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Manufacturing Newswire Stories

CIRAS Points Graziano Brothers to New Future

Toward the back of a long, narrow office, tucked away in a storefront that has been a south Des Moines landmark for more than 107 years, Frances Graziano sat behind a paperwork-laden desk last September and chuckled.

Was she scared? Absolutely.

“It’s terrifying,” said Graziano, president and CEO of the Graziano Brothers food company. “It’s absolutely terrifying. Is the product going to work? Do we have everything in place? Are we going to have a handle on the quality control? Is there going to be a market for our product outside of its current geographic area?”

Early this year, for the first time since 1912, the manufacture of Graziano Brothers sausage took place somewhere outside the small brick building on South Union Street. The change, which followed roughly 18 months of planning and preparation alongside CIRAS experts, is part of a broad, multistep plan to breathe new life into a historic family business and position it for a much longer future.

Planning for Future at Tiefenthaler Quality Meats

It all started roughly 38 years ago, when John Tiefenthaler needed a job to take part in a high school vocational program. Tiefenthaler, then 18, visited the local Holstein, Iowa, meat locker. Uncertain how to act, he clumsily introduced himself and assumed that somebody would call him later. When no one did, he eventually admitted … Continue reading Planning for Future at Tiefenthaler Quality Meats

Danfoss Explores Exciting Possibilities of 3D Scanning

Craig Klocke believes machines one day will be much more efficient because an electronic eye will constantly be checking what they make.

Installing scanners at the end of a production line would allow manufacturers to continuously watch for the changes that come when cutting tools are wearing out, said Klocke, head of additive design and manufacturing for Danfoss Power Solutions in Ames.

“As tools wear, as machines wear, the scanning would allow the machines to adjust,” Klocke said. “You’d end up with a better product, and you’d know exactly when it was time to replace a part or tool. You’d have continuous adjustment of the process.

CIRAS Launches New Web Page with Coronavirus Advice

Roughly one month after the outbreak of coronavirus began, authorities now estimate that more than 75,000 people have been infected and more than 2,000 are dead. Thousands of manufacturers across China have struggled to reopen after travel restrictions prevented employees from returning from Lunar New Year holiday. With work delays still uncertain, large sectors of the U.S. economy seem to be holding their collective breath waiting for additional shoes to drop. In manufacturing, the impacts to the complex global supply of parts are not fully understood, but the slowdown seems likely to impact the demand for U.S. products in China.

CIRAS Solves Case of Computer Corrosion

Methodical detective work by a CIRAS metallurgist helped a Hiawatha computer company keep a new product on track—and preserved the potential for an estimated $25 million in new sales.

Crystal Group, a manufacturer of rugged computers for use in extreme military and industrial environments, was working on machines for a new autonomous vehicle last spring when the company noticed a problem. CIRAS project manager Adam Boesenberg ultimately diagnosed some corrosion in the computers’ cooling systems as stemming from the use of a coolant that has known problems interacting with aluminum parts.

Cobots Proving to Be a Smart Choice at Metalcraft

There are many reasons Iowa manufacturers come to Ramco Innovations looking for automation.

“Certainly, a lot of it is that it’s hard to fill a lot of positions these days,” said Joe Stoltz, vice president of technology for the West Des Moines company. “And once you find people, it’s hard to keep them doing a repetitive job.”

So how do you get more work done without adding staff? The correct technological solution for any particular company depends on exactly what you need machines to do. But Iowa manufacturers can’t answer those questions until they understand their options.

3D Printing as a Process Improver: Small Changes, No Waiting

It all started with the search for a better way to check electrical connections on air conditioners.

Wes Draughn, manager of manufacturing and engineering for the cooling business unit at Lennox Manufacturing in Marshalltown, had a design for a new process to help Lennox team members be more efficient in checking the quality of their work. “We needed a way to interact with the unit at different times throughout the assembly process, and the plugs that we needed weren’t available off the shelf,” he said.

An intern had designed a new guide that could be used to help assemblers test connections at multiple locations on the line. The new “plug” would provide a more ergonomic grip for employees, meeting safety and other agency requirements. But there seemed to be no way to get it built.

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.

CIRAS Scanner Captures History of Mini-campanile’s Bells

It is a bright summer day when Tin-Shi Tam climbs the steps inside Iowa State University’s iconic campanile to play her daily midday concert on the Stanton Memorial Carillon.

Up above, after she’s worked the carillon’s bells through a mix of tunes that includes both Garth Brooks and the theme from a Hong Kong soap opera, Tam starts talking about the miniature version—a one-fifth scale model of the campanile that eventually would be unveiled to the public in October.

“I think the whole idea about this project is that not only did we involve so many Iowa State students and faculty to build it, but this is a project that we can actually own,” Tam said. “It’s the whole process. We’ve documented every process. This is something that we can share and say, ‘This is how it works.’”

Our Annual Iowa-Made Holiday Gift Guide

One of our favorite times of the year is here!

‘Tis the season  to remind everybody once again that there are awesome Iowa-made products to give as gifts!

Develop Talent through Internships

Internships can feed the talent pipeline for many small- to medium-sized manufacturers facing serious workforce gaps as their senior employees near retirement. But internship success (finding, engaging, and retaining talent) requires strategy and planning to locate and groom qualified job candidates. As the Program Manager of Apprenticeship and Workforce at the Maryland Manufacturing Extension Partnership (MEP), I … Continue reading Develop Talent through Internships

Tours of Digital Manufacturing Lab Offer Peek at Possibilities

Trent Walters knew his purpose.

“I’m learning the possibilities,” said Waters, an engineer with Dee Zee truck accessories in Des Moines. “You come here and look at all this, and then you start thinking, ‘We can do that…’ ”

Waters is one of dozens of Iowa manufacturers who have visited Iowa State University’s Digital Manufacturing Lab powered by Alliant Energy since it opened in September at the ISU Research Park.

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.

ILC Mentors Help Put Lean Training into Practice

John Magnussen, continuous improvement manager for Pella Corporation, likes to compare Lean management techniques to riding a bicycle: getting trained is great; but at some point, you just have to grab the handlebars and go.
“You didn’t learn to ride a bike by reading a book,” Magnussen said. “You went out, and you rode a bike! You can read and train all you want, but until you go and actually practice it, you’re not going to know.”
But wouldn’t be nice to have someone running beside you as you learned?

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.”

Simply Soothing, Milkhouse Candles Light Wick on New Product

A popular Iowa-made brand of all-natural insect repellant now comes with a wick—thanks to a new union between two highly successful CIRAS clients.

Simply Soothing, the Columbus Junction maker of Bug Soother insect spray, launched a new line of 8-oz. candles this summer with help from Milkhouse Candle Company, a soy-based candle firm with factories in Osage and New Hampton.

The candles, which are being manufactured by Milkhouse but sold under the Bug Soother name, are the culmination of years of conversations between the two companies. It all began after Ryan Horgen, head of business development for Milkhouse, read an article on Simply Soothing in CIRAS News.

CIRAS Wants Every Day to be MFGDay – (but especially in October)

More than 8,000 Iowans attended an estimated 150 events last October as the industry’s annual celebration of American manufacturing.

It’s not too late for Iowa businesses to get involved in the 2019 festivities.

How to ID Your Company’s Cybersecurity Risks

According to a 2018 IBM-sponsored study by the Ponemon Institute, the global average for a data breach is $3.86 million. That breaks down to almost $150 per stolen record. If you’re a small or medium-sized manufacturer, you may not think statistics like these apply to you. But out of 17 industries represented in the report, the most impacted sectors were financial, service, and wait for it — manufacturing.

Northeast Iowa Conference to Address Manufacturing Workforce Challenges

Northeast Iowa manufacturers struggling to modernize and grow will have the chance to learn new strategies designed to improve their bottom line in any economy.

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.

Genesis Safety Group sees Benefits of Lean Safety

A Davenport maker of robotic systems is rethinking how material flows through its factory after participants in a spring Lean Safety event outlined a list of ways that the company could improve.

CIRAS Helps Walsh Door & Security Unlock Inventory

A Des Moines commercial door and security company improved efficiency and shaved roughly $200,000 off its costs after CIRAS assistance helped the company upgrade its inventory handling.

Dave Hunt, hardware inventory control manager for Walsh Door & Security, said his company went from carrying roughly $600,000 worth of door hardware at its Des Moines warehouse to roughly $430,000. The difference was made possible by a 2017 CIRAS class that helped Walsh become more professional about calculating what the company really needed on hand to meet its customers’ needs.

Digital Manufacturing Lab set to Open in September

Doors will formally open next month on a new facility that CIRAS hopes will help take the risk out of new technologies for Iowa manufacturers.

CIRAS Launching 2019 Needs Survey

Every two years, CIRAS asks manufacturing leaders to step back and help us understand the condition of manufacturing in Iowa. What’s your greatest struggle? What’s working? Just as importantly, what’s not?

Metal 3D Printer Helps Prove a Robot’s Tanker-cleaning Viability

An eastern Iowa manufacturing company landed an important job providing parts for a railcar-cleaning robot after CIRAS helped the company prove its design under a tight deadline.

Work Continues on New Digital Manufacturing Lab

Iowa manufacturers who are struggling to modernize and grow—either because of uncertain technological needs or because they’re short of the people they need to get work done—will soon have access to a new option.

CIRAS, backed by substantial assistance from Alliant Energy and the Iowa Economic Development Authority (IEDA), will open a new laboratory this summer where Iowa companies will be able to experiment with new manufacturing technology and explore how the machines might impact their particular businesses.

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.

What Our Peers Think:  Cybersecurity

Every day we hear another story about a hack. Terms like ransomware, two-factor authentication, data breach, botnets sound like they are from a science fiction movie, not the shop floor. Small- to mid-sized manufacturers are among the most frequent targets of hackers, driven in part by the perceived ease of beating your systems.The solution to cybersecurity risks is a complex mix of IT solutions, processes, and new cultural norms. Where do you start?

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.

It’s a Rainy Day. Does Your Business Have a Plan?

Portions of western and central Iowa were under flood watches and warnings Wednesday, with more rain expected though Thursday. Fast-moving ice jams also clogged the Des Moines River in Ottumwa on Tuesday, sparking fears that more low-lying and water-adjacent areas could face problems in the coming days, especially the Raccoon River near Des Moines.

