Lack of skills were found to be behind the skills gap for production jobs according to a new  report by Twin Cities Business Magazine.

Only in production work did lack of training seem to be a barrier for job candidates, and in about half of those cases, the training they lacked was technical training at the high school level—the sort of program that has disappeared from many schools.”

PMPA’s Vice President, Darlene Miller states in the article “I don’t think it’s coincidental that when our [high school] dropout rate increased by 30 percent was when all of our technical classes in our high schools ended.” And that is when industry lost its pipeline of potential skilled workers.

Three ideas to get back on track from the article:

1) European Educational Model. “We need to get back in the European path,” Miller says. “They really show students at [middle school] age, what are your potential career paths. And manufacturing and the trades are viewed just as highly as any other career.”

2) Build career awareness in younger students. “It’s costly to wait until people reach college age or older before introducing them to technical careers and skills. Rather than playing catch-up, employers and educators want to start the process earlier, not only with STEM education that emphasizes science, technology, engineering, and math in K–12 schools, but through more direct work with kids.”

3) Overcome parental fears about “vocational track’ education. Despite the fact that 54% of the unemployed have bachelor’s degrees, most parents still equate a college education with job security. “Parents worry about schools “tracking” their children at a young age: pushing them to choose between the path to college and the path to technical school, and closing off the road not taken.”

Skills certainly do pay the bills!
Skills certainly do pay the bills!

The Twin Cities Business Article concludes with comments from Darlene Miller on the skills gap: “The economic security and upward mobility that have long been the perceived promise of a four-year college degree are less certain now, it’s “skills that pay the bills.”

When we understand that 54 percent of our unemployed are college graduates, what does that tell us? It tells us that we’ve been training people for jobs that don’t exist,” she says. Just as some wonder whether the skills gap is real, Miller suggests that one of its sources—the notion that a bachelor’s degree is always the right choice—is a fiction.

“Is going into debt and spending six or more years to get a four-year college degree, and then not having any assurance of finding a job to cover that investment when you’re done, is that really real?”

Skills do pay the bills.

PMPA has a number of resources to help you explore a possible career in precision machining advanced manufacturing.

Career Overview

Training Database

Right Skills Now

Twin Cities Business Magazine

The Atlantic titles their article “Here’s How Little Math Americans Use at Work”

Spoiler alert, in Precision Machining, we all use a lot of math through algebra, geometry trig and statistics.

Our machinists and quality technicians use and apply algebra, geometry, trig and statistics on the job everyday.
Our machinists and quality technicians use and apply algebra, geometry, trig and statistics on the job everyday.

“…the best blue-collar jobs do in fact require a level of mathematical literacy on par with what you’d expect a student to know if they were college bound. To me, that hints at an argument for more high level vocational programs: It might help if students actually knew that those boring equations really one day would earn them a paycheck.”

If you can do the math, the precision machining industry has a great job and career for you.

Career Info

Career Database

The Atlantic article

April 2013  |  Craftsman’s Cribsheet #8

OSHA announced on March 20, 2012 a final rule updating OSHA’s Hazard Communication Standard to align with the United Nations’ Globally Harmonized System of Classification and Labeling of Chemicals. Employers must start training to understand the new label elements and Safety Data Sheets format by December 1, 2013.





Lockheed Martin was just recognized with the Malcolm Baldrige National Quality Award.

To encourage performance excellence within the manufacturing industry, Lockheed Martin Missiles and Fire Control is sharing its 7 Principles for Excellence in ManufacturingLockheed Martin principles_infographic_lrg

Congratulations to the Team at Lockheed Martin for their recognition and leadership.

Lockheed Martin Malcolm Baldrige

A landslide at the worlds largest open pit copper mine does not hold good news for our industry.

The brown area is the landlside...its effects will be felt for decades
The brown area is the landlside…its effects will be felt for decades…

Dan Murphy  of PMPA Technical Member Tsugami Corporation / REM Sales, Inc. sent me a link to Tim Hefferman’s coverage on BoingBoing. I think it is coverage worth repeating.

Quick summary:

  • The event was expected. They evacuated the mine the night before based on sensor data, but they did not expect the landslide to be so large.
  • Equipment lost in the landslide and ensuing local earthquake was valued in the tens of millions of dollars.
  • No timeline for resuming operations.
  • Short term economic effects will be localized, though declaring force majeur will cause some contracts to be uncovered in the metal markets
  • Longterm economic effects will be larger than we can reasonably estimate- Insurance coverage for the lost property, for the counterparty rates on futures contracts will force costs to rise which will be built into the red metal prices going forward.
  • Also planned expansion at the mine will be delayed.

We did not see a spike in copper prices today, but this event will be a long term determinant of higher prices for the red metal in the future.

Copper is so widely required in modern technology that this will be an imprtant event in the markets the precision machining industry serves.

Full story

Steve Goldstein at WSJ  Marketwatch has been skeptical of the so called manufacturing renaissance for some time.

In March 2013 manufacturing lost 3000 jobs.

While the media runs with “the sun will come out tomorrow” story on the return of manufacturing from offshore, actual data indicates a loss of jobs in March 2013 and a growth rate for employment of ~0.6% year over year.

Here’s the graph.

