Guest Post by Dave Bradford, President, William Bradford Associates, Cleveland Ohio.

David Bradford  for BlogDave publishes a series of PROTALK roundtable discussions to improve professional sales skills of industrial distributors, including steel service centers.

We hit a nerve with Dave with our post on Why Isn’t The Invisible Hand Training Enough Skilled Workers?  As  a business student at the University of Chicago, Dave heard first hand from Nobel prize winners George Stigler and Milton Friedman on the subject.

“Friedman suggested that the phrase ‘the invisible hand’ refers to ‘the possibility of cooperation without coercion,'” according to Dave.

Here is Dave Bradford’s take on why ‘the invisible hand’ hasn’t provided us the skilled workers we need.

1) The timing is not right. Without an economic imperative to improve skills and having it seen as a necessity to fulfill the mission of the company, training will not be a priority. Once training becomes an imperative to the mission in management’s eyes,  steps needed will be taken to supply skilledworkers. 

Speaking of Precision (SOP):  It is up to us, not ‘invisible hands’ and we’ll do it as we see the need.)

2) We lack a priority on skilled training.  Making skilled worker training a priority is similar to heat treating in steel, according to Dave.  Just as heat treating rearranges the atoms in a structure to achieve a desired result, so too should our managements have a process  for rearranging the priorities in our companies. Management can achieve a more profitable outcome by investing in this training and including it in long term planning by applying ‘heat’ to the company’s priorities.

SOP: Why did a former boss talk about “holding people’s feet to the fire“… the invisible hand’s job being to hold those feet right there.

3) We require a sharper focus on critical skills within workers, an asset as yet untapped by management.  Stephen Covey’s inside-out approach recognizes that potential for skills exists within capable people, but doesn’t contribute to the bottom line until management unleashes it.  ‘Sharpening the saw’ is Covey’s phrase for  ongoing renewal. This idea applies to our workers,  by providing them with refresher and advanced skill training to perform at their optimum level. Peter Drucker says essentially the same thing: Optimize positive forces in a company to make negative factors irrelevant.  

SOP: ‘The invisible hand’ is management’s awareness of its resources to develop and improve critical skills in workers. This awareness either exists or it doesn’t. Dave Bradford sees the phrase  as ambiguous, which serves to kindle  economic, political and academic discussions. He implies that the invisible hand may simply be an alias for “us.”

Why don’t we make skills training a priority, rearrange our carbon atoms, and ‘sharpen our saw’ by focusing on untapped human resources? Maybe the invisible hand is, in fact, the hand that we aren’t seeing at the end of our own arm. Are we doing enough to benefit society by pursuing our own interest?

Have we done enough to pursue our own interest, so that society too can benefit?
Have we done enough to pursue our own interest, so that society too can benefit?

Invisible Hand Graphic courtesy Micro Loan  Bank Kiva

Guest Post by Don Ake.

“The unique situations created by the Great Recession have rendered some traditional economic indicators unreliable.  And I believe that the indicator that has been impacted the most is the Unemployment Rate (U-3) reported by the U.S. Government.”

Don Ake is an MBA and adjunct professor and blogger over at Model T Stock Trends. Don follows the Transportation sector as a leading indicator for the economy and investing.

I find his down home charm and easy to understand explanations of economic arcana to be both informative and amusing. Here’s the rest of his post:

” This post was initially supposed to be an in depth analysis of the current (U-3) Unemployment Rate. Soon after starting my research, I found myself looking at a large pile of goo (if you are unemployed you may substitute “poo” for “goo” or probably a much stronger term).  There have been several articles recently about why the Unemployment Rate is not an accurate measurement of this labor market.  People are constantly trying to adjust the rate based on a single factor.  However there are many factors impacting the job market and these factors are very difficult to measure.

