First lessons: Mfg Day 2016 student tours

Students touring Old Wood in Las Vegas, NM, during Manufacturing Day 2016

By Claudia Infante, Projects Coordinator, New Mexico MEP

New Mexico celebrated Manufacturing Day 2016 during the month of October (Private Label Select hosts the last set of student and public tours on October 27). Compared to past events, 2016 tour hosts saw more students walk through their doors and into the magical world of making things. Mezel Mods, Old Wood, and Black’s Smuggler Winery were among those involved in engaging the younger generation.

Mezel what?

Manufacturing Day 2016 at Mezel Mods began with a tour by Bernalillo Middle School students. Upon entering the Rio Rancho, NM, facility, the sight of pinball machines neatly lining the walls begged the question “How will middle-school kids be coaxed past this small piece of heaven and into the back, where manufacturing will attempt to compete for their attention?” The competition was on, thanks to a 3D printer. Here began their first lesson in additive manufacturing. Picture the one-dimensional playing field inside the glass-covered cabinet of a Ghost Busters game. Now picture it modified with slime draping down the path (doubling as a wire cover) or an LED-lit ECTO-1 vehicle. This is Mezel Mods’ arena.

The kids and adult attendees also learned the importance of quality at the source: At their stations, they worked on checking and troubleshooting the correct polarity of various battery setups. They learned about the positive impact a correct manufacturing line can have in getting product out the door. At the end of the tour, the students received a 3D-printed mustache, conveniently held in place by an ingenious design — and yes, they played a game or two. “When you’re a kid, you want to touch stuff, so it’s fun when you get to see something that you get to touch and play with,” said 6th-grader Isabella Serrano.

Old (beautiful, sustainable) Wood

Middle-school students from Rio Gallinas Charter School visited Old Wood in Las Vegas, NM. Using fire-reclaimed timber from the Rocky Mountains and other environmentally sustainable sources like NEPA thinning projects, Old Wood manufactures solid-wood flooring. The company also bundles heat-treated firewood for large retail outlets. The students got to see the manufacturing plant in action, taking in the smell of freshly cut wood as it was processed into uniform firewood bundles. And as they watched staff cut pieces of piñon wood down to order-specific sizes, Shiloh Old explained the importance of safety when dealing with saw blades of this capacity.

The students saw firsthand what is referred to as “one piece flow,” where product passed from cutting to quality control and on to packaging. One pair of Old Wood’s sharp eyes caught a couple of pieces that had passed inspection despite having missed the ¾-inch limit in color variation! It was a tough call, but Old Wood takes quality very seriously.

The kids also learned that the price of each lot increases every time it’s touched within the manufacturing process, which is why Old Wood’s manufacturing layout is streamlined to avoid product traveling back and forth between processes. At the end of the tour, the young ecotourists departed smilingly, carrying some firewood for the winter.

Black’s Smuggler Winery

Tony Black has two vineyards in Bosque, NM: one that he’s worked for 13 years, and his newest one, now in its second season. The small size of his operation, which is truly an act of love, allows for checking each barrel daily to see which is ready for the next step. During the Manufacturing Day tour, Tony explained that acid level is what gives each wine its unique flavor, and one student got to use a titration kit to compare acid levels between distilled water, grape juice and various wines from Tony’s vineyards.

These three vastly different New Mexico manufacturers weren’t the only tour hosts that offered students a view into the making and manufacturing universe. Students also visited QC Group, Applied Technology Associates, OGB Architectural Millwork, and Rader Awning in Albuquerque; Insight Lighting in Rio Rancho; Cemco in Los Lunas; Solaro Energy in Socorro; Freanna Yoghurt in Clovis; Herbs Etc in Santa Fe; and Private Label Select in Taos.