There is a critical shortage of talented people in the advanced manufacturing fields- Precision Machining, Welding, Robotics and Mechatronics, Industrial Control Systems, Computer Aided Design and Manufacturing.

Nothing dull, dirty or boring going on here.
Nothing dull, dirty or boring going on here.

Most PMPA member shop CEO’s tell me that they would hire a qualified machinist on the spot- even if they didn’t have an immediate opening- because the need for talent is so great.
This Friday,  October 4, 2013, across the country, cool careers in Advanced Manufacturing are going to be open for you to check out as part of MFG Day 2013.
Check out what Precision Machining as a career can be like at the following PMPA company MFG Day 2013 open houses:

AccuRounds   Avon, Massachusetts

E. J. Basler Schiller Park, Illinois

Cox Manufacturing San Antonio, Texas

Lisle Corp Clarinda Iowa


Miller Products Osceola, Iowa

North Easton Machine North Easton Massachusetts

Permac Industries Burnsville Minnesota

Polygon Solutions Fort Myers Florida

Precision Plus Elkhorn Wisconsin

Prince Industries Carol Stream Illinois

Sandvik Coromant  Ca, Il, NJ, Tx

Small Parts Manufacturing Portland, Oregon

Smith and Richardson Geneva, Illinois

SwissTurn USA Oxford Massachusetts

Thuro Metal Products  Brentwood New York

Tomak Precision Lebanon, Ohio

Trillium Machine Sandy, Oregon


I met Sam Passenger at Detroit Gun Works open house earlier this month. I was impressed as he walked me through the computer model of the part they were making. As he then showed me on the monitor the toll path step by step. As he described to me how he integrated the robotic arm into the machining operations.
When I asked him where he learned all this –  what college did he graduate from?- he just smiled.
Sam has no college, no college debt, and a great career- from learning as he was earning. on the job. At DGW.
Sam is the lead on integrating robots into DGW’s machining operations and has his hands in just about everything going on in the shops CNC equipment.
Listen to what Sam has to say about his job in the following video:

  • “I really enjoy my creative freedom.”
  • “I really enjoy getting to do what I do.”
  • “I come to work- It’s NOT work.”
  • “It’s not work- this is what I do for fun…”

Manufacturing Career$, No College Debt Required
Sam has a key role at his manufacturing company- and he enjoys it. It’s not work. It’s what he does for fun.
How about you? Is what you do “fun?” Do you enjoy your creative freedom? At the end of the day, are you satisfied by seeing the results of your work?
Sam Is typical of the stories of younger workers in precision machining and advanced manufacturing today. No college debt from 4 or more years of loans and classes. Skills learned as he earned.Skills valued by his employer and job he enjoys.
How about you?
For more information about a career in precision machining, checkout our career section here.

Think that Manufacturing is Dull, Dirty, Boring?
Guess again.
I recently visited PMPA member shop Central Screw Products / Detroit Gun Works open house earlier this month.
High Energy. Positive Energy. Great housekeeping.

Nothing dull, dirty or boring going on here.
Nothing dull, dirty or boring going on here.

Matt and Arnot Heller, III recounted their trips to China several years ago:
“Everyone was telling us, “You should set up in our manufacturing cluster here in (name of Chinese province). Not only will ther be manufacturing companies, but also suppliers and outside services you will require.””
“It occurred to us that we already had that back in Metro Detroit- arguably the greatest manufacturing cluster on the planet. The talent was available in the local shops, So we decided to “continuously improve” our operations in Michigan.”
The Heller’s moved their operations from  Detroit city center to Troy to be closer to their families, and invested in state of the art equipment and set up the shop using lean systems and integrating robots into machining operations.
As Central Screw Products, the company continues to provide customers with high quality, just in time precision machined products for critical applications.
However their Detroit Gun Works operation has become their engine of growth and helped them to upgrade their equipment, people, and reinvigorate their supply chain.
Upgrade to best industry practices...
Upgrade to best industry practices…

For many of us, Detroit is the Motor City.
For the Heller’s, Detroit is the greatest manufacturing cluster on the planet.

