There seems to be a lot of confusion these days about manufacturing. As a guy who has worked his entire life in manufacturing, I’d like to eliminate this confusion.

The word “Manufacture” is made up from two Latin Roots “manu” and “factura.”

To make with hands.

Manu” means “by hand”

Factura” is a derivative of “facere” which meant “to perform” or “to do.” Factura means ” a working.”

Those Junior High Latin Classes sure made understanding big words pretty clear.

This was the nurtury of my English vocabulary.

While the linguistic origins of ‘manufacturing’ were “a working, by hand,”  the essence was the creation of something by work into something else. In modern terms, it is  “the conversion of raw materials into finished goods by labor.”

Today, with our abundance of machines, and non-human provided energy,  we define manufacturing as “the use of machines, tools and labor to convert raw materials into finished goods.”

In North America, (for now) Manufacturing is denoted officially by NAICS codes numbering from 31-33 according to BLS.

So what is the confusion about manufacturing?

There is a move afoot to count the foreign production of Factoryless Goods Producers (FGP’s) as ” U.S. Manufacturing.”

Federal Register see part VI

If you don’t actually make something, you aren’t really a manufacturer.

If you don’t make it here, how can you count it here?

-You may be a great designer. Great engineer. Great logistics company. Great sales company.

But if you don’t make what ever it is that you designed, engineer, or sell- it ain’t manufacturing.

So when someone tries to tell you that they are a “factoryless goods producer,” don’t flinch, don’t blink, don’t bat an eye.

And what ever you do don’t call them a liar. (It’s rude to call people liars, even when they are lying.)

Remember her?

Just tell them that they are mistaken, they are an outsourcer, not a manufacturer.

Manufacturers actually make things and often export their products.

Factoryless goods producers don’t make anything themselves.

In some cases however outsourcers EXPORT OUR JOBS.

Tomorrow: What Uncle Sam means when he says Factoryless Goods Producer.

Guest post by Matt Gudgel of SourceOne who responded to our post about NPR’s story about the lack of people with math skills needed in manufacturing.
SourceOne feels so strongly about skilled workforce, it is included as part of their mission statement: To maintain a vibrant, skilled and dedicated work force…to use our diverse capabilities to meet challenges…and facilitate growth.

Maintaining a skilled workforce is part of the company mission. Why?  To meet challenges and facilitate growth.

Matt’s response to our post  decried the fact that “we spend too much time teaching our employees to ‘use the tools of the trade’ rather than ‘the tool five inches between the ears-‘ the ultimate tool we’re born with and have forgotten how to use.”

This is what we are really looking for…

In other words we just take it for granted that people know how to think, how to frame the problem, and to know when to use the ‘tools of the trade.’

Matt says that the challenges to manage this issue  are difficult.

  • Changing thinking from “any warm body will do” to hiring quality is one challenge we face as we continue to be squeezed on price by our customers.
  • Finding time to train people  in the face of hard deadlines for our production is another.
  • Growing people into ‘general specialists’ who can handle not just machining but also have practical knowledge of electrical and pneumatic systemsis a need, not just a want.

One challenge though,  is incumbent on our people, it is not just up to management.

“We want our employees to be well trained, and it is our responsibility to help them get trained. But employees need to step up too and master the skills.”

When looking at employees, here is Matt’s advice- “They have to fit our culture, just as much as they need to fit the position in our company. Economic competition means we need to find the right people.”

As the NPR story mentioned about basic math, (adding subtracting and dividing decimals as a lost ability among job candidates!) and as Matt Gudgel pointed out:

Finding the ‘right people’ means ” finding people who are effective at using the ultimate tool we’re born with and have forgotten how to use- the tool five inches between the ears.”


At the request of the United States, the European Union and Japan, the Dispute Settlement Body established on 23 July 2012 a panel to consider China’s export restraints of rare earths, tungsten and molybdenum.

Rare earths are used in magnets electronics and specialty alloying applications among other uses.

