In this issue of AMERICAN MACHINIST, Group Managing Editor Gina M. Tabasso provides a look at Beretta U.S.A. Corp., a unit of Fabbrica D'Armi Pietro Beretta S.p.A., that produces the Model 92FS (M9) 9 mm pistol—the standard sidearm used by all branches of the U.S. Armed Forces.
Beretta machines and assembles 53 parts for the pistols at its Maryland facility. Most of the parts are machined from a light aluminum alloy, and many are designed to be interchangeable between various models—simplifying maintenance for various government and military branches.
Beretta's use of a simple design, and the concept of standardized parts, is an idea that can be traced back more than 200 years to a town just outside of New Haven, Conn. - where Eli Whitney came up with the notion that parts for mechanisms should be interchangeable.
Separately in this issue, Senior Editor Charles Bates takes a look at a screw machine shop that turns that notion of standardization on its head.
Rather than churning out innumerable, identical parts, Criterion Tool & Die Inc. is using its screw machines for custom work, and specializes in getting jobs set up and running as quickly as possible. Criterion has tossed out the rules on how screw machines should be used. It is finding profit in the innovation.
Where Beretta is creating competitive advantage from Eli Whitney's old idea of standardized components, Criterion is creating competitive advantage by finding unconventional ways to use traditional equipment.
We know Criterion isn't alone today any more than Whitney was 200 years ago. He was not the only inventor working on the practice of standardization and interchangeable; he got the credit because the way he did it worked best.
His model for manufacturing became known as the "American system of manufacturing," which contributed to economic growth for the United States for the past 200 years and continues to contribute to economic growth throughout the world today. That is the reason Beretta—a company whose roots go back nearly 500 years—is using it today.
On the other hand, Criterion is an example of a company using new methods to gain a competitive edge. It has seen global competition, and has met the challenge by changing rules for playing the game.
Both of these companies are an important part of the evolving U.S. manufacturing sector. They are addressing the challenges they face in different ways - but they are addressing their challenges head-on.
You are going to hear a lot more about that kind of action from AMERICAN MACHINIST in the months ahead. As we head into 2006, we are launching an initiative that we are calling "AMERICAN MACHINIST FOR AMERICAN MANUFACTURING."
We will use it to look at how manufacturing is changing and thriving in the United States. We are looking for companies such as Beretta and Criterion that are innovating today to ensure their competitiveness and economic strength in the future.