Right Skills Now will provide fast-track training for skilled manufacturing jobs- starting with  entry level precision machinists.

Right Skills Now for manufacturing

According to a Skills Gap study by the Manufacturing Institute, more than 80 percent of U.S. manufacturers can’t find qualified people for the nearly 600,000 skilled production jobs that are currently unfilled.

For American manufacturing to be successful, employers need machinists that have the right skills, and they need those skills now. That is the impetus for a new, fast-track education initiative called Right Skills Now.

The program is an accelerated, 16-week training course for operators of precision machining equipment. It provides classroom and hands-on shop experience to prepare students for immediate employment. It also allows individuals to earn college credit and national industry certifications.

One of the founders of Right Skills Now is Darlene Miller, CEO and owner of Permac Industries in Burnsville, Minn. She helped launch the training program for CNC machinists in her home state.  PMPA provides staff support to Ms. Miller’s PCJC work. Miles Free, Director of Industry Research and Technology helped develop an initial outline of the curriculum to assure relevance to today’s advanced manufacturing shops.

Darlene Miller Announces Right Skills Now At President's Job Council Listening and Action Session at Productivity Inc, in Minnesota

As a small business owner representing the manufacturing sector, Ms. Miller was asked to serve for two years on the President’s Council for Jobs and Competitiveness. The Jobs Council is comprised of citizens chosen to provide non-partisan advice to the President to help foster economic growth, competitiveness, innovation and job creation.

According to Ms. Miller, the first time she met with President Obama, she was asked to talk about the economy as it related to manufacturing and small business. “One of the things I said to the President was, ‘Not every student needs to go to college,’ she says.

“He had recently made a speech saying that every student should go to college. But he later agreed that while not all students must go to college, they do need some educational training beyond high school.

“I told him that in the precision machining industry, we have an urgent need for skilled people,” Ms. Miller continues. “We can’t afford to take just anyone off the street, provide some training and then put that person in a machining job.”

Despite the nation’s high unemployment rate, attracting workers with machining skills has been difficult for small manufacturers. “Because of the recession, we’re all strapped financially,” Ms. Miller explains. “We need people that have math skills. Our equipment is very high-tech, and our customers expect zero ppm performance so we can’t afford to hire someone that hasn’t had technical training.

“It is critical that new hires have the necessary math and safety skills to understand and operate the machines,” she adds. “There is so much more involved now than there was 10 years ago.”

Serving on the Jobs Council with Ms. Miller are some of the country’s top corporate leaders from GE, American Express and DuPont. After the council meeting with the President, the members were divided into sub-committees. Ms. Miller was asked to co-chair the High-tech Education Sub-committee with Intel’s CEO, Paul Otellini.

The group held meetings and brought in two of Minnesota’s technical schools—Dunwoody College of Technology and South Central College. The sub-committee was also able to elicit help from the National Association of Manufacturers (NAM); the National Institute for Metalworking Skills (NIMS); and American College Testing (ACT), the company that developed the testing for applicants. The program has also received funding from the Joyce Foundation.

“To make this work, there had to be a partnership between the business community, the technical schools and organizations like NAM, NIMS and ACT,” Ms. Miller emphasizes.

This photo shows a small fraction of the almost 200 attendees for the launch of Right Skills Now.

To be eligible for the program, applicants have to pass the ACT test, which is geared towards the machining industry. If an individual doesn’t qualify for the program the first time, there are remedial classes available.

“Problem-solving is huge part of the curriculum,” Ms. Miller says. “There is a mix of both classroom learning and shop time. After sixteen weeks, the student will intern at a manufacturing company for eight weeks.

“That person can stay with the company and continue his or her education in a specific field,” she adds. Some go into programming, Swiss machining or advanced CNC skills.   Others may end up as operations managers, quality managers or even entrepreneurs.

“We intend to replicate Right Skills Now nationally,” Ms. Miller sums up. “It’s not just for CNC machinists. It can be used for nearly any job skill. The program is so well-defined and accredited, it can be tweaked very easily to train anyone from welders to healthcare technicians.”

Click this link for more information on Right Skills Now,

In the old days, everybody knew that it was cycle time that won you the job over the other shops…

Everybody knows it's cycle time...

Cycle time is a major determinant of price per piece, but it may no longer be the main one. (I’m going to ignore the effect of setup time and order quantity in this discussion. These can also be a major influence in price per piece on smaller lot sizes.)

Here are 7 other determinants of piece cost:

Cleanliness– some parts require millipore tests to assure cleanliness on parts for sophisticated systems. Costs to obain this level of cleanliness can exceed the cost to whittle the part out of the barstock.

