“Asking GE to advise the USA on Domestic Job Creation is like asking Willie Horton to consult on Bank Security. ” –Miles Free
Guest Post by Andrew R. Thomas, Asst. Professor, University of Akron. Originally posted on Industry Week Forum.

President Obama’s declaration at General Electric headquarters last week that America is going to once again “build and invent stuff…like Thomas Edison” is a great sound byte.

The President then announced that GE CEO Jeffrey Immelt will now head-up the Administration’s Economic Advisory Board.
Is this the best we can do?

Made in China.

  Former CEO Jack Welch- along with Alan Greenspan-were the two figures who could do seemingly no wrong in the 90’s and early 00’s.

Welch took over a company that was an industrial powerhouse, but was spending less on research and development each year.
Welch’s strategy was to continue to reduce R & D and, instead, get into the outsourcing business in a big way. This led GE to outsource large segments of its own business and transformed GE into one of the world’s most sophisticated providers of outsourcing services.
According to Barry Lynn in his book Cornered, General Electric “pioneered much of the back-office-information-processing operations to India, almost single-handily establishing the companies and protocols that now dominate the business.”
Today, less than half of General Electric’s revenues and its employees come from America.
Further, GE was one of the biggest beneficiaries of government bailouts. In addition to the outsourcing strategy, GE became a huge financial firm. When the financial crisis hit in 2008, GE Capital received tens of billions in taxpayer money to wipe out its bad loans and decisions.
Moreover, GE has been one of the largest recipients of federal stimulus dollars to develop new green technologies. The company has received billions more from the U.S. taxpayer.
This is not the General Electric of Thomas Edison – and it hasn’t been for a very long time…

It’s that time of year again: Time to post your company’s OSHA 300A Summary  of Work Related Injuries and Illnesses 300 Log. Employers with 11 or more employees must post a summary of the prior calendar year’s injuries and illnesses. It is not enough to complete this report, you must post the summary in a visible place, from February 1 to April 30 each year. 
In addition PMPA provides our online Occupational Injury and Illness Survey so that you can compare your shop’s experience with that of Fabricated Metals, Machine Shops, and Precision Turned Product Manufacturing.  If you have completed the survey in the past, a comparison report on your company data is also available.
Here’s the link : www.pmpa.org/safety/
For more info on OSHA 300 go to the OSHA Recordkeeping Handbook:
Photo credit

Yes they are both externally threaded fasteners, but how can you tell the difference?

Bolt- torque the nut

Bolt-externally threaded fastener that is

  • designed for insertion through holes in assembled parts
  • normally intended to be tightened (or released!) by torquing a nut

Screw- Torque is applied through the head...

Screw-externally threaded fastener that is capable of

  • being inserted into holes in assembled parts;
  • mating with a preformed internal thread, or forming its own thread;
  • being tightened or released by torquing the head.

A bolt is designed for assembly with a nut.


Nuts are required for bolts, optional for screws.

A screw has features in its design which makes it capable of being used in a tapped or preformed hole in the work. Because of basic design, it is possible to use certain types of screws in combination with a nut. Any externally threaded fastener which has the majority of the design characteristics which assist its proper use in a tapped or other preformed hole is a screw, regardless of how it is used in its service application.

Source: Distinguishing Bolts from Screws, US Department of Homeland Security, March 2006.

How is your profitability?
How is your  productivity ?  
What are the differences between your practice and that of other top shops?

Modern Machine Shop, sister publication to Production Machining,  is offerring a free, benchmarking opportunity to allow you to compare your shopfloor practices with other particpants. What are the leading practices that are enabling machining businesses to evaluate and improve their business?
This Top Shops benchmarking program expects to establish metrics that define best-in-class manufacturing business practices, measures of the efficiency and effectiveness of machining  operations.
Top Shops will profile top-performing machining facilities to recognize and share ways that leading manufacturers are becoming more productive, more profitable and more globally competitive.
The past year and a half has had everyone focused on their own performance. (AND SURVIVAL!)
This year just might be the time to look outward and benchmark to practices of others.
Are you profitable?
Are you productive?
No doubt about it.
But is it the best that you can be?
Is it as good as the competition?
How do you know?
The link below will take you to the in depth, 50 question survey.
Benchmarking link.
MMS Benchmarking Blog Post

The U.S. Department of Labor’s Occupational Safety and Health Administration today announced that it is withdrawing its proposed interpretation titled “Interpretation of OSHA’s Provisions for Feasible Administrative or Engineering Controls of Occupational Noise.”  The interpretation would have clarified the term “feasible administrative or engineering controls” as used in OSHA’s noise standard.  The proposed interpretation was published in the Federal Register on Oct. 19, 2010.
PMPA alerted the industry  and other metalworking associations to this proposed reinterpretation when it was first published in the Federal Register. We wrote requesting an extension for comments and fact finding. We have been gathering data to establish the cost burden of the proposal on the small manufacturing businesses that we serve.
Thanks to all who joined with PMPA, our members who commented, and other metalworking associations who also commented and made their concerns known.
As a result of effective associating, this ill-conceived proposal has been withdrawn.
You can read the OSHA Announcement here.