Why Existing Workers Are the Real Answer to Iowa’s Workforce Problem

Iowa is out of people.

Almost every company I talk to, regardless of size, industry, or location, says that finding good people is their number one issue. The few exceptions are expert Lean practitioners—such as members of the Iowa Lean Consortium (ILC)—who tend to look at the issue differently: If every single person in our business was better at seeing, communicating, and solving problems, they ask, wouldn’t it help our workforce needs?

CIRAS to Partner with Alliant Energy, Open new Digital Manufacturing Lab

AMES, IA – Iowa State University’s Center for Industrial Research and Service (CIRAS) is pleased to announce a new partnership with Alliant Energy that will make it easier for Iowa manufacturers to implement new digital technologies and become more productive.

Tortilleria Sonora Steps Out on Path to Food Safety Certification

Life began moving faster after Betty Garcia got the phone call.

It was the fall of 2017, and a Des Moines-area produce company was planning to launch a line of ready-to-eat meals. The company was wondering whether Tortilleria Sonora would be interested in supplying tortillas. First, there were a few questions about the business. Would Garcia mind filling out a questionnaire?

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.

Dickson Industries Opens New Doors by Achieving Global Quality Standard

A 72-year-old Des Moines company with a long history of making products that boost the flavor and appearance of meat is now pursuing new opportunities after CIRAS helped the firm obtain a Safe Quality Food (SQF) certification.

David Dickson, president of Dickson Industries, said his company obtained its certification last March after a CIRAS gap assessment helped Dickson understand the quality requirements and prepare for the review.

ESCP Finds Business by Making the Web Work for the Company

For John Nelson, the difference was like night and day—largely because everything looks dark when customers can’t find your website.

 Nelson is sales manager for ESCP Corporation, a Davenport metal fabricator and manufacturer of metal stacking racks. ESCP’s website used to work wonderfully, he said. But then one day, a periodic Google algorithm change seemingly knocked the company out of favor. All web-based leads just evaporated.

CIVCO’s Solstice SRS Immobilization System Speeds to Market Thanks to CIRAS Scanner

An Orange City manufacturer of medical devices found a faster, cheaper, and more precise way to bring its new product to market after CIRAS showed the company how industrial scanners could be used to prove the product’s effectiveness.

CIVCO Radiotherapy, a 36-year-old company that makes a broad variety of radiation therapy products, created the Solstice SRS Immobilization System to keep patients immobile during stereotactic radiosurgery (SRS) and stereotactic radiotherapy (SRT). Both procedures involve delivering high-dose radiation to very specific areas of the head and neck.

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.

Birmingham Manufacturing gets Reawakened to the Value of Innovation

Michael Nunn hasn’t yet found the product improvement idea he was searching for, but at least he now knows that he’s on the correct path.

Nunn is the owner of Birmingham Manufacturing, a four-person shop in Birmingham, Iowa, that makes condensated evaporating pans for use in commercial coolers. The pans, which contain a heating element and sit below refrigeration units, work to evaporate the water that drips from inside coolers.

Artistic Manufacturing—A Business Bringing New Ideas to Church

The shelves in Randy Monk’s Altoona, Iowa, office are lined with the artifacts of decades past. At one corner sits a stack of the stamped metal ashtrays Artistic Manufacturing Corporation once produced as a sideline. A few feet to the right, you’ll find one of the small, decorative metal pots that the company made and sold to florist shops until the 1960s. In between those historical outposts sit older versions of the crosses, cups, and communion plates that have been the bulk of Artistic’s sales for more than 50 years.

Quick Service by Metallurgist Gives ALMACO Peace of Mind

A Nevada, Iowa-based agricultural equipment company saved a possible $12 million worth of business because CIRAS metallurgists helped the company confirm the viability of a new machine.

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.

Good Managers Solve Problems for People, Speaker tells CEOs at ILC Power Breakfast

Maintaining competitive advantage in a growing business is a lot like finding yourself in a leaky rowboat 10 miles from shore, Jim Lancaster told members and guests of the Iowa Lean Consortium (ILC).

Business leaders tend to focus most of their energy on putting out the daily fires, Lancaster said. But a company can easily stagnate if no one works to push the operation toward a distant goal.

American Packaging Finds Its Future, Proof of French Fry Potential

American Packaging in Story City landed a $750,000 contract and a new line of business because CIRAS helped the company prove that it could reliably produce plastic bags that a potential customer needed for frozen french fries.

Cox Honored for “Achievement in Economic Development”

CIRAS Director Ron Cox was one 15 College of Engineering faculty and staff who received Iowa State University’s highest honors during an annual awards ceremony on September 14.

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.

CIRAS Tech Scouting Helps VT Industries Open New Doors

A quick five years after its journey began, a Holstein, Iowa, door-maker’s quest to find new alternatives for one of its products has morphed into a massive new business and a new company-owned recipe for producing fireproof doors.

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.

Come for MFG Day, Stay for the Relationship with Future Workers

Iowa’s nationally renowned campaign to encourage the statewide celebration of national Manufacturing Day has gotten a slight makeover in 2018—with new people leading Iowa State University’s efforts and an increased emphasis on reaching out to children and educators.

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.

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.

Kay Park Recreation—A New Generation Rebuilds the Family Business

Kay Park Recreation was born in 1954 because its founder, Keith Borglum, was in the right place at the right time.

“His older brother happened to know some guys on a county conservation board,” said Keith’s son, Larry Borglum. “In the 1950s, when they started making parks everywhere, his older brother said, ‘I know some guys who could do that…’ ”

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.

Survey: U.S. Treasury gets $14.50 for every $1 spent on MEP

Each dollar the federal government spent on the NIST Manufacturing Extension Partnership in 2017 generated a $14.50 return to the United States treasury, according to a new survey from the W.E. Upjohn Institute.

Sukup named Iowa’s first “Manufacturing Technology Company of the Year”

Sukup Manufacturing’s focus on the future of agriculture – one where technology seamlessly creates a “fully integrated farm” – helped make it Iowa’s first “Manufacturing Technology Company of the Year.”

Cybersecurity for Manufacturers – Takeaways from our Future of Manufacturing Series

In March, CIRAS kicked off its 2018 Future of Manufacturing Series with Cybersecurity for Manufacturers in Cedar Rapids. While we all have heard about cyber attacks, ransomware, data theft, etc., cybersecurity too frequently falls into the “it won’t happen to me” category – especially for manufacturers.  

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).


CIRAS project manager Jeff Mohr is easing his way into an early-June retirement. We managed to make him stop on his way out the door to share some of his wisdom.

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:

IMPACT: CIRAS and its Partners Sparked Improvement by the Billions

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

Over the last five years, we’ve helped Iowa companies invest, expand sales and avoid costs to the tune of more than $2 billion.

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:

CONNECTIONS: CIRAS Helps Iowa Companies Find Answers

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

For example, our latest edition of CIRAS News took a look at the breadth of who we’ve helped over the past five years:

JOBS: CIRAS help Iowa Companies Continue as Good Employers

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

For example, our latest edition of CIRAS News took a look at how we’ve affected employment over the past five years:

Study: MEP Services make Small Manufacturers More Likely to Survive

A recent study published in Economic Development Quarterly shows that American manufacturing businesses were more productive between 1997 and 2007 and more likely to survive if they received business assistance services from the Manufacturing Extension Partnership.

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.

CIRAS Networking: A New Focus in 2018

As the old saying goes, it’s not what you know but who you know.

Thanks to Google, online forums, and social networking sites, a lot of people will tell you that old saying is out of date. Our experience at CIRAS is that it is more true than ever. Searching the web for solutions to problems is great, but sometimes it is the personal connection that makes it real, and helps you implement real change within your business.

Season’s Greetings from CIRAS

Hope you and yours have a joyous holiday season. Here’s a message from our director:

New CIRAS Funding ‘Embeds’ Iowa Manufacturers in Major Industrial Research

AMES, IA – Iowa manufacturers now have improved access to future advancements in chemical and biochemical manufacturing because of a new grant awarded to Iowa State University’s Center for Industrial Research and Service (CIRAS) and the Iowa State Bioeconomy Institute.

The award, which comes as part of a nationwide pilot project to embed ground-level manufacturing experts in the middle of ongoing major research, is designed to build a bridge between small- to medium-sized American factories and the scientists who work at 15 major research institutes, known collectively as Manufacturing USA.

Clark Boats Uses GSA Schedule to Buoy Government Sales

Kristy Carrier looked around one day and realized she was drowning.

CIRAS’ Second Annual Iowa Holiday Gift Guide

We make some really cool things in Iowa.

Most of them (like a robotic system from Acieta) aren’t very practical gifts. But when you produce as much as we do here in Iowa, there are tons of great gifts.

American Coating and Welding Growing Rapidly—With CIRAS by Its Side

CIRAS government contracting specialist Andy Alexander was eating breakfast in downtown Onawa one morning in 2014 when he suddenly came face-to-face with the aspirations of a Monona County sheriff’s deputy.

“He walked in and wanted to know if that was my government car out there,” Alexander recalls. “I thought he was going to give me a ticket.”

CIRAS Helps Clarion Packaging with Search for Sturdier Future

A major manufacturer of egg flats and fast-food drink carriers has turned to CIRAS for help with the next phase of improving its business.

Clarion Packaging—a 100-employee plant in Clarion, Iowa, with a sister facility in Brook, Indiana—first approached CIRAS roughly two years ago for help achieving food safety certification. The company now is working with CIRAS to test its product quality and plan for the future.

Thousands Commemorate ‘MFG Day’ – with Talks, Tours, Walking Tacos

For Eric Cook, national Manufacturing Day was a chance to show 40 high school vocational students what the future may hold.

“They get exposure,” Cook said. “Just seeing what’s out there, seeing what the job takes, what it’s really like out on the shop floor.”

Good Strategic Planning Starts with a SWOT

Usually, when you’re trying to take a cold, hard look at your future, it’s best to do it with fresh eyes.

That, according to Greg Ervin, is partly why Marion-based Timberline Manufacturing Co. has been working with CIRAS to plan the company’s best path to growth. Timberline, a maker of wire harnesses, control panels, and custom electronics that is now in its fifth year as an employee-owned business, approached CIRAS roughly a year ago seeking help with mapping the next portion of its future.

Iowans Enjoy Manufacturing Day

For Eric Cook, national Manufacturing Day is a chance to show 40 high school vocational students what the future may hold.