U-3 unemployment rate is a gooey indicator according to Don Ake.
U-3 unemployment rate is a gooey indicator according to Don Ake.
“Sure, you can still calculate the Unemployment Rate percentage, but it is now just a statistic. It is not an accurate indicator of the job market.  It is useless to put it on a historical chart.  The recessions of the past occurred primarily in a “blue-collar” labor force.  The recession hit, workers were laid-off.  The recovery begins and people returned to work, often at their previous jobs. But the Great Recession hit all workers and created some dynamics that are very different.

“The Unemployment Rate is greatly impacted by the number of people actively looking for work (the labor participation rate).  Many people have stopped looking for work, but for many different reasons.  For example, Fred the Engineer, age 59, was downsized from his job after 30 years with his company.  In previous recessions layoffs were based on seniority, but in the Great Recession they were based on salary.  Fred looked for a job, but nobody needs an aging engineer in a slow economy, so after exhausting his severance and unemployment benefits, he decides to retire at age 62.  He is not counted as “unemployed”, but he is a“forced” retiree and would gladly be working if a job were available.

“The labor participation rate is being impacted by these “forced retirees”, people going on “disability” due to the more lenient government standards, the discouraged workers who have temporarily stopped looking due to the tepid job market.  There are also“mismatched workers” whose jobs were eliminated by new technology and who lack the skills to function in the new economy. If these people are younger, they may drop out of the labor force to be reeducated, if they are older, they often become the long-term unemployed.  And of course you have the “benefit riders”that ride their benefits out to the end, before seriously looking for work.

“The great majority of unemployed people are actively searching for work and hate being without a job.  However, in 2011 a construction worker told me he wasn’t really seeking work because he was on the “Obama Plan” and was enjoying his extended unemployment benefits. Miraculously, he found a new job just weeks after his benefits ran out.  So yes, it is true as many others have pointed out: If you pay people to be unemployed, you get more unemployed people.

“Another factor that is difficult to measure is the thousands of college graduates of the last five years who cannot find jobs in their field of study.  They either have no job or are woefully “under-employed” which may mean a job in fast food.  The underemployed (which aren’t accurately measured) also include the “Fred the Engineers” who are not old or wealthy enough to retire and are working full time at the local telemarking firm.  It is taking some professionals longer than four years to return to work in their field.

Since the Unemployment Rate is currently of marginal value, we are left with the monthly jobs reports (from the government and ADP).  And this measures the number of jobs creted, not the quality of these jobs. Replacing a manufacturing job with a call center job is not an even swap.

“The latest government report said 155,000 jobs were created in December.  This rate of job growth is woefully inadequate to provide for the millions of people seeking work (or better work).  I am hearing about more layoffs and hiring freezes from my local contacts. And the current plan for creating more jobs is“there is no plan”.

“We need more precise information to better gauge and track the employment/unemployment situation. Employment surveys need to ask people the reason they are not seeking employment, if they would work if a job was available, and whether they are“underemployed” if they have a job.  There is an opportunity here for a university or survey firm to create a new index. Hey, that would even create a few more jobs!”

The tolerance on cold drawn steel bars for machining is always specified as plus nothing minus some value…

So why are the dimensions on the bars held to the minus rather than plus side? Don’t we want to get more steel  per foot for our money?

May I have your answer please?

And the answer is ...
And the answer is …

The reason for the dimensions being held to the minus side is so that the bars can easily pass through a hole of nominal size.

If the bars were the same nominal size as the hole, they would be very difficult to assemble. If the bars were  even slighty larger, they would not pass through.

So bars are held to the minus side of each nominal dimension to assure that they can pass through the nominal size hole- whether it be a bushing, pulley, gear, collet,  support bearing or any similar application.

The bars must measure less than the nominal hole size to permit assembly.

How did this come to be?

Before the era of electric motors, power was transmitted by means of shafting.
Before the era of electric motors, power was transmitted to each machine by means of belts  and pulleys running on cold finished shafting.

