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Engineering Newswire Stories

Q&A with CIRAS Project Manager Brian Muff

The original content was generated from The Industry Iowa Podcast, recorded on June 30, 2022. Q: Can you share your background and how you became involved with Iowa State and CIRAS? A: I started around 2006 after working as a chemist and obtaining a degree in chemistry from Iowa State University (ISU). After that, I … Continue reading Q&A with CIRAS Project Manager Brian Muff

Q&A with Strategic Advisor, Derek Thompson

Q: Tell me about your job and how it contributes to the overall goals of CIRAS to help companies prosper. A: As a member of the Strategic Advisor team, we are the sales force of CIRAS.  We are calling on and developing relationships with the leaders at our Iowa manufacturing companies so that we can … Continue reading Q&A with Strategic Advisor, Derek Thompson

Reflecting on the ILC Kentucky Lean Tour

Members of the Iowa Lean Consortium (ILC) waited four years for the ILC Kentucky Lean Tour but by all accounts, the trip was worth the wait. “I’ve read the books and studied the practices but the presentations and tours gave me insights on how to apply lean principles that I couldn’t have gotten any other … Continue reading Reflecting on the ILC Kentucky Lean Tour

Addressing Production Issues in Advance Saves Time, Money

A Dyersville manufacturer is saving time and money by implementing a strategy that identifies potential breakdowns before they occur. JEDA Polymers, maker of engineered resins for the injection molding industry, was using a “homegrown solution” to anticipate issues in their extrusion lines. Though their efforts were moderately successful, the company couldn’t resolve all their issues … Continue reading Addressing Production Issues in Advance Saves Time, Money

CIRAS Welcomes 2023 Summer Interns

  CIRAS is set to welcome the 2023 summer interns to the team. CIRAS hosts interns throughout the summer, offering students professional networking opportunities that will contribute to their professional connection and interest in pursuing manufacturing. The goals of the internship program are as follows: Expose talented young professionals to manufacturing Provide students with opportunities to … Continue reading CIRAS Welcomes 2023 Summer Interns

CIRAS Intern Nationally Recognized

CIRAS intern Cassandra Swacker was nationally recognized at the Congress of Rehabilitation Medicine in November 2022 for projects she completed with CIRAS. Swacker’s main project was in collaboration with On With Life, a nonprofit organization that works primarily with individuals who have experienced traumatic brain injuries, to design and produce custom life aids to increase … Continue reading CIRAS Intern Nationally Recognized

Employers Find Workforce Success through Student Opportunities

Using Career Fairs to Engage Future Workers Iowa State career fairs are an excellent way for employers to meet, interview, and interact with students to grow an educated and well-rounded workforce. In-person fairs occur each semester and offer employers the opportunity to fill interview schedules, network with students and increase name recognition. The College of … Continue reading Employers Find Workforce Success through Student Opportunities

Dubuque Screw Products Gains Space with New Process Flow

Iowa State sophomore engineering student and CIRAS intern Cassie Larsen was ready to take on a new challenge when she learned about an opportunity with Dubuque Screw Products (DSP). The northeast Iowa business needed a new shop layout for its expanding facility. “The company had a few ideas, but they were open to anything that … Continue reading Dubuque Screw Products Gains Space with New Process Flow

Watching Iowa’s Economy – October

Here is CIRAS’s quick look at major economic indicators, our assessment of Iowa’s industrial economy, and recommendations for you as a business leader. For an introduction and a description of the indicators used, see our first post.   Indicator Status Underlying Data Notes ISM Manufacturing PMI® Nearly all indicators remained above neutral, demonstrating continued moderate growth … Continue reading Watching Iowa’s Economy – October

Getting the Most from Tradeshows

Attending a tradeshow can pay big dividends for even small companies. The right show can provide networking opportunities, give insights on competitors, and update you on developments in your industry. But tradeshows can be overwhelming, especially if you decide to attend a large-scale event. To maximize the experience, consider these suggestions from CIRAS staff members: … Continue reading Getting the Most from Tradeshows