Dave Davidson posted a link to this test on the SME LinkedIn Group and of course I had to take the test.
1912 8th Grade Exam
This test determined whether or not you would be permitted to attend high school back in the day.
Had I not helped my wife with the teaching duties when we home schooled, I’d have done much worse  than I did.
It’s been a while…

Surprisingly little science.
Surprisingly little science.

Strong on technicalities of English and Geography; the Math was smaller portion of the test than I expected, but would stymie many job seekers today.
If you can pass the math questions on this, you are probably already a pretty good machinist or engineer.
And if you miss the one about the last battle of the civil war, it’s probably because you guessed the one that wasn’t listed as a choice.
Like I did.

Are your costs for essential consumables and supplies up just 1.5% over the past year?

“The Consumer Price Index for All Urban Consumers (CPI-U) increased 0.1 percent in August on a seasonally adjusted basis, the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics reported today. Over the last 12 months, the all items index increased 1.5 percent before seasonal adjustment.”- BLS News Release

The CPI-U is a measure of ‘Inflation,’ used by Washington D.C. Officials as a basis for  policy and legislation decisions.

Official Inflation  just 1.5%, Stealth Inflation- look at your grocery bill...
Official Inflation just 1.5%, Stealth Inflation- look at your grocery bill…

The Cadbury Egg, on the other hand, has decreased by almost a third, while the price remains the same. The Cadbury Egg is an indicator of “Stealth Inflation,” which is what consumers REALLY face in their day to day purchasing behavior.

According to Consumer Reports, it is not just Cadbury Sneaky Product Packaging

While these facts are relevant to us as consumers, the same forces are at work in our small businesses, as we continue to see price increases or declines in product provided for the price for our shop supplies and miscellaneous purchases.

1.5% official inflation? Yeah right.
1.5% official inflation? Yeah right.

Consumer Inflation Graph courtesy Shadowstats
Don’t believe me? how about the NYTIMES: Halving the Portion, but Not the Price
Cadbury Egg Photo and Blog

The Three Rules of Thumb are:

  1. Does this action attempt to deceive anyone or allow anyone to be deceived?
  2. Does this action gain or allow the gain of privilege or advantage to which I, or someone else would not otherwise be entitled?
  3. Would I be dissatisfied by the outcome if I were on the receiving end of this action?
 If you answered No to each of these, you are good to go.

If you answered “No” to each of these, you are good to go.

August 14th we published a post that asked the question-“What does the precision machining shop of the future look like?”
We also posted the link to several relevant groups on LinkedIn.
Jim Henderson, Continuous Improvement Consultant at Kalman Manufacturing replied to the discussion  on the American Machinist Metalworking Group on LinkedIn.
We think that you will appreciate his vision of our future. and perhaps find some actionable ideas in his post.
His vision reframes the question to “What do the employees in our future precision machining shops look like?”
His vision of the shop of the future is not at all staffed like ours are today…
Here is Jim Henderson’s  reply:
“Interesting discussion. I see the successful shops of the future as being highly automated. Lots of multi-axis lathe/mill and FMS.
My vision of the employees of the future may not be in line with others. In fact it may infuriate some.
I see highly educated, as in engineers with B.S. degrees in industrial, mechanical engineering and other related disciplines. Quality engineers adding value through process validation and contributing to manufacturing process development, not trying to inspect quality into the parts. A collaborative relationship with all. These college graduate engineers will be the value add in the shop of the future.
The advanced equipment of the present and future requires highly educated programmers to optimize it’s utilization. They do need the talent/experience of the long term machinists for advice!!
Fortunately on the other end of the spectrum there will be a need for operators and support personnel.
The $$ generated per employee will rise considerable due to the throughput of the equipment. Thus resulting in less employees overall.
The best news is, from my experience, if a shop uses best practices in all areas of it’s business there is such a demand in the U.S. that those shops can be highly profitable. Therefore they can provide a very handsome benefit package to their employees. This can result in attracting good recruits and high employee retention. For those shop owners and employees that are willing to step up and play the game with this formula, manufacturing in the U.S. can have a true renaissance.
For those that want to continue arguing about who is to blame and why there should be more government funding for training etc. the future is indeed bleak.
We all need to get together and right the ship for our collective success.”
There you have it. A positive view of our future shops through the lens of what our future workforce might look like.
Are you actively working on workforce issues for your shop’s future?
You can bet Jim Henderson’s shop is…

