Pioneer Service Inc. recently hosted US Congressman Raja Krishnamoorthi and Addison Mayor Rich Veenstra along with Illinois Manufacturing Excellence Center (IMEC) representatives John Bradarich and Jim Dunbar for a tour and discussion of  workforce and other issues faced by small precision machining companies. The discussion also covered the support and resources  brought by IMEC, the supporting Manufacturing Extension Partnership (MEP), PMPA  Precision Machined Products Association ,  and others that have helped Pioneer transform it’s product line and workforce.

Congressman Krishnamoorthi see’s first hand what modern precision manufacturing looks like.

Pioneer Service became actively engaged with the Precision Machined Products Association (PMPA), in 2015, for technical expertise, training, as well as political advocacy for manufacturing issues. The congressman and mayor were able to see and hear how networking with these organizations and others has helped Pioneer get the resources needed to help them transform their processes and products from simple shafts to complex CNC machined parts, keeping over 30 people employed.
Changing the perception of Manufacturing is critical if we are to attract the next generation of skilled workers with careers that will place them solidly in the middle class. All of us need to help our neighbors, local and national elected officials understand the value that our people and processes  create in our precision manufacturing shops. Hosting your congressman is  a great way to start that discussion.
Thanks for taking the time to get the conversation started, Aneesa. 
Pioneer Service Blog Plant Tour

PMPA is proud to be partnering with NIMS, to help companies find new ways to help students and workers gain skills for success.

Apprenticeships to build a pipeline of skilled professionals for a great manufacturing career.
Apprenticeships to build a pipeline of skilled professionals for a great manufacturing career.

The National Institute for Metalworking Skills (NIMS) has been selected by the U.S.Department of Labor as an industry intermediary to support the expansion of registered apprenticeships within MANUFACTURING. The Precision Machined Products Association (PMPA) a founding stakeholder member of NIMS,  will work with NIMS to increase access to apprenticeships and assist employers in developing new programs that reach diverse talent pools among our membership.  As part of this initiative, $500,000 is available to support companies in establishing a registered apprenticeship program with the Department of Labor.
“For over two decades, NIMS has worked with companies, workforce development groups and community colleges to stand-up high-caliber apprenticeship programs across the country,” said Jim Wall, Executive Director, NIMS.  “This contract gives us the unique opportunity to create more impact in our industry by expanding apprenticeships to underrepresented populations and to new companies looking to establish a sustainable talent pipeline.”
What’s in it for your company? NIMS will focus on providing companies with tools and resources to develop customized registered apprenticeship programs. These programs combine on-the-job training with job-related classroom instruction and meet national standards for registration with the Department of Labor or State Apprenticeship Agencies. PMPA is working with NIMS to help facilitate the creation of registered apprenticeships for our member companies.
If you are interested in enhancing your talent pipeline through apprenticeships, this program may be for you.
Companies that are interested in building an apprenticeship program or organizations that are interested in partnering with NIMS should contact Sterling Gill gro.apmp@lligs; for more information go to or email the NIMS ApprenticeshipUSA team at gro.slliks-smin@pihsecitnerppa.

I had the privilege of participating in the Business Leaders United Fly-In to Capital Hill in Washington D.C. earlier this week representing the Precision Machined Products Association.
In our Monday evening meeting we were joined by Secretary of Labor Tom Perez, Secretary of Commerce Penny Pritzger, and from the White House, Gene Sperling, Director of the National Economic Council and Assistant to the President for Economic Policy.

Two Cabinet Secretaries and the Top White House Economic Advisor showed me that Washington realizes we have a skilled workforce problem.
Two Cabinet Secretaries and the Top White House Economic Advisor showed me that Washington realizes we have a skilled workforce problem.

The fact that we got to meet with top staffers at various Senate and House offices, as well as staffers from the Senate HELP (Health, Education, Labor, and Pensions) Committee convinced me that we had the attention of the folks who could make a difference in Washington, D.C..
I spoke with top staff assistants handling policy for Speaker Boehner and Senator Portman from my home state of Ohio.
We had substantive  and frank discussions about the facts (on which we all seemed to agree) and possible solutions for this issue.
What worked –  creating employer driven partnerships- even among competitors- summer youth programs, quantifying local area opportunities and job market research to make the career case- was shared and explored.
The challenges- lack of educational attainment, lack of ‘soft skills,’ and various funding issues were also discussed.
Despite the news stories about tension and gridlock in D.C, we were able to speak to the people that can help solve this problem.
Despite the news stories about tension and gridlock in D.C, we were able to speak to the people that can help solve this problem.

It is no longer about admitting that we have a lack of skilled workers in the ‘unemployed workforce.’
There was no evidence of denial of the problem of unemployment and lack of skills.
What all of our contacts asked about  was centered around three key questions:

  • What works to help us qualify and put to work long term unemployed in middle skill jobs?
  • How do we build the ROI case for this?
  • How do we scale it nationwide?