“Number one, they get exposure – just seeing what’s out there, seeing what the job takes, what it’s really like out on the shop floor,” Cook said. “They’re high schoolers. They haven’t been exposed to a lot of that.”

Get Ready for Final Two Future of Manufacturing Events

CIRAS is excited for our final two events in our 2017 Future of Manufacturing series – dealing with two critical components of how manufacturing is changing – leadership and automation.

Faces of Iowa Industry: Jim Long (Cline Tool)

From time to time, CIRAS likes to tell you a little bit about some of the people who make Iowa business better.

Jim Long worked his way up from a regional salesman to become the president and CEO of Cline Tool in Newton. He believes in hiring good people, and he’d like to see more good businesses coming to Iowa.

Food Companies Seek CIRAS’ Help Analyzing Gaps in Food Safety

Ron Petersen thought he had it right, but he wasn’t sure.

Petersen, owner of Summertime Potato Company in Des Moines, sought CIRAS’ help last year to make certain that his company was in compliance with the U.S. Food Safety Modernization Act (FSMA), a sweeping 2011 law that gave the FDA new powers to prevent foodborne illness.

Cox, O’Donnell jointly named “Manufacturing Champions”

CIRAS’ top two administrators have been honored by the Iowa Association of Business and Industry (ABI) for their work trumpeting Iowa manufacturing.

CIRAS Director Ron Cox and program director Mike O’Donnell, head of CIRAS’ Manufacturing Extension Partnership, jointly received ABI’s Manufacturing Champion Award at a dinner for Iowa business leaders on Tuesday.

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.

New CIRAS’ Tool Shows Food Makers Where to Start in Controlling Contamination

Angela Shaw stood smiling in a room full of food industry safety experts last month and compared the process they were practicing to visiting a family clinic.

“Just like when you go to the doctor,” said Shaw, an assistant professor of food safety in Iowa State University’s Department of Food Science and Human Nutrition. “They ask you a series of questions, and at the end they go, ‘I think I know what’s wrong with you.’ ”

In this case, the questions pertained not (directly) to human health but to the safety of food manufacturing machines.

Back to School means MFG Day is right around the corner. Sign up.

It’s that time of year again.

School is back in session. Students are flooding classrooms either out of a thirst for knowledge or because their parents threatened them. However they enter, the same question is beginning to wander through each of their minds.

“What am I going to do with my life?”

Make sure you register for the ABI Advanced Manufacturing Conference! 

If you find yourself wondering “what’s next” for Iowa manufacturers, make sure you attend the Iowa Association of Business and Industry (ABI) Advanced Manufacturing Conference on September 20. 

 Mariposa Farms Sprouting New Levels of Manufacturing Expertise

Success sort of snuck up on Dave and Denise Conkling. Their business sprouted and grew, until one day it seemed to have grown beyond their control.

“We started really small, and we just managed everything ourselves,” said Dave Conkling, owner of Mariposa Farms. “We were looking at the business one way, because we had this 20-something years of experience. When CIRAS came in, they could look through different eyes, and it became clear to them what we needed to do.”

USM Wear Technologies—Building Tougher Tillage Tools with Help from ISU

For years, Loran Balvanz’s company has made money selling tougher, longer-lasting equipment to the people who grind garbage and recyclables for a living.

Now, the same technology may be poised to revolutionize how farmers till fields.

ICYMI: Site Selection Magazine notices CIRAS & Iowa’s ‘Year of Manufacturing’

The July edition of Site Selection Magazine gave national notice to Iowa’s “Year of Manufacturing” initiative.

The article, entitled “How to make $3 billion,” describes Iowa’s belief in the importance of advanced manufacturing and provides details of how industry and governmental leaders (including CIRAS) are working to improve it.

CIRAS to Manufacturers: What do you need?

Our mission here at CIRAS is to enhance the performance of industry in Iowa through applied research, education, and technical assistance. We can’t do that in a vacuum, so we put a lot of effort into understanding what Iowa manufacturers need to help them compete globally. 

CIRAS Helps Frog Legs Smoothly Transition to Carbon Fiber Wheelchair Wheels

An Iowa manufacturer of wheelchair wheels and caster forks has begun selling stronger and lighter versions of those products—thanks partly to CIRAS’ help in testing and refining what the company describes as “the world’s first carbon fiber wheel set.”

Ottumwa-based Frog Legs Inc., which has sold aluminum wheelchair wheels and suspensions since 1997, began selling a new carbon fiber version of its products earlier this year.

Faces of Iowa Industry –  Freda Sojka (Simply Soothing)

Every so often, CIRAS likes to take a moment and tell you a little bit about the people who make Iowa businesses better:

Freda Sojka was already retired when she turned her Columbus Junction candle shop into a popular maker of all-natural bug repellent. Here’s what’s buzzing through her mind:

State of the State: Looking for Clues to Competitiveness in Iowa’s Manufacturing Wages

Wage levels both reflect and influence the competitiveness of Iowa’s manufacturing sector. The average manufacturing worker in Iowa earned $42,470 in 2015, about 86 percent of the national average. Accounting for Iowa’s lower cost of living improves the picture, boosting the state’s pay on a price parity basis to 95 percent of the U.S. average.

The pay differential* for Iowa’s manufacturing workers varies by the type of work they perform. Iowa’s average production worker, for example, earns 104 percent of the average U.S. production worker’s wage. Iowa‘s engineering-related workers average just 90 cents for every dollar earned by their national peers.

This article demonstrates how closer attention to wage distributions might inform the state’s innovation and workforce attraction/retention efforts. For our example, we classify Iowa and U.S. manufacturing jobs along two dimensions: occupation and inferred skill or experience level. Nine occupational groups are considered, which together account for 95 percent of all manufacturing jobs.

Iowa Program Helps Companies Afford Some Added Expertise—By Adding Interns

Interns at ALMACO get much more than an overview of the company’s custom-built agricultural equipment. They become part of the team.

Brian Carr, ALMACO’s vice president of engineering, said student employees at the Nevada-based company get directly involved in completing projects—from initial design, through problem-solving challenges, to the eventual result.

CIRAS Assisting Effort to Improve Iowa’s Targeted Small Business Program

Iowa officials are working to streamline and improve a state preference program for small businesses to make it easier to understand and quicker for companies to access.

ISU Solar Car, with CIRAS-printed Parts, now Touring Iowa to Prep for Outback

Members of Iowa State University’s PrISUm solar car team are heading to Australia this fall for the team’s first-ever international competition.

When they go, they’ll be competing in a vehicle that includes several parts constructed by CIRAS.

Digital Manufacturing is coming. Get ready.

Do you hear terms like “digital manufacturing,” “Industry 4.0,” and “Internet of Things,” but wonder how any of those things could actually impact your company? Are you sensing that something is coming but uncertain of what it all means? 

 CIRAS wants to help. 

Faces of Iowa Industry: Joe Meier (Geater Machining & Manufacturing Co.)

Every so often (starting now), CIRAS intends to take a moment and tell you a little bit about the people who make Iowa businesses better:

Joe Meier started out as a sea-savvy machinist and worked his way to becoming vice president of operations for fast-growing Geater Machining & Manufacturing Co. in Independence.  Below you’ll find his secret to success and what he’d improve about Iowa industry if he could.

 Gross-Wen Technologies: Using Algae to Clean City Sewage

A pioneering enterprise formed to treat municipal and industrial wastewater with algae hopes to launch into large-scale operation this summer with construction of its first functional, city-sized test facility in Dallas Center, Iowa.

Gross-Wen Technologies, a company launched by Iowa State University researcher Martin Gross and professor Zhiyou Wen, has been working for roughly two years on plans to turn its discoveries into a two-pronged business. The Gross-Wen approach uses tanks of wastewater, vertical conveyor belts, and a special biofilm to grow and harvest the algae. Once water treatment is complete, the algae can be scraped off the belts and sold as a fertilizer, effectively subsidizing the cost of running a large-scale treatment system.7

Iowa Officially Launches Year of Manufacturing

 Former Gov. Terry Branstad, Governor Kim Reynolds and a host of other Iowa governmental and business leaders recently unveiled a plan to boost Iowa factories during a “Year of Manufacturing.”

The Year of Manufacturing initiative, which was announced in January during Branstad’s Condition of the State address, is designed to be a 12-month, concentrated focus on improving Iowa’s manufacturing Gross Domestic Product. Led by the Iowa Economic Development Authority (IEDA), the Iowa Association of Business and Industry (ABI) and CIRAS, business leaders plan to fan out across the state to visit with companies and make certain that each firm is aware of the resources available to help them improve.

Hitting the road for the holiday? Plenty of summer is Made in Iowa

Since Memorial Day is the unofficial start of summer, CIRAS wanted to share some of our favorite Iowa-made summer products:

A Sample of CIRAS Knowledge

CIRAS’ mission is to improve Iowa industry through research-proven best practices. To do that, we have to stay up-to-date on what’s out there and what works.

Here’s a wrap-up of just some of the things we’ve learned over the past year:

For Success,“Future of Manufacturing” includes Understanding 3D Printing

Iowa industry professionals have the chance to get a close-up peak at cutting-edge technology next month when CIRAS hosts a daylong event on “3D Printing’s Current and Future Impacts on Manufacturing.”

The June 8 event in Ames is intended to explain how this disruptive technology has evolved from its initial use as a prototyping process and how it’s likely to drive change in your business.

CIRAS to Iowa Manufacturers: Tell us Your Needs

So, how to you feel about the future of Iowa manufacturing? What’s your greatest worry about the future of your industry? Are you ready to meet the challenges ahead?

CIRAS will be asking all these questions and more as part of a wide-ranging survey that will launch in June. The survey, along with some in-depth company panel discussions, is part of a regular process CIRAS uses to assess the needs of Iowa manufacturers.

Clock Ticking to Make Transition to ISO 9001:2015

Iowa’s ISO-certified manufacturers face a looming deadline that many aren’t completely ready for, experts say.

Remember that change in the ISO certification requirements that you’ve been ignoring for two years? It’s going to become mandatory beginning September 2018 – so now is the time for to start getting serious.

“Most Iowa manufacturers have been procrastinating,” said CIRAS project manager Rudy Pruszko. “I don’t know of anybody who’s completely switched over to the 2015 standard, but a lot of them are now working on it.”

