Trends and Forecasts in the U.S. Oil and Gas Sector

Over the past year, the United States has made significant strides toward energy independence. With the crude oil export ban lifted in January 2016, exports of crude oil have finally started to rise. While we still import most of the oil used in the U.S., we are growing our position as a low cost supplier internationally.

Liquefied natural gas (LNG) has seen similar successes thanks to low prices and growing demand. This is a good thing for end-users, but does present added competition for the oil industry. Costs need to remain low among both resources to stay competitive in this changing landscape. Even within the natural gas sector, low prices have created a buyer’s market where suppliers have less control. This can certainly present a challenge down the road.

Other challenges include natural disasters. 2017 saw an active hurricane season that included Hurricane Harvey, which ravaged Texas. While the oil industry bounced back fairly quickly, the destruction left behind is a constant reminder of how vulnerable the supply chain is to unforeseen circumstances.

New technologies aim to reduce some of this vulnerability, however. The introduction of artificial intelligence in the oil and gas sector has led to greater oversight of energy production. Automated data analysis makes it faster and easier to see which wells have the highest production, and which ones may require attention. The goal is to maximize productivity while keeping costs down.

The constant data analysis can also show which oil wells may be malfunctioning or require service. Repair crews can be deployed before a major breakdown occurs, which can prevent downtime and reduce costs. Automating data entry can even improve accuracy and make it easier for everyone to view data in real time and make informed decisions. It also makes forecasting easier since you can refer back to monthly numbers and track trends.

Over the next year, we expect to see greater investment into new technologies to streamline oil and gas productivity and tracking. We also expect 2018 to be a strong year as we continue to boost exports and remain competitive as a global energy supplier.

As a sheet metal fabricator supporting the oil and gas industry, Red River Precision is already seeing heightened demand in this sector. We expect to see this trend continue throughout the year, and hopefully beyond.

Exploring New Semiconductor Materials

Semiconductors play a major role in many advanced electronic devices we use daily. They are used to conduct currents and are made up of crystals. Silicon is the most prevalent material used due to the low cost of it in raw form, the simple processing required, and its many useful functions.

Semiconductors are used to conduct electricity while doubling as an insulator. There are two main types of semiconductors: N-type and P-type.

N-type semiconductors typically use phosphorus in the crystals, which is referred to as a dopant. Phosphorus atoms have five electrons in their valence, or outer ring. They are able to bind with four silicon atoms that are adjacent to them. The fifth electron has nothing it can bond to and is free to move around. This allows the atoms to behave as if they are single valence electrons in a typical conductor, such as copper.

P-type semiconductors occur when a dopant has just three electrons in its valence shell, such as boron. When boron is added to the crystal, three electrons bond but there is one silicon atom left, leaving a hole. The hole acts like a positive charge. The holes can move around inside of the crystal as electrons repeatedly try to fill them.

As new semiconductors are discovered the functionality of electronic devices will likely continue to improve. Take for example hafnium diselenide and zirconium diselenide. Electrical engineers at Stanford University have found these two semiconductors to have properties more desirable than silicon.

The two newer semiconductors are able to rust in a beneficial way which gives them an added insulation, something other semiconductors aren’t able to do. These semiconductors are also able to take up less space and they have the energy necessary to switch transistors on in the correct range. Although more research is necessary, these two semiconductors look to improve our electronics greatly once they can be incorporated into new electronic devices.

Here at Red River Precision Manufacturing, we’re a full service manufacturer of custom metal prototypes and products. Our capabilities include shearing, punching, water jet cutting, forming, sawing, drilling, and welding. We pride ourselves on keeping up to date with all the latest advancements in our industry, including those in semiconductors.

Want to know more about how Red River Precision supports the semiconductor industry? Give us a call at 512-244-1508 to learn more.

The Growing Use of Drones in Telecommunications and Other Industries

As time has gone on and drones have developed, the commercial usage of drones has grown and evolved. A variety of industries have learned to adapt drones for usage in their particular fields:

  • MIT Technology Review has noted that drones can be employed throughout the crop cycle to provide solutions. From providing 3-D mapping for early soil analysis before a seed has been planted, to automated crop spraying; with easy and regular crop monitoring and health assessment, drones can ease the workload of farmers, making them more efficient.
  • For security usage, drones can cover more ground, faster, and without endangering a human security guard in order to investigate perimeter breaches or gauging disasters to deploy first responders. Software is being developed so that drones can identify intruders, and follow thermal images until intruders can be responded to.
  • Just as in agriculture and security, the speed and accuracy of drones makes them appealing to the construction sector. When paired with sensors and the proper computing tools, drones can take data that can be transformed into 3D structural models, topographical maps, volumetric measurements, and more. This ability to cut cost while improving accuracy is incredibly valuable.