Assistance with Flow-down Clauses Helps Ensure Contract Compliance

Roxanne Schlue was two months into her new job at LMT Defense when the Eldridge company received one of its largest-ever federal contracts. Schlue’s job as compliance manager was to ensure that the appropriate flow-down clauses were passed down to subcontractors. For assistance with that, she turned to the CIRAS Procurement Technical Assistance Center (PTAC). “When … Continue reading Assistance with Flow-down Clauses Helps Ensure Contract Compliance

Engineering Capstone Program Gets High Marks from Industry

 The relationship between Iowa industry and CIRAS has been pivotal to the growth of an Iowa State University program that helps senior engineering students apply what they’ve learned in the classroom to a real-world setting. “Because CIRAS works with manufacturers across the state, they are uniquely positioned to see opportunities within companies for student projects,” … Continue reading Engineering Capstone Program Gets High Marks from Industry

Watching Iowa’s Economy – September

Here is CIRAS’s quick look at major economic indicators, our assessment of Iowa’s industrial economy, and recommendations for you as a business leader. For an introduction and a description of the indicators used, see our first post.   Indicator Status Underlying Data Notes ISM Manufacturing PMI® Strong data with indications of price easing and availability … Continue reading Watching Iowa’s Economy – September

Capstone Projects Are a Win-Win for Students, Industry

An increasing number of companies are turning to Iowa State University students for possible solutions to business needs through capstone projects.  CIRAS project manager Jake Behrens said student capstone teams work with nearly 70 Iowa companies each year on projects that span one or two semesters. Students use the opportunities to demonstrate their ability to … Continue reading Capstone Projects Are a Win-Win for Students, Industry

Lab Helps Manufacturers Explore Industry 4.0 Technologies

CIRAS and industry partners continue to invest in new technologies for Iowa manufacturers. Ramco Innovations recently donated a selective compliance articulated robot arm (SCARA) to CIRAS. The company is a technology partner in the Digital Manufacturing Lab created in 2019 with substantial donations from Alliant Energy and the Iowa Economic Development Authority. The lab is … Continue reading Lab Helps Manufacturers Explore Industry 4.0 Technologies

Enhance Customer Value with Augmented Reality

 A global supplier of vending equipment and services turned to CIRAS last year for advice on maintaining quality customer support during the pandemic. CIRAS suggested implementing an augmented reality (AR) tool provided by TeamViewer. The solution proved so effective the company plans to use it after pandemic concerns subside. “One of our biggest concerns early … Continue reading Enhance Customer Value with Augmented Reality

X-ray Imaging Positions PowerFilm to Quickly Fix Potential Problem

An Ames manufacturer of solar panels avoided scrapping $30,000 of incorrect work after Iowa State University experts helped the company find a way to inspect 750 problem panels for a potential defect. Dan Stieler, president of PowerFilm, said he turned to CIRAS and Iowa State’s Center for Nondestructive Evaluation (CNDE) after discovering that one of … Continue reading X-ray Imaging Positions PowerFilm to Quickly Fix Potential Problem

Iowa Manufacturers Find Immediate Value in Wearable Tech

It started as a single question in a loud, pandemic-influenced Sioux City popcorn factory: How do we meet our obligation to monitor employee hearing if COVID-19 social distancing requirements are blocking us from running hearing tests in the usual way?   The answer, which American Pop Corn Company discovered with help from CIRAS, involves new workplace … Continue reading Iowa Manufacturers Find Immediate Value in Wearable Tech

Have You Hired Your Summer Engineering Intern?

Spring is here, and that means summer won’t be far behind. Is your summer workforce where it needs to be? If not, Engineering Career Services at Iowa State University is eager to work with any company interested in hiring engineering interns during the coming summer. As of April 5, registrations are still being accepted in … Continue reading Have You Hired Your Summer Engineering Intern?

CIRAS Guides Grinding Improvement at Weiler

A Knoxville-based heavy equipment manufacturer estimates that the company retained more than $10 million in sales after CIRAS helped it solve a problem with cracking shafts on a rock drill used in highway construction.