Iowa Vendor Conference Answers Questions, Offers Guidance

Mark Baker eventually concluded that government contracting was worth a shot.

No, the CEO of Des Moines-based Endless Supplies Corporation acknowledged, it was probably not going to become his company’s primary business strategy. Becker still has difficulty reconciling the fast-moving, products-always-changing world of information technology with sometimes-lengthy government procurement processes. But after a full day at the Iowa Events Center last fall spent hopping between educational presentations and asking questions of the speakers, Becker concluded that Endless Supplies ought to at least get certified so his company can show that it’s ready and able to do business with the government.

CIRAS joins with American Welding Society (Iowa) to host Successful Seminar

A partnership between the American Welding Society’s Iowa Section and CIRAS’ problem-solving metallurgists led to record attendance at an April event aimed at educating engineers about the best ways to design long-lasting products.

Iowa’s Governor Officially Launches ‘Year of Manufacturing’ Initiative

 Gov. Terry Branstad, Lt. Governor Kim Reynolds and a host of other Iowa governmental and business leaders have unveiled a plan to boost Iowa factories during a “Year of Manufacturing.”

The Year of Manufacturing initiative, which was announced in January during Branstad’s Condition of the State address, is designed to be a 12-month, concentrated focus on improving Iowa’s manufacturing Gross Domestic Product. Led by the Iowa Economic Development Authority (IEDA), the Iowa Association of Business and Industry (ABI) and CIRAS, business leaders plan to fan out across the state to visit with companies and make certain that each firm is aware of the resources available to help them improve.

CIRAS Helps Frog Legs Make Smooth Transition to Carbon Fiber Wheelchair Wheels

An Iowa manufacturer of wheelchair wheels and caster forks has begun selling stronger and lighter versions of those products—thanks partly to CIRAS’ help in testing and refining what the company describes as “the world’s first carbon fiber wheel set.”

Ottumwa-based Frog Legs Inc., which has sold aluminum wheelchair wheels and suspensions since 1997, began selling a new carbon fiber version of its products earlier this year.

CIRAS Assessment Finds That Iowa Manufacturers Need Strategy, Technology Help

Iowa manufacturers need help developing strategies, exploring new markets, implementing proven ways of dealing with workforce constraints, and wielding technology as a competitive advantage.

New EDM Will Help Students, CIRAS Additive Manufacturing Projects

Iowa State University students have gained even more valuable experience with manufacturing technology thanks to CIRAS’ recent purchase of an electrical discharge machine (EDM).

‘MFG Day’ Means Iowans Learning about Manufacturing

Thanks to CIRAS and its partners, more than 8,000 Iowans ended October with a greater appreciation for the people who make a living making things.

PyroGraphics Resets Its Future with a Little CIRAS Assistance

Everything seemed to be going great, Dan Svec recalls, until the first hints of a recession appeared and began to expose the weaknesses at PyroGraphics.

In 2008, the West Des Moines printing company, which specializes in business promotional items and souvenirs, was starting to struggle in a declining economy in which most promotion had stopped. By 2012, when the company discovered CIRAS, the end was very much in sight.

CIRAS, IADG Testing New Way to Expand Industry in Iowa

 A 40,000-square-foot building on a nine-acre industrial site in eastern Spencer, Iowa, has become the testing ground for a new initiative in rural economic development—with CIRAS playing a large role.

Report-Out: CIRAS’ first Future of Manufacturing event shows the Future is Near

On January 24th, we at CIRAS hosted our first Future of Manufacturing event, focused on how Augmented and Virtual Reality are changing manufacturing. Experts from Mechdyne, ISU Mechanical Engineering, Newport News Shipbuilding, and Daqri gave an update on current and next generation technologies that are beginning to change manufacturing around the globe. 

Here are our four key takeaways from that event:

Iowa State Career Fairs Let Companies, Students Share Stories

Hundreds of companies will again flock to the Iowa State University campus next week for a twice-yearly ritual focused, on both sides of the handshakes, at quickly forging as many relationships as possible.

CIRAS SERVICE HIGHLIGHT: Digital Manufacturing

It’s here.

We’ve heard the terms thrown around for years: Industry 4.0, Connected Machines, Internet of Things, Industrial Internet. Very quietly, this has all become real – your best customers, competitors, and suppliers have built digital capabilities that change the way they do business. At CIRAS, we group all this effort under the term Digital Manufacturing, defined as the ability to connect different parts of the manufacturing life cycle through data, and to utilize that information to make smarter, more efficient business decisions (source: DMDII). 

For those of you that are asking “Does this apply to me?”, the answer is simple: Yes.

State of the State – by Liesl Eathington

A previous “State of the State” explored growth in Iowa’s young worker population and the fact that production jobs are a declining fraction of the opportunities available to them. The breadth of those opportunities—or at least workers’ perceptions of what opportunities exist in the labor market—can be glimpsed in trends for post-secondary education.

U.S. Dept. of Commerce partners with CIRAS to help Iowa Manufacturers

AMES, Iowa – Iowa manufacturers are projected to receive up to $37 million in research-based, business-improving services over the next 10 years after U.S. Dept. of Commerce officials on Friday moved to renew the department’s longstanding relationship with Iowa State University’s Center for Industrial Research and Service (CIRAS).

The award means CIRAS will continue to serve as Iowa’s affiliate of the National Institute for Standards and Technology’s (NIST) Manufacturers Extension Partnership (MEP), a nationwide network of centers created to enhance the performance of U.S. manufacturing. Through this partnership, CIRAS will continue providing services to help small- to mid-sized manufacturers improve their businesses and will add new services to help all Iowa manufacturers navigate rapidly changing technologies and business models.

Mergers Point to Major Success for Innovative Iowa Companies

Three major business deals involving some of Iowa’s most innovative and best-run firms in their fields should send a strong message to other Iowa companies, CIRAS believes: innovation combined with strong business skills reaps substantial reward. The owners of Harrisvaccines, Harvest Innovations, and Hagie Manufacturing all agreed over the past year to sell major portions … Continue reading Mergers Point to Major Success for Innovative Iowa Companies

Health Insurance—A Prescription for Fear among Iowa Manufacturers

Iowa manufacturers’ single largest fear, according to a CIRAS survey, is the looming cost of employee health care. And the worry appears to be well placed.

“If you are a private employer in Iowa, you have reason to be concerned,” said Mark Becker, a Johnston-based employer benefits consultant. “There are far more questions than answers right now. On large insurance, there’s really no place to run.”

Frustrated? Don’t hide. Consider last-minute, Iowa-made Holiday gifts.

In need of some last minute gift ideas? We’ve put together a short list of Iowa-manufactured products that make great gifts!  

Why Iowa Firms Should Find Their Way to Manufacturing USA

By Mike O’Donnell

At this very moment, the future of American manufacturing is being written at nine specially linked institutes fueled by $2.1 billion from the U.S. government, research universities, and hundreds of American companies.

It’s known as the National Network of Manufacturing Innovation (NNMI) – or, following a rebranding campaign launched in mid-September, as “Manufacturing USA.” If you aren’t familiar with it, you should begin educating yourself as soon as possible. Because your ability to compete could change dramatically, depending on the work taking place there and how quickly you’re willing and/or able to embrace it.

CIRAS 3D Printer Builds a Foundation for Future Success, more Stable Cheerleaders

A trailblazing exploration of metal additive manufacturing as a new way for Iowa companies to make tooling could soon reap rewards in terms of cheerleaders with better balance.

American Athletic Inc., a Jefferson, Iowa-based sports equipment manufacturer, plans to launch a new product this fall aimed at helping high school and college cheerleaders around the country find a safer way to strengthen leg muscles and learn the kind of balance necessary for standing in someone’s hands. American Athletic describes its new EliteTM Cheer Stand as a safer, closer-to-the-floor way for cheerleaders to train. The product, which also was tested by Iowa State University cheerleaders, includes multiple plastic parts produced by Ottumwa-based Angstrom Precision Molding—using a mold built by CIRAS’ metal 3D printer.

Plastics Unlimited — A Family Business Positioned for many Possibilities

Perhaps the best way to think about the Kieffer family is to picture them with fishing poles, staring longingly into a lake. The owners of Preston, Iowa-based Plastics Unlimited seem ready, and they talk as if dinner is inevitable.

CIRAS Helps Nonprofits Improve, Continue to Provide Jobs

 Loy Van’t Hul believes one of the keys for Double HH Manufacturing is a focus on getting the job done.

“We provide quality products for a wide range of industries, and who we use as an operator, whether that person has a disability or not, shouldn’t make a difference,” said Van’t Hul, Double HH’s director of manufacturing operations.

Double HH (a subsidiary of the broader Rock Valley-based Hope Haven Inc.) is one of a half-dozen CIRAS clients who exist both as nonprofit companies and as vocational rehabilitation firms, using physically or intellectually disabled workers to provide products or services.

CIRAS wraps up month-long “MFG Day” with Pizza, PowerPoint

Thanks to CIRAS and its partners, an estimated 8,000 or more Iowans ended October with a higher appreciation for the people who make a living making things.

School children, parents and community leaders attended a total of 149 events in October to commemorate national Manufacturing Day – an annual October 7 industry celebration that Iowa stretches into month-long educational opportunity.

CCUR Director Celebrates a Year “On the Edge of Where Science Is”

Kevin Keener sees enormous potential in the innovative projects taking root at Iowa State University’s Center for Crops Utilization Research (CCUR).

Keener, now entering his second year as CCUR’s director, describes research­ers seeking to use fermentation and chemical changes to crop by-products to create plastics or adhesives. Sci­entists also are studying how to cre­ate oil-based materials out of natural components. And roughly 100 companies annually, most focused on food and feed production and food safety, are work­ing on projects in CCUR’s on-campus pilot-scale processing spaces or at the CCUR-managed BioCentury Research Farm outside Ames.

Manufacturing Day (Month) 2016: Iowa Students Discover the Possibilities

Shelly Vanyo smiled happily as her science and engineering students milled around a Boone High School classroom ogling various tiny machine parts made inside a metal 3D printer at Iowa State University.

Mission accomplished. They students were excited, and their teacher was pleased.

Upcoming CIRAS Innovation Summit Puts the Focus on Food

A program aimed at boosting Iowa industry one sector at a time will turn its attention to food next month.

