Articles in Category: Logistics

A few weeks ago I had dinner at a friend’s house. The floor ended up kind of messy, so I offered to sweep the floor in gratitude for the delicious meal.

Free Webinar: What EPA Clean Power Plan Could Cost Your Business

But that wasn’t necessary because my friend had a vacuum-cleaning robot. I had heard about these robots before but never thought they would work so well. I was impressed.


I can clean any surface and charge myself, but if you don’t empty me I WILL gorge myself on cat hair and die.

The robot, with sensors built in, was able to avoid every obstacle in the house and recognize the dirtier areas so it could stay longer in those. Finally, when the robot finished cleaning it automatically came back to its spot to recharge itself. This little vacuum-cleaning robot has become exponentially better and cheaper during the past few years and today even a cat can drive one of these. The only real dependence they have on their human guardians is to plug in the charging station and empty them. Read more

This is a fourth post on a series of posts on exponential technologies (see part 1part 2 and part 3).

Why Manufacturers Need to Ditch Purchase Price Variance

Yesterday, I realized I was running out of underwear, which means that I didn’t have any more excuses to not do my laundry. As I was walking down the street, I pulled out my phone and without clicking any button I said: “Ok Google, remind me to do laundry when I get home.”

Despite my strong Spanish accent, the phone perfectly understood what I meant to say. Four hours later, as soon as I opened the door to my apartment I felt a vibration in my pants. My phone knows where I live and it used its GPS to figure out that I had just arrived home. I looked at the screen, and saw the reminder. A couple of hours later… I had a new set of clean underwear. Thank you, Google!


Samantha, what do my metals procurement options look like? “Her” image courtesy of Warner Bros.

This is not just an example of low-level artificial intelligence, but also a sign that AI is reaching the knee of the exponential growth curve, getting ready to run wild as a disruptive technology. AI is an exponential technology about to be found everywhere in our daily lives and jobs.

Read more

This is a third post on a series of posts on exponential technologies (see part 1 and part 2).

Why Manufacturers Need to Ditch Purchase Price Variance

Cloud computing is not only an exponential technology but also one that will act as a platform for information sharing and collaboration, allowing other exponential technologies to grow thanks to its connectivity.

Does Anyone Know What The Cloud is?

Understanding what this technology is might seem complex, but cloud computing is simply the union of billions of computers into a network that can be accessed remotely.

Cloud computing is a model for enabling ubiquitous, convenient, on-demand network access to a shared pool of configurable computing resources (e.g., networks, servers, storage, applications, and services) that can be rapidly provisioned and released with minimal management effort or service provider interaction.

Read more

Today in MetalCrawler, losses widened at a major stainless steel manufacturer, an aluminum giant gets a new CEO and two design and construction software companies team up for better workflows for HVAC designers and installers.

AK Steel Loss Widens

AK Steel Holding Corp. said its first-quarter loss widened from a year earlier on a big write-down related to its investment in iron-ore pellet joint venture Magnetation LLC.

Why Manufacturers Need to Ditch Purchase Price Variance

Average selling prices fell 8.9% from a year earlier, while shipments increased 39%, with a boost from an acquisition and strong demand from the automotive sector.

Ohio-based AK Steel in March predicted that shipments of carbon and stainless steel to the automotive market would remain strong because of market demand. However, the company warned that it expected its shipments to decline 14% from the fourth quarter to roughly 1.7 million tons on weakness in the carbon steel spot market, which AK Steel attributed to rising imports.

Martens Leaves Novelis

Novelis Inc., the US’ largest aluminum recycling and rolling company, has announced the departure of Philip Martens as the company’s president and CEO. Replacing Martens as president on an interim basis is Steve Fisher. Novelis says it has begun a search for a permanent CEO.

Martens, a former Ford Motor Co. executive, joined Novelis in 2009. During his tenure with Novelis the company shifted its focus toward servicing the automobile industry.

