It's more than a slogan on a sign.
It's more than a slogan on a sign.

How do I start a 5-S program?
How do I get my 5-S program back on track?
The best way to do 5-S is to understand that the area where the man and the machine interact is the absolutely most valuable real estate on the planet.
Go to that place and ask: “Why is this here?” about any- and every- thing that is there.

  1. Why is this here?
  2. Will it be used this hour?
  3. Will it be used this shift?
  4. Will it be used today?
  5. Why is this here? 

In an office environment, only the names of the machines are different.
When you have completed this for all of your workstations come back and we’ll give you some more ideas about eliminating other less urgent wastes.
PMPA members  with user name and password can download the  6/01/2005 BI Report: Lean Setup 5-S Case Study (Micron Manufacturing) here.

The August 2009 PMPA Business Trends Report increased to 73 in August up 3 points from July, up 4 points from June, and up 8 points from the May 2009 low of 65.  Three months in a row of upward movement!

"Only three months in a row of non negative sales growth"
"Only three months in a row of non negative sales growth"

Three consecutive months of improvement. Or as one of my more pessimistic colleagues puts it, ” three consecutive months of sales not getting any worse.
We’ll prefer our positive optimism to living in his dreary outlook anyday.
Here are our latest reasons we believe that the precision machining industry has begun its recovery based on approximately 100 members participating in our monthly PMPA Business Trends Report.

  1. Three consecutive months of sales increases.
  2. Over half  52% of respondents reported sales increases, and one third reported double digit sales increases.
  3. Average length of first shift climbed again to 38.2 hours. 
  4. 63 % of responding companies reported 40 hour or more average length of first shift.

The shops reporting serve the Medical, Automotive, Aerospace, Heavy Machinery, Truck, Construction Equipment, Food Service Equipment, and Military Markets.
PMPA members can see the latest Business Trends Report here.
Bonus good news  about the economy from the Fed Open Market Committee per  an email from Dr. Ken Mayland, Clearview Economics:
“…economic activity has picked up…” versus last meeting on 8/12: “…economic activity is leveling out.”  Yeah!  The economy is now recovering (not recovered).
Picture credit :

Stealing scrap metals  Clerical errors at scrapyards could become a federal crime under provisions of H.R.1006 now in committee.  We saw nothing in this bill  that is aimed at the theives who actually steal, say, the cover of that manhole that you drive into. 

You won't find these in our chip buckets!
You won't find these in our chip buckets!

But if the scrapyard makes a paperwork error, look out. $10,000 fine!
Goal 8 of the bill states “The secondary metal recycling industry should be commended for educating the public and law enforcement to the problems related to metal theft, issuing `Do Not Buy’ lists, partnering with the National Crime Prevention Council, and creating a Theft Alert System.”
Section 9, Civil Penalty  states “The knowing violation of any provision of this Act is punishable by a civil penalty of not to exceed $10,000.”
Fining clerks  in small businesses  $10,000 for paperwork errors- now that’s  an effective way to commend the industry. Does nothing to deter  the actual thieves from stealing infrastructure.
Bipartisan introductions in both the House ( H.R.1006  ) and Senate (S.418) could make this one bill that actually gets out of committee and passed  this year.
The bill requires “secondary metal recycling agents to keep records of their transactions in order to deter individuals and enterprises engaged in the theft and interstate sale of stolen secondary metal, and for other purposes.”
They already do.
The bill specifically calls out manhole covers, storm water grates, highway guard rails, railroad tracks, automobile components, and street lamps as posing a significant safety risk.
It defines secondary metal as “Copper, aluminum, or other metal (including any metal combined with other materials) that is valuable for recycling or reuse as raw metal.”
We understand the problem of theft of metals – the price of copper has  increased 19 % since May, 64% since January according to PMPA’s latest Material Impacts Report .  Steel scrap prices have been highly variable, and thefts peak when the prices paid are high.
But is increasing  the penalties for recordkeeping  requirements  on scrap dealers the best way to tackle this problem?
What do you think? Has theft of scrap metals been a problem for your shop? Has your community been plagued by theft of power lines, guard rails or manhole covers? What would you recommend to lawmakers to deter the theft of scrap metals?  We think fining clerks at scrapyards does nothing to deter theft. What about you?