CIRAS staffers are now finalizing the details for a November 15 innovation summit in Ames focused on the needs of food, beverage, feed, and grain processors. Similar to previous summits, the day-long event will include a morning session with short, interactive, technology presentations followed by an afternoon session in a tradeshow-like environment. Organizers say this format allows participants to learn about key technologies, then develop specific plans around how to implement them in their businesses.

CIRAS Strategy Coach Helps Facilitate Answers, Action

There are countless paths that a company can take in pursuit of growing revenue and increasing profitability. Every decision made along the way tends to matter: Should you invest in equipment upgrades, employee training, new technology, or better marketing? Should you push for better quality or new product features? How different are you, really, from your competitors? How do you identify and successfully navigate your most effective strategic path?

Iowa State Seeks to Educate Companies on Looming Food Law

Think of it as an impending explosion in the dark: It’s coming at some point. It may be a time bomb or a firecracker. You don’t know how big, or how close to you,  the eventual bang will be.

You probably ought to find out.

Experts say that’s roughly the current situation in Iowa’s food companies, many of whom can expect within months to feel the first full weight of important new federal safety regulations. A 2011 law called the U.S. Food Safety Modernization Act (FSMA) gave the FDA new powers to prevent outbreaks of foodborne disease. But the impact of new rules was largely delayed as authorities constructed complex standards and procedures.

CIRAS has Economic Impact of $424 million for 2015; $2 Billion over five years

AMES, Iowa  –  The numbers are in, and they continue to show a strong value received by Iowa businesses who have built a relationship with Iowa State University.

Upper Iowa Tool & Die Adds Innovation — One Layer at a Time

A Cresco tool-and-die maker’s search for diversification has led the company, with CIRAS’ help, to stake out new territory as what may be the first Iowa business of its kind to produce parts for customers via additive manufacturing.

Upper Iowa Tool & Die & Innovations, founded in 1978, purchased a new plastic-based 3-D printer earlier this year after conversations with CIRAS convinced the company to aim higher in its search for a way to differentiate from competitors. Since mid-April, Upper Iowa has been pitching its additive manufacturing capability both to new clients and as an add-on for services to existing customers.

State of the State – by Liesl Eathington

No discussion of Iowa’s workforce is complete without acknowledging the intense competition for workers among Iowa communities. As the state’s industrial structure diversifies, its occupational mix diversifies as well. That translates, in some communities, to a shrinking pool of available workers for manufacturing firms and other companies with specialized needs. Employers in small communities, drawing … Continue reading State of the State – by Liesl Eathington

Quad Cities Manufacturing Innovation Hub = Outreach with a Plan

Curt Burnett sees his job two ways: he is both the pilot of a “connection machine” and a regional navigator, charting a long-range course toward the future for Quad Cities manufacturing.

The complicated part is that Burnett, executive director of the relatively new Quad Cities Manufacturing Innovation Hub, is doing both things while the machine is still being built.

CIRAS DIGEST: Wednesday, June 1, 2015

Happy Wednesday. Today, the Digest dumps a whole slew of deep thinking on you regarding the relationship between automation and American manufacturing jobs. The topic (likely Trump-driven) seemed to be on a lot of minds in the past few weeks.

Here’s where you can read about it:

Upper Iowa Tool & Die Adds Innovation – One Layer at a Time

A Cresco tool-and-die maker’s search for diversification has led the company, with CIRAS’ help, to stake out new territory as what may be the first Iowa business of its kind to produce parts for customers via additive manufacturing.

Upper Iowa Tool & Die & Innovations, founded in 1978, purchased a new plastic-based 3-D printer earlier this year after conversations with CIRAS convinced the company to aim higher in its search for a way to differentiate from competitors. Since mid-April, Upper Iowa has been pitching its additive manufacturing capability both to new clients and as an add-on for services to existing customers.

CIRAS DIGEST: Friday, May 13, 2016

Happy Friday. Today we bring you news of interest if you’re a taxpaying business in or around Des Moines and various takes on a potential manufacturing PR issue in terms of the industry’s impact on taxpayers as a whole.

Here’s where you find the information:

CIRAS DIGEST: Friday, May 6, 2016

Happy Friday. Due to a dearth of decent news, Digest has been saving its powder over the past week. But we’ve somehow managed to nevertheless compile a list of important items for you to ponder before you venture out for the weekend. Lots of deep thinking on U.S. trade policy and Iowa Economic Development policy, as well as some hints at good old fashioned manufacturing “hubris.”

Enjoy. Here’s what we think you might want to know:

CIRAS DIGEST: Friday, April 29, 2016

Happy Friday. Very little of real news in this batch of Digest. But alas, much, much deep thinking.

Here’s where you can find it:

CIRAS DIGEST: Friday, April 22, 2016

Happy Friday. Very little in the way of breaking news in today’s Digest, but we’ve got a whole heap of background issue on a variety of issues.

So here’s where you go if you feel the urge to study up:

CIRAS DIGEST: Tuesday, April 19, 2016

Happy Tuesday. Today we bring you news involving workers, retirements and, as always, some meditation on the general state of manufacturing in America. Plus, a reference to beer.

Here’s where you find the details:

CIRAS DIGEST: Friday, April 15, 2016

Happy Friday and Happy Tax Day! Today’s highly deductible Digest spans a number of related topics – from wind and politicians to manufacturing productivity and robots.

Here’s where you can read about it all:

CIRAS DIGEST: Monday, April 11, 2016

Happy Monday. Today’s DIGEST installment includes the full circuit of industry issues – the state of American manufacturing, the state of America’s skilled workforce, and the state of Iowa’s efforts to recruit more businesses to come be a part of it. Also, there’s a bit of talk about 3D-printed robots.

Here’s where you find all the details:

CIRAS DIGEST: Tuesday, April 5, 2016

Happy Tuesday. Today’s Digest includes more manufacturing statistics, with a little immigration policy thrown in for variety.

Here are the details:

CIRAS DIGEST: Friday, April 1, 2016

Happy Friday. Today, we have positive manufacturing news to report (and no, that is not an April Fool’s attempt at trickery), as well as a few other items to keep on your longer-term radar screen.

Here’s where you can find the information:

CIRAS DIGEST: Tuesday, March 29, 2016

Happy Tuesday. Today’s digest includes another round of debate over the health of American manufacturing. Plus, a reason to go to the casino this weekend.

Here’s where you can find all the information:

CIRAS DIGEST: Friday, March 25, 2016

Happy Friday. Today’s installment of your handy guide to industry news you might have missed includes a lot of bad manufacturing news, a few (newspaper-published) pointers from a CIRAS peer, and a website mocking tweets from an Iowa member of Congress not named Grassley.

Here’s where you can read all about it:

CIRAS DIGEST: Tuesday, March 22, 2016

Happy Tuesday. Today’s Digest features “Yuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuge” amounts of information about Donald Trump, manufacturing, and where the two intersect. Also, a little Iowa politics and economic news.

Here’s where you find the details:

CIRAS DIGEST: Tuesday, March 15, 2015

Happy Tuesday. Beware the Ides of March, for today’s Digest has a lot of manufacturing news to wrap up, including a bunch of presidential candidate talking and some attempts (not by presidential candidates) at instructional journalism.

Here’s where to start the learning:

CIRAS DIGEST: Tuesday, March 8, 2016

Happy Tuesday. Today’s Digest includes a lot of manufacturing prognostication – including by the Chinese.

Here’s where you can find the details:

CIRAS DIGEST: Wednesday, March 2, 2016

Happy Wednesday. Today brings bad economic news — well, at least not great economic news. What we have is more like a mixture of economic interpretations. Also, another story about how 3-D printing is cool.

Here’s where you can find it all: 

CIRAS DIGEST: Friday, February 26, 2016

Happy Friday. Today we have some bright-ish economic news, a shout out to tech pioneers in the flyover states. All this and a teensy bit more.

Here’s where you find it:

Technology Assistance Program: A new Name in CIRAS Problem Solving

 It might be a step too far to call Sears Manufacturing’s problem a pain in the backside. But the evasive and mysterious cause behind an ongoing problem with a purchased component used in the company’s vehicle seat suspension certainly proved annoying—until Sears called upon members of CIRAS’ Technology Assistance Program (TAP).

The result? An in-depth analysis of cracked air compressors that early this year will lead to a design change on the pneumatically controlled seats that Sears, a 160-year-old Davenport firm, makes for construction and agriculture equipment around the country.

CIRAS DIGEST: Wednesday, February 17, 2016

Happy Wednesday. Today’s Digest features plenty of CIRAS news, as well as some gloomy economics and some potential job opportunities.

Here’s where you find it all:

CIRAS Officially Cuts the Ribbon on its new Metal 3-D Printer

The future of manufacturing officially opened for business last week (at least symbolically) when Iowa State University College of Engineering Dean Sarah Rajala used a set of 3-D-printed scissors to cut the ribbon on CIRAS’ new metal laser sintering machine.

CIRAS Digest: Wednesday, February 10, 2016

Happy Wednesday. There are two main takeaways from today’s Digest – Manufacturing employment is up, and we have the (decent) economy to blame for the current political sideshows.

Here where you can read about it:

CIRAS DIGEST: Friday, February 5, 2016

Happy Friday. Today’s Digest is the only place on the Internet today (we’re guessing) where you can find one page dealing with Donald Trump, farmland prices, Chinese manufacturing and refrigerators who talk to the rest of your appliances.

Here’s where you can find the details:

CIRAS Digest: Monday, February 1, 2016

Happy Monday. Today’s Digest installment includes one final round of Iowa analysis from the caucus media hordes, plus a few interesting tidbits and some general crystal ball gazing.

Here’s where you can find it, while you worry about the snow:

CIRAS DIGEST: Tuesday, January 26, 2016

Happy Tuesday.  Politics, indexes, wage subsidies and replacement chickens. These are the chief topics we find on CIRAS news wires today.

Here’s where you can find it all:

CIRAS Helps Cline Tool Assess and Enhance Safety, OSHA Compliance

Sometimes, you just want to know.

Cline Tool, based in Newton, recently completed a 15-month project with CIRAS to evaluate its safety plans and procedures. The result? Cline now has a new Safety Committee to address safety procedures, processes, and compliance moving forward. And its Board of Directors is much more confident after being reassured that Cline has a strong program in place that meets OSHA requirements.