Surface finish– what the machine can deliver may be acceptable, but when the customer demands to see CPK for surface finish,  now you are talking about a secondary operation for grinding, honing or other surface finishing process- at an additional cost.

Certifications and paperwork– No I’m not talking about mill certs for raw material, I’m talking about customer required documentation that requires outside labwork, analysis, testing or validation.  In specialty areas like aviation, medical, and automotive, the cost to prepare paperwork submissions (especially first piece submissions) easily exceeds the value of the parts provided. Making aircaft parts? Something on the U.S. Munitions List? You know what I’m talking about.

Post process steps– Plating or heat treating costs can exceed the cost of the basic part depending on the process and application. Transportation to outside vendors also adds to this, as would the compliance costs if the shop is capable of doing these processes on site.

Packaging– In a day when supply chains span the globe, multiple time zones, and climate regions- where our metal products may be exposed to salt air on board ship or depressurized air cargo holds at 35,000 feet- packaging to preserve product integrity can be a cost driver. Especially if to Mil-spec and or the requirement mandates the  need to preserve integrity for a period of years.

Tolerances and capability– I have seen parts where a new engineer has decreased the tolerance so much  that the product can no longer be made on the economical machines that exceeded requirements for the past five years. Requiring Cpk that exceed normal manufacturing expectations “just for safety’s sake” can also result in moving a part off a multispindle automatic with short cycle times onto  several CNC machines (to maintain volume) just to get that extra “kick” of Cpk. The risk that was eliminated is now reflected in the new cost of the more expensive process.

Raw Materials– on tiny, high stock removal, highly engineered parts, the cost of machining probably does exceed the cost component of the raw material. Show me a part that looks essentially like the piece it was made from, and I’ll show you a part where raw material cost, not cycle time, is the primary cost driver.

Transportation, including premium freight for parts or paperwork, is another item to consider. The point of this post is not to whine about all of these additional requirements- it is to point out that they can be a frictional cost, a parasitic load that increases part costs, and yet are under the control of the Buyer. These costs, either separately or in combination, may be the main drivers of why that 15 second  part now costs so much.

Sales people and estimators- unless you actively review the real needs with your customer, your blind acceptance/compliance to all of these “Additional Requirements” may be the real reason that the customer comes back saying that “Your price is too high.”

I teach my students that critical thinking is recognizing and challenging assumptions. Critical sales and estimating, if they are to be successful, might share that definition of recognizing and challenging those assumptions that add cost, but not value, to our precision machined products.


Ever want to know what happens after an OSHA inspection, what  are the types of violations that you can be cited for, or other issues regarding your post inspection rights?

Here”s your free pdf

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Contents include Employer Options, Informal Conference and Settlement, How to Comply, How to Contest Citations, The Contest Process, Petition for Modification and Abatement, Follow-up Inspections and Failure to Abate.

And a whole lot more!

You might as well download this guide and start preparing, this agency’s “New Sheriff in Town” vision delivers on the promise of aggressive enforcement…


Image credit.

Compressive Stress is important in the forging, stamping, coining, and cold heading industries. It is compression stress that is used to change the shape of the product. This is different than in our machining industry, where we create the shape of the part by subtracting material by some means of stock removal.

Compressive stress is caused by an applied load that is acting to reduce the length of the steel in the axis of the applied load. Because the forces acting on steel are in the same axis (collinear) with the longitudinal axis of the member, these forces cause the steel to either shorten or stretch.

Compressive stress causes different failure modes in brittle and ductile steels.

Compressive strength is the limit of compressive stress that the steel can withstand before failing in a ductile failure.

  • When steel’s compressive strength is exceeded, the steel will fail in a brittle fashion, and it will shear, usually at a 30 to 45 degree angle.
  • When I see cracks at angles in the range of 30 to 45 degrees from the direction of applied load in steel, formed by cold working deformation, I know that the failure is a brittle mode.
  • This does not mean that the steel itself was too brittle, it may mean that the angles and loading in the process tooling were incorrect, causing the compressive limit of the steel to be exceeded.

When I installed a cold heading wire drawing line  in my mill, my employees preferred to call our compression or upset test the “Squeeze Test.”

We upset test (compression test ) small samples of steel from each coil of wire to see the failure mode of the material after drawing, and to see if any seams opened up as the section thickness increased.

Image from my archival copy of a chart from Steelways 1955.

For steel products which are subject to moving loads, such as automobile springs, crankshafts, and power takeoff shafts, it is important to know the endurance, or fatigue limit.

Simplified depiction of fatigue or endurance testing.

Specimens are prepared for testing and are subjected to bending as they revolve. In every revolution of the test machine the stress is reversed twice-under load.