The telecommunications sector is starting to see great applications for drones as well. They have great potential to cut down time, money, and danger to employees. As PwC noted in their recent report, T-Mobile has already demonstrated the advantages – using drones, they were able to conduct a pilot test of antenna masts at a stadium in Utrecht, a test that took roughly 15 minutes. Conversely, traditional methods would have taken roughly a week.

In addition to maintenance, drones also can reduce the expense and improve the accuracy of planning and network optimization. They can be deployed for radio-planning and line-of-site testing between radio towers to help select the right frequencies, appropriate antenna heights, and site locations. Drones can also help to test network strength, an idea already being tested by Nokia.

Our metal fabrication abilities and water jet cutting services at Red River Precision allow us to service a wide variety of industries, including the telecommunications, construction, and semiconductor industries. Drones will not only be a big part of the industries we work with, but also a part of our business as well, with the potential to produce components for these cutting-edge machines. Contact us and let us know about your metal fabrication or water jet cutting needs – we’ll be happy to see what we can do for you. Make sure to keep up with us on LinkedIn and Twitter as well!

How the IoT is Boosting the Semiconductor Industry

Everyone seems to be talking about the Internet of Things (IoT) these days – it’s a big, buzzy concept that many cite as the future of connectivity, affecting numerous facets of everyday life. For many though, the IoT is a bit of an abstract idea.

The IoT is about inter-networking “things” – everything from vehicles, to appliances, to building systems and much more – so that they can be better integrated. This allows for reduced human intervention while improving efficiency and accuracy. With the integration of sensors and actuators, the usage is expanded even further.

In the industrial sector, this could have an immense impact when it comes to equipment management, manufacturing process control, and asset and situation management. This can allow for dynamic response to production needs, real-time optimization of the manufacturing process, and much more. One area where it has seen major progress is in monitoring machines to predict and prevent potential failures.

The Center for Intelligent Maintenance Systems, comprised of professionals as well as cutting-edge institutions, has developed methods to assess the degradation of industrial machines through sensors and cloud-based monitoring, and continues to develop more thorough systems for the future. By having computers and machines communicating, the aim is to achieve near-zero breakdown performance, and sustain it through self-maintenance capabilities.

For instance, a sensor could track the movements of a band saw blade, and when it detects it is at a certain point where it will need replacing, it could signal an ordering system to order the part for arrival just prior to the time the blade needs to be replaced. The user could then swap out the blade and continue working right away, with limited human interaction in the chain of actions.

This is driving an increase in demand that has not been seen before, presenting the semiconductor sector with steady growth and plenty of opportunity. In 2016, it was reported that global semiconductor sales were up 12.3% over the previous year, with the total sales of $338.9 billion being a record high for the industry.

Just recently, Intel announced their intent to invest over $7 billion in capital for a research and development location. Expected to be completed in three to four years, the factory in Arizona is expected to provide 3,000 full-time jobs to the area. Intel is only one of many companies investing in the future of the semiconductor industry – particularly in Southeast Asia and China, there is active investing in semiconductor production, including state-backed investments.

Here at Red River Precision, we are experienced in fabricating high-quality components for the semiconductor industry, as well as components for the medical industry, automotive industry, oil and gas industry, and many more industries. We produce custom projects to customers specifications, and pride ourselves in high-level, on-time performance. For more information, contact us online, and make sure to follow us on Twitter and LinkedIn for the latest news and projects.

Custom Manufacturing is the Key in Turnkey

Not every metal fabricator can handle turnkey projects. Because we are a full-service manufacturing company, turnkey projects are easy for us. What exactly is turnkey? A turnkey product is one where the customer delivers specifications and the manufacturer builds the complete item. In our industry it is a fabrication of a complete product, not just a part that is a piece of a larger item or component.

A perfect example is this turnkey project we completed recently. A customer came to us to produce a steel enclosure for a medical laser. The customer delivered the exact specifications and we took it from there. The first step in the process was creating the CAD programming followed by a multi-step manufacturing process that turned cold rolled steel into a 16” x 16” x 40” electronic enclosure.