CIRAS DIGEST: Friday, January 22, 2016

Happy Friday. Today’s collection of Stuff We Find Interesting includes some politics, some gloomy economic forecasting and many, many words about how cool Des Moines is (now).

Here’s where you can find it all:

CIRAS DIGEST: Wednesday, January 20, 2016

Happy Wednesday.  We assume you’re up-to-date on all things Sarah Palin. But we’ve got a few additional caucus-y tidbits, as well as some 3D printing and a good old fashioned courtroom fight in the making.

Here’s where you can find the details:

CIRAS DIGEST: Tuesday, January 12, 2016

Happy Tuesday. Today’s Digest offers a bit of happy fatalism, with articles that describe horrible economic news alongside bright outlooks for the future. At least the caucuses will be over soon….

Here’s where you can find what you need to know:

CIRAS Digest: Tuesday, January 5, 2016

Happy Tuesday. CIRAS Digest returns from holiday vacation this week with a slightly thicker waistline and a pile of gloomy prognostication to peruse.

Here’s where you can find all the details:

WORKFORCE: If They Won’t Come, Build It—With a Robot

The evolution of manufacturing is occurring bit by bit across Iowa—including, among other places, at a metal door factory in Mason City.

Curries, part of the Sweden-based ASSA ABLOY Group, is where roughly 490 production workers go each day to produce steel doors and frames.Since 2012, the company has been working steadily to automate the final phase of its door-handling process—a manual labor-intense procedure that tends to spawn high turnover and can cause the kind of muscle injuries that are common in an aging workforce.

CIRAS Manufacturing Leadership Program Helps Companies Find their Next Generation

CIRAS’ first Manufacturing Leadership Program was broad, educational, and useful, according to the newly graduated Martina Bockenstedt, general manager for FarmTek and Growers Supply.

“It offered everything from finance and marketing to more of the leadership skills,” she said. “I could glean something from every one of them.”

CIRAS Digest: Friday, December 18, 2015

Happy Friday. Today, CIRAS Digest offers a mix of manufacturing pessimism and…  No, there’s no mix. It’s just pessimism – plus, a presidential candidate who thinks manufacturing is wonderful.

Here’s where you find the details:

CIRAS Planning March Innovation Summit for Metal Fabricators

Planning is now under way for CIRAS’ next campaign to focus its industrial and economic expertise on projects for the benefit of a large Iowa manufacturing subsector.

A total of 102 people from 55 organizations took part in two previous Innovations Summits arranged by CIRAS in spring 2014 and spring 2015 under a five-year effort funded by the United States Economic Development Administration’s University Center Program. The events, focused on bringing new technologies to businesses in the plastics and machinery manufacturing sectors, spawned upgrades and innovations that led to $1.5 million in new or retained sales for the participating companies and more than $184,000 in various cost savings to date.

CIRAS DIGEST: Tuesday, December 15, 2015

Happy Tuesday. Iowa Gov. Terry Branstad is now the longest serving governor in Iowa. Polls say Republican presidential candidate Ted Cruz is on the rise. And Los Angles closed schools today in the face of an alleged terror threat.

But none of that has much to do with industry. So here are a few other random things that we thought you might like to know about:

CIRAS DIGEST: Friday, December 11, 2015

Happy Friday. We take you into the weekend with a lot of talk about China and chambers, plus a bit about German shoes.

Here’s where you find the details:

CIRAS Helps American Pop Corn Company Overcome Industry Challenges

The maker of JOLLY TIME® Pop Corn turned 100 last year, but with eyes focused as much on the future as on the past.

Consortium Hopes Better Packaging Will Help Companies Cut Costs, Increase Sales, Improve Sustainability

Keith Vorst doesn’t think outside the box so much as he thinks about the box—and how it affects everything around it.

Vorst, an associate professor in Iowa State University’s Department of Food Science and Human Nutrition, also is director of the university’s new Polymer and Food Protection Consortium. He has spent the last year working to build a national center for packaging research and expertise—a place where companies in Iowa and elsewhere can go to assess the design, safety, function, and value of the packaging that envelops their products.

CIRAS DIGEST: Tuesday, December 8, 2015

Happy Tuesday.  Not much to report today in the world of industry information, other than various versions of the fact that “the economy doesn’t look so hot.”

But here’s where you can find the enlightenment:

CIRAS Digest: Friday, December 4, 2015

Happy Friday. We’re ending a week full of manufacturing gloom alternating with insistence that it’s not really that bad. Plus, some positive tree news.

Here’s where to find it all:

CIRAS’ Metal Additive Manufacturing Machine on Campus, Being Prepped for Early 2016 Debut

Iowa industry leaders should be able to launch test projects early next year with a new metal 3-D printer that CIRAS has obtained to educate manufacturers about the enormous, groundbreaking possibilities of additive manufacturing technology.

CIRAS DIGEST: Monday, November 30, 2015

Happy Monday. Welcome back from the Holiday Weekend. CIRAS Digest today is making up for our tryptophan-induced hiatus on Friday by offering you this morning’s early, bonus look at what you might have missed during the Thanksgiving rush last week.

Here’s the run-down on what we could find:

CIRAS DIGEST: Friday, November 20, 2015

Happy Friday. This afternoon’s installment of your friendly neighborhood CIRAS Digest includes a little industry optimism, some manufacturing cheerleading and a warning (of sorts) not to expect much out of the state capitol next year.

Here’s where you can find all the details:

CIRAS DIGEST: Monday, November 11, 2015

Happy Monday. Today we have some gloomy financial numbers, a bit of political theater and some industry naval gazing.

Here’s where you can find it:

CIRAS Digest: Tuesday, November 10, 2015

Happy Tuesday. We’re a little all over the place this morning, with Medicaid news, electric car news and the economics of beef and apples.

Here is where you can find all the details:

CIRAS DIGEST: Friday, November 6, 2015

Happy Friday.  Today we have some high-profile awards, finger pointing and a mix of economic messages.

Here’s where you can find out more:

CIRAS DIGEST: Tuesday, November 3, 2015

Happy Tuesday. Today, we offer you a slew of economic outlooks, some political commentary and a story on somebody trying to get ahead of the 3-D printing revolution.

Here’s where you can find it all:

CIRAS DIGEST: Friday, October 30, 2015

Happy Friday. We’ll keep it short this week, because you have candy shopping to do.

Here are a few things it might be nice to know:

CIRAS DIGEST: Tuesday, October 27, 2015

Happy Tuesday. Today we’re spicing up our digest of the Internet’s industry-related news by including an update about  bacon defenders and a scandal-prone CEO in addition to the usual deep-thinking position papers.

Here’s where you can find it all:

CIRAS DIGEST: Friday, October 23, 2015

Happy Friday. Today’s survey of industry news contains pockets of problems, plus a lot of broad economic speculation today.

Here’s where you find all the details:

With Help from CIRAS, Dur-A-Lift Designs a New Home

A George, Iowa, manufacturer of farm equipment, scooters, and hydraulic lift equipment is ramping up production in a new 26,000-square-foot building that was designed, with CIRAS’ help, to take the entire operation to a higher level.

Diversified Technologies Inc. (DTI) traces its founding back to the 1888 blacksmith shop of a German immigrant. The company has evolved over the intervening decades to become a diverse corporate family that includes Sudenga Industries Inc. agricultural equipment, Ranger All-Season Electric Scooters, and the popular Dur-A-Lift line of mounted aerial lifts.

CIRAS DIGEST: Tuesday, October 20, 2015

Happy Tuesday. Industry news continues to be filled with accounts of the demise and/or resurgence of American factories. Today, we found two slightly different takes – plus a manufacturing tax break that might or might not be a brewing political battle in Iowa.

Here’s where you find the details:

CIRAS DIGEST: Friday, October 16, 2015

Happy Friday. Today, the Internet offers a little bit of everything when it comes to industry news. Tidbits include the fact that manufacturing in weak, that shoe-based innovation is still marching forward and that it’s hard to sell high-end Chinese liquor these days.

Here’s where you can find that and more:

CIRAS & SBDC Help Frozen Food Company Grow Rapidly

The numbers tell the story. In less than four years, Sisters Home Style Entrées went from preparing 200 frozen meals a month for families and individuals to roughly 41,000.

The one-woman, Humboldt, Iowa, company started by Deb Davis swelled to employing 37 people. And, with help from CIRAS and the Iowa Small Business Development Center (SBDC), it moved from a 2,500-square-foot facility to a new 30,000-square-foot manufacturing plant.

CIRAS DIGEST: Tuesday, October 13, 2015

Happy Tuesday.  Today’s mix of industry news collected from around the Internet includes two interesting accounts of producing local for local, plus some recently fixed “stupid” and an account of the roadtripping by Iowa’s economic PR arm.

Here’s where you find the details:

CIRAS DIGEST: Friday, October 9, 2015

Happy Friday. We have a decent-size collection of deep thinking today, from pondering the past to launching new planning documents.

Here’s where you can find all the details:

Iowans Turn Out in Droves to Celebrate Manufacturing Day

U.S. Manufacturing Day technically was Oct. 2. But thanks to a long list of organizers and promoters (including CIRAS, Elevate Iowa, Iowa State University Extension and Outreach, and community colleges around the state) the celebration in Iowa continues throughout the rest of October.

Accumold Proves Proficiency, Wins Business Thanks to CIRAS-arranged Tests

An Ankeny-based plastics injection molder landed new business and launched new growth after the firm was able to prove its capabilities via testing arranged last year at Iowa State University.

Accumold, a company that makes small plastic parts for a variety of technology and medical devices, announced plans in February for a $12 million expansion that will add 200 jobs at its Ankeny plant over the next three years.

CIRAS DIGEST: Tuesday, October 6, 2015

Happy Tuesday. A lot of manufacturing news, both good and pessimistic.

Here’s where to find it all:

CIRAS DIGEST: Friday, October 2, 2015

Happy Friday. And Happy Manufacturing Day, the start of an excellent opportunity for Iowans to learn more about the possibilities that come with a career in manufacturing.

Here’s what you need to know about Manufacturing Day and elsewhere:

NEWS RELEASE: Iowa Celebration of Manufacturing Day will cover all 99 Counties

AMES – An unprecedented and heavily coordinated educational campaign means Iowans throughout the state will have easy access in October to a wide variety of events touting the benefits of a career in manufacturing.
So far, more than 2,000 happenings have been scheduled across the U.S. to celebrate National Manufacturing Day on Oct. 2. Events such as factory tours and educational seminars will be held both on Friday and beyond in a bid to tout the extraordinary opportunities available in American manufacturing.