My fellow small business delegates from BLU shared  some of their challenges, but more importantly, their success stories of their local partnerships.
What Washington wants/needs to know is how can we build these up to gain national traction?
What would you suggest?

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


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!

PMPA Government Affairs Committee Chairman Brad Smith of Indianapolis based The Mitchel Group particpated in a round table discussion with members of Congress serving on the Small Business Working Group.

Brad Smith  at a recent Congressional Small Business Working Group Meeting
Brad Smith at a recent Congressional Small Business Working Group Meeting

Brad raised the impact of tax reform on small manufacturing businesses and detailed how existing tax deductions and credits are used by shops like ours to improve our global competitiveness.

The House Ways and Means Committee established eleven tax reform working groups to explore the impact of tax policy on various industries and individuals.

Brad Smith had a seat at the table representing our industry.

Findings from all of the eleven tax reform working groups must be submitted to the Joint Committee on Taxation by the end of April for inclusion in the May 6th public report.

PMPA is pleased to offer our members both sensemaking on regulatory developments and facilitate their sharing of issues with elected and appointed officials in Washington D.C..

PMPA delivers ‘Regulatory Assurance’ to help member shops understand and comply with regulations and avoid severe penalties.

We just posted our Dodd Frank Section 1502 Conflict Minerals Guidance on our website.

At the same time, we are an Amicus on a court case challenging the SEC Conflict Minerals Final Rule.

And we just hosted a Washington D.C. Fly-In event to meet with Congressmen and Senators to discuss current impacts on our manufacturing businesses.

In the area of regulatory and Washington D.C impacts on small manufacturing businesses – PMPA is the figurative ‘helping hand’ providing assistance so our members can remain compliant, competitive, and sustainable.

 How do you intelligently manage the risk of the onslaught of regulations, requirements, and potential new legislation on your shop?

PMPA members recognize “Regulatory Assurance” as just one of a number of deliverables to help them stay competitive.

Zelinski: “Any product you pick up and touch, it’s not too many steps away from a machining process.”

Most of the parts in your car engine come from a CNC machine. Medical devices, your kitchen cabinets — CNC machine. Your computer case, your iPhone earbuds — well, no. But the mold that created them — CNC machine.

The growth of these machines represents the biggest change in manufacturing over the last 20 years. The people who run them are factory workers.

But they also have to be computer programmers. And they are in high demand.

Marketplace on  American Public Media /National Public Radio Closed with a story on the importance of CNC machining last night.

You can access the podcast and read the full transcript at NPR CNC STORY 

Bottom line : Skilled operators of CNC machine tools are in high demand.

High enough demand to make the national financial news on NPR.

Tip of the hat to Peter Zelinski at Modern Machine Shop magazine, for effectively describing and communicating the opportunity of CNC machine technology for our workforce.

Modern Machine Shop is the Flagship publication of Gardner Publications, who co-produce Production Machining Magazine with PMPA.

CNC Podcast

Photo credit Dustin Dwyer at MarketPlace

 It is critical to understand that the selection of free machining steels goes against the ability of those components to withstand impact loads.

Charpy impact values are reduced by free machining additives.Impact values increase with increased hardenability.


Impact strength is often an important design consideration in mechanical components. Cost to manufacture is also an important consideration in mechanical components.

Free machining grades can reduce the cost to manufacture precision machined components. But free machining additives reduce the impact strength of the steel. Materials should be selected on the basis of complying with design requirements, not just low cost to manufacture.

The low carbon free machining steel grade 1215 exhibits a particularly low level of toughness over a wide range of temperatures. Even light impact loadings are a bad fit for this grade of steel. The principal effects of the free machining elements  (Sulfur and Manganese) added to this steel are to lower the upper shelf or ductile portion of the absorbed energy curve.

The effects of hardenability can be seen between the 4140/41L40 and 1141 steels. While the presence of lead in the 41L40 does drop the upper shelf energy somewhat, the biggest difference can be seen  to lie between the 1141 and the two 4140 grades. The lower hardenability of the 1141 on mill cooling in addition to the effect of the manganese sulfide additives explains this difference.

The greatest difference however that can be seen from this figure is the vast difference between the two low carbon steels, Grade 1215 and 1018. Even at 212 degrees F the upper shelf energy of the 1215 is roughly  only a third of that of grade 1018.

Rule of thumb: If a steel grade machines well- it probably has miserable charpy impact properties. 

Figure 1 taken  from The Assessment of The Mechanical behavior Of Free-Machining Steels, J.T. Berry and  R. Kumar, School of Mechanical Engineering, Georgia Institute of Technology; R.G.Kumble, Vermont American Corporation. 1975 ASM  Mechanical Working and Forming Division, International Symposium  on Machinability.

I spent the day in Los Angeles with about 40 PMPA members and guests at DMG Mori Seiki  producing a half day seminar for our west coast PMPA Chapter.

