PMPA member company Precision Plus in Elkhorn, Wisconsin is just one of many PMPA companies committed to changing the conversation about manufacturing careers and helping to give advanced manufacturing skills to our future workforce. Mike Reader,  President and CEO of Precision Plus, is devoted to leading the solution of our industry’s lack of skilled workers. By engaging the community. The schools. His suppliers. And Potential Employees.
If we are to develop the skilled workforce that we need, in order  to have a sustainable manufacturing industry, we need to change the conversation about careers in industry. Our friends, neighbors, community members and officials do not know about

Precision Plus was recently featured in their Regional Paper  in a story describing how their suppliers came together to provide advanced software and resources for their new training facility.

News coverage helps change the conversation
News coverage helps change the conversation

Showing our community that we are actually trying to help ourselves by providing training opportunities for our craftsmen is a great way to establish credibility and awareness on the issue of the need for skilled workers.
“Much of what Mike (Reader) is doing at his company here is promoting a connection between industry and education, which is long overdue,” said Steve Salter of Milwaukee School of Engineering and affiliate director of Project Lead the Way.
“Do as I do,” has always been more effective in leading than “Do as I say.”

What are YOU doing to change the conversation in your community?

The PMPA Business Trends Index for April 2014 fell 6 points from 129 to 123, up two points over April 2013 and 4 points over April 2012. Number of respondents for April is 79- participation is improving from our move to our new online system. The sales index for the first four months is a positive indicator for the year. Our industry has shown solid sales so far in 2014.
April 2014 BT

Sentiment for other indicators going forward has leveled off  or fallen in April 2014.

Employment remained essentially the same as last month and that is positive: “In April 2014, ~91 % of respondents (68/75 companies) expect Employment prospects to increase or remain the same over next three months (20 respondents said increase; 48 said remain the same). Just 9.4% of respondents expect employment prospects to decline. “

Flat and or falling expectations.

While the ISM PMI showed an increase in April, the ISM “production index” also dropped in April: “The April PMI® registered 54.9 percent, an increase of 1.2 percentage points from March’s reading of 53.7 percent, indicating expansion in manufacturing for the 11th consecutive month. The New Orders Index registered 55.1 percent, equal to the reading in March, indicating growth in new orders for the 11th consecutive month. The Production Index registered 55.7 percent, slightly below the March reading of 55.9 percent.”ISM PMI April 2014
It seems that both the PMPA Business Trends Index are showing the same thing, strong performance but softening outlook for the months ahead.

There are many ways to fail an OSHA inspection for Lockout/Tagout.

Our people need to be experts at this!
Our people need to be experts at this!

There are three main areas that are solely the responsibility of management-

  • Documenting a deenergization/ hazardous energy control procedure (lock out tagout procedure)  for every piece of equipment in your plant;
  • Training employees
  • Performing periodic assessment of the efficacy of your hazardous energy control program.

Providing Lockout/Tagout devices, ensuring that equipment is capable of being locked out / tagged out are other management responsibilities, and are typically well in hand in the shops I visit. If management hasn’t got their part right, there is next to no chance that the company will pass an audit. We’ll discuss Documenting Procedures  and Training in additional posts. Today, we’ll take a look at  the requirement for Periodic inspection of your company’s Hazardous Energy Control Program (Lockout/ Tagout)

Periodic inspection.


The employer shall conduct a periodic inspection of the energy control procedure at least annually to ensure that the procedure and the requirements of this standard are being followed.

Ok . That’s pretty Clear. Employer “shall” conduct a periodic review. Have you done yours yet? Can you show me documentary evidence of the review?


The periodic inspection shall be performed by an authorized employee other than the ones(s) utilizing the energy control procedure being inspected.

Who is authorized to perform this review in your shop?


The periodic inspection shall be conducted to correct any deviations or inadequacies identified.

So can you show me documentary evidence that you found deficiencies and took corrective actions? Or is your program just perfect- until the inspector asks an employee to demonstrate and they fail…


Where lockout is used for energy control, the periodic inspection shall include a review, between the inspector and each authorized employee, of that employee’s responsibilities under the energy control procedure being inspected.

Can you show me the evidence of review for each  authorized employee?


Where tagout is used for energy control, the periodic inspection shall include a review, between the inspector and each authorized and affected employee, of that employee’s responsibilities under the energy control procedure being inspected, and the elements set forth in paragraph (c)(7)(ii) of this section.