The restraints to be investigated include:

  •  Export quotas,
  • Export duties, 
  • Restrictions on the right to export (various)
  • Administrative requirements that limit  China’s exports of these materials ( by increasing the burden and costs for  exporting.)

The European Union said that  export restrictions in this dispute constitute a violation of China’s WTO  commitments undertaken under the General Agreement on Tariffs and Trade (GATT)  as well as commitments undertaken in China’s Accession Protocol specifically  aimed at these types of restrictions.

Japan said that China’s exports  restrictions are inconsistent with China’s obligations under the WTO Agreement.

The WTO members announcing  they wanted to exercise third-party rights were Viet Nam, Norway, Oman, Chinese  Taipei, Korea, Saudi Arabia, Brazil, India, Canada and Colombia.

According to the EU, the export  restrictions significantly distort the market and create competitive advantages  in favour of China’s manufacturing industry to the detriment of foreign  competition.

China said it has no intention of protecting domestic  industry through means that would distort trade.

Note to China: It’s not what you intend, its what you actually do…

Nothing indicating market distortion on this graph. (sarcasm)

WTO report here.

Link to China response.

Nice discussion at Propurchaser blog

Rare Earth Powder

P.S To Baby Boomers: We’re not talking about

That great band of the same name…

Shearing occurs when a longitudinal strip of base metal is torn off a bar during rolling. This strip often reattaches as rolling continues, not necessarily to the same bar. Shearing can refer either to the the discontinuity resulting from the detachment  or to the subsequent reattachment. There are usually several occurrences of shearing with a single orientation along the bar.–AISI Technical Committee on Rod and Bar Mills, Detection, Classification, and Elimination of Rod and Bar Surface Defects

Mill Shearing is commonly mistaken for Slivers, Scabs, Laps, and Seams.

Mill shearing is usually detected visually and appears longer than scabs. also, the surface below the defect is smoother and more uniform than found below scabs.

Excessive rubbing of the steel as it rolls through the mill causes overheating, shearing material off the bar, which is later picked up from mill components on the same or another billet.

Improved guiding, pass design, and better section control can reduce incidents of mill shearing.

Metallurgical comments:

  • Rolled in material may have come from some source other than the base material.
  • If the material which is removed by shearing is not reattached, the remaining gouge in the surface may form other defects upon further rolling.
  • Intergranular precipitates or segregation can contribute to mill shearing.
  • Adjust mill to reduce sources of friction(al) heating
The rolled in material may have come from some source other than the base metal.

In my experience, mill shearing presents as and is easily confused with laps and slivers. Confirming that it is a piece of foreign material that has been rolled into the product is easily confirmed with a pair of pliers to remove it. Mill shearing almost always is removable by such means, and will show as two completely separate pieces of material in a micro.

The day on which the average American has earned enough gross income to pay off his or her share of the spending and regulatory burdens imposed by government at the federal, state, and local levels is called the Cost of Government Day. For 2012 the  Cost of Government Day was last Sunday,  July 15.

197 days worth of your earnings (up through last Sunday) went to federal, state, or local governments.

Every year, the Americans for Tax Reform Foundation and the Cost of Government Center calculate the Cost of Government Day. No one in Washington D.C. is even looking at this, but here is what you need to know:

The cost of government makes up 54.0 percent of annual U.S. gross domestic product (GDP).

Read this report! A 5 percent reduction in regulator budgets would increase GDP by $376 billion and expand employment by 6.2 million jobs over the course of five years.

I’d love to see this calculated on a small business basis, for whom the cost of compliance of the ever increasing burden of regulatory decrees is dissuading both investment and hiring.

According to the analysis, just the cost of compliance with regulations  (regulatory burden) is worth approximately 69 days for the average American worker.

These costs are estimated conservatively- taking into account only the cost of complying with regulations: the material resources and labor needed to carry out compliance. Not counted are the negative economic effects of regulatory requirements—the deadweight loss of these policies.