Vulcan Works With AECOsim for Ductwork

Geo-positioning and construction software manufacturer Trimble recently started supporting new construction modeling workflows with enhanced integration between Bentley Systems‘ AECOsim Building Designer software and Trimble’s Vulcan sheet metal cutting software for the HVAC market. The new workflow integration enables design models to be shared easily, securely and accurately. The move expands the companies’ ongoing collaboration around “Construction Modeling” and enhanced information mobility.

Vulcan is a sheet metal cutting software product for HVAC contractors, design/build firms and duct manufacturers, who rely on the software to increase shop productivity, plan duct design and installation and reduce waste.

This week, the UK’s Metalysis and GKN Aerospace announced a bold, new process that’s a significant step forward in the adoption of 3D printing/additive manufacturing for aerospace. The advance will allow users to essentially sinter titanium from rutile powder, a process that previously could be accomplished with only lighter metals.

Free Webinar: MetalMiner’s Q2 and Q3 2015 Forecasts

The cost of the powder in 3D parts makes up roughly 50% of the final cost so a significant reduction in powder costs could be a major spur to the adoption of such technology in more applications and in industries beyond aerospace and medical devices, such as automotive.

How Long Can Traditional Parts Manufacturing Last?

This got us at the MetalMiner week-in-review thinking about the nature of manufacturing and how 3D printing processes, both additive and subtractive, have changed it. There have always been disruptive technologies in manufacturing. Injection molding and the advent of plastics, in general, disrupted several fields, but it’s hard to quantify such a shift as we’ve seen with 3D printing.


If titanium can be digital laser sintered from rutile, what else can we 3D print? Image courtesy of Metalysis.

The growth of hacker spaces, hardware start-ups, crowd-funding sites and the broader Maker Movement have shown that designing and fabricating real-world physical things is no longer solely the domain of giant companies with high-tech factories at their disposal.

Read more

Fresh MetalCrawler news today on the US housing market, China’s attempt to restructure its economy and a short-term fix to fund the Highway Trust Fund.

US Housing Starts Disappoint

US housing starts rose far less than expected in March and factory activity in the mid-Atlantic region grew modestly this month, suggesting the economy could struggle to rebound from a soft patch hit in the first quarter.

Free Webinar: What Does the Future Hold? MetalMiner’s Q2 and Q3 Forecasts Can Help You Plan Your Year

There are expectations growth will rebound in the second quarter, but Thursday’s lukewarm data suggest the momentum will probably not be strong enough for the Federal Reserve to start raising interest rates before September.

Controlling The Chinese Slowdown

Beijing’s efforts to wrestle China’s growth model from its investment and credit-fueled addiction to a more sustainable long-term footing, as well as to clean up the environmental damage wrought by decades of industrial pollution, is predictably slowing growth there. The difficult task for Chinese leaders will be to control the slowdown of the world’s second-largest economy among calls for stimulus and government help.

For full access to this MetalMiner membership content:
Log In |

The nation’s reliance on imported minerals has more than doubled in the past 30 years.

Free Download: Cut Your Minerals Shipping Costs

According to a recent Minerals Make Life survey conducted by Edelman Berland, 80% of manufacturing C-suite executives said that they are concerned with the issue of minerals and metals supply, highlighting the role of domestic minerals and metals to manufacturing supply chains.

NMA Mining Infographic

Source:  Edelman Berland.

Though the US is home to more than $6.2 trillion worth of key mineral resources, US-based businesses imported more than $42 billion worth of minerals last year to help meet manufacturing needs.

Most of the metals news today involves the world of oil and gas where low prices have stunted exploration but, apparently, not acquisition. Alcoa, Inc. also kicked off earnings season today, reporting its Q1 results.

Shell in Talks to Buy BG

Petroleum giant Royal Dutch Shell is in advanced talks to acquire Britain’s BG Group in a deal that would likely be valued at upward of $50 billion and would serve as the latest sign of how tumbling energy prices are shaking up the global oil-and-gas industry, according to the Wall Street Journal.

