Early in my career at US Steel I was given the following advice, typewritten, from my first mentor.

It was attributed to Cason J. Callaway, who was the first ‘Southerner’ to be elected to the board of directors of the company.

I caught the lines for the ore boat named for him when I was a dockhand back in the late 1970's.

I have not seen this available anywhere else, and am sharing this advice today to help preserve it. I hope that it helps you as much as it helped me:

What is an executive?

Of course, he has to have absolute integrity, or it does not matter what else he has.

Of course he has to be willing and able to work, or it does not matter what else he has.

Of course, he has to be objective. If an executive could be described in one word, this would be it.

Of course, he has to have leadership, which is hard to define, but may be described as that quality in a man which makes other men want to do what he wants them to do.

Times have changed, and “he” is no longer the only personal pronoun that can be selected when discussing executives,  but Mr. Callaway’s thoughts on leadership are otherwise just as relevant today as they were when he shared them, and when my first mentor handed them to me freshly typed.

What is an executive?

More importantly, are you executive material? At work? At home? In your community?

I think the world is desperately short of executive talent right now. How about you?


The patent pending indentation yield strength test developed by Nanovea in my mind is the greatest development in mechanical testing since digital readouts.

Yield strength determination no longer requires tensile machines and expensive specimen preparation

The use of a cylindrical flat tip penetrator’s load per unit surface area, at increased speed, has been shown to  correlate to the load per surface area at which material starts flowing when in tension. See the report for the correlation studies on a variety of materials and details of the calculation of Yield Strength.

The Nanovea technology can determine the Yield Strength in less than a minute and in an area as small as 5 microns.

This gives smaller companies a way to more afforably chaaracterize materials without the expense of outside lab services for sample prep and testing.

Two caveats:

  • Because this test covers a very small area, it truly characterizes the base material itself, and not necessarily how it will behave in bulk form due to casting, forging, voids or other imperfections.
  • For the same reason, test results from this technology may be slightly higher than those by traditional tensile test / extensometer readings.

But the inverse of these statements is probably more valid: the tensile test results will always be less than the materials actual or ideal Yield Strength because its larger scale includes a greater volume and selection of various internal imperfections and macro defects.

We see this new Nanovea Technology as an exciting development for our field that will give engineers, product developers, and manufacturing companies better  tools they can use to characterize materials at scale of use.

We can also see this being used by some bright engineers to determine Yield Strength of coatings! and films being used in today’s latest solar and fuel cell technologies.

For more information contact Nanovea.

July orders for autos and auto parts experienced their largest increase in eight years at 11.5%, according to Commerce Department data.

Automakers have also added about 90,000 manufacturing jobs in the past two years, and dealerships have reported increases in sales and hiring.

Precision Machining Shops we talk with are full and the average first shift scheduled for our industry is over 44 hours.

 I spoke with a shop last week scheduling 60 hours- one day off a week.

The U.S. auto industry employs about 1.7 million workers and supports an additional 6.3 million private-sector jobs, according to the Center for Automotive Research in Ann Arbor, Mich. The center said those positions represent more than $500 billion in annual compensation. [p]

The Precision Machining Industry typically reports 25% of its shipments as “automotive.” There are 3,296 companies and just under 100,000 employees in our NAICS code 332721.

Full story at LATimes

Forbes Blog nails this one folks!

No questions from me.

According to John Bruner:” In 2010, American manufacturers added value of $1.7 trillion to the U.S. economy, up 6.6% over the previous year after accounting for inflation. By the same measure, the rest of the economy grew by 2.2%.

You might not know it from public commentary, but the United States manufactures more than any other country (including China), and U.S. factories are within reach of their all-time greatest output.”

In 2007, the last year for which we were able to find Census Data, 3,296 companies in NAICS 332721, Precision Machining, produced over $15,054,173,000 in shipments.

PMPA’s Business Trends Index for July (historically a seasonally slow month) is 111, justone point off from the average for 2007 our peak year before the recession.

So when you hear all that steamy doom and gloom on those TV shows, well

Instead of listening to the guy behind all that steam and smoke

Just take a look at the data!

 For the full Forbes Blog click here


OZ picture

Courtesy of Lifehacker blog. And my daughter the EE computer whiz.

Courtesy the geeks at lifehacker

I have been pounding out some data sorts in Excel for the PMPA’s Administrative and Clerical Salary Survey, about 9 different sorts of a 38, 000 cell data table…

My hands hurt- must learn new keyboard shortcuts!