One more great fact for you to consider:

Over the last ten years, regulator budgets have grown by 72.5 percent, much faster than the decade’s growth in regulatory costs.

Get a copy of the 2012 report as a pdf here.

At what point do you think that the burdens will be such that they will be unsustainable?
Just watch the news…

Greek Tragedy

PMPA’s mission is to be the premier provider of association services to advance the global competitiveness of the Precision Machining Industry.

What can we provide to help you be more competitive?

Our program planning for next years technical conference is underway, and we would like to know what topics, issues, processes or subjects you would like to see us cover at our next National Technical Conference.

What are the issues that your staff needs an assist with?

What technology would you like to see basic (or advanced) coverage?

What “If I just knew this” subject is there that we can find the experts to present and make it perfectly clear?

Just leave a reply below (comment) with your ideas for topics that you would like to see covered  at the 2013 PMPA National Technical Conference.

The microphone is all yours-

We want to hear what you’d like us to cover…



A successful blog post is brief, interesting, brief, and informative to the readers that you target.

The information should be useful to your intended audience.

And, did I mention

Most of all, it needs to be brief…

Here are the 8 steps:

1)      Short title that says / is your main point or asks a question. (Even if the readers don’t read the rest of your post, they got your idea…)

2)      Put the conclusion as your first line to tell them what you want them to know.  (This is NOT how you were taught by your English teacher, but then, who reads their English teacher’s blog?)

3)      Add a photo that “shows what you mean”  to add an emotional payload to the post. (Photos are great way to communicate your feelings about the subject and are also great ways to be found on Google!

4)      Bullet lists beat text.  “8 steps to write a blog post worth reading” will get way more reads than “How to write a blog post worth reading”  followed by paragraph after paragraph of text

5)      Always keep the word count down. We live in a sound byte world. Keep it “short, sweet and to the point(s).” (In a word, brief.)

6)      Always, always, always credit any material you source from anyone other than yourself.  I do it by pasting the link to the page where I retrieved it. ( Be careful with photos, don’t grab a watermarked stock photo unless you are paying for it. But photos that aren’t watermarked are “fair use” if you credit the source.)

7)      Let your personal attitude show in your writing. The last thing the world needs is more non-emotive Blah Blah Blah. If it is interesting enough to share, share your feelings in your writing.

8)      It’s O.K. to have an opinion. Share yours. The point is to start a conversation, and to get people who are interested in these same things to connect and share. Share your opinion, not just the facts. People will respect you for it.

That’s it. There you are. 8 steps on how to write a blog post worth reading.

Now that didn’t hurt too bad, did it?

Didn’t hurt too bad did it?

Jockey Briefs

Here are  5 things that can unnecessarily add costs or delays to your Precision Machined Part:

  • Small  Order Quantities
  • Material Selection
  • Special Diameter Holes
  • Close Tolerances
  • Unnecessarily Fine Surface Finish
“Parts is parts.” But costs are influenced by decisions on manufacturability.

Small  Order Quantities are a two edged sword. Minimizing inventory on hand is an important Lean concept; but often the cost of separate setups for small runs is more expensive than holding a modest inventory. If your parts are standard to you, getting the economic order quantity correct can save you money by minimizing what you have to pay for set up costs. (And by the way, we’re working like crazy to reduce those setup costs!)

Material Selection can increase costs of production and can mean missed deliveries if the grade is “just not  commercially available.” Engineering requirements for the end use must be paramount, but the material contribution to manufacturing costs need to be evaluated as well. The reduction in suppliers, suppliers’ inventories, and every one’s attention to ‘Lean’  along the supply chain means that the ‘perfect material’ for that part just might be a six month lead time rolling lot accumulation with no assurances of delivery…

Special Diameter Holes are often overlooked as a cost driver. But with every non standard hole diameter specified, The suopplier will need to purchase higher cost non-standard drills, reamers, and plug gages. Lead times for specials could also mean your parts are delayed while tools are made for your job. Are you certain that a standard hole size won’t do the job needed?