CIRAS DIGEST: Wednesday, September 30, 2015

Happy Wednesday. Today is the Iowa Association of Business and Industry’s Advanced Manufacturing Conference, and Friday is National Manufacturing Day.

Here are a few good places to start with all that learning:

CIRAS DIGEST: Friday, September 18, 2015

Happy Friday. Today’s crop of news tidbits includes a lot of looking forward, as well as a little looking backward to get the context on what’s going on right now.

Here’s where you look to find it:

Iowa State University Introduces Two New Online Master’s Degree Programs

ISU’s Engineering-LAS Online Learning recently launched new online master’s degree programs in engineering management and business analytics. Both are collaborative efforts with the Iowa State University College of Business.

CIRAS DIGEST: Tuesday, September 15, 2013

Happy Tuesday. We start with the Obama context, then move on to Etsy, economic forecasts and a little deep thinking about the future of metal additive manufacturing.

Here’s where to find all the details:

CIRAS DIGEST: Friday, September, 11, 2015

Happy Friday. The governor is gone. The farmers are worried. And, although no one is really rush to start using wearable electronics, there apparently are some uses that might make sense for Iowa manufacturing.

Here’s where you find all the details:

Expansion at ISU Research Park will Create Economic Development Hub

This time next year, CIRAS expects to be settling into brand new offices at the Iowa State University Research Park in a new building that will, for the first time, pull together most of Iowa State’s economic development services into a single location.

The new building, to be known as the Iowa State University Economic Development Core Facility, will anchor an area called “Hub Square”—the new main gathering space for the 400-acre research park.

CIRAS DIGEST: Tuesday, September 8, 2015

Happy Tuesday. Welcome back from the weekend. You don’t appear to have missed much – outside of a major publishing deal with Iowa implications and a few additional inklings about more fallout from consternation in China.

Here’s what we’re reading today:

CIRAS DIGEST: Friday, September 4, 2015

Happy Friday. More numbers out showing a slowing economy overall. A Forbes contributor is warning that higher wages will kill manufacturing jobs. But there’s a dude in Texas who’s launched a new manufacturing method that should make it much easier for you to start your own business.

Here’s what you need to know:

CIRAS DIGEST: Tuesday, September 1, 2015

Happy Tuesday. We have a wide range of news today, from important pastry preparations to a weighty state economic report, a warning about manufacturing unions and concerns about farmers.

Here’s where you can find the specifics:

CIRAS DIGEST: Friday, August 28, 2015

Happy Friday.  Today, the Digest has a hodge-podge of Chinese worry, overall manufacturing worry and a recipe for better rural living through art. Plus, they presumably no longer are going to worry at all about the worker shortage in Cincinnati.

Here’s where to find the information:

CIRAS DIGEST: Tuesday, August 25, 2015

Happy Tuesday. An extremely short digest today, since the entire world seems consumed with the fate of Chinese stocks.

Here’s a shortened version:

CIRAS DIGEST: Friday, August 21, 2015

Happy Friday. A bunch of gloomy economic forecasting today, including concerns about Kansas, China and convertibles.

Here’s where you can find it all:

CIRAS DIGEST: Tuesday, August 18, 2015

Happy Tuesday. They say variety is the spice of life. So today, we spice up the usual manufacturing numbers and industry projections with a little Trump, a little bird flu, and a whole lot of wine.  

Here’s where you find it:

CIRAS DIGEST: Tuesday, August 11, 2015

Happy Tuesday.  Lots of economic news and analysis in today’s collection, from Berkshire Hathaway naval gazing to an in-depth look at Mexican cars.

Here’s where you find it all:

CIRAS Digest: Friday, August 7, 2015

Happy Friday.  The U.S. economy added jobs. Farmland lost value, and you can save as much as  6 percent on socks in Iowa this weekend.

Read on to learn more:

CIRAS DIGEST: Tuesday, August 4, 2015

Happy Tuesday. A smattering of economic numbers today.

Here’s what they add up to:

CIRAS DIGEST: Friday, July 31, 2015

Happy Friday. As you ponder your weekend, be advised that manufacturing remains OK, beer is important and gas is soon to be less so.

Here’s where to find the details on all that:

CIRAS DIGEST: Tuesday, July 28, 2015

Happy Tuesday. News this day of a estimated time for the arrival of cheaper chicken. Also, an update on reshoring and some  ozone advocacy from Vermeer.

Here’s where you can find it:

CIRAS DIGEST: Friday, July 24, 2015

Happy Friday. Lots of manufacturing numbers to report. But nothing much important.

Here’s what to read if you’re killing time with a purpose:

CIRAS can help you find your Automation Answers

Iowa businesses want to know more about automation, and CIRAS is working on ways to help them.

CIRAS currently is looking to expand its automation support capabilities and could have more details available about that in the coming months.

CIRAS DIGEST: Tuesday, July 21, 2015

Happy Tuesday. We’ve got a little Trump news this morning, as well as economic tidbits, some insight into clustered manufacturing expertise and some video of a building blowing up.

Take your pick. Here’s where to click:

CIRAS DIGEST: Friday, July 17, 2015

Happy Friday. Today, we provide a few glimmers of an economic uptick, an account of economic muscle being wielded as part of the nationwide reshoring campaign, and a small, kind-of-cool tale about how technology can make manufacturing better.

Here’s where to find it:

CIRAS DIGEST: Tuesday, July 14, 2015

Happy Tuesday. A hodge-podge of not-much for you today.  The items center around Iowa’s efforts to promote development, a whiskey maker’s efforts to promote itself, and some low-level promotion of biofuels.

Here’s where to find the details:

CIRAS DIGEST: Friday, July 10, 2015

Happy Friday. We head into the weekend with some national projections, some overall positive news about Iowa’s economic prospects and a bunch of cool talk about 3-D printing.

Here’s something to read if you’re bored this weekend at the lake:

CIRAS DIGEST: Tuesday, July 7, 2015

Happy Tuesday. We return from the holidays with a host of hard-news stories, including mixed manufacturing messages and plans for a “super park” that we suspect will be short on slides.

We’ll start with the latest round of contradictory statistical interpretations:

CIRAS DIGEST: Friday, June 26, 2015

Happy Friday. Today we have news of layoffs, higher consumer confidence, expanding demographics and the importance of beer.

The details:

CIRAS DIGEST: Tuesday, June 23, 2015

Happy Tuesday. Today we have the usual mix of optimistic and pessimistic industry news, as well as a story on marijuana candy.

So think mellow thoughts as you read this:

CIRAS DIGEST: Friday, June 19, 2015

Happy Friday. We’re posting late this afternoon due to a morning spent listing to Iowa economic development officials decide whether they were going to give us some money. (Spoiler alert: They did.)

Details on that and a few other things follow:

CIRAS DIGEST: Friday, June 12, 2015

Happy Friday. Not much to offer today in the wake of earth-shattering news, but at least it’s mostly Iowa-centric.

Here’s where to look:

CIRAS DIGEST: Tuesday, June 9, 2015

Happy Tuesday. We’re heavy on opinion pieces today, with people across the country opining on what is good bad or doomed about the American manufacturing sector. Read it. Enjoy the argument – along with a little bit of news sprinkled throughout this list.

Here’s where you find it:

CIRAS DIGEST: Friday, June 5, 2015

Happy Friday.  Today we offer a vast array of deep thinking. Happy knowledge building.

Here are the details:

WORKING ON WORKFORCE: The Importance of Growing What You’ve Got

In a time of tight budgets and unfavorable demographics, it’s in Dave Zrostlik’s best interest to keep all the employees he has.

Zrostlik is president of Stellar Industries, an employee-owned maker of truck-mounted hydraulic equipment in Garner. Like the rest of Iowa, Stellar faces a growing shortage of skilled workers, as older employees retire and young rural residents head out of town for the brighter lights of big cities.

CIRAS DIGEST: Tuesday, June 2, 2015

Happy Tuesday. There’s a wide variety of news out there. We have broad numbers. We have deep-thinking analysis. We have detailed technical stuff. And we have Iowa references aplenty.

Here’s what you need to know:

New CIRAS paper shows Iowa Industries may be at a Reshoring Tipping Point

Manufacturing jobs that fled U.S. soil decades ago for cheaper overseas labor might now be poised to come back – but only in certain sectors and only a little at a time, according to a newly released white paper from two CIRAS experts.

The upshot for Iowa is that producers in a handful of tipping-point industries should be keeping a close eye on labor and energy prices. In some cases, CIRAS experts say, those numbers could prove that manufacturers are paying too much to foreign suppliers or that U.S.-based suppliers are missing an opportunity.

CIRAS DIGEST: Tuesday, May 26, 2015

Happy Tuesday. Welcome back to work.

We greet you with a little deep thinking, some prognostication, and some advice on how to handle the booze:

CIRAS NEWS: Friday, May 22, 2015

Happy Friday. Ready for the holiday? We suggest you avoid any new projects this morning and instead spend today catching up on a few days’ worth of industry news.

Here’s what you might learn while trying hard to look busy:

CIRAS DIGEST: Monday, May 18, 2015

Happy Monday. There are a few signs of optimism in the manufacturing news. Plus, one warning of doom and an example of technical experts showing off.

Read about it all here:

CIRAS Innovation Service Cuts Costs, Boosts Business for Iowa Spring

An Adel-based manufacturer of springs for garage doors and agricultural equipment cut its costs by more than 30 percent and expects to boost sales by more than $1 million after adopting an innovative new technology that it tested as part of a CIRAS innovation service.

CIRAS Digest: Tuesday, May 12, 2015

Happy Tuesday. Lots of big thinking today – about machines, plants and what the heck we need to do to make the millennials happy in Iowa.

CIRAS Digest: Friday, May 8, 2015

Happy Friday. Today, as we patrol the Internet, we find an unusual stockpile of happy and/or hopeful news. Plus, some deep thinking about the future.

Feel free to spend the weekend pondering it all. Start your studies here:

CIRAS Digest: Tuesday, May 5, 2015

Happy Tuesday. Today we bring you whiplash – flat economic numbers, flat economic numbers that likely are heading bad…. and good tax receipts for the state. Plus, a planned surge in robots and a strong future for manufacturing.