And then I have to write the forward material.

So when I spoke with my Computer Science EE graduate daughter via Skype  the other day, I asked her if she could give me a cheat sheet of some of those crazy keyboard shortcut commands that I know she uses. I currently use ctrl-c to copy, ctrl-v to paste, ctrl-m to  move  margin, ctrl-x to cut- I use a few.

So today she sent me the link to Lifehacker blog which I get in my email but look at at home.

Voila- A big honkin’ printable pdf list of keyboard shortcuts for Word and one for Excel too. 

Thanks Lifehacker and Thanks Help Desk Geek.

Oh yeah- Thanks Emma!

Hands Photocredit

Hidden variation is what increases your costs. Permanently eliminating the causes of variation is the only way to truly reduce your costs.

Been there? Done that? Get the T-Shirt!

The goal of management is to achieve certain objectives. The way of smart managers is to intelligently manage risk. The means of intelligently managing risk is through reduction in variation in the processes in your control.

Variation increases your costs. Think about a chucker with a worker loading and unloading it. The greater the variation of time of the worker, the fewer parts will be produced at the end of the shift. The closer that the worker’s ‘cycle time’ matches that of the machine, the greater number of parts at the end of the shift.

Variation affects more than just direct costs. Variation in yield can affect order patterns and thus scheduling. Variation in scheduling affects lead times, thus causing order quantities and frequencies to vary. Variability in quality, yield, scheduling and releases all cause more variability which causes risk to all parties to increase. Eliminating variability is the key to reducing risk and reducing the complexity of all the issues that we have to manage in our businesses. Here are 4  tips for reducing variability in your operations:

  • Standardize materials and sourcing,
  • Standardize work,
  • Standardize gaging,
  • Do not be seduced by ‘Low cost’ or ‘Magic Solutions,’
Standardize materials and sourcing was the first lesson that I documented as a Quality Manager in the steel industry. Our VP of Purchasing was convinced that he could chase low prices  to get profitability. However those low prices brought us non conforming material, huge in process rejections, and suspicion about the status of material that passed inspection. Not to mention short or late deliveries, or heroics to expedite replacement material, which increased costs. Failure to standardize sourcing exposes your processes to the full range of global variation. Lock in on a supplier and reduce your variation, risk, and costs.
Standardize work to reduce in process variation. I was involved in an investigation at an automotive supplier who blamed the steel for ‘poor machinability.’ This was truckload, round the clock, running on multiple machines business. And the fact that our steel ran above rate on five of the machines was conveniently ignored by the customer, who was fixated on the four  machines that were running below plan.  A quick look at control charts, tool replacement records and drill grinds on the four underperforming machines vs. the ones achieving plan showed major differences- variations that cost the customer  a production shortfall on four machines times three shifts. It wasn’t the Steel!
Standardize gaging. Actually this is a subset of standardize work. Let’s go back to that chucker job. If there are multiple ways to gage the part on the bench- say an assortment of mikes and calipers- the decision over which to use could cost the operator a second or two with each part to be gaged. That means fewer parts per shift. Increasing cost per part.
Do not be seduced by ‘Low cost’ or ‘Magic Solutions.’ Remember consistency is the goal. How does throwing more variation into your operations improve consistency? Alternative materials, tools , or methods should be proven by testing before being adopted in the shop. Failure to control the self inflicted variability of ‘New,’ ‘Cheaper,’ or ‘Magic’ improvements have increased shops costs far more than the routine normal variability of your existing source. Careful experiments can be an important way to discover better processes, but reckless adoption of unproven inputs will assure increased variation, increased costs, and missed deliveries.
Variation is a synonym for risk, increased cost, missed deliveries, and  loss of customer confidence.  Variation can require you or your customer to  increase order quantities, increase order frequencies, only to dramatically cause orders to be cancelled.
How do you intelligently manage risk? By intelligently reducing variation.
P.S. You can buy the T-Shirt at Zazzle (Photo credit)
Seasonal adjustment from last months record high...

PMPA’s Index of Sales of Precision Machined Products in July came in at 111, down substantially from the 126 adjusted value for June, with 86 shops reporting.  The July 2011 value was up 11% over that for July 2010, and also over the 2010 average for the year.