Close Tolerances are a source of pride to the craftsmen of the precision machining industry. Our people, processes, and engineering can assure that the hole delivered is as specified. But if you specify tolerances that are ‘closer than needed,’ the extra attention, more frequent tool adjustments and changes, and loss of productivity to make those adjustments can add incrementally to the cost. We can make what you need- are you asking for more precision (cost) than you need?

Unnecessarily Fine Surface Finish, like close tolerances can add higher costs when specified unnecessarily. What is the reason for the finish specified? While today’s modern tooling and machines are able to provide better surface finish than machining technology of the distant past- for some requirements a separate grinding, shaving, burnishing or other treatment may be required. If there is not really a close fit, sliding fit, and there is no movement on/of the surface, over-specifying surface finish can needlessly increase your part costs.

Practicing ‘Lean’ and minimizing waste is not just the responsibility of the producer. As the 5 items above point out, eliminating needless waste is also a responsibility of the customer.

As my grandparents- who came through the WWI, The Great Depression, WWII rationing, and a host of other economic and life challenges- used to say to me:

“Take what you need. No more, no less.”

I think it’s great advice.

I can give you 271,574 reasons why you probably ought to make it a priority.

Sorry for the moire pattern, but how about those views?

That is the number of views to posts this blog all time since we went live in the summer of 2010.

You are missing hundreds of thousands of opportunities to connect with people who are looking for what you can provide if you don’t blog about how you can help them.

Need more reasons?

Over 240,000 potential viewers get to see our blog name and title 3 times a week on the various linked groups to which I and my colleague belong. We post our blog to our linked in groups each day if it is appropriate to that group.

Even if the group members don’t click through, just seeing the title of the post and our blog name raises our visibilty and gets our idea (the title!) out.

You could be doing this too.

Yes it’s a commitment. Anything worth doing requires a commitment. But the numbers show that we have had a lot of interest in what we have chosen to post.

271,754 interests to be precise.

You could generate similar interest, I’m sure.

So here’s a gentle post from my mentor and friend, John Sonnhalter,  to help you see that this “Blog Thing” is doable-  and worthwhile.

Afraid of starting your blog?

John’s blog Tradesmens Insights  covers the business to business and business to tradesman market sectors.

At we try to publish three posts a week. We don’t seem to have a problem finding original content to write about- if you count publishing standard industry information or lessons we’ve learned along the way as ‘original content.’

But the proof is in the pudding, as my grandmother used to say, and 271, 574 servings say our pudding is worth the time.

Proof is in the pudding!

I’ll bet yours is too.

PS, If 271,574 views isn’t good enough, how about having over 100 items show up on Google page 1?

Want to talk about this further? Leave a comment and we’ll connect.

Pudding courtesy of Stephanie Meyer at Fresh Tart Blog. thanks Stephanie!

Investment casting is a process that creates complex featured parts in volumes  in competition with precision machining.

Investment cast parts are used in aerospace, medical, and munitions applications.

Investment casting is also called the lost wax process. A major constraint is the manufacture of the molds needed for this process.

Large Area Maskless Photopolymerization (LAMP), is a new technology being proven by Researchers at Georgia Tech. This high-resolution digital process builds the mold from CAD files, layer by layer, by projecting bitmaps of ultraviolet light onto a mixture of photosensitive resin and ceramic particles, and then selectively curing the mixture to a solid.

A high precision kind of 3-D printing, this technique places one 100-micron layer on top of another until the structure is complete. After the mold is formed, the cured resin is removed through binder burnout and the remaining ceramic is sintered in a furnace. The result is a fully ceramic structure into which molten metal – such as nickel-based superalloys or titanium-based alloys – are poured, producing a highly accurate casting.

This  direct digital method eliminates machining of tools and dies to manufacture molds, eliminating weeks of lead time as well as costs. 

While it might be easy to shrug this off as mere ‘rapid prototyping’- the fact is that this technology could enable direct design to manufacturing.

Parts photo.

Casting Process Diagram.