With the initial specimen, stress is applied which is far beyond the breaking point.  Testing is repeated with different specimens and the applied stress is gradually reduced until a specimen will undergo ten million reversals without breaking. This stress is referred to as the fatigue limit.

The Fatigue Limit is the maximum stress that a material can endure for an infinite number of cycles without breaking. It is also referred to as the Endurance Limit.

Ten million cycles is the engineering community’s testing approximation for infinite.

Image source:  Steelways  chart dated 1955  on steel testing from my personal archive.

One of the benefits of staying current on  professional social media sites is the chance to find some new insights and people with great ideas.

I found this gem on Medical Product Device Development Network on LinkedIn today, and just had to share.

Our thanks to Mike Shipulski for the thought leadership about our contribution as engineers to our firms’ profitability.

You know you're committed to engineering when...

Here’s what Mike had to say about  the contributions of engineers:

We all want to increase profits, but sometimes we get caught in the details and miss the big picture:

Profit = (Price – Cost) x Volume.

“It’s a simple formula, but it provides a framework to focus on fundamentals. While all parts of the organization contribute to profit in their own way, engineering’s work has a surprisingly broad impact on the equation.

“The market sets price, but engineering creates function, and improved function increases the price the market will pay. Design the product to do more, and do it better, and customers will pay more. What’s missing for engineering is an objective measure of what is good to the customer.”

To read the complete article, click HERE.

Tip of the hat to Mike Shipulski for sharing his thought leadership on LinkedIn.

The US has a shortage of engineers, a fact that certainly can be recognized as hindering competitiveness in a world focused on technological innovation.

The President’s Job Council, launched a private sector initiative called 10,000 Engineers, to address the stagnating graduation rate of engineers in U.S. Colleges.

Paul Otellini PCJC Champion for 10,000 Engineers

Employer surveys we have seen indicate that science and engineering positions are the hardest jobs to fill.

In fact, it has been stated that there are three vacancies for every engineer currently graduating in the U.S.

Headed by Paul Otellini of Intel, the 10,000 Engineers program  has already signed up 60 companies pledging to double their engineering internships in 2012. Nothing like a little time on task to build commitment to our exciting field of engineering. The internships represent an investment of about $70 million by the companies  onboard.

Top Engineering universities are also developing a “Tech Standard Seal of Excellence”  to recognize schools with the highest retention rates.  (If you measure it- you can change the behavior.) The leading schools currently have very strong mentoring programs, examples for other schools to adopt.

The issue with engineering graduation rates turns out to be related to failure to retain aspiring students in university. Thirty five percent of students enrolled in science, math, and engineering programs leave them after the first year.

American engineers drive the innovations and technologies that improve our quality of life competitiveness and raise our standard of living.  The PCJC’s 10,000 Engineers program is one way that the private sector has stepped up to help meet the challenge of having sufficient pool of engineering talent so that there will be new developments for our industry to make.

Link for more information on 10,000 Engineers

Paul Otellini’s Op- Ed on the U.S. engineering competitiveness crisis

It is commonly held knowledge by most people  that alloy steel is “stronger” or “better” somehow than “ordinary steel.” What makes a steel “alloy steel?” What makes alloy steel “different?”

Chromium, molybdenum, and vanadium are the alloying elements in H 13 tool steel

Alloy Steel

Steel is classified as an alloy steel when the maximum content of manganese exceeds 1.65%; silicon exceeds 0.5%; copper exceeds 0.6%, or  in which a definite range or minimum quantity of  the following elements are specified:aluminum, boron, chromium (up to 3.99%), cobalt, columbium, molybdenum, nickel, titanium, tungsten, vanadium, zirconium.

These elements alter the steel’s response to heat treatment, resulting in a wide range of possible microstructures and mechanical properties.

Alloying Elements

Alloying elements are always metallic- thus sulfur, phosphorus, carbon and nitrogen are NOT alloying elements.

Alloying elements are added to the steel for the purpose of increasing resistance to corrosion or chemical attack, improve hardness, improve hardenability, or to alter strength.

While the carbon content of steel is the best predictor of its properties, alloying elements are the ingredients that give a particular composition its own particular set of properties.

Key  commercial takeaway

Alloying elements typically do not alter the properties of the steel until heat treated. So if someone is purchasing alloy steel and the application does not call for a heat treatment, further inquiry into why they are paying extra for alloy steel is in order.

Our condolences to everyone at Apple on the loss of Visionary in Chief and Denter of the Universe Steve Jobs.

We are grateful for Steve’s exemplary commitment to design and technical excellence.

One person can make a difference.

Steve Jobs did.

Thank you Steve!