consider. The report argues that:

  • Engineers and machinists require new digital skills to keep up with Industry 4.0 thinking.
  • Artificial intelligence and machine learning (AI/ML) continue their spread into manufacturing and employees need to be comfortable with them to reap benefits including improved product development, optimizing processes and better managing production.
  • Mechanical and manufacturing engineers will need to become more familiar with technologies like integrated computer-aided design and manufacturing and project lifecycle management (PLM) systems.
  • CNC machinists will find themselves in years to come managing and programming robots and cobots.
  • Both groups need to become more comfortable with additive manufacturing.
  • The rise of Big Data will require engineers to learn tools and skills like data analysis and visualization skills to extract meaningful information and insights from data pools. Low code/no code programming knowledge may also become a requirement.

 The report frequently argues that Industry 4.0 requires traditional walls between mechanical and manufacturing engineers and CNC machinists to break down as new system development becomes a primary goal. Mechanical engineers will need to become more involved in manufacturing implementations with working awareness of electrical and software engineering principles.

CNC machinists will find themselves taking on manufacturing engineering functions, programming CNC machines rather than operating them manually. Manufacturing engineers will blend skills with both groups. Soft skill development like problem-solving and communication will become more important as cloud technologies make collaboration easier.

To keep up with these trends, argues the report, manufacturers should collaborate with academia to develop certification programs. Baseline academic degrees and traditional training programs won't be enough to give employees the cross-disciplinary skills they'll require for success in Industry 4.0 plants.

Dennis Scimeca   


Hitachi Buys Manufacturing Systems Integrator Flexware Innovation

Hitachi Ltd. hopes to boost its data integration strategy that links shop floor to executive suites by buying Flexware Innovation in Fishers, Indiana. A systems integrator since 1996, Flexware has two locations in India and one in North Carolina.

Hitachi officials say the purchase strengthens and enhances its manufacturing execution systems (MES), supervisory control and data acquisition (SCADA), software development, business intelligence and enterprise resource planning (ERP) capabilities in North America.

Along with JR Automation, a robotic systems integrator that Hitachi bought in 2019, the company plans to offer customers systems integration, robotic integration and cloud computing services.

IW Staff

 Pallet Logistics Buys TaylorMade Pallets & Logistics

Pallet Logistics of America has acquired TaylorMade Pallets & Logistics, the largest independently owned pallet company in Central/South Texas. Founded in 2000 by Jeff and Jenny Gill, TaylorMade provides new, recycled, remanufactured and custom-sized pallets from its 17-acre facility in San Antonio, Texas. PLA's asset network now includes 77 facilities.

TaylorMade CEO Byron Evans said, "Our entire team is looking forward to offering South Texas an even broader array of pallet and logistics services through PLA's expansive network and capacity.”

PLA is a portfolio company of private equity company Silver Oak Services Partners.

IW Staff


Battle Motors Raises $150 Million

Commercial truck electric vehicle (EV) maker Battle Motors, formerly Crane Carrier Co., raised $150 million from a global institutional investor. This capital raise follows a $120 million investment round announced in December 2021.

“We have validated our strategic growth initiatives and the attractive sector fundamentals while identifying additional market opportunity,” said CEO Michael Patterson.

Since acquiring CCC in 2021, the company has grown production throughput at its Ohio manufacturing facility from less than one truck per day to approximately six trucks per day through increased automation, expanded floorspace and nearly tripling its workforce to 300 employees. Additionally, Battle Motors has bolstered its management team through several industry veteran hires, expanded its dealer network and successfully gained market share in North America.

 Striving for daily continuous improvement gave Battle Motors the ability to increase production within its legacy footprint while construction was still underway. “Challenging ourselves to learn from adversity and to be better every single day has built the exceptional team necessary to reach all our goals. Now we have the manufacturing facility to match,” says COO Cody Boggs.

 The proceeds from this capital raise will be used to expand production throughput to 16 trucks per day, fulfill existing order backlog, expand EV manufacturing capabilities and general corporate purposes.

IW Staff

Hurco Sales Rise but Q3 Orders Fall

Machine tool and manufacturing technology provider Hurco Cos. earned $1.2 million in its fiscal quarter ending July 31 as sales rose sharply in North America. However, orders for the fall fell 9% in North America and more sharply in Europe and Asia.

President and CEO Greg Volovic said, “On a year-to-date basis, our sales have grown in all regions of the world compared to the same period in 2021. I am encouraged by our results even though inflation, currency fluctuations, vendor delays, a war in Ukraine and COVID-19 disruptions have affected our business and other international companies – many of whom are our vendors.”

Sales in the Americas for the third quarter and nine months of fiscal 2022 increased by 24% and 13%, respectively, compared to the corresponding periods in fiscal 2021, primarily due to inflationary price increases and an increased volume of shipments of higher-performance Hurco and Takumi machines.

Orders for the third quarter of fiscal 2022 were $52.9 million, a 21% decrease compared to the corresponding period in fiscal 2021. About 6% of the decline reflects currency, but the remaining 15% reflects lower unit orders. Year-to-date, orders are still higher than in 2021, but only slightly following the large third-quarter slowdown. Orders in the Americas were down 9% primarily due to decreased customer demand for Hurco, Takumi and Milltronics machines, partially offset by inflationary price increases implemented during fiscal 2022. European orders fell 22% and Asia Pacific fell 46%.

Manufacturing technology companies have sent mixed pictures of economic conditions for the remainder of 2022 with Illinois Tool Works and Ingersoll Rand predicting strong finishes to the year as many companies move production back to North America to harden supply chains but companies such as Hurco reporting declines.

IW Staff

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