Our December PMPA Business Trends Report for December 2017 finished at 125 for the year, up 6.8% over last year’s 117. 
It has been a great year for our precision machining shops, and “Busy” is the watchword.

Our industry sales increased over twice the US GDP growth reported by BEA for 2017!

Our sentiment indicators for the year ahead were positive as well.
PMPA members can read the full report here 
By the way, we predicted in May that our year end sales level would be 126.25- an error of just 1.25% from the actual value of 125!
Press representatives desiring a copy of the report please contact gro.apmp@reuabnehcrikm  to get a copy of the full report or to arrange an interview.
We are confident that 2018 will be a similarly strong year  for our industry- starting in 1st quarter where our indicators are all strongly positive.-Net Sales, Lead Times, Employment and Profitability.
Photo credit

I remember the first time that I sat down to work on quadratic equations and discovered that there was more than one possible solution to the equation …

Yep Two solutions! Which one is right?
Yep! Two solutions! Which one is right?

How many of us realize that every day in our businesses, we are solving equations that have more than one solution?

How many of us realize that we have a choice between solutions, and that lowest price doesn’t necessarily mean lowest cost to us?

At Horn Technology Days, I attended a session on Customer Specific Tool Solutions presented by Todd Hayes.

Todd started his presentation with a challenge to the assumption that ROI is just about dollars.

As Todd put it:

“ROI is not just about dollars. Increase my tool life. Increase my machine operating time, increase my accuracy (especially on features tied to another!) reduce my time in cut by simultaneous machining. Give me my weekend back. Let me run lights out.”

This rang true with me.

When I produced  steel for machine shops, the purchasing agent was always looking at lowest price per pound- for the steel.

I told him that what he should be looking at is the lowest cost to produce the part. Steel price was just one part of that cost. The cost to machine it was another.

Todd was talking about creating special tools to solve problems in production

  • Maybe to make another tool position or two  available in an already crowded machine.
  • Or to get better control of the chip and finish.
  • Better accuracy, especially between different features.
  • Less time to setup or replace the tool.  
Yes the tool is more expensive but...
Yes the tool is more expensive but…

(click on photo to enlarge in separate window)

For short runs, the cost of a special tool is prohibitive. But not all of us are quoting short runs. But how many of us are still using short run thinking?

How many of us are solving for lowest tool price rather than optimum output?

  • What if the custom tool (or special steel grade) saved me several changes per day on several machines?
  • How much more machine operating time will I gain?
  • How much utilities will I save by not needing all the CFM of compressed air that we all over use when we change a tool?
  • How much  will I save because I have eliminated variability and or better controlled the chip so I do not have to inspect for chip weld and out of spec surface finishes?

I am not exhorting you to go out and buy specialist tools for every job. Just like I was not asking my customers to buy the premium machining grades of steel for every job.

I am asking you to recognize and challenge your assumptions about how you decide to purchase, just as I had to recognize and challenge my assumptions that there was only a single “solution” to those equations I faced in class that day.

Lowest price on purchases, or lowest cost of production?

Two solutions- you get to choose one.

Quadratic equation courtesy mathwarehouse.com

When I first started in the industry the focus was on cycle time.

Cycle-time dictated how many parts you could make, that told you how much money you could make.

Pretty clear.

As a foreman and later as plant manager, I focused on eliminating down-time.

Down-time dictated how many parts I couldn’t make, and that told me how much money I would lose off plan.

As our sales increased, I learned that up-time was probably more important than cycle-time, as with no up-time, cycle-time just didn’t matter.

When lean -six- sigma became the fashion, all of us found out that it was SET-UP time where we could identify our next great contributions to eliminating waste and increasing profits.

So my question to you is about time- which aspect of time do you think is the most important to your competitiveness? Sustainability? Profitability?

What we really sell is the time on our machines.

It’s about time.

Really. Our business is really about time.

May I have your ideas please?

Some ideas to be working on during the ‘slow time’ at the end of the year.

1) Audit your shop’s Injury, Illness, Accident records and Incident reports.If any are missing now is the time to start looking- before you need to prepare your next OSHA 300 log.

2) Audit your OSHA 300 log. If you find any deficiencies- FIX THEM!

3) Prepare a listing of all raw materials brought in by type and grade to facilitate next year’s TRI reporting.

4) Review the years stack of no quotes. What capabilities  do you lack that the market is telling you you need?

5) Review your jobs by profitability list. (If you don’t have one, why not?) What is it that you are really doing right?

6) Look at your machine utilization rate by department or type. If you have clear winners or losers the market is telling you that the way you are assigning costs needs to be reevaluated.

7) Come in on the weekend when noone else is there. Bring a trusted friend or colleague that is not in the business. Look, really look, at what you see. Are you comfortable? What would you change? Can you answer their questions about “Why it’s like this?”

8) Develop a safety, quality, and a production theme for the year.  In my steel mill days I made it the “Year of No Rust Claims,” and our work and investigations and permanent corrective actions put an end to rust claims off that mill by the middle of the summer. For the rest of the year and the next…Why not do that for safety, and productivity too?

9) Inspect all slings, cables, straps, and other lifting and rigging. Destroy and replace all showing frays, wear, damage of any kind.

10) Identify the stupidest policy that you have in place.  Eliminate it.


” 8) ” Glitch  in the list above is an undocumented feature courtesy of WordPress (Typed the numeral 8 and the close parentheses…)