Here’s where to find it:

CIRAS Digest: Friday, May 1, 2015

Happy Friday. We greet the approaching weekend with a look at how lousy the manufacturing economy is in some places. Also, some suggestions that things might just perk up a bit if we get some more Democrats and/or felons involved.

Here are the bipartisan highlights of what we’ve found interesting over the past few days:

CIRAS Digest: Tuesday, April 28, 2015

Happy Tuesday. We have a general mishmash today of items to note and deep thoughts to be thunk. Also, a warning to check the label on those gas pumps carefully.

Here’s what we found for you, ICYMI:

Iowa State Experts help Groschopp Improve Products, Satisfy Customers.


CIRAS Digest: Tuesday, April 21, 2015

Happy Tuesday afternoon. Sorry for the delay, but it took a while to catch you up on all the industry news out there. Lots of gas-y talk and  complicated science out there for your perusal.

Here’s where you can find it:

CIRAS Digest: Friday, April 17, 2015

Happy Friday. Lots of numbers and deep-thinking about big issues over the last week.

Here are a few things to read as you kill time waiting to escape the office and finally make it outside:

CIRAS DIGEST: Monday, April 13, 2015

Happy Monday. We’ve uncovered a mix of good news and bad news for you to ponder, with an overall tilt in the direction of pragmatic planning. Essentially, some folks out there are warning of doom, some are planning for sunnier days.

Here’s how it shakes out:

CIRAS Digest: Monday, April 6, 2015

Happy Monday, Happy Easter and Happy Opening Day.

Here’s what you missed while looking for those last two %@&#$#! eggs:

CIRAS Digest: Monday, March 30, 2015

Happy Monday from CIRAS Newswire, where a 70-degree Spring day means it’s time to change the photos in our windowless office.

Here’s what we’ve culled from the accumulated industry news over the weekend:

CIRAS DIGEST: Thursday, March 26, 2015

Happy Thursday from your friends at CIRAS Newswire, where we read the stuff you don’t have time for and attempt to make informed (or just plain snippy) remarks about it. Now, with extra witticism!

Here’s what we’ve collected over the last half-week:

CIRAS Digest: Monday, March 23, 2015

Happy Monday. And, for those of you who were away breaking your Spring (or staying burning vacation him to stay home watching small children and answer ISU email), welcome back.

Here’s our best attempt at reassembling what you might have missed:

CIRAS Digest: Friday, March 13, 2015

Happy wonderful weather Friday.  Staffing meetings kept us away from the computer yesterday, but that turns out to be a good thing for you.

 Here are our nominations for the best industry-related things to read today while you’re sitting outside under a tree:

CIRAS Digest: Tuesday, March 10, 2015

Happy Tuesday. As part of our continuing effort to make sense of things for you, we’re trying to consolidate some of the CIRAS Digest information.  We’re going to take a stab at posting on fewer days but with more information. Let us know how it works.

For today, at least, there doesn’t seem to be any shortage:

CIRAS News: Tuesday, March 3, 2015

Happy Tuesday. Another wave of numbers today, plus factory workers and farm machinery.

Here’s where to find it:

CIRAS Digest: Monday, March 2, 2015

Happy Monday. And Happy March. A new month means new numbers – and a whole lot of  mental gymnastics to sort out what they mean.

Let’s get to it:

CIRAS Digest: Thursday, Feb. 26, 2015

Happy Thursday. Today, while you’re huddling around the heating vent, we offer a wide variety of deep thinking.

Here’s what’s going on:

CIRAS DIGEST: Wednesday, Feb. 25, 2015

Happy Wednesday.  Snow-delayed Digest for those of you still stuck in the office.

Here’s something to read while you search online for new shovels:

CIRAS Digest: Tuesday, Feb. 24, 2015

Happy Tuesday. We reconvene CIRAS Digest today after some production difficulties stemming from the boss’ requirement that we spend Monday at the Iowa State Capitol.

Here’s what you might have missed along the way:

CIRAS Digest: Thursday, Feb. 19, 2015

Happy Thursday. Mid-day meetings  out of the office mean you’re treated to an afternoon edition of CIRAS Digest.

You’ll have to decide for yourself whether it was worth the wait:

CIRAS Sets Table for Food Companies’ Success

For Iowa State University meat specialist Joseph Cordray, it all comes down to Americans’ changing demands for dinner.

Evolving societal preferences have created new opportunities for Iowa food companies, Cordray believes. Firms just need to innovate—or, if necessary, to find someone who’s willing and able to help them do it.

“Your spouse’s definition of a homecooked meal I guarantee is not the same as your grandmother’s definition of a home-cooked meal,” Cordray, a professor of animal science in the College of Agriculture and Life Sciences (CALS) at Iowa State University, said of the changing consumer demand. “Your grandmother used to spend all day in the kitchen making it.”

CIRAS Digest: Wednesday, Feb. 18, 2015

Happy Wednesday. And for Pete’s sake, stay inside if it’s at all humanly possible to do so. It’s nasty out there.

As we shiver, here’s what we’re reading:

CIRAS Digest: Tuesday, Feb. 17, 2015

Happy Tuesday. Today, everything is focused higher – including the government, bankers, (if you read it wrong) high school students and Georgia manufacturing.

Here’s what we’re reading today:

CIRAS Digest: Monday, Feb. 16, 2015

Happy Monday. We welcome you back to the work week with some upward momentum and some deep thinking.

First, the growth:

CIRAS Digest: Friday, Feb. 13, 2015

Happy Friday the 13th.  Hope you all enjoy your romantic weekend at that secluded cabin in the woods where there was a tragedy many, many years ago. We’re sure it’ll all work out just fine.

Here’s what you need to know today:

CIRAS Digest: Thursday, Feb. 12, 2015

Happy Thursday.  We’re a bit late today.

Here are a few things to read if Biden gets boring:

CIRAS Digest: Wednesday, Feb. 11, 2015

Happy Wednesday. There’s a lot of news out there, but we’re assuming that you know all about the suspended real anchorman and the departing  (more beloved) fake one. And that you’re up on the fact that Hy-Vee is bailing on its sponsorship of the triathlon.

Here’s the other stuff we think you need to know:

CIRAS Digest: Tuesday, Feb. 10, 2015

Happy Tuesday. Today, after a dark day, we return with a still-short version of CIRAS Digest to celebrate our communications manager’s escape (for now) from the cooties of his flu-infested family.

Back in the office. Here’s what we’re reading:

CIRAS Digest: Thursday, Feb. 5, 2015

Happy Thursday.  Today we have a lot of reasonably good numbers to share with you, plus a scary one (at least seven more presidential candidates headed here for another daylong event).

Here’s the 411:

CIRAS Digest: Wednesday, Feb. 4, 2015

Happy White Wednesday. And welcome back to the shoveling.

A lot of the usual handwringing out there today:

CIRAS Digest: Tuesday, Feb. 3, 2015

Happy Tuesday from CIRAS Newswire Command, where we are trying to keep well ahead of you, dear readers. Work is already underway on the Spring edition of CIRAS News. The Winter volume hit the streets at the end of last week, and you’ll start seeing stories posted here in the very near future.

In the meantime, here’s what’s going on:

CIRAS Digest: Friday, Jan. 30, 2015

Happy Friday.  Incremental economic news today, plus a peek at overseas conditions and an assembly-line robot with a face.

Here’s what’s out there:

CIRAS Digest: Thursday, Jan. 29, 2015

Happy Thursday. Technical difficulties made yesterday’s Digest impractical to deliver, but we’ll roll over some of Wednesday’s more interesting and less time-sensitive offerings into today’s editions.

So, assuming you already know about the gas tax (10-cent increase is possible) and the fed (interest rates unchanged for now), here are the most interesting things we’re seeing on the Newswire:

CIRAS Digest: Friday, Jan. 23, 2015

Happy Friday.  This digest was interrupted yesterday by a CIRAS staff meeting (plus a lack of much interesting to report). Today, we have a mix of bad news and hopeful  optimism.

It starts with:

CIRAS Digest: Wednesday, Jan. 21, 2015

Happy Wednesday. President Obama may have won both of his elections, but he appears to have not yet won the hearts and minds of the manufacturing press – as judging by a roughly pessimistic tone we’re seeing to many of the post-State of the Union coverage.

We’ve got a few bright spots today, but also some bluntly worded gloom.

Here, my fellow Americans, is what you need to know:

CIRAS Digest: Tuesday, Jan. 20, 2015

Happy Tuesday. Today we bring you Iowa politics, California navel gazing and some skepticism of the state of the union.

In that order:

CIRAS Digest: Friday, Jan. 16, 2015

Happy Friday, and good luck with your weekend. Virtually everything we’re reading today is looking forward to some point where we’re not desperately trying to get out of the office.

Here are the highlights:

CIRAS Digest: Thursday, Jan. 15, 2015

Happy Thursday. As usual in the first quarter of Iowa’s calendar, our conversation is again dominated today by money and politics.

Here’s what’s going on as of now:

CIRAS points Mason City nonprofit to cremation urns

David Crowe made the announcement without warning, his wife recalls. They were in the car one day, and he simply turned to say, “When I die, I want to be cremated.”

One week later, Crowe’s widow would become the first customer of a new business seeking to give Iowans a novel, low-cost burial alternative. The hope is that this new line of handmade wooden cremation urns, conceived with help from CIRAS by the nonprofit training center where Crowe worked before his death, will create new financial stability for the mentally and physically disabled folks who used to be Crowe’s coworkers. It also may solve problems for a few families along the way.

CIRAS Digest: Wednesday, Jan. 14, 2015

Happy Wednesday.

Lots of talk out there today. Talk about manufacturing, job training and broadband, among other things. Plus, a daily affirmation from the Wall Street Journal.

The weather is warm(ish). Wade in:

CIRAS Digest: Tuesday, Jan. 13, 2015

Welcome to another of our (nearly always) daily attempts at helping you stay informed. Today’s roundup includes the governor, contradictory experts and early indications of a winter slowdown. So basically, it’s a Tuesday.

Here’s what going on in the world of industry today:

FYI: Friday, January 9, 2015

Happy Frozen Friday. (That’s a temperature-in-our-communications-office reference, not notice of a particular Disney-themed day at ISU.)

One of the things we hope to do with the CIRAS Newswire is make you more aware of interesting stories out there that impact industry or that you might have missed.

Here’s what we declare to be interesting today: