On April 26, 2010, many of us were in Pittsburgh attending the PMPA’s National Technical Conference…

Connecting to find 'Tools You Can Use'

 …while OSHA Administrator David Michaels announced the OSHA spring regulatory agenda.
This agenda only represents the items that OSHA is moving agressively forward on at this time.  these are items Michaels characterized as “long overdue.”
Ambitious agenda.

Items that will impact your precision machining shop include:

  1. Injury and Illness Prevention Program
  2. Changing the Occupational Injury and Illness Recording and Reporting Requirements
  3. Adding a Musculoskeletal Disorders column to the OSHA 300 log
  4. Increased enforcement of Ergonomics under the “General Duty” clause.
  5. Beryllium
  6. Walking Working Surfaces

The Injury and Illness Prevention  ‘Plan-Prevent-Protect’ Program is a significant expansion of these kinds of requirements in the Labor Department. The proposed regulatory actions  require employers to develop programs to:
Plan –The Department will propose a requirement that employers and other regulated entities create a plan for identifying and remediating risks of legal violations and other risks to workers.
Prevent-The Department will propose a requirement that employers and other regulated entities thoroughly and completely implement the plan in a manner that prevents legal violations.
Protect- The Department will propose a requirement that the employer or other regulated entity ensures that the plan’s objectives are met on a regular basis. 
“Employerswho fail to take these steps… will be considered out of compliance with the lawsubject to remedial action.”-  excerpted from the Spring Agenda Narrative Page .
This sounds to me  remarkably like a means to get even more paperwork violations- a  pretext to fine employers even when no injury has occurred.
Copy of the Semiannual Regulatory Agenda
David Michaels photo credit Industry Week

Ryan at Change The Perception discovered this CNN video about Machining.

This isn't old time manufacturing!

Here’s the Video.
Ryan, thanks for sharing this video about the New Blue Collar. About how we make a difference by making things.
Thanks for your work to help our industry Change the Perception.
And  a tip of the hat to CNN Edition for this outstanding video.

Here are  some results of a survey of plant engineers and managers by Reed Business Information  taken last month.  Results are listed in decreasing order of frequency of response:

  1. Increased Operating Costs
  2. Keeping Qualified Employees
  3. Downsizing
  4. Environmental Concerns
  5. Finding More Qualified Employees
  6. Customer Demands
  7. Manufacturers Moving Off Shore
  8. Outsourcing
  9. Manufacturer Consolidation
  10. Supplier Competition
  11. Mergers and Acquisistions
  12. Other

Where does it say new government regulations?

What surprised me was no mention of  access to credit, hurdles to continuous improvements of process, nor mentions of  maintaining safety and morale among the remaining employees.
 The above list looks to me like respondents were very much concerned with “defense,”  not “offense.”
How about you? What are your top concerns?
  Are you puzzled that “Keeping Qualified Employees,” “Downsizing,”  and “Finding More Qualified Employees,” all made the same list?
What does that say about our industry these days?
Photo credit.

Lets add one more federal burden to beleagured manufacturers. At least, thats what iGPS,  a  manufacturer of plastic pallets is calling for. They want to see  federal standards to prevent fires from wooden pallets. They claim over 15 wooden pallet fires last year.
According to http://www.greatdreams.com/wildfires-2009.htm there were 32 000 widfire in the first 5 months of 2009. No call for congressional action that I can recall.
In my freshman economics class, my professor called  this sort of thing “rent seeking.” Here’s the Wikipedia version:
Rent seeking generally implies the extraction of uncompensated value from others without making any contribution to  productivity, such as by gaining control of land other pre-existing natural resources, or by imposing burdensome regulations or other government  decisions that may affect consumers or businesses.
We had lots of clever analysis and cool pictures here, but we’re taking them out to bring you this update:
This just in : Material Handling Management Magazine reports
“the National Association of State Fire Marshals (NASFM) has officially abandoned all efforts to develop code enforcement guidance regarding fire safety and pallet composition.”
It  sent a letter   to Bob Moore, CEO of plastic pallet supplier iGPS, confirming that  the organization has permanently dropped all efforts to pursue the “controversial project.”
It also says, “NASFM does not recommend the use of wooden pallets over plastic pallets, nor does the association recommend the use of plastic pallets over wooden pallets,
Shuman wrote. “Any suggestion to the contrary in the draft documents (including a statement that consumers using plastic pallets should switch back to a wood pallet) does not represent NASFM’s position.”
Most interesting is the word used in the link for the letter as posted on MMH’s website. it captions the letter as “settlement.”
Careful reading of the letter gives us a story of  mystery, intrigue,  and possibly leaked or misused documents, litigation?  Who’d have thought the pallet business was so exciting?