Many people think that the choice of where they  went to school is an important factor in their post graduation earnings.
A new report from Georgetown University shows that the choice of major has a much greater influence on those earnings.
We thought that we would show how the average wage of a skilled machinist compares to those earnings- without the  4+ years of college and the debt most graduates build up while at school.
Our figures for the skilled machinist were taken from our latest Shop Hourly Employee Wage Report and represent the annual straight time hourly earnings for a setup qualified multiple spindle, rotary transfer, Swiss type, or multi axis CNC turning/machining center operators.
The machinist earnings are a low estimate, frankly, because many machinists are scheduled overtime.
The college major earnings data was posted by Planet Money on the NPR site. It was originally prepared by the authors of the Georgetown study.

Average earnings of setup qualified precision machinists exceed those of lowest earning college majors- with out the college loans to repay
Average earnings of setup qualified precision machinists exceed those of lowest earning college majors- with out the college loans to repay

We were well served by our college degree, eventually. The problem was, when we graduated, we were making more in manufacturing than our degree would earn us in an entry level position in our field.
If you have the passion for academics and a 4+ year university program, that’s great.
But if you know that you really aren’t “scholarship’ material, and you’d rather be doing exciting work than writing papers and piling up student debt, we think it will be worth your time to investigate a career in precision machining- or any other craft like electrician, mechatronics, welding, tool and die making,  robotics…
Successful completion of high school math algebra, geometry, trig is all that is needed to be able to do the math for precision machining.
We’d love to help you start your well paying career.
More information:
Career overview
Career benefits
Career training
P.S.  I interviewed a member CEO today: Their machinists averaged $50,000  last year, plus top of the line medical, vacation, holidays, personal days,uniforms, plus company paid training and more… You should really give serious thought to gaining a skill rather than a degree.

Quench cracks result from stresses produced during the transition from Austenite to Martensite, which involves an increase in volume.
The martensitic transformation starts at the outermost surfaces of the part being quenched. As the transformation goes deeper into the softer austenite towards center of mass, its change in volume is restricted by the martensite already created  in the outer volumes of the part adjacent to the surface.
This creates internal stresses which place the surface into tension.
When enough martensite has formed to create internal stress greater than the ultimate strength (tensile strength) of the as quenched martensite at the surface, a crack results.
As-quenched Martensite is hard and brittle- it has virtually no ductility.
Here are 3 ways to recognize a quench crack:
1) The crack runs from the surface towards the center of mass in a fairly straight line. The crack will also tend to be open or spread at the OD surface.

Quench cracks open from the surface and travel relatively directly toward center of mass.
Quench cracks open from the surface and travel relatively directly toward center of mass.

2) Quench cracks do not have decarburization apparent, since the quenching occurs at relatively low temperatures. If there is decarb associated with a crack, that shows that the crack existed at the time the material was at temperatures hot enough to decarburize. In other words, the crack existed prior to austenitizing.
Quench cracks exhibit no decarburization.
Quench cracks exhibit no decarburization.

3) The fracture surfaces will exhibit a fine crystalline structure. I remember the first time I saw a quench crack, thinking, “it crystallized.” Well, the steel is already crystalline, but the fine martensitic structure revealed by the crack showed that there was absolutely no ductility in the material…
Scale within the quench crack tells us it was open before tempering.
Scale within the quench crack tells us it was open before tempering.

Bonus tip: if you see a build up of scale in the crack itself, that tells you that the crack was there after quenching but before tempering. During the tempering operation at tempering temperature, oxygen in the atmosphere created a scale where it could reach the iron in the crack.
For more information on Quench Cracks, look at our blog posts Here and Here.