Does this look like recovery to you?
Does this look like recovery to you?

As shop owners, we have open positions for people with skills- but sadly few qualified applicants.

Here is what The Economist has to say about the U.S. Job Problem:

“Americans working to produce traded goods and services earn, roughly, according to their productivity. If low-skill workers in America aren’t much more productive in manufacture of traded goods and services than low-skill workers in China, then they can’t earn much more than workers in China while being employed in manufacture of traded goods and services. They can earn a rich-world wage in production of non-traded goods and services, like sandwiches and haircuts, so long as there is sufficient local demand.

“In other words, the only way to get less-skilled Americans a good wage in a manufacturing industry is to significantly raise their skill and productivity level. If that can’t be accomplished, they can only hope to find good wages in non-traded industries. At least, that is, until wages of less-skilled workers across the developing world come much closer to converging with those in America.”- The Economist

PMPA members are doing all they can to encourage people to gain a skill so that they can claim one of the estimated 600,000 open jobs in advanced manufacturing.

We’ve even created a career database to help people find the training in their area.

We have posted a number of career insights regarding precision machining on our website.

If you would like to claim a rewarding, high satisfaction job in advanced manufacturing, take a look at our material.

P.S. Our goods are “traded goods,” in the parlance of The Economist-  and rank highly world wide. I know PMPA member shops that export to Customers around the world including China, (so much for low cost!) Germany, and Switzerland.

Fact sheet.

The PMPA Business Trends Report for March 2013 looks quite similar to that of March 2012.

Q1 2013 virtually the same as Q1 March 2012
Q1 2013 virtually the same as Q1 March 2012

While our shipments in March 2013 weren’t quite as high as those in March 2012, for the quarter they are virtually identical at 123.33 for Q1 2013 vs. 124 for Q1 2012.

The 3 month moving average is once again above the 12 month moving average. ISM reported growth in PMI in March for manufacturing, New Orders and Production indexes. Fourteen of eighteen manufacturing industries, were reported up in March, though the Machinery market which we serve was down. Housing starts jumped 7% in March from February, to a SAAR of 1.036 million, this is up 47% over March 2012.

New construction dollars coming into the economy provide some market diversification for our shops as those new homes will need plumbing, electrical, HVAC, appliances, and the tradesmen building them will need new trucks and tools.

Macroeconomic indicators appear to be a mixed bag- as I write this Reuters is reporting slowing factory activity and increasing unemployment- but the increase in housing starts adds yet another market of demand for precision machined components.

Our industry data is telling me that this year is on a very similar track as it was last year.

What are you seeing in your numbers compared to last year?

Reviewing the photos in his photostream, my Executive Director found this serenedipitously cropped action shot of an exhibitor and a customer coming to agreement.

PMTS is where people get things done.
PMTS is where people get things done.

I just love the cropping on the sign in the foreground.

But more importantly I am pleased with the satisfaction shown as suppliers and customers find mutual solutions to the manufacturing challenges that we all face.

PMTS Happy- It’s what happens when great suppliers and great precision machining companies come together to continuously improve their processes.

Welcome to PMTS.

May you be PMTS Happy, too.

Just wrapped up our National Technical Conference ahead of the PMTS show here in Columbus Ohio.

Mission Accomplished!
Mission Accomplished!

It was great seeing our members and presenting content in class room sessions on machining, metallurgy, and problemsolving at the NTC.

Now I get to pivot and have quality conversations about what is on our attendee’s minds here at PMTS.

Right now, increasing profitability and growing business seems to be on the mind of most folks I speak with.

If you are in the precision machining industry, you need to be in Columbus Ohio at PMTS.

Thousands of your peers are here.

I’d love to speak with you.

PMPA booth 1230.

Hello, Columbus!

Chromium in Carbon, Alloy and Stainless Steels is NOT Hexavalent!

It looks really, really cool. And in metallic form it is NOT Hexavalent.
It looks really, really cool. And in metallic form it is NOT Hexavalent.

The valency (oxidation state) of chromium metal as an alloying constituent of steels is Zero (0).

The Chromium atoms are present in ‘substitutional’ lattice positions, replacing iron atoms.  These atoms are held in place in the lattice by shared electons which make up a ‘metallic bond’. Since there is no loss or gain of electrons, the valency state is Zero (0).

The Chromium in solid steels (Carbon, Alloy, and Stainless) should not be regarded as a health hazard.  That is why stainless steels in particular can be used for food prep and bodily contact in medical and dental applications- the chromium is not available in an ionic state.

Hexavalent Chromium Cr(VI)  is an ionic state and typically encountered as a ‘chromate’ or ‘dichromate’ salt.  These hexavalent compounds are typically found in plating solutions. Hexavalent Chrome has been identified as a cause for health concerns and shown to be toxic.

Machining Steels-Carbon, Alloy, and Stainless- does not expose the operator to hexavalent Chromium. Hexavalent chromium is an ionic formof chromium in a chemical compound. Metallic Chromium is a form that is sharing electrons as part of a metallic bonding arrangement. The valence state of metallic chromium is Zero (0).
We’ve written about this before:

Chromium in Steel

Hexavalent Chromium Rule Finalized

British Stainless Steel Association Article on Chromium in Stainless