Some ideas to be working on during the ‘slow time’ at the end of the year.

1) Audit your shop’s Injury, Illness, Accident records and Incident reports.If any are missing now is the time to start looking- before you need to prepare your next OSHA 300 log.

2) Audit your OSHA 300 log. If you find any deficiencies- FIX THEM!

3) Prepare a listing of all raw materials brought in by type and grade to facilitate next year’s TRI reporting.

4) Review the years stack of no quotes. What capabilities  do you lack that the market is telling you you need?

5) Review your jobs by profitability list. (If you don’t have one, why not?) What is it that you are really doing right?

6) Look at your machine utilization rate by department or type. If you have clear winners or losers the market is telling you that the way you are assigning costs needs to be reevaluated.

7) Come in on the weekend when noone else is there. Bring a trusted friend or colleague that is not in the business. Look, really look, at what you see. Are you comfortable? What would you change? Can you answer their questions about “Why it’s like this?”

8) Develop a safety, quality, and a production theme for the year.  In my steel mill days I made it the “Year of No Rust Claims,” and our work and investigations and permanent corrective actions put an end to rust claims off that mill by the middle of the summer. For the rest of the year and the next…Why not do that for safety, and productivity too?

9) Inspect all slings, cables, straps, and other lifting and rigging. Destroy and replace all showing frays, wear, damage of any kind.

10) Identify the stupidest policy that you have in place.  Eliminate it.


” 8) ” Glitch  in the list above is an undocumented feature courtesy of WordPress (Typed the numeral 8 and the close parentheses…)

 It is critical to understand that the selection of free machining steels goes against the ability of those components to withstand impact loads.

Charpy impact values are reduced by free machining additives.Impact values increase with increased hardenability.


Impact strength is often an important design consideration in mechanical components. Cost to manufacture is also an important consideration in mechanical components.

Free machining grades can reduce the cost to manufacture precision machined components. But free machining additives reduce the impact strength of the steel. Materials should be selected on the basis of complying with design requirements, not just low cost to manufacture.

The low carbon free machining steel grade 1215 exhibits a particularly low level of toughness over a wide range of temperatures. Even light impact loadings are a bad fit for this grade of steel. The principal effects of the free machining elements  (Sulfur and Manganese) added to this steel are to lower the upper shelf or ductile portion of the absorbed energy curve.

The effects of hardenability can be seen between the 4140/41L40 and 1141 steels. While the presence of lead in the 41L40 does drop the upper shelf energy somewhat, the biggest difference can be seen  to lie between the 1141 and the two 4140 grades. The lower hardenability of the 1141 on mill cooling in addition to the effect of the manganese sulfide additives explains this difference.

The greatest difference however that can be seen from this figure is the vast difference between the two low carbon steels, Grade 1215 and 1018. Even at 212 degrees F the upper shelf energy of the 1215 is roughly  only a third of that of grade 1018.

Rule of thumb: If a steel grade machines well- it probably has miserable charpy impact properties. 

Figure 1 taken  from The Assessment of The Mechanical behavior Of Free-Machining Steels, J.T. Berry and  R. Kumar, School of Mechanical Engineering, Georgia Institute of Technology; R.G.Kumble, Vermont American Corporation. 1975 ASM  Mechanical Working and Forming Division, International Symposium  on Machinability.

Both the PMPA Business Trends Index and the ISM PMI  for October 2011 index show a slight flattening in shipments; the ISM report indicates a continuation of the expansion of the manufacturing sector.

Shipments seem to be levelling off.

The direction of change in our index parallels that of the ISM PMI reported for October. We believe that the October numbers we report indicate a ‘flattening of,’ not a ‘decline in’ industry shipments.

I started a list of the things that I was ‘Thankful for”    (Grammatical correction courtesy of memories of Miss Jerles 7th grade English) for which I was thankful.

It was getting to be a really long multi page list.

And while it started off with health, family, friends etc., it didn’t take long to get to some of my favorite “things.”

How Arrogant!

So here is my reboot of what I’m really thankful for (Sorry Miss Jerles, this is my genuine voice.)

Courtesy of my West Coast Funk Playlist: here’s Tower of Power  performing ‘Doin’ Alright.’


” As long as you’re living

the life that you were given…

as long as you’re able

to put food on the table…

You’re Doin’ Alright.”

What am I thankful for?

Plenty. I’m ‘Doin’ alright.’

Our Precision Machining Industry is ‘Doin’ alright.

 I hope that you are ‘Doin’ alright’ too.

 But I’m a little bit sad that a lot of my fellow Americans aren’t “Doin alright.”

Happy Thanksgiving.

How many days do you think it would it take to design it today?

You can find the answer on the Ohio Academy of Science Website at this link: Jeep

It is a very interesting story.

P.S.- If you thought that your auto customers are tough about stealing  co-opting uh- ‘sharing’ your PPAP submitted process information with your competitors, this story will tell you who taught them that- the US Government!

Precision Machining is a branch of fabricated metals manufacturing that continues to have a high demand for people with skills.

Even at the depths of the last recession, I saw want ads in the major papers in cities across the country from companies looking for skilled machinists, setup men, and toolmakers- people with skills.

So with job openings even during a recession,  Precision Machining is a great industry to find a job.

What many people don’t realize is that its also a great place to find a career.

PMPA Technical Member Peterson Tool Company recently honored 24 employees for 25 years of service.