It is projects like this that set Red River apart from other manufacturers. We can meet the expectations of customers through streamlined and cost effective processes. The list of materials we work with is wide ranging and includes aluminum, copper, alloys, Molybdenum, stainless steel, and titanium. Secondary services are available for many different finishing options. With short turnaround times and expert machining specialists, we offer precision and extremely high-quality results every time.

At Red River Precision our extensive capabilities allow us to work with a wide range of industries such as automotive, architectural, oil & gas, and medical. From individual components to completed products, there isn’t a challenge we can’t meet.

If you need a product made to your exact specifications, please give us a call. We will work with you from the beginning to the end to make sure that it is 100% accurate and exceeds expectations.

How to Attract the Next Generation to Manufacturing Jobs

Have you heard about the skills gap? The Skills Gap Report was first published in 2001 by the Manufacturing Institute and Deloitte. It was a “landmark study identifying the mismatch between the skills of available workers and skills that manufacturers demand.” The 2015 Skills Gap Report reinforces the findings of earlier reports that manufacturers will continue to face challenges in finding talent to prevent worker shortages in the near future.

Attracting the right workers to the industry is a must. As the Millennial generation enters the workforce, manufacturers will need to learn how to become more attractive to the next generation. One of the first steps is changing the view of the industry to potential employees. Manufacturing stills holds the reputation as being dirty or dangerous and providing little job security. Those of us in the business know that isn’t true. So, how do we appeal to millennials?

To become attractive to the workforce of the future, Motivated Monday offers insight into what Millennials are looking for in an employer. These 12 ways may help you understand this next generation to not only attract them but to retain them in the industry.  They are:

  1. Technology: Millennials have been raised with the best and newest technology. State of the art and cutting edge are where they gravitate to.
  2. Purpose: Millennials want to work for the greater good. A sense of community outreach and culture of purpose are what they are looking for.
  3. Work/Life Balance: Workplaces that allow employees to enjoy work, family, and fun are the most appealing.
  4. Feedback: Regular feedback is required to build employer loyalty. Communication is a key factor.
  5. Personable: Millennials want to connect and engage with bosses on a personal level.
  6. Training: This generation loves to learn new skills. Keeping this generation engaged at work takes training and development opportunities.
  7. Socialize: The 20-30 somethings want to build comraderies and loyalty. Outside of work socializing helps connect them to their workplace.
  8. Collaborative:  This group has been working in groups their whole lives. They thrive on working together to meet goals and having their ideas and input count.
  9. Challenge: They love to be challenged but require the right motivation to help them rise to the occasion.
  10. Charity: Raised in a community-service environment, they respond to companies that give back.
  11. Competitive: This group loves to win. A competitive atmosphere will drive them to hard work.
  12. Trustworthy: Trust does not come automatically for this group and must be earned. But, once they trust you they will give you their loyalty.

Our work with young people (see our April blog) has given us this insight into the workforce of the future. The talent is out there, but to maintain a strong workforce and eliminate the skills gap we must adjust to the changing times and understand where the next generation is coming from.  

June is National Safety Month

The National Safety Council’s (NSC) mission is safety at work, at home, and on the roads. In June, NSC and organizations across the country work to raise awareness of safety issues because staying safe isn’t an accident.  

Here at Red River we focus on safety daily, not just one month out of the year. The Bureau of Labor Statistics reported that there were almost 3.2 million nonfatal workplace accidents by private industry employees in 2014. Keeping all of our employees safe is of prime importance. It’s a job we take very seriously. To do this we have safety measures in place and procedures employees must follow when working. The machining equipment and waterjet cutting machines can be dangerous if not used properly.

Safety measures for machine operators include simple procedures like wearing safety glasses at all times when on the shop floor. We also encourage that machine operators to not wear loose clothing, rings, watches, jewelry, or anything that can get caught in the machines. Sturdy shoes are also considered part of the proper attire.

For material handling personnel we require all forklift drivers to attend training classes on proper forklift procedures. Many accidents are caused by improper training of operators of forklift trucks. Because of our training requirements we have prevented many workplace accidents. We also work with our employees on proper lifting and ergonomic techniques to prevent back injuries.