 While sentiment for Sales Outlook has softened somewhat with this report, that sentiment is still overwhelmingly “Same or Better” according to 85% of our respondents.  The precision machined products industry continues to be buoyed by demand for our critical parts in the face of low to no inventory at our customers.

 One consequence of “lean thinking” is that the  lack of rational inventories at customers often requires “overtime” from the supply chain to provide critical parts ‘just in time.’

Why we’re still bullish about Manufacturing Outlook over the next three months:

Average length of first shift in July was reported to be 44 hours, down just 0.2 hours from June’s report.

Our data indicates continued strength for demand for our products in the near term.

PMPA members can get the full Business Trends Report here.


Dennis Kaplan commented on Linked In about our Pedestal Grinder post from last week.

Like all critical thinkers, he reframed the question from “Why did it fail?” to “Why do we hold users accountable instead of certifying equipment like the Germans do?”

I have to admire his thinking- if the reason for OSHA is to make workplaces safer, why not start with a safe equipment certification program, rather than trying to ‘enforce’ compliance in hundreds of thousands of shops?

Thanks for sharing your thinking Dennis. Folks, here is Dennis’ response on PMPA LinkedIn group.

” Miles, I think it is even sadder that we can purchase items that are not OSHA safe to begin with.
Larger companies can afford to have a safety engineer.

“I think it isn’t fair to make a small machine shop responsible to keep up with all the regulations OSHA and other entities come up with. How do you expect a small shop with one owner and 1-2 employees to keep up with all the regulations. One day one solvent is okay next day it isn’t, but you can still purchase the stuff that isn’t okay to use. Even worst with equipment, you can buy a bench grinder, and then you still have to figure out how to make it OSHA safe. What’s up with that?

“The Germans have TÜV. Nothing can be sold in Germany that doesn’t pass TÜV. You buy something, you know it will pass all the regulations, all you have to do is keep the safety up.

“I have seen shops locked down because a manual milling machine didn’t have enough safety. Yet if you put all the safety they require on to the machine you wont be able to set the machine up, or make any parts. Who makes these rules anyway?
I think it is way more important to train the people in safety then making your machines idiot safe.”

Thanks again Dennis. We appreciate your sense making.

Fluorescent light bulbs. Batteries.

 These fall under the Category of Universal Waste.

Businesses must dispose of these items in accordance with rules for Universal Waste.

While there may be state  or local disposal requirements as well, in this post we’re going to address the federal requirements.

List of State Programs

Fluorescent Lamps

Fluorescent light bulbs save energy by producing more light for less wattage, requiring less energy and therefore less fuel burned.

However, the downside of this is the fact that these bulbs contain mercury, making disposal problematic. (When the mercury atoms are  energized, they emit UV rays which cause the phosphors in the tube to glow (fluoresce)- producing visible light.)

Exposures to mercury can affect the human nervous system and harm the brain, heart, kidneys, lungs, and immune system.

The point is to minimize release of vapor that may contain Mercury. Here are 5 steps for handling  fluorescent ‘s under Universal Waste rules:

  • Used lamps should be collected and packaged so as to minimize damage;
  • Employees should be trained on the hazards and procedures involving these type of “universal waste;”
  • Used lamps may be collected and stored on site for up to one year for recycling- Check your local regulations- they may be more stringent.
  • Shipments must be sent to a handler of universal waste or final recycling facility;
  • Businesses may not otherwise dispose of, mix with other waste or ‘treat’ mercury containing lamps.

Break one- here is what the EPA says you need to do for both CFL’s and Fluorescent tubes:



  • Contain any leakage in a container that will not react with nor release the contents.
  • Manage the waste in any way that is in compliance with applicable federal, state, and local regulations, if the waste is not hazardous.

Find battery recyclers near you.

Universal waste link: 40 CFR Part 273

List of State Programs


Thanks Investment Tooling International Precision Toolmakers!

Was doing a random Google search the other day on the topic of precision machining.

Very pleased to find PMPASpeakingofPrecision named one of the 5 Top Precision Machining Websites  by ITI Precision Toolmakers in Manchester England.

Thanks for the recommendation.

With over 130,000 page views and almost 300 views a day, PMPASpeakingOfPrecision has definitely become a web destination for precision machining topics and information.

And we have posts covering over 50 topics for which  we come up  Google Page One.

Thanks for the Recognition. And if we ever get over to your side of the pond, I think we’ll stop by to say Hi!

Bet we know who you folks root for in football.

Manchester United