Mark Prachar, a project engineer with Weiler, said the company took control of a new process for making components for its rock drills in 2018—only to find cracks in the shafts produced. Company engineers, many of them Iowa State University graduates, turned to CIRAS for help diagnosing the problem.

SSAB Finds Valuable Partner in Iowa State Students, Faculty Research

A Muscatine steel factory is on the verge of innovation after increased student involvement developed into major research at Iowa State University.

SSAB, an international steel producer, recently completed CIRAS-arranged research and filed for a patent on a new optical fiber technology for measuring the temperature of molten steel in electric arc furnaces in real time. The company also is experimenting with Ames Laboratory on ways to improve the rolled-steel alloys SSAB manufactures.

Industry 4.0 Assessment Helps CJ Bio Start Smart with Tech Upgrades

A Fort Dodge feed ingredients company expects to save millions of dollars by implementing technology upgrades identified through a CIRAS Industry 4.0 assessment.

CJ Bio, which produces amino acids for livestock and poultry feed, expects to have the top two or three items of improvements on its list completed by the end of 2020. The list, which details places where technology enhancements could have the largest impact on the company’s bottom line, was created through a CIRAS-guided process of reassessing CJ Bio’s current use of technology in its business.

Ag Leader Seeks CIRAS to Help New Ideas Grow

The best part about the CIRAS innovation process, Mike Myers believes, is that it makes it easier for his company to quickly find the ideas that help customers most.

Myers is marketing development manager at Ag Leader Technology, an Ames company created 28 years ago to help farmers better monitor their fields. Today, precision agriculture is a wide-ranging industry with competition fueled by venture capitalists and start-ups looking to profit from helping farmers manage data.

Now, more than ever, Ag Leader needs to be focused on the right ideas.

M’s Makes Most of CIRAS Events

For Candace Drahn, part of staying ahead means discovering what you don’t know.

“As a small business, it’s hard to get out and educate yourself about industry trends,” said Drahn, vice president of M’s Machine and Manufacturing in Monona. “CIRAS kind of condenses everything into the small business mindset that I need. . . . It gives me a good overview of what I need to be doing on a particular topic.”

NDE Testing Helps VT Industries Save Time, Avoid Costs

A Holstein, Iowa, maker of doors and countertops saved time and money last summer after CIRAS experts helped the company quickly identify problems with two potential products.

Aron Fleischmann, an engineer with VT Industries, said his company will avoid tens of thousands of dollars in potential warranty work because CIRAS helped pinpoint the cause of cracking discovered during inspections of shipments from a supplier.

SmithCo Sees Growth Ahead After CIRAS Helped Company Prepare

A Le Mars manufacturer of side-dumping truck trailers believes his business is on the road to steady growth after CIRAS helped improve the company’s management structure and confirm that its marketing is on the correct path.

SmithCo Manufacturing Inc. was founded in 1994 to make side-dump trailers for the construction industry. Change loomed, however, as the company entered its third decade. SmithCo, long popular in construction, agriculture, and municipal waste hauling, had discovered a lucrative new market in the mining industry. But could the business handle it? Operations manager Scott Lovell saw the potential for enormous growth over the horizon, and he wanted to make sure his company was ready.

 Capstone Helps Life Line Open New Door

A Sumner, Iowa, manufacturer of emergency vehicles believes it’s on the cusp of a major innovation after Iowa State University engineering students helped the company develop a new design for a side-entry ambulance door.

Life Line Emergency Vehicles, a maker of custom ambulance bodies since 1985, was scheduled to go to a national trade show this fall with a working prototype of its first ambulance with a motorized sliding side door—a new feature that’s expected to make it safer and more convenient for emergency medical crews to operate in tight spaces or along the side of a highway.

Now Open: Digital Manufacturing Lab powered by Alliant Energy

Dozens of Iowa manufacturers got their first glimpse of a path to new technologies on September 26, as CIRAS formally opened its new Digital Manufacturing Lab powered by Alliant Energy.

Representatives from CIRAS, Alliant Energy, and the Iowa Economic Development Authority (IEDA) were joined by Iowa State University and Ames leaders for opening remarks and a tour.