Free Download: Cut Oil Shipping Costs

The deal, should it come to fruition, would enable the two European energy giants to eliminate overlapping costs to help compensate for the toll lower prices have taken on their top lines.

Alcoa Slumps As Aluminum Glut Predicted

Alcoa, Inc. earnings dropped 4.8% in its first quarter report today as the biggest US aluminum producer forecast a global supply glut for the light metal in 2015. Alcoa traditionally kicks off earnings season in the US and stocks fell as investors weighed the outlook for corporate earnings.

A three-nation trip by Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi – to France, Germany and Canada – begins April 14, but metal analysts here are focusing on the Canadian leg. They expect India and Canada to sign a commercial deal for the supply of Canadian uranium for India’s nuclear power plants during Modi’s three-day visit.

Free Download: Cut Your Overseas Iron Ore Costs

In 2010, Canada and India signed a civil nuclear cooperation agreement, followed by another agreement in 2012. Since then, Canada’s main uranium supplier Cameco has been in talks with Indian officials about supplying uranium to India. Diplomatic circles of both nations expect the deal to be sealed when Modi visits Canada next week.

Canadian Uranium

Modi dropped several hints about the deal in his Facebook posts. He said India was looking into resuming its civil nuclear energy cooperation with Canada, especially for sourcing uranium fuel for nuclear power plants. Canada, incidentally, was the first country to have completed all the formalities for civil nuclear cooperation with India in 2008. Canada sits on vast uranium reserves, and is one of the largest uranium producers in the world.

On this front, Canada, too, has been making overtures in the last few years. Late last year, Brad Wall, Premier of the province of Saskatchewan in Canada, let it be known that he was discussing sale of uranium to India along with proposals for partnering with India in clean coal technologies.

In fact, going by media reports here, Modi’s focus on this three-nation foreign tour will be garnering investments in energy, security, space and military sectors, under his favorite project’s mantle – Make in India.

One report also suggests that problems related to nuclear liability will be discussed by Modi and his French counterpart, President Francois Hollande. French company Areva is involved in the 9,900-megawatt Jaitapur power plant project in India.

In recent times, India has been bullish on acquiring fuel for its reactors, and Modi’s European and Canadian trip will only serve as one more opportunity for that.

Aussie Supply

India already has Australia on its side. As MetalMiner reported in September, India and Australia concluded a long-pending civil nuclear deal, which involved the supply of uranium from Canberra to India. The Australian supply, expected to have started shipping in the first quarter of 2015, has run into opposition, especially because of India’s stated position that all foreign nuclear material was subject to scrutiny under the guidelines of the International Atomic Energy Agency, thus negating bilateral checks, something the Australians are not giving in to so easily.

The author, Sohrab Darabshaw, contributes an Indian perspective on industrial metals markets to MetalMiner.

While funding in Washington is bogged down by partisan resistance to new taxes or cutting spending in the complicated process of trying to replenish the Federal government’s Highway Trust Fund, funding is only one part of the problem of why our crumbling infrastructure isn’t being replaced. Much of it is simply held up in red tape.

Free Download: Cut Your Construction Materials Costs

Philip K. Howard, Chairman of Common Good, an organization that seeks to streamline government bureaucracy, recently wrote in The Daily Beast that even with funding, “no government body has the ability to approve the work or to build it in a commercially reasonable way.”


The eastern span of the Bay Bridge connects San Francisco to Oakland. Rust and microscopic cracking were found after one of the 424 high-strength steel rods, intended to keep the tower from being damaged in an earthquake, was removed for testing last year.

“Red tape is so dense that even obvious fix-it projects require years of review. Raising the roadway of the New Jersey-to-New York Bayonne Bridge, for example, was a project with almost no environmental impact, because it used the bridge’s existing foundations and right of way,” Howard said. “But it still required 47 permits from 19 government agencies, and a 5,000-page environmental assessment.” Read more