I personally do not prefer tagout. but if your system uses tagout, you must be able to provide evidence that you comply with this requirement.


The employer shall certify that the periodic inspections have been performed. The certification shall identify the machine or equipment on which the energy control procedure was being utilized, the date of the inspection, the employees included in the inspection, and the person performing the inspection.

As the lawyers say “duces tecum” – bring your papers. Can you show me the documents of your periodic inspections, covering all equipment and all employees?

Where you cannot,  you are vulnerable. More importantly, so are those employees.

Full OSHA Lockout/Tagout Rule 

“We are not given a dream unless we also have the power to make it happen.” PMPA President Darlene Miller.
I was in the audience when she made that comment at a meeting of students considering their future careers.
That quote resurfaced over the weekend when my son, a CNC operator, sent me the following video “What Do Machinists Dream of?”
It made me smile, because our machinists can in fact make the high precision, high reliability components shown in the video needed for the sponsor’s “Dream Mission.”
What you dream is important, because it determines what you have the power to achieve. What do you dream of ?
If you dream of an interesting and well paying career, you might want to investigate precision machining.
And yes, we can make the stuff that you see in the video in our shops.
“Moon Mission, anyone?”
Poncari Sweat is a sports drink

Already there are more American men on disability insurance than doing production work in manufacturing.”- Larry Summers, former Secretary of Treasury under President Clinton, President Of Harvard University, and Chairman of Council of Economic Advisors for President Obama.
Larry Summers makes this statement in his gushing review of Thomas Pikkety’s book of the moment, Capital in the Twenty First century.
But his additional remarks have us scratching our heads:
” It will be the devastating consequences of robots, 3-D printing, artificial intelligence, and the like for those who perform routine tasks. And the trends are all in the wrong direction, particularly for the less skilled, as the capacity of capital embodying artificial intelligence to replace white-collar as well as blue-collar work will increase rapidly in the years ahead.”
In Summer’s view-Technology is the job killer blue and white collar alike.
And yet, according to Salon “Summers is on the board of Square, an electronic payment service, and Lending Club, a peer-to-peer lending firm. Since 2011 he has also been a special advisor to the Silicon venture capital firm Andreessen Horowitz.”  Why blame the very technologies that you are profiting from?
One possible reason: To deflect attention from the free trade policies and failures to enforce level playing fields in trade and currency on his watch.

It isn't Americans manufacturing the products being unloaded here, Larry. We're not afraid of 3-D printing or robots.
It isn’t American men manufacturing the products being unloaded here, Larry. It isn’t 3-D printing or robots killing our jobs.

So why are more American men on disability than doing production work in manufacturing?

  • Failure of Federal government to deal with currency manipulation
  • Free trade agreements that facilitated the wholesale elimination of US manufacturing industries and jobs
  • Increased ease of qualifying for Disability
  • Failure to understand and value manufacturing as a national economic factor
  • Mass insistence on college over a career  in skilled trades

If United States is to remain economically vital, perhaps we need to address why we have “More American men on disability than doing production in manufacturing.”
I thank Larry Summers for bringing this problem to our attention.
Why do YOU think that we have more US men on disability than working production in manufacturing?

We always look at the LNS  Research emails that hit our inbox. This one came while I was travelling last week, if you haven’t seen it, I think you’ll be glad to see it today.
“We’ve got a real problem on our hands in America. A gap’s growing between manufacturing workers set to retire in the next 10 to 15 years and those on the other end of the spectrum. Despite the exciting and innovative things happening in the industry, millennials’ outdated perception of shop-floor jobs is increasingly precluding them from following the career path.”
Resurging interest in manufacturing as a career will require a systemic effort, both publicly and privately. It’s going to have to be approached from the ground up, and we’ve come up with a list of 7 things that will help attract the younger workforce to manufacturing.
Here’s the list of 7 things to attract youth to manufacturing
1. Manufacturing Summer Camps
2. 3D Printing at Home and in School
3. Gamification in Manufacturing
4. Vocational Schools and Manufacturing-Focused High School Classes
5. National Manufacturing day
6. Makerspaces
7. Parents lichtenberg_main_485 We think that LNS research has hit the nail on the head with this one. Read the full post at LNS blog here

It is easy for big city editors and academics to broadly dismiss the real issues that employers face as we try to find and hire skilled workers. There are systemic disincentives and cultural issues that are discouraging people from getting the skills that could lead to a great career in precision machining and advanced manufacturing.
PMPA President and Member Darlene Miller, President and CEO of Permac Industries in Burnsville, MN was mentioned  in INC Magazine’s Latest Article on the Skills Gap.