I recently started following Ryan on Change The PerceptonDevoted to Building a New Respect for Manufacturing.

Another voice for manufacturing.

Last week, Ryan posted a link to the   Next Generation Regional Manufacturing Center  website where they have embedded an excellent flash  VIDEO ABOUT MANUFACTURING.
This video is very well done and makes a positive case about how relevant manufacturing is today.
Please click on the video link above to see this outstanding video. It will not waste your time.
Thanks Ryan, and thanks Next Generation Regional Manufacturing Center.
 Your video does a great job of showing what we mean when we are  Speaking of Precision.
More info about the NGRMC here.


The PMPA Business Trends Index of Sales for March 2010 reached the 100 mark.

This is auspicious because that 100 value means that our sales level in March 2010 is essentially the same as our average sales for the year 2000, which is the base year  (2000=100) for our index calculation.

Finally back to 2000 sales levels in March of 2010.

We have lost a decade!
Hooray- because we are up 36 points from the low of May 2009 at 64.
Hooray- because we are achieving those year 2000 sales numbers with the lessons we learned during the lost decade: lean operations, lean setups, cellular operations. Working smarter. Maximizing use of our equipment’s capability. Tapping the ingenuity of our savvy employees.
Here is our narrative from the  March Business Trends Report  
Now, about that Lost Decade:
During the lost decade, we learned which jobs we could do where we added sufficient value to be the manufacturer.  And which jobs were of so little value added that they would inevitably be made in low cost economies.
During the lost decade, I think we also learned the lesson that some customers are bullies and not profitable- more difficulties than they are worth.
And as we continue our lunge to profitability, I am seeing many signs that our industry knows what to do with those customers.
Arrogant demands get their due.


Listen! There is a reason they have canaries in the coal mine.

As a steel company Metallurgist and Quality Director, I was the guy who got the call to visit a shop because the material we sent wasn’t machining right.
“This stuff won’t drill! Help!”
“This stuff is killing my OD form tool. Can you check the steel?”
“This steel you sent is acting crazy. It machines fine on one machine, but not on the other one.”
As the fellow responsible for the processes and quality system that produced the bars, and having visited my hot mill upstream suppliers, I was always confident that I had provided conforming product.
But how could I make sense of the problems reported?
My solution was to always look at the wrong tool- first.
If they complained about the drill, I asked them to show me the cut off tool.
If they complained about the rough, finish form, or shave tool, I asked them to show me the cut off tool first.
They said “Hey Mr. Free you aren’t paying attention. I said the drill is giving me trouble, not the cut off tool.”
To which I  cheerfully replied “Yes?”
After letting that sink in for a bit I would ask the following appreciative inquiry type of question to lead their thinking:
If the cutoff tool sees every aspect of the steel provided-  the very surface of the outside diameter (OD), the sub-surface, the mid-radius, the core, and it does not have any abnormal issues resulting from this material, what is there about this material that you think would allow it to affect this one tool, but not the cutoff?”
Then we focused on the aspects of the operation that inevitably were found to be the cause.
How does the steel know to only interfere with the drill, lets say? Or the the finish form? While leaving the cut off tool unscathed?
While there can be material conditions that are specific to a certain zone in the steel and thus would manifest on a particular tool, that conditon would also have an impact on the cut off.
 If the cut off  tool is A-OK, it’s probably not the steel.
This is the tool that will tell the tale.