Line shafting! The power transmission shafts  that ran across the ceilings of shops while being held in bearings were called line shafting. The power was taken from the shafts by belts and pulleys. The shafts were held by bearings afixed to the ceiling joists. The shafting had to fit into these bearings and pulleys.(These shafts were driven usually by a single large motor, steam engine, or water wheel…)

It has been some time since power transimission shafting has been used commercially to drive our lathes and drills commercially.

But we have the legacy of cold finished shafting to thank for the foundational concept of tolerances on bar products being held to the minus side.

Thanks to John Halladay at  PMPA technical Vectron in Elyria Ohio for the archival shop photo from the Perry Fay company.

And if you have a burr problem with some of your production, you can call on Vectron to help you with that too.

Do you have memories  of working with machinery driven by line shafting in your career? We’d love to hear your story…


The PMPA Business Trends Report 2012 Year End Review and Summary is completed and posted on our website here

Despite a great start for sales in the industry at the beginning of the year, the special causes of the uncertainty leading up to the election and the ‘Fiscal Cliff’ took the wind out of our sails sales, resulting in 2012 sales index barely equalling that of 2011.

Bummer dude. Too bad about that election and fiscal cliff stuff...
Bummer dude. Too bad about that election and fiscal cliff stuff…

For a host of specifics, and our outlook for important precision machining markets in 2013, please see our report.

One of my pet peeves is to walk into a shop and see, on each and every horizontal bench surface next to a machine, a handful or two (or three!) of used, burnt, failed, worn and unidentifed carbide inserts.

It’s like they are the nest of an invisible shop bird, who builds nests everywhere in hope of raising a family.

I never see any eggs in these nests though. just plenty of carbide.

The materials in these inserts needs to be recycled. DO IT NOW!
The materials in these inserts needs to be recycled. DO IT NOW!

On my last trip to the West coast, I stopped in to visit the local Sandvik Facility  in Cypress, California.

Machining Applications Engineer Grant Hughson showed me some of the advanced work that they were doing for customers. (It involved making large chunks of Titanium submit to the will of the engineers through some highly unusual milling pathways using some unique inserts. And they demonstrated  an acoustic dampening system that attenuates vibration while in the cut. And a whole bunch of other cool, use it to make the Death Star kind of technology.) And he showed me the Sandvik Carbide Recycling program.

Recycling carbide makes sense for your shop and the environment.
Recycling carbide makes sense for your shop and the environment.

But the simple elegance  and utility of the Sandvik Recycling Program hit my nerve.

I JUST HATE seeing unidentified, partially used, or completely used carbide inserts just lying around in a work area.


So take Grant’s advice and get that used carbide collected, contained, and recycled.

Sandvik Carbide Recycling Program Details

Assistant Secretary of Labor for Occupational Safety and Health Dr. David Michaels will speak at PMPA’s Management Update Conference in Glendale, Arizona on Friday, February 15, 2013.


We have scheduled an hour and a half interactive discussion of workplace safety issues with Director Michaels. I will be moderator of the discussion.

What questions would you like to ask the Director  of OSHA and number 2  at Department of Labor?

What thoughts would you like to share with him?

I will do my best to make sure that the most relevant and timely issues are discussed, but first I would like to know what is on your mind?

What has been YOUR experience?

What questions would YOU ask?

What advice would YOU offer Director Michaels?

“Manufacturing transforms more than materials into products. It transforms individuals into craftspeople. It transforms communities into global trade partners. It transforms companies into engines of human growth. It transforms our quality of life for the better.”- Darlene Miller

We were not surprised that  the Manufacturing Institute recently selected PMPA member and 1st vice president Darlene Miller to be an inaugural STEP awards honoree.

Permac Industries' Darlene Miller visits the White House Thursday February 24, 2011.
Permac Industries’ Darlene Miller visits the White House Thursday February 24, 2011.

Manufacturing Institute: “…honored because they each made significant achievements in manufacturing through positive impact on their company and the industry as a whole.”

That’s a bit of an understatement.