Graduates of jobs training programs are being hired on the spot
Graduates of jobs training programs are being hired on the spot

The article shares the success of Darlene Miller’s efforts  to jump start the creation of a training program for machinists in her area.
“Darlene Miller, CEO and owner of Permac Industries in Burnsville and a former member of the President’s Council on Jobs and Competitiveness, contacted the Manufacturing Institute to develop a fast-track program, Right Skills Now. Area companies worked closely with two community colleges to create a 24-week intensive course, including internship, that launched in October 2012.
So far, businesses are happy with the result; graduates “are scarfed up as soon as they finish,” Miller says. The program has spread to eight states; four groups of 18 to 20 people have finished in Minnesota, with a placement rate approaching 95 percent.”
But the INC Article  glosses over some very critical issues in an attempt to poo-poo the fact that “there are issues finding people for specific jobs in specific industries;” and states that in the workforce as a whole there is no skills gap.
Issue: Schools are not preparing students for careers in advanced manufacturing. Check..

  • Weak math skills in applicants,
  •  Inability to use ruler, let alone micrometers or more sophisticated gaging,
  •  Lack of shop classes in most school districts.

These are facts that we face with most applicants right out of school.
Issue: Unmotivated workforce. Check.

  • Workforce participation rate has never been lower since they started keeping track of it.
  • Why work when you can collect benefits? 
  • Our shop owners report that many applicants are just going through the motions since they still have many weeks of extended federal benefits.
  • Also many applicants can’t pass a drug test. One PMPA member told me that they lost 2/3 of their new hires within a year  for either drugs or failure to show up to work as scheduled.

This is reality. Generous unemployment benefits and their extension provide a disincentive to people to work.
Issue: Employers aren’t training. Hogwash.

  • Our shops provide many forms of training to our new hires as well as our established employees.
  • Many provide training in house through ToolingU.
  • Many have arrangements with local schools to provide coursework on premises.
  • Many have tuition Reimbursement Programs.
  • Also, PMPA provides CEU recognition to member company employees who attend association provided training events.

It is easy for big city editors and academics to broadly dismiss the real issues that employers face as we try to find and hire skilled workers.Skilled workers to add value in our advanced manufacturing precision machining shops. But the facts that our shop owners face daily establish that there is a skills gap in our industry. Despite the best efforts of our company managements, trade association, and community colleges to make a difference, there are systemic disincentives and cultural issues that are discouraging people from getting the skills that could lead to a great career in precision machining and advanced manufacturing.
 What are you doing to address the skills gap? How do you see the skills gap in your efforts to add talent?
Photo credits INC Magazine

I spent a few days at a Users Conference for PMPA Technical Member Epicor, an ERP software solutions provider.
As I am just a manufacturing guy, among  4000 computer, software and systems experts, I was in a unique position to see what our world looks like from the IT side of things.
What I learned was that to the IT folks, devices are more than just devices.

Drivers of business change.
Drivers of business change.

Here are some of my gleanings about how we as manufacturing users are seen by the folks that deliver us our data:

  • C- Types  want data visualization;
  • Middle Managers want metrics;
  • Front line managers want conditional awareness;
  • The people doing the work want to know what to do.
  • Everyone has a mobile device, and want to access their data with it.
  • Mobile devices- Ipads, tablets, smart phones- mean our customers are no longer tied to their desk.

Including CUSTOMERS!
The internet expanded the demand for data availability to : Anyone, Anytime, Anywhere.
Mobile technology is now transforming that to Everyone, Everywhere, Everything, EVERYTIME!
An interesting fact that we need to be aware of as this mobile transformation continues to transform markets:
87% of Chief Marketing Officers are planning to integrate every customer touch point digitally within the next 5 years.
Every Customer Touchpoint.
Think about what that could mean for your business.
You have a website? Good start.
Is it mobile friendly?
What about all the information that your customer needs? Does it involve a phone call, and clerical work to assemble a report? Available only during business hours?
Or can they get that digitally? Anywhere, Anytime?
That is where the world is headed- actually, it is where the leading companies have been.