Grand Opening: Digital Manufacturing Lab powered by Alliant Energy

Dozens of Iowa manufacturers got their first glimpse of a path to new technologies on September 26, as CIRAS formally opened its new Digital Manufacturing Lab powered by Alliant Energy.
Representatives from CIRAS, Alliant Energy, and the Iowa Economic Development Authority (IEDA) were joined by Iowa State University and Ames leaders for opening remarks and a tour.

CIRAS Helps Bazooka Farmstar Bring Order to Its Growth

A Washington, Iowa, maker of manure-injection equipment was able to double capacity and drastically reduce lead time after CIRAS arranged coaching for its key managers.

Bazooka Farmstar is a rapidly growing 110-person agricultural manufacturer that’s seen sales grow 140 percent since 2016. But as the company took off, its production processes and management seemed to lag. Lead times increased, labor costs rose, and it seemed more and more difficult to maintain an adequate supply of parts.

“The manufacturing team was doing a great job of meeting their production requirements but was spending considerable excess time and effort in doing so,” said Jim Poe, a retired CIRAS project manager. “They have great people. They had the education and the knowledge. They just needed some help with organization and focus.”

ProCircular helps MetalCraft Toughen its Cybersecurity

Jonathan Heinz acknowledges that it took a while for his company to get moving on cybersecurity. But Metalcraft, a nameplate and ID tag manufacturer in Mason City, is now behind no longer.

Birmingham Manufacturing Gets Reawakened to the Value of Innovation

Michael Nunn is still searching for the perfect product improvement idea. But thanks to some help from CIRAS, Nunn now believes he’s on the correct path.

CIRAS Teaches Cobot to Clean at Miracle Tools America

Multiple times each day, the skilled workers at Miracle Tools America in Davenport must stop what they’re doing and clean. Making drill bits can be a dirty business, and the tiny water channels that keep tools from overheating have a tendency to clog.

Hence, the company decided to begin experimenting with a new type of employee—one that wouldn’t mind the monotony.

One made out of metal.

Donald named Outstanding New Professional

CIRAS project manager Joy Donald will be honored with the Iowa State University Professional and Scientific Outstanding New Professional Award at a campus ceremony on September 23.

Cobot Unboxed

Here’s an update on the current state of the Digital Manufacturing Lab Powered by Alliant Energy.

Grover Joins CIRAS to Oversee Digital Manufacturing Lab

Abhay Grover has joined CIRAS as a project manager focused on new technologies.

Cy-Hawk Partnership Helps TAP Extend Technology

Charles Romans sees tremendous possibility in the relationship he’s building with his counterparts on the other side of Iowa.

Romans is the 3D design prototype director for ProtoStudios, a University of Iowa rapid prototyping facility that’s part of the MERGE innovation lab in downtown Iowa City. Despite his black-and-gold employer, Romans and his staff have been working closely with CIRAS project manager Mark Williamson and Chris Hill, director of the CIRAS Technology Assistance Program (TAP), for more than a year as part of a joint effort to learn from each other and give taxpayers the maximum benefit from the equipment each agency controls.

“Yes, Virginia, there is a Santa Claus!” Hill said with a chuckle. “It is possible for Hawkeyes and Cyclones to work together.”

Walsh Door & Security Keeps Growing as CIRAS Guides

A rapidly growing Des Moines commercial door and electronic security company has become more efficient, more professional, and safer thanks to a long-standing CIRAS relationship that continues to grow.

Walsh Door & Security began as a builders’ hardware company, but the business evolved over the years to become one of very few U.S. firms that offer customers both physical barriers (doors, frames, and hardware) and electronic security (such as access control and video surveillance systems). Marty Walsh IV, co-president of the family-owned company, said the firm has grown steadily on both sides of its door and security business, even as the electronic offering expands.

CIRAS Will Help You Get Ready for the “Future of Manufacturing”

CIRAS is on a journey to help Iowa manufacturers discover and implement the future of manufacturing.

Capstone Students Hush Clamoring Granulator at Orbis Corporation

The Orbis Corporation’s plastic container manufacturing plant in Monticello has a significantly quieter corner of the factory now, after a capstone project by Iowa State University engineering students reduced the noise from a nearby granulator.

