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Date: 10-07-2013

Company's technology-driven event shows the future of manufacturing...

For the next two weeks, Mazak Corp. will welcome more than 2,000 industry professionals at its North American Technology Center in Florence during its Discover 2013 event.

The event will offer technical seminars and industry-specific metalworking demonstrations and showcase a wide array of Mazak’s new machine models.

Chris Webster, an apprentice at Mazak in Florence, makes adjustments to a turret. The facility will be the site of Discover 2013.Patrick Reddy/The Kentucky Enquirer file photo Chris Webster, an apprentice at Mazak in Florence, makes adjustments to a turret. The facility will be the site of Discover 2013.Patrick Reddy/The Kentucky Enquirer file photo Mazak frequently hosts industry events, but company president Brian Papke said it has raised the bar this year to provide an enhanced experience for attendees.

“It’s no longer practical to just have an open house,” Papke said. “The time of people is so much more valuable that, in order to have an event like this, it has to be technology-driven. All companies are not at our level yet, but they are going to have to be to compete, so in a sense we are representing what manufacturing will be.”

Mazak has continued to expand and invest in manufacturing technology that has established it as an industry leader and an efficient machine tool builder that provides high-quality, reliable products.

The world-class facility in Florence produces more than 100 models of turning centers, multi-tasking machines and vertical machining centers.

A total of 37 new machines will be on display in the technology center during the event, including a cell of five developed specifically for a customer.

“All of these machines are new in some way,” Papke said. “Some are dramatically new models and others have been reconfigured with options and accessories that make them come up to a higher level of productivity.”

The production area will also display 11 new models designed for the current expansion of that facility, as well as seven other models in various stages of development.

Mazak is also working with its VIP partners to go beyond just showcasing its products.

“It adds another dimension of technology to some of the things we do,” Papke said. “We are in the final stages of putting this show together and the technology is incredible. Some is software and some is hardware, but the idea is to show customers a wide range of solutions, not just machines.”

Papke said there is a nationwide resurgence in the advanced manufacturing industry triggered by a number of factors. Mazak’s U.S. workforce alone has increased from 680 in late 2009 to 1,091, and 735 of those jobs are in Northern Kentucky.

“There are many companies that would like to reshore to the United States and there are some real advantages to manufacturing here,” Papke said. “The energy cost is reasonable compared to other countries and the long-term outlook for energy and the ability for us to reach energy independence is very bright. We also have moderate inflation, so it’s becoming more attractive to buy things here.”

Mazak utilizes a production-on-demand concept that allows it to make products in smaller quantities with short lead times, which provides a competitive advantage over foreign suppliers.

“We all would like to customize our products more and produce in lower quantities that match up to the needs of customers,” Papke said. “That is kind of a different idea from bringing things offshore where it’s not practical to buy things a few at a time because the freight costs and the labor costs are rising in those countries. This is the future of manufacturing.”

As a preview to Discover 2013, Mazak will host a Next Gener8n event for more than 200 Boone, Kenton and Grant county high school students and their parents Monday.

It is part of an ongoing effort to recruit a local workforce that will support the advanced manufacturing industry in Northern Kentucky in the future.

“We see it as our contribution to help employ people in the manufacturing industry,” Papke said.

The combination of growth within the industry and an aging workforce has left companies such as Mazak in desperate need of skilled workers. Mazak has partnered with manufacturers at the Northern Kentucky Industrial Park to determine why it is so difficult to fill jobs in the industry.

Mike Vogt, Mazak’s vice president of human resources, said the biggest revelation is that there are some long-held perceptions about the industry that are no longer accurate.

“We did some surveys and some focus groups with students and parents to try to learn why high school students were not considering careers in manufacturing,” Vogt said. “What we found is that manufacturing still has this old image of a dirty, dark, dangerous kind of work.”

Advanced manufacturing jobs today have evolved into highly-skilled, well-paid positions in facilities that are in clean, safe environments.

There are currently almost 700 unfilled advanced manufacturing jobs, with an average annual salary of $55,000, available in Northern Kentucky.

In three years, that number will jump to 2,500 and during the next decade more than 6,000 new advanced manufacturing jobs are expected to be available in the region.

By Mark Hansel
The Kentucky Enquirer

The shutdown is now clogging up the data economy. Thanks, Congress!


By Brian Fung, Published: October 3 at 9:48 am

Thanks to the government shutdown, nearly a dozen federal Web sites are offline and 19 of them are no longer being updated. But a less obvious casualty of the widespread furloughs are the online tools that automatically relay government data to the public. 

Federal agencies maintain hundreds of application programming interfaces, or APIs. Whenever you see an interactive map that's based on Census statistics or pollution data or other official information, that's often the result of a government data feed. These days, however, when a map or a program phones in to the feed for updates, it's often met with a "sorry, we're closed" message — just like the kind human visitors see when they visit 

Craig Isakow runs a Washington-area startup that helps offices, schools and other public buildings become Energy Star-recognized with the Environmental Protection Agency. Using the agency's API, Isakow submits characteristics about a building's size and energy usage, and the API returns a numerical score from 1-100 that can be read like a fuel-efficiency rating for cars. Last year, Isakow said, nearly a third of all such Energy Star scores were generated using the API; the rest were computed by logging in by hand.