Lockout-Tagout Rules – OSHA Regulation


Wednesday September 23, 2009

Originally published in January, 1990, PMPA’s Safety & Health Bulletin #192 acquaints you with Lockout/Tagout rules and regulations required by OSHA’s Control of Hazardous Energy Sources Standard, which became effective on January 2, 1990.

Please contact Miles Free, PMPA Director of Industry Research & Technology, for more information.



Lockout/Tagout Rules – OSHA Regulation


Originally published in January, 1990, PMPA’s Safety & Health Bulletin #192 acquaints you with Lockout/Tagout rules and regulations required by OSHA’s Control of Hazardous Energy Sources Standard, which became effective on January 2, 1990.

Please contact Miles Free, PMPA Director of Industry Affairs, for more information.


Lockout/Tagout – OSHA Regulation (REPRINT)


Rethinking connecting!
We just learned of this prize winning development. Researchers at  Technical University of Munich , Germany have developed ‘Steel Velcro’ which they claim can hold 35 tonnes per square meter of fastener and hold at temperatures up to 800 ºC.

Metal fastener, rethought.
Metal fastener, rethought.

Of course, just like ‘ordinary’ Velcro, it can be opened up without specialised tools and used again. This product is called Metaklett.
The  Metaklett fastening material is made from perforated spring steel strips 0.2 millimetres thick, one kind bristling with springy steel brushes and the other sporting jagged spikes.
We think that this innovation will be useful for machine assembly and for holding things in hot and oily conditions. Especially where there is a high frequency of opening and closing whatever is being secured. Resistance to high temperatures and chemicals could also make this an important development in medical field. Metaklett is basically suitable for use in all areas that require easily opened but stable fasteners, for example air-conditioning and ventilation systems in building services engineering and automotive construction.
Of course, the strength of the connection depends on the direction of the force applied. Applied  90 degrees to the strips, the holding force is said to be about 7 tonnes. The strength of the adhesion diminishes after the first couple openings and closings then stabilizes.
I can see the engineers and designers at NASA and Boeing flying to Munich to get their hands on this.
Congratulations to the team at TU Munich, for their prize winning “rethink of connecting.”
Where would you use this in your shop?

China is currently spending  its reserves buying natural resources all around the world that will be needed in the next century. 

Which should we be?
Which should we be?

Meanwhile, the US Government is wasting trillions of dollars of future taxpayer liabilities propping up zombie banks, Fannie Mae & Freddie Mac, and two thirds of the uncompetitive  Detroit based U.S. auto industry.  Trillions!
Which of these strategies seems smarter to you?

There was certainly no transformation of culture at the Tier 1 suppliers  coming out of Chapter 11. Despite all the special consideration, debts released, and government largesse received by these companies, the arrogance is still there.
Here’s an excerpt from a  Tier 1 letter sent to a machine shop not too long ago:
“Prior to and during the course of “Company’s  name here” Chapter 11 filing, many suppliers demanded shortened payment terms. These terms were granted solely to protect “Company’s name here” supply and to ensure uninterrupted deliveries to our customers. Given “Company’s name here” planned emergence by the end of this quarter, shortened terms are no longer appropriate or justifiable.
“Since you have refused 

My Terms. My way. Take it or leave it supplier.
My Terms. My way. Take it or leave it supplier.

to return to standard payment terms, “Company’s name here” will seek all available remedies, which may include seeking legal redress, or pursuing alternative sourcing solutions if arrangements acceptable to “Company’s name here”  are not completed…
How nice of  “Company” to grant us shortened terms while they were under the protection of the bankruptcy court.
How nice to still try to unilaterally dictate terms to your suppliers.
Terms are granted,  by suppliers, when appropriate, to reward or incentivize creditworthy customers for prompt payment. They are not an entitlement established by arrogance, demand, or corporate pedigree.
We are not surprised that the same pre-bankruptcy arrogance and supplier abuse  remain well entrenched in the Tier 1’s Purchasing Departments. Why would we think cash infusions of billions of dollars and special treatment by the court system would change that?
If the financial restructuring didn’t change the culture, what will be different about doing business with the Detroit companies and their Tier 1’s in the future?
According to the letter I saw, nothing has changed.