Darlene’s leadership success reaches across the country and across organizations as she personally mentors at risk young women through Hope for Tomorrow, served as a member of the President’s Council for Jobs and Competitiveness (PCJC), and founded the Right Skills Now program to help meet the need for trained high skill workers in advanced manufacturing.  She serves on a number of important committes for the U.S. Chamber Small Business Council, and is a frequent invitee, and presenter at various policy forums including the Clinton Global Initiative, The Atlantic Council and others. She promoted the nationwide adoption of the Right Skills Now training program and supported the creation of the  10,000 Engineers program, created to spur engineer retention by providing student internships. She advocates tirelessly for NIMS certifications  and a credentialed workforce. She continues to work with additional schools across the company to make Right Skills Now readily available to potential machinists.

Darlene was named Small Business Person of the Year by The U.S. Chamber of Commerce in 2008, and the SBA in 2006 currently serves as Vice President of the Precision Machined Products Association, and was selected by her peers to be the association’s first female President in 2014.

We are proud to see our vice president and member  Darlene Miller recognized for her efforts to promote manufacturing in North America. To promote manufacturing as a career. And to be recognized for her work at the national level to make a difference in the lives of talented but unemployed persons who are- thanks to her work with Right Skills Now- finding a career in advanced manufacturing.

PMPA extends our congratulations to Darlene Miller. And to the thousands of other individuals like her that are trying to make a difference in advancing our craft, our employees, and helping all find their highest and best use through careers in advanced manufacturing.

The stats helper monkeys prepared a 2012 annual report for this blog.

Here’s an excerpt:

About 55,000 tourists visit Liechtenstein every year. This blog was viewed about 190,000 times in 2012. If it were Liechtenstein, it would take about 3 years for that many people to see it. Your blog had more visits than a small country in Europe!

Click here to see the complete report.

If you have anyone moving up from shop operations into estimating, quoting, or engineering, I think that this tutorial will make them error proof on conversions. Bookmark this one.

Guest post from NotUrOrdinaryJoe on CR4 Engineering Forum:

Although we don’t do homework here, I thought it would be nice to offer a tip that was very useful. Frequently the point in which students become bogged down is nothing more than getting some answer into the terms that is required. This technique is rather obvious to some, but it couldn’t be any more straight forward.

When you have something like a rate of change of something in one set of parameters and you wish to convert it to another set of parameters the first step will be thinking of the rate as a fraction. So, if you take some rate such as:

X gallons/minute and you want to convert it to Y liters/second

On the left (above) is :

X gallons

Where the magnitude of the rate is X, the terms are gallons (in the numerator) and minute(s) in the denominator. Any step you need to use simply lists the conversion factor in the same way. So to convert you set it up like this:

X gallons 3.785 Liters minute
minute gallon 60 seconds

Note that the number 3.785 is the magnitude of Liters per Gallon, and 60 is the number of seconds per minute. The word “per” is the clue to draw your horizontal line to seperate the numerator from the denominator.

Next, since like terms cancel, you can draw a line through both sets of terms “gallons” and “minutes” leaving only:

X gallons 3.785 Liters minute
minute gallon 60 seconds

The magnitude is X times 3.785 divided by 60

and the left over terms verify that you ended up where you wanted. That is to say that the left over terms (the ones that did not cancel) are Liters per second.

I still remember how easy this became when I first treated it like multiplying fractions together. And it checks your work by looking at the remaining terms. Good Luck and no, we don’t do homework problems.

Speaking of Precision Comment:

For more information on the Factor Label Method  check out Wikipedia entry here.

We were pleased to see this post on CR4 Engineering Forum, Where we have participated for many years. There is only one caveat: the Factor Label Method only works on converting units that share a constant ratio, (linear relationship) rather than a constant difference. For example, it doesn’t work on degrees Fahrenheit to Celsius. See the Wiki link for why.

What indispensable but easy to use technique do you have that makes your technical work easy to do? We’d love to post  and share it as a best practice for our craft.