Now both methods of performance certification are down as a result of federal furloughs. That means delays, lost revenue and greater uncertainty for Isakow's business, WegoWise. (MORE)




Review: New Surface tablets provide laptop-like typing comfort in tablet form

 Microsoft unveils new Surface tablets that are thinner, faster than previous generation: The Redmond, Wash., technology company unveiled the Surface 2 and Surface Pro 2 tablets Sept. 23 in New York. The changes that Microsoft has made to its tablets are in response to consumer feedback. Microsoft unveils new Surface tablets that are thinner, faster than previous generation: The Redmond, Wash., technology company unveiled the Surface 2 and Surface Pro 2 tablets Sept. 23 in New York. The changes that Microsoft has made to its tablets are in response to consumer feedback.


NEW YORK — (AP) Is Microsoft’s Surface a tablet or a laptop?

I’m not quite sure, but it is a lot easier to type on than an iPad.

The software company unveiled updates to its Surface tablet computers Monday at an event in New York, where I had a short amount of time to try them out.

It almost seems unfair to categorize the new Surface 2 and Surface Pro 2 as tablets. Although they have touch-screen keyboards like regular tablets, they work best when attached to an optional cover with a keyboard on the inside.

The better one I tried was the Type Cover 2. In addition to coming in four fun colors — pink, purple, blue and black — that cover has backlighting, silent keys and a typing feel similar to that of a laptop keyboard. At $130, it is just $10 more than a Touch Cover 2, which doesn’t have movable keys like real keyboards.

The slick wireless mouse designed for the tablets is helpful, too, as is the docking station created to go with the Pro version of Surface.

The result is something that looks more like a laptop than an iPad or Android tablet. And that’s what Microsoft wants, calling its tablets the most productive on the market. The Surface 2 model even comes with a version of Microsoft Office, including the Outlook email and calendar program for the first time.

The Surface 2 starts at $449 and runs a lightweight version of Windows called RT, meaning it works only with apps designed specifically for it. The Surface Pro 2 starts at $899 and runs a full version of Windows, so it works with programs designed for traditional desktops and laptops. Both come with 200 gigabytes of online storage through Microsoft’s SkyDrive for two years.

With the Surface, Microsoft is trying to create a seamless transition between home, work and the field. Microsoft doesn’t want this device to just replace your tablet and laptop, but your office PC as well. It’s a great idea, and I’ll be interested to see if it can actually work in practicality.

Like a laptop, both the Surface 2 and the Surface Pro 2 balanced well and didn’t slide around on my lap when attached to keyboards. I felt very comfortable typing and had a clear view of the screen.

A setup like this would be very helpful for all those events I’ve had to cover, including Monday’s, where I wasn’t able to sit at a table and had to balance my tablet or laptop on my lap while I typed. For the new versions, Microsoft improved the built-in kickstand used to hold the tablet up like a laptop screen. It is sturdier and works in two positions, one for sitting on your lap and another for placing on a table.

The kickstand on older Surfaces had just one position, for the table.

My only complaint is that the keyboard was just a little bit too big for my lap and didn’t have quite enough space to lay flat. But at 5 foot, 2 inches, I’m small. If you’re taller, you shouldn’t have a problem.

Although the tablets are focused on productivity, they also have some fun elements. Besides the usual games and apps available in Microsoft’s app store, the Surface Pro 2 can be used to play PC and Xbox games such as the popular “World of Warcraft” and “Halo” series. Although you don’t quite get the same visual experience as you do with a big screen, gamers will like portability. It’s a big step up from playing “Angry Birds” or “Fruit Ninja.” (Yes, those games are available in Microsoft’s app store, too.)

Both Surface models felt a little bulky and heavy to me. That said, the Surface 2 weighs about the same as the latest version of the full-size iPad at about 1.5 pounds, while the Surface Pro 2 weighs in at 2 pounds.

At the same time, the Surface tablets feel a little more rugged than an iPad. Microsoft touts them as nearly indestructible, pointing to their heavy-duty glass and magnesium-alloy casing. It claims you could hit it with a sledge hammer or run it over with a car. I can’t wait to hand one to my less-than-gentle 3-year-old daughter and see what damage she’s able to inflict on it.

According to Microsoft, both tablets feature significant improvements in speed, cameras and battery life. I didn’t have enough time with the devices to test those out, and I’m looking forward to spending more time with it. And it’ll be interesting to see how well the Pro version works as a desktop when attached to a docking station, which will sell for about $200 when it comes out early next year.
Based on an early look, though, Microsoft seems to have learned from its mistakes and refreshed the Surface lineup with devices that feel better on the lap.

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