Straightness is perishable in bars. Straightness is often lost during handling operations, loading and unloading.

Correct handling preserves straightness.
Correct handling preserves straightness.

Straightness is critical for holding position and tolerances on today’s highly engineered medical, aerospace, automotive and electronic parts.
Here are six ways that bars can lose their straightness.
Six Ways Bar Straightness Can Be Degraded
1) Mechanical damage to an end.   If the bundle is struck by a lift truck, or if the bars catch on a rack or table while being hoisted with the crane, this can cause the ends of the bars that are caught to be deflected out of the bundle and bent.
2) Improper blocking and support at mill or on truck. Cold finished barstock, especially smaller diameters, really needs to be supported at multiple points along its length. This reduces the possible radius that the bundle can sag or droop between supports. The mills that I’m familiar with, (PMPA Tech members) are pro’s and know the best way to support the product and to package it securely. Reputable mills put more bands on smaller ID bar bundles to preserve straightness when needed.
3) Truck loading  and securing. The binders used to secure the bars onto the truck can cause a permanent deformation if they are not matched up with the blocking beneath the bars. I saw a trucker once use a 4 foot piece of pipe as a “cheater” to secure the binding chains ‘one more notch.’ You could hear the wood  underneath the bundle being crushed. Chains are always bad news for cold drawn bars- nicks, and gouges and ‘low spots.’
4) Improper unloading. Putting a spreader bar on so that there are multiple points of support for the bundle is critical, especially with the smaller diameter bars and small bundles.
This is bad...
This is bad...

 I have seen shops unload bundles by using a single “hitch” at the approximate middle of the bundles. This causes a permanent camber over the length of the bars. Jerky crane lifts rather than smooth movements can magnify this effect.
5) Hand unloading or using a forklift. Small diameter bars especially can be bent by the way they are manually pulled out, lifted, and carried, instead of being placed on a table or rack. Using a forklift can also cause bars to be bent.
6) Frequency of handling. If you are buying from a service center, the number of times that the material has been handled can double or triple,  compared to a direct shipment from the mill. Given that you may be buying non-bundle quantities, it is a fact of life that the number of lifts and handling increases dramatically with the additional destination of the service center, as well as in the act of splitting the bundle. 
When you encounter bar straightness issues, characterizing the way the bar deviates from straightness can help you determine which of the above factors might be the cause.

Breaking news. Bloomberg and other sources report that duties up to 31% will be imposed on Chinese produced OCTG (Oil Country Tubular Goods) on the basis of their production with the support of unfair government subsidizes. Average duties are expected to be about 21%, according to the Commerce Department preliminary report.

Like it or not 6.8 billion people live here. We need to trade fairly.
Like it or not 6.8 billion people live here. We need to trade fairly.

In my International Trade Class, we discuss the subject of mercantilism, which is the best way to describe China’s trade policy. When I was in college, the Chinese called the US “imperialists.” This  Department of Commerce finding supports the claim made by many laid off US manufacturing workers that today China, Inc.  is a “commercial imperialist.”
We believe that this case and the forthcoming Chinese tire case (see our blog story dated July 2) are bellwethers of the road ahead for trade relations between the US and China. Trade need not be a zero sum or negative sum game. But artificially manipulating a firms “comparative advantage” is not the way that trade can be sustained in the world today.
China produced 38% of world crude steel production in 2008 according to World Steel Association . With that much power must come discipline.
Harm to  the US manufacturing industry continues as a result of both the past and current adminstration’s  failure to act on China’s mercantilist trade practices and predatory pegged currency scheme. We  are glad to see  the Commerce Department is at least functioning and reviewing trade cases. 
Hey Washington, how about some change? 
How has the impact of Chinese currency manipulation or mercantilism/subsidies  impacted your company or your employment? Post your comment here.
photo credit : thechinabeat