Workplace cleanliness and organization also falls into the safety category. Putting tools back when finished and keeping walkways and workstations clear helps keep others from falling or getting hurt. Staying safe also means watching out for each other to prevent hazardous situations.

Workplace injuries are the leading cause of lost work time. But, lost work time is secondary to the value we place on keeping each employee out of harm’s way. Preventing accidents is the best way to stay safe and following set safety procedures is the best way to do that!

Red River has the Tolerance to Meet Tight Tolerances

Precision manufacturing wouldn’t be precise if it couldn’t produce consistently reliable and accurate parts. At Red River, we put precision in our name because we have the capabilities to manufacture outstanding components for any industry, no matter the material or the complexity.

Our goal is to produce high-quality American made products, and we meet this goal on every project. As a full-service metal and manufacturing company, we work with a wide variety of materials, including aluminum, steel, stainless steel, titanium, copper, alloys, and much more.  Our Punch Press can handle the material thickness of 10 ga mild steel, 14 ga stainless steel, and 3/16 in. aluminum. Press brake capabilities can handle parts up to 12 ft long and has a maximum of 125 tons.

We meet the needs of the precision industries we work with by providing them with fabricated parts that meet the tight tolerances specified. We routinely work to tolerances as little as ±0.005 in.

Red River Precision Manufacturing lives up to its name. Our customers rely on us for full fabrication services of high-quality components at competitive prices. If you need turn-key fabrication of prototypes, short runs, or volume production, Red River delivers precision every time.

Contact us to learn more!

Red River Precision Manufacturing Gets into Clean Energy

Clean energy is a broad term for less polluting energy sources, which include large scale energy supplying sources such as wind, solar, hydroelectric, and geothermal but also smaller energy reducing products such as LED light bulbs and electric cars. The clean energy movement is taking shape across the U.S. as Americans are looking for ways to reduce energy, greenhouse gas emissions, and dependence on fossil fuels.

Even though the recent Supreme Court decision ruled to put the EPA’s Clean Power Plan regulations on hold, the clean energy movement is well underway and gaining speed. Cities across the country are signing on for new solar energy programs and residential solar is continuing to grow. Wind energy has found a greater footing in Europe than in the U.S. but projects are continuing on land and in the sea to build viable wind farms. The most amazing part of this clean energy boom is that it is often supported by local utilities. The end game is to cut greenhouse gasses but finding renewable energy sources that are reliable, effective, and efficient are also a major benefit.

With the growth of the clean energy industry, we recognize the needs the industry will face as it continues to expand. Precision metal forming will be required to continue to build the solar panels, wind turbines, and specialized components that will deliver electricity to more homes in more diversified areas. Red River Precision Manufacturing has the capabilities needed to handle the challenging requirements of the clean energy industry.

As the energy industry continues to move into cleaner sources, the bending, cutting, and machining services provided by Red River Precision Manufacturing will continue to be sought after. To learn more about how our metal fabrication services can meet the needs of the clean energy industry, as well as any other industry, please feel free to contact us.  

Manufacturing Trend Predictions for 2016

For those outside the industry, it often seems like not much ever changes with manufacturing. Raw goods go in, and finished goods come out. But, for those of us involved in the day-to-day aspects of the industry, we see how new technologies are having an impact on today’s processes.

With the coming of the new year, there is always anticipation and excitement about what changes may take place in the next 12 months. Surveys are completed regarding industry trends and how manufacturers will be working over the coming year. A new report by Citrix examined technology trends in manufacturing and found that most manufacturers are embracing some new technologies but the tried and true methods are still the mainstays of their business.

In 2016, the industry is predicted to embrace next generation materials for 3D printing and utilizing this process to design and manufacture more personalized products. Aluminum costs are dropping and the material is finding new applications in many industries (the Ford F-150, for example). Robots and high-tech manufacturing are also hot topics as connectivity and technology join forces with traditional methods.

Although the experts often point out the newest technologies as coming trends, we see the trends in combining the traditional manufacturing processes with the technology to improve their function. For instance, computer and software driven water jet cutting equipment handle both metal and non-metal materials and eliminates the secondary operations to obtain smooth, finished edges while improving on accuracy and efficiency.

While predicting the future is commonplace at this time of year, many of those predictions are not yet viable in today’s manufacturing environments to improve upon the processes currently in use. The technologies that do make it are the ones that allow us to improve processes and reduce costs for our customers. At Red River, those are the trends we will be embracing.