Finding a job is an important part of having a quality life. Finding a job that sustains a career and lifelong employment is- well as you can see from this photo- its  not all that rare in the precision machining industry. Here is a company that recently honored 24  of their employees for 25 years or more service.

That’s a Career!

Congratulations to PMPA Technical Member Peterson Tool Company.

Congratulations to the 24 employees who have collectively achieved over 600 years of industry knowledge and experience at Peterson Tool Company.

If you are already working in the precision machining industry, congratulations on your great career choice.

If you are not working in precision machining and would like to and can do the math, the people pictured above are examples of what you to could have in our industry- a great career with a great employer.

Peterson Tool Company

When I grew up I learned Economics from Uncle Bob.

Uncle Bob had the family farm, and worked as a foreman in the steel mill.

This is the mill Uncle Bob worked in.

Uncle Bob taught me that wealth is created by either growing it , manufacturing it, or mining it. And since he had a working oil/gas well on the farm, he knew of what he spoke.

He grew food and raised livestock on the farm, he manufactured steel in the mill, and he sold the oil from the well and burned the gas for heat.

Then I got to college and saw that the folks with money weren’t working in mills or mines or farms. There was this burgeoning service economy.

Today, I just prepared PMPA’s Business Trends Report for October 2011. It aggregates sales and sentiment data from a little over 80 PMPA members in the U.S..

The Business Trends Indicator flattened a bit- a decline from  a value of 114 last month to 111 this month.

Woe is me- NOT!

The fact of the matter is that the Business Trends Sales Data is up 15% for the year to date. Our average is 115. in 2010 it was 99.

Precision Manufacturing- according to PMPA’s respondents are up 15 percent over last year.

So how does that 15% stack up against the interest rates that those service economy bankers are paying you on your savings, checking and Certificates of deposit? How does 15% compare to how the rest of your investments- real estate, stocks, bonds- are doing?

According to our data, Uncle Bob seems to be right. There are many worse places to be in today’s economy than precision manufacturing.

Congratulations on your great career choice!

Photocredit: Riverrat

Gold is for the mistress

Silver for the maid

Copper for the craftsman, cunning at his trade,

“Good!” said the Baron, sitting in his hall,

“But Iron- Cold Iron – is Master of them all.”

-Rudyard Kipling

Full poem here

In 1910 when Rudyard Kipling wrote this verse,  the USA produced about 24 million tons of steel. That amounted to roughly 482 pounds for each of the 92.2 million americans counted in the census that year.

In 2010, the US produced 88.5 million tons- down 13% from 2008 and down 18% from 2006 and 2007. That 88.5 million tons- amounted to about 575 pounds for each of the 308 million Americans alive that year.

That’s an increase of about 20%  per person over a period of a hundred years?

Only 20%?

What amazes me is that all of our devices using steel have diminished the mass of the steel needed to do the same job.

This 1910 Case tractor probably weighed in around 3000 pounds and delivered no more than 20 horsepower.

This 2010  production single cylinder Kohler (iron cylinder) engine equipped Cub Cadet also rated at 20 horsepower:

I don't think this one weighs 3000 pounds...

Steel truly  is the master- in this case the master of doing more with less.

Buckminster Fuller describes this decreasing of mass but increasing of capability as “ephemeralization.”

Its something my kids have seen growing up as they observed our communications technology:

This is what a cell phone was when my kids were born in the 1980's.

Cell phone today:

Oh the one in the 1980's didn't bring me my newspaper or have a virual assitant or play movies either. It was ...just...a!

Steel may be the Master of Them All, but  it is Engineers, and Machinists and other manufacturing craftsmen who are the real masters – we make the stuff that makes our modern world- Modern.

Case tractor photocredit: Thanks Big Red!

Cub Cadet photocredit:

Motorola Brick

Apple iphone 4s

I spent the day in Los Angeles with about 40 PMPA members and guests at DMG Mori Seiki  producing a half day seminar for our west coast PMPA Chapter.

Speakers included experts from Schmolz and Bickenbach, Chase Brass, Kaiser Aluminum, Steve Klein from Gardner Publications and myself.

We got to see a number of the machines from DMG Mori Seiki that were on display and under power.

You know you are a turning kind of guy when you have trouble just counting the number of axes some of these machines have.

More on that later.

Here’s a question that you won’t answer, which came up in a conversation I had with Giovanni Principe, of DMG Mori Seiki:

Shop owners spend a lot of time and effort to justify (cost justify) new equipment that they want to purchase.”

Well that seems fairly obvious…

So…How much time and effort do owners put on justifying (cost justifying) their old and current equipment?”


What’s your answer?

What should it be?

Hint: In light of continuous improvement and progress, the answer should probably be a value greater than zero…

Thanks to our speakers, attendees, and hosts at DMG Mori Seiki for a great day of connecting and learning.

Please note that these  Top Ten Citations are for all industries (including construction), not just Precision Machining.

This Top 10 list is nothing to laugh at...

Fall protection – 7,139 violations.

Scaffolding – 7,069 violations. 37 fatalities.

Hazard communication – 6,538 violations.

Respiratory protection – 3,944 violations.

Lockout/tagout – 3,639 violations.

Electrical – wiring methods – 3,584 violations.

Powered industrial trucks – 3,432 violations.

Ladders – 3,244 violations.

Electrical – general – 2,863 violations.

Machine guarding. Number of citations not published, last year there were 2,364 violations.

If you get a visit from OSHA, you can bet they will be taking a look at the items on this list.

And here’s an employers rights guide from OSHA that will tell you what to do after their visit.