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March 16, 2020 Jeremy Boren

TechHub: Marzetti Expands, COVID-19’s Impact on Manufacturing, Digital emPOWERUPs

‘Growth Through Innovation’ Motivates Major Marzetti Expansion

Marzetti/Biz Journals

T. Marzetti Company is investing about $93 million in a major expansion of its salad dressing and bread roll production facility in Horse Cave, Ky.

By summer 2021 the investment will add 184,000-square-feet and 140 jobs to the facility, which is aptly situated on Top Quality Drive, notes local news station WNKY. The plant already has about 500 employees.

“The need for this expansion has been driven by the tremendous success of our key customer partners and growth through innovation,” Lancaster Colony Corp. CEO Dave Ciesinski said in a news release.

The expansion includes “eight new processing kitchens and several new packaging lines,” according to Columbus Business First.

Three kitchens and two packaging lines should be ready in the first year.

GrayMatter has helped Marzetti drive innovation at its Kentucky facility by making its production assets smart and more visible.

Read more about Marzetti’s digital transformation here.

COVID-19 Could Shift Manufacturing’s Reliance on China

Forbes is reporting that machine utilization rates from manufacturers outside China are showing an upward trend, despite an anticipated global slowdown as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic.

The report is getting extra attention because many sources are anticipating that the pandemic will fundamentally change the way industrial companies handle their supply chains after the virus subsides — whenever that might be.

“Using China as a hub…that model died this week, I think,” said Vladimir Signorelli, head of Bretton Woods Research, a macro investment research firm, according to Forbes.

Barron’s highlights how hard COVID-19 is hitting the Chinese economy.

“The most frightening aspect of this crisis is not the short-term economic damage it is causing, but the potential long-lasting disruption to supply chains. Chinese auto manufacturers and chemical plants have reported more closures than other sectors.”

According to the Biege Book survey of 1,400 Chinese companies, “Among many of the businesses that have reopened, employees either continue to telecommute (29%) or are waiting to resume work from their job sites (7%). In other words, only a third of businesses have fully reopened.”

So while the immediate impact on production is unclear, many market watchers anticipating that manufacturers are going to have to change where they source labor and materials if they want to protect themselves and their customers from future global disruptions like COVID-19

GrayMatter Joins Silicon Slopes for Breakfast

GrayMatter CEO Jim Gillespie late last month appeared on the first Silicon Slopes breakfast briefing of the season to talk about how he co-founded GrayMatter, the value of industrial data analytics and a lot more.

Check out the clip below from a full episode of the Silicon Slopes Live Podcast on GrayMatter’s LinkedIn page.

Harvesting Electricity… from Trees?


Researchers from Italy, China and Japan are working on way to harvest electricity from the triboelectric effect of plant foliage.

Similar to static electricity, the electricity is generated when leaves or branches rub against each other.

The triboelectric effect is a type of contact electrification in which certain materials become electrically charged after coming into contact with another different material, and are then separated. The polarity and strength of the charges produced differ according to the materials, surface roughness, temperature, strain, and other properties, according to ScienceDaily.com.

“Leaves, which are positively charged, produce small amounts of electricity when they come in contact with the tree trunk or any other negatively-charged material…

“The team is looking to build out this energy capacity into a ‘biological microgrid’ called Raiki. They envision the technology as an alternative for communities underserved by traditional grids.”

Read more about the research in Quartz.

U.S. Steel Producers AK Steel and Cleveland-Cliffs Join Forces

AK Steel

In a $1.1 billion deal, Cleveland-Cliffs is acquiring AK Steel, bringing together “the largest producer of iron ore pellet in North America and AK Steel’s flat-rolled carbon, stainless and electrical steel production,” IndustryWeek reports.

“By combining the best-in-class quality of AK Steel’s assets and its enviable product mix with Cliffs’ debt profile and proven management team, we are creating a premier North American company, self-sufficient in iron ore pellets and geared toward high value-added steel products,” said Lourenco Goncalves, CEO of Cliffs.

Discussing the deal in December, AK Steel CEO Roger Newport said, “We believe this transaction is a compelling opportunity for AK Steel shareholders to participate in the substantial upside potential of what will be a premier vertically integrated producer of value-added iron ore and steel products with significant scale and diversification.”

GrayMatter emPOWERUP Events Going Digital

emPOWERUP 2020 in Salt Lake City

GrayMatter is taking the next two emPOWERUP 2020 events virtual.

If you’re not already registered, sign up to attend our March 17 and April 7 training events online.

Sign up and find more details here.

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Jeremy Boren

Jeremy is GrayMatter's Brand Manager and the author of TechHub and the emPOWERUP Podcast. He writes about digital solutions, trends and culture in the world of operational technology. Jeremy's background is in daily journalism. He has a passion for storytelling and enjoys highlighting the technologies and professionals taking on complex challenges in manufacturing, energy, cybersecurity and infrastructure.