Legacy Manufacturing Reshores Jobs Using Robot Turntable

Legacy Manufacturing in Marion has added seven new employees (with at least three more coming soon) after a CIRAS-assisted automation program helped the company reshore production of one of its most popular products.

Touring Tech – Manufacturers Find Value When They See What ISU Can Do

Nathan Meyer was no stranger to CIRAS, but he wasn’t fully aware of all the technical expertise available at Iowa State University until he took a CIRAS-led tour of campus research labs in the fall of 2017.

MEP Best Practices Conference: Lessons Learned

In September, leaders and subject matter experts from around the MEP National NetworkTM gathered in Kansas City for our biennial best practices conference. Why is this a big deal?  The 300 or so manufacturing experts in attendance brought back lessons learned from working with more than 26,000 U.S. manufacturers in the last year alone. In addition to sharing operational practices that make us successful, this was an opportunity to get a pulse on American manufacturing.

Blue-9 Celebrates One-year Anniversary of New Iowa Headquarters

A small Maquoketa company that sells dog training equipment around the world is boosting production and expanding its product offerings—all after CIRAS helped the company arrange important testing and other steps to get it off the ground.

Water Security in Iowa – Knowing What You Use, Having a Good Plan

For Bill Zimmerle, plant manager of the Valent BioSciences Corporation (VBC) facility in Osage, it all comes down to planning for the future.

The future, you see, requires water.

American Power Systems Energizes Its Export Business

A Davenport manufacturer of alternators and other electrical equipment for specialty vehicles expects to more than double the amount it sells overseas within the next three years.

Officials at American Power Systems Inc. predict the company will at least double its current six-figure export sales once it fully implements everything leaders learned during a CIRAS-driven class presented via the Quad Cities Manufacturing Innovation Hub.

I make widgets. Why should I care about cybersecurity?

It happens every day. The news fills with words like botnets, malware, ransomware, heartbleed, phishing, and sniffing. We are told we must make passwords “long and strong,” avoid “unsafe” websites, and keep computers “up to date.” We wonder what hackers could ever want with us.

Mostly, we just wonder what is safe and what we should do to protect ourselves.

Here are a few ways businesses can start to address cybersecurity:

Assessment: Iowa Mfg Need Help with Tech, Strategy

Iowa manufacturers have been slow to take proven steps toward improving their businesses—and now face a widening technology gap and workforce challenges that are placing increasing pressure on smaller companies, according to a recent CIRAS review of the state of Iowa manufacturing.

CIRAS’ 2017–2018 Iowa Manufacturing Needs Assessment Report, a document based on comments derived from six public forums and a survey of leaders at 228 manufacturers across Iowa, shows Iowa companies continuing to sort themselves onto one side or another of a widening profitability gap.

With Service Bureaus Coming, Is Iowa at an Additive Manufacturing Inflection Point?

Dennis Fogle believes the dawn is coming for his industry in Iowa.

“We’re right on the edge,” said Fogle, general manager of Agile Additive Manufacturing Ltd. in Pella. “It’s just over the hill. . . . I think we just need a little bit more education here.”

Agile, a recently formed offshoot of Canada’s largest 3D printing service bureau, opened in Iowa last year in preparation for an expected wave in the use of 3D printing in Iowa manufacturing. Several other Iowa companies likewise have been formed over the last two years with a business plan that involves designing and/or 3D printing products for others. All report more fervent interest in the technology.

Update: Future of Manufacturing Series

About 18 months ago, CIRAS announced its new “Future of Manufacturing” series to help manufacturers become ready for what is “next” in manufacturing. While this was a significant leap, it was based on a simple premise: changes in technology, workforce, and business models were moving so fast that we needed to help get Iowa manufacturers out in front.

Planning Continues to Bring About ‘Year of Manufacturing’ Industry Expansion

Industry experts from around the state are developing a detailed plan for growing Iowa manufacturing—with CIRAS slated to play a leading role both in the plan’s design and its implementation.