It may not look like a canary, but a cutoff tool can sing a song about your process, if you can listen with your eyes.

I'll bet on the machinist!

I subscribed to Ryan Pohl’s blog feed, Change The Perception. (link below)
Ryan’s blog is thoughtful, passionate, and genuine.
It’s devoted to ” Building  a New Respect for Manufacturing
His post today is titled Super-Hero vs. Machinist.  It’s about how Ryan’s childhood aspirations, kinda-sorta came true. Here’s a brief excerpt:
Going from  (becoming a) super-hero to precision machinist! I seem to remember Superman cutting through steel with his laser eyes…now, I know how to cut steel, and I can do it to an accuracy within the thickness of a split-hair…or less! What’s your accuracy Superman?”
You can read the entire post at  Change the Perception.
I liked Ryan’s story a lot.
I liked how he showed that his thinking evolved.
And how in the end he recognized that he became his dream.
That as a machinist, he is in fact a Super-hero.
Who else but a fellow Super-hero, would dare to ask
"Hey Superman, whats your accuracy?"

 Superman logo.
Superman Standing.
Legalese: The Superman Emblem is copyright of DC comics. It is also iconic and truly owned by the hearts and minds of every kid who has been bullied, beaten or lost unfairly and thought that he could make things right if only he was the Man of Steel. Machinists apply energy, tools and metalworking fluids to make the steel do their bidding. It’s no contest really.

Setting up and operating offshore manufacturing doesn’t save money on a total cost basis, but trying to do so may compromise quality, delivery and product development, which could otherwise provide real cost reduction and the pursuit of new high-profit opportunities, like mass customizing of products. 

Is the deciding factor really just low cost of labor?

Rather than weakening operations with the burdens of offshoring, local operations could pursue more effective cost reduction by designing low-cost products, eliminating waste through Lean Production, lowering the cost of quality and setting up flexible factories that could build standard products and mass-custom versions on-demand without the costs and risks of  carrying inventory.
This article in Orthoworld will give you 21 thinking points to understand why offshoring will actually work against your company’s  and customers’ best interests and bottom line.
21 Tools for better sensemaking.
Our job here at pmpaspeakingofprecision.com is to help you find “Tools You Can Use” to keep your medical shop competitive and sustainable.
We think getting you the ideas in this thoughtful article is best use of our blog today.

We reported that the California  Energy Commission requested the US EPA to delay rules requiring permits for Greenhouse gases here.

No permit needed, it's only GREENHOUSE GAS in tonnage quantities!

This struck us as  both hypocritical and ironic. Why shouldn’t gas fired boilers used for power in California  that belch  out 25,000 tons or more of greenhouse gas be required to have an EPA permit?
I mean 25,000 tons of greenhouse gases seems like a big enough number to merit tracking.
Private industry has been filing reports on some substances for quantities as little as 10 pounds.
10 pounds!
EPA caved in, according to my read of  a report by John M.Broder in the Tuesday March 30, 2010 New York Times. According to his story, Emily Litella Lisa Jackson  said the timetable for permits was “a calibrated plan to begin to apply the Clean Air Act to major stationary sources of heat trapping gases.”
Apparently by waiving the need  for power plants to be permitted.
Lisa Jackson greenhouse gas- Never mind!

Do you think it’s right that industry has to file reports on as little as 10 pounds  of some substances, while the California Energy Commission gets a “Never Mind” waiver on power plants emitting  25,000 tons of greenhouse gases from   Emily Latella Lisa Jackson at the EPA?
Here’s a song for you, Ms. Jackson.