Speakers included experts from Schmolz and Bickenbach, Chase Brass, Kaiser Aluminum, Steve Klein from Gardner Publications and myself.

We got to see a number of the machines from DMG Mori Seiki that were on display and under power.

You know you are a turning kind of guy when you have trouble just counting the number of axes some of these machines have.

More on that later.

Here’s a question that you won’t answer, which came up in a conversation I had with Giovanni Principe, of DMG Mori Seiki:

Shop owners spend a lot of time and effort to justify (cost justify) new equipment that they want to purchase.”

Well that seems fairly obvious…

So…How much time and effort do owners put on justifying (cost justifying) their old and current equipment?”


What’s your answer?

What should it be?

Hint: In light of continuous improvement and progress, the answer should probably be a value greater than zero…

Thanks to our speakers, attendees, and hosts at DMG Mori Seiki for a great day of connecting and learning.

Right Skills Now will provide fast-track training for skilled manufacturing jobs- starting with  entry level precision machinists.

Right Skills Now for manufacturing

According to a Skills Gap study by the Manufacturing Institute, more than 80 percent of U.S. manufacturers can’t find qualified people for the nearly 600,000 skilled production jobs that are currently unfilled.

For American manufacturing to be successful, employers need machinists that have the right skills, and they need those skills now. That is the impetus for a new, fast-track education initiative called Right Skills Now.

The program is an accelerated, 16-week training course for operators of precision machining equipment. It provides classroom and hands-on shop experience to prepare students for immediate employment. It also allows individuals to earn college credit and national industry certifications.

One of the founders of Right Skills Now is Darlene Miller, CEO and owner of Permac Industries in Burnsville, Minn. She helped launch the training program for CNC machinists in her home state.  PMPA provides staff support to Ms. Miller’s PCJC work. Miles Free, Director of Industry Research and Technology helped develop an initial outline of the curriculum to assure relevance to today’s advanced manufacturing shops.

Darlene Miller Announces Right Skills Now At President's Job Council Listening and Action Session at Productivity Inc, in Minnesota

As a small business owner representing the manufacturing sector, Ms. Miller was asked to serve for two years on the President’s Council for Jobs and Competitiveness. The Jobs Council is comprised of citizens chosen to provide non-partisan advice to the President to help foster economic growth, competitiveness, innovation and job creation.

According to Ms. Miller, the first time she met with President Obama, she was asked to talk about the economy as it related to manufacturing and small business. “One of the things I said to the President was, ‘Not every student needs to go to college,’ she says.

“He had recently made a speech saying that every student should go to college. But he later agreed that while not all students must go to college, they do need some educational training beyond high school.

“I told him that in the precision machining industry, we have an urgent need for skilled people,” Ms. Miller continues. “We can’t afford to take just anyone off the street, provide some training and then put that person in a machining job.”

Despite the nation’s high unemployment rate, attracting workers with machining skills has been difficult for small manufacturers. “Because of the recession, we’re all strapped financially,” Ms. Miller explains. “We need people that have math skills. Our equipment is very high-tech, and our customers expect zero ppm performance so we can’t afford to hire someone that hasn’t had technical training.

“It is critical that new hires have the necessary math and safety skills to understand and operate the machines,” she adds. “There is so much more involved now than there was 10 years ago.”

Serving on the Jobs Council with Ms. Miller are some of the country’s top corporate leaders from GE, American Express and DuPont. After the council meeting with the President, the members were divided into sub-committees. Ms. Miller was asked to co-chair the High-tech Education Sub-committee with Intel’s CEO, Paul Otellini.

The group held meetings and brought in two of Minnesota’s technical schools—Dunwoody College of Technology and South Central College. The sub-committee was also able to elicit help from the National Association of Manufacturers (NAM); the National Institute for Metalworking Skills (NIMS); and American College Testing (ACT), the company that developed the testing for applicants. The program has also received funding from the Joyce Foundation.

“To make this work, there had to be a partnership between the business community, the technical schools and organizations like NAM, NIMS and ACT,” Ms. Miller emphasizes.

This photo shows a small fraction of the almost 200 attendees for the launch of Right Skills Now.

To be eligible for the program, applicants have to pass the ACT test, which is geared towards the machining industry. If an individual doesn’t qualify for the program the first time, there are remedial classes available.

“Problem-solving is huge part of the curriculum,” Ms. Miller says. “There is a mix of both classroom learning and shop time. After sixteen weeks, the student will intern at a manufacturing company for eight weeks.

“That person can stay with the company and continue his or her education in a specific field,” she adds. Some go into programming, Swiss machining or advanced CNC skills.   Others may end up as operations managers, quality managers or even entrepreneurs.

“We intend to replicate Right Skills Now nationally,” Ms. Miller sums up. “It’s not just for CNC machinists. It can be used for nearly any job skill. The program is so well-defined and accredited, it can be tweaked very easily to train anyone from welders to healthcare technicians.”

Click this link for more information on Right Skills Now,