The ongoing effort stems from 2017’s governor’s Year of Manufacturing initiative, which charged the Iowa Economic Development Authority and the Iowa Innovation Council (IIC) with finding ways to increase a $29 billion  manufacturing gross domestic product to $32 billion by 2022.

The Dimensional Group Finds a New Approach

By the time CIRAS walked through his door, Adam Gold was ready to listen.

It was 2014, and it was clear that The Dimensional Group was a company with problems. The Mason City custom packaging and commercial printing firm had stretched beyond its capabilities.

GUEST VOICE: How Leading Iowa Companies Profit from Sustainability

It surprises me when I meet business leaders who still believe environmental responsibility beyond meeting regulation, or social responsibility outside their four walls, is a cost versus an investment with good returns. CSR and sustainability work around the world, and in Iowa, has proven that leading companies have found ways to do both while profiting along the way.

Camille Sloan Schroeder praised for Engineering Outreach

Camille Sloan Schroeder earlier this month was presented with the 2018 President’s Award of Merit by the Quad-City Engineering and Science Council (QCESC).

Digital Manufacturing—Better Efficiency via an Internet-linked Vending Machine

Asked to explain the value of his two-year-old electronic supply cabinets, the comparison Joe Greving reaches for is to a major technological shift.

“I can’t imagine going back to the way we used to do it,” said Greving, president of Iowa Steel Fabrication in Osceola. “Once you have an iPhone X for 30 days, you’re not going back to a flip phone.”

CIRAS Spotlight: Andrew Friend

CIRAS employees know a lot about Iowa businesses. Here are a few questions and answers to help you learn a little more about them:

WORKFORCE PIPELINE: CIRAS Helps Companies Find Solutions

CIRAS projects have a big impact on Iowa and its communities.

One of the things we do is to help companies find their way around a scarcity of workers. Sometimes, that means helping them reach out to graduating students:

Iowa State Solar Car Team Probes the Practicality of a Sun-powered SUV

Members of Iowa State University’s PrISUm solar car team see a silver lining in the clouds that dampened their recent trip to Australia for the Bridgestone World Solar Challenge.

Despite rainy weather and a missed checkpoint that knocked them out of the finish, the Iowa State engineering students are taking pride in the fact that they managed to build a practical and highly functional solar-powered SUV—one that, once tweaked, appears destined for future competitions.

Coming Soon: CIRAS Bringing Technology Showcase to you

More than 30 leaders from eastern Iowa manufacturing companies gathered in a Pella conference room last month for CIRAS’ first mobile effort at showing firms exactly what can happen in the labs at Iowa State University.

CIRAS + MEP = The National Network for Manufacturers

One of the promises CIRAS makes to our clients is that working with us brings you more than just our 500+ years of combined industry experience. Clients also get connected with CIRAS’ vast network of experts. Usually, this means one of our great partners or the service providers we work with in Iowa. But frequently, it means tapping into the Manufacturing Extension Partnership (MEP) National Network.

The Future of Manufacturing is Happening Today

Every day we see something “new” in manufacturing. 3D Printed food, connected everything, cobots, and the list goes on. In fact, we’ve heard of these possibilities for decades. But something about these things seems a bit more real now than in the past. Like something important is happening

CIRAS Shows ADA Enterprises How to Build for the Future

A Northwood, Iowa-based manufacturer of pig and calf flooring and commercial outdoor furniture should see a major boost to its production capacity because of a CIRAS-assisted expansion of its production plant.

Thomas Stensrud, president of ADA Enterprises, said his company’s recently remodeled and expanded footprint should provide 20 years of growth for the maker of park furniture and plastic-coated pork industry flooring. “We plan on at least doubling or even tripling our capacity,” he said.

Engineering Capstone Projects Lead to Innovative New Products

Two Iowa companies over the past year have separately discovered a new way to safeguard vibrating truck fenders and a new, more attractive way to lock patio doors—both as a result of work done by graduating students at Iowa State University.

Capstone students in Iowa State’s College of Engineering worked on the truck fender project for Link Manufacturing, a Sioux Center company that manufactures heavy-duty truck suspensions. The company asked students to extend the life of after-market fender brackets that sometimes were breaking because of vibration.