Any design- whether product, recipe, process, or art- should be subject to periodic review of the designer.
The reason for this is to assure that

  1. It is being used as originally intended
  2. It is being followed
  3. It is effective
  4. Opportunities for improvement  are identified


This is fully in keeping with the Deming Wheel, or for us old timers,”the Shewart Cycle.”
The revisiting of the process  creates learning opportunities for the  organization as well as the people involved:

  • Teaches those involved in the process
  • Teaches the Designer doing the review about his process
  • Teaches the Designer about how the organization implements their designs
  • Teaches the Designer how to improve their future process designs
  • Adds to the “Tribal Knowledge” of the organization.

The review  of the process can be the most profitable aspect of the company’s product provision efforts.
If it is not neglected.
Plan and Do are critical and measured by the customer.
Check and Act are equally as important and  measured by profitability. They are the engine of institutional learning and continuous improvement.
Deming Wheel.

Prices increased across the board on all metals that we track…


So when your customer wants a long term fixed price...

 Aluminum is up 9.16% December 2009 – December 2010. Average price was up 33% over the year.

Brass scrap up 34.29% since December 2009.  Average for year up~43%.


Copper 30.92% increase December 2009 –December 2010. Average for year up ~42%.


Nickel up 51.86% since December 2009. Average for year up 62%.


Steel busheling up 25.60% since December 2009. Average for year up 58%


China Coke down 27.45%, The only item we track lower  for the period.

 Raw material prices remain highly volatile, and are likely to remain so given global demand and supplier reticence to build inventory.
PMPA Members can get the full Raw Materials Impact report here: December 2010 Materials Impact

Good housekeeping enables many things in your shop- all good!


Let no one say "all was cleanliness here, until you came..."


I recall when a colleague was given a “battlefield promotion” from inside sales manager to plant manager at a steel plant that was closing. My colleague confided in me by saying, “I don’t know how to run a plant; I don’t know this; I don’t know that.”
My comment to her was simple: “I’ve been to your home. It is a clean and safe place. Think of the mill as your home. Does it meet your standards for safety? Does it meet your standards for housekeeping? If you don’t tolerate dirty laundry on the floor in your home, why would you let your crew put debris or rags on the floor of the shop — your home away from home?”
During the period of time that she was plant manager, her plant (despite the stress of imminent closing) had the top safety record, the top on-time performance record and the best crew attitude.
There was no uncertainty in her crew. They knew that she expected an orderly, free-from-trash, no-waste work environment (and lunchroom). That’s how she managed. Along with that came improved safety, attitude and performance. Those are not bad side effects from just focusing on one area.
Is housekeeping an area you choose to focus on in 2011?
And what do you expect as the side effects of your choice?
Original Article: Production Machining
Photo credit: Floating Branch Products

Better reasons than this!

Here are three reasons for optimism for 2011 for our Precision Machining Industry:
1) Metal Service Center Shipments in November
Metals service center shipments of steel and aluminum products rose robustly in November, perhaps signaling the beginning of a sturdier recovery for the metals industry, the Metals Activity Report from the Metals Service Center Institute shows. Year-over-year steel shipments from U.S.-based service centers rose 28.4% during November; Canadian shipments were 19.5% above year-ago volume. U.S. aluminum shipments were 38.8% higher than in November 2009, while Canadian shipments of the light metal rose 18.3% from last year. In each case, the sequential rise in shipments from October volume was pronounced. Link
Double digits shipments increases = Optimism.
2) Auto Sales SAAR (Seasonally Adjusted Annual Rate) are approaching 13 million
“U.S. auto sales rose more than 11 percent in 2010 to almost 11.6 million vehicles, snapping a four-year slide that forced the Detroit automakers into a wrenching restructuring that included government-directed bankruptcies for GM and Chrysler.
“In a year-end surge that took the industry by surprise, the annualized sales rate for December jumped to almost 12.6 million vehicles, the highest rate since August 2009 when the U.S. government’s “Cash for Clunkers” trade-in incentives touched off a short-lived boom.”
Reuters story
Automotive is traditionally 25% of precision Machining industry sales according to PMPA Business Forecast reports.
3) First Shift Hours
The  early returns for our January Business Trends Reports show many shops scheduling first shifts of over 45 hours.
Shifts> 45 hours = Immediate Demand

Fabricated metals and primary metals were two of the 11 manufacturing segments reporting growth in December 2011 according to the latest ISM Report on Manufacturing. 

Seems like Santa had been working out!

Our precision machining industry makes the highly engineered precision components that enable the technologies embedded in manufactured products.
Manufacturing is responsible for approximately 12 % of GDP.
The PMI registered 57 in December, indicating a continued expansion in Manufacturing. December was the 17th consecutive month of manufacturing expansion according to ISM.
We believe that the ongoing US Manufacturing expansion, when coupled with the economic expansion in Brazil, India and China, indicates a year of high variability in prices for raw materials needed for producing precision parts. Brass, steel, stainless steel, prices of these are likely to swing wildly as inventories remain low and demand registers episodically and news distracts the market.
We are pleased to see manufacturing continue its expansion in the US, but are keeping in mind the challenges that many shops will face as they try to purchase materials  not available from stock for orders with immediate due dates.
A better problem to have than we had in the fourth quarter of 2008…
Have you noticed availability issues in certain materials?
Have you noticed unseasonably strong orders or sales in the final quarter of 2010?