The Department Of Labor’s Bureau of Labor Statistics JOLTS release yesterday showed that job openings posted by US employers reached an all time high in July.
The overall JOLTS Job Openings number was reported to be 6.2 million, up 0.9 percent from June.
Here is the graph of Job Openings posted for the manufacturing sector since the beginning of the JOLTS tracking.

Manufacturing  currently reports 394,000 openings – about 3.1% of manufacturing employment.

Here is the graph for Hires in Manufacturing since the beginning of JOLTS tracking.
The upward slope of the line on this chart is really compelling!

What does this mean for you?

  • If you are unemployed- There is no reason to be. There are a record number of job openings all across the economy, and as can be seen in the chart above, especially in well paying manufacturing career areas such as machining, welding, and other skilled trades.
  • If you are employed already- Now is the time to increase your skills. The sheer number of openings  means that opportunities for you to land a higher skilled job- promotion- with your current employer- have never been higher. (And this is not counting the wave of baby boomer retirements yet to come.)
  • If you are an employer- Training, Training, Training. The JOLTS numbers and chart above show that it is a very competitive market to try to find new hires. It is likely that the best employees that you will have in five years are employees that you already have on your payroll.  Train them to grow their capability and your shop’s competitiveness. PMPA member companies can use our online training to start training the talented performers that you already have. And to aptitude test candidates. PMPA MFG-TRAINING

Every week we get  a drumbeat of economic releases.  There are so many that sometimes it is easy to just nod and go on with what ever urgent thing is on our plate at the moment.
This JOLTS report is different. It is a sentinel call to us that the jobs market has changed, and how we think about talent and skills in our shops needs to change as well.
If you are a PMPA member, our new Online Training Program might just be the perfect tool to help you deal with the jobs and skills dilemma that you face.
If you are not a PMPA member, contact us to find out how you can become a member and gain access to our members only online training program for your employees.
And if you are unemployed, and would like to find out what a job in precision machining might be like, check out our Game Changer Video.

Guest Post by Darryl Crum of

I am convinced we have done a very poor job in training our workforce.

If we do not provide the employee with the right type of training material, he or she will have a much longer training curve.

The primary goal in training an employee is to help that employee form an accurate and verifiable cognitive map of their process at hand.

The cognitive map is that part of the learning curve that is often considered the plane and the majority of the upward curve.

Helping trainee's develop their cognitive map shortens the flat end of the curve and help them get to competence quicker.
Helping trainees develop their cognitive map shortens the flat end of the curve and helps them get to competence quicker.

If we do not provide the employee with the right type of training material, he or she will have a much longer training curve.

All around us, we can see people doing things incorrectly because their cognitive map was incorrect.

Our goal must be to help an employee create a verifiable cognitive map- in minimum time and ensure it is accurate.

The techniques and material in use in industry today are not designed for the high percentage of people who are not successful in academic situations.

Our training techniques are not optimized for the people whose reading, writing, math and science skills are below the standards that our technology based industry requires.

We now have a different demographics in the factory worker population, and we are not making the changes needed to accommodate these new employees.

Our goal as trainers has to be to help these employees create an accurate cognitive map of their process.

We need to do it fast to shorten the learning curve.

Learning curve

If you have anyone moving up from shop operations into estimating, quoting, or engineering, I think that this tutorial will make them error proof on conversions. Bookmark this one.

Guest post from NotUrOrdinaryJoe on CR4 Engineering Forum:

Although we don’t do homework here, I thought it would be nice to offer a tip that was very useful. Frequently the point in which students become bogged down is nothing more than getting some answer into the terms that is required. This technique is rather obvious to some, but it couldn’t be any more straight forward.

When you have something like a rate of change of something in one set of parameters and you wish to convert it to another set of parameters the first step will be thinking of the rate as a fraction. So, if you take some rate such as:

X gallons/minute and you want to convert it to Y liters/second

On the left (above) is :

X gallons

Where the magnitude of the rate is X, the terms are gallons (in the numerator) and minute(s) in the denominator. Any step you need to use simply lists the conversion factor in the same way. So to convert you set it up like this:

X gallons 3.785 Liters minute
minute gallon 60 seconds

Note that the number 3.785 is the magnitude of Liters per Gallon, and 60 is the number of seconds per minute. The word “per” is the clue to draw your horizontal line to seperate the numerator from the denominator.

Next, since like terms cancel, you can draw a line through both sets of terms “gallons” and “minutes” leaving only:

X gallons 3.785 Liters minute
minute gallon 60 seconds

The magnitude is X times 3.785 divided by 60

and the left over terms verify that you ended up where you wanted. That is to say that the left over terms (the ones that did not cancel) are Liters per second.

I still remember how easy this became when I first treated it like multiplying fractions together. And it checks your work by looking at the remaining terms. Good Luck and no, we don’t do homework problems.

Speaking of Precision Comment:

For more information on the Factor Label Method  check out Wikipedia entry here.

We were pleased to see this post on CR4 Engineering Forum, Where we have participated for many years. There is only one caveat: the Factor Label Method only works on converting units that share a constant ratio, (linear relationship) rather than a constant difference. For example, it doesn’t work on degrees Fahrenheit to Celsius. See the Wiki link for why.

What indispensable but easy to use technique do you have that makes your technical work easy to do? We’d love to post  and share it as a best practice for our craft.

Inspection of all lifting devices was a monthly “Must Do” when I was supervisor at the steel company.

Is it even an assigned responsibility to anyone in your shop?


Here is a photo of a strap I found- would you like it to be holding a 4000# bundle of steel over your half million dollar (or so) production machine as it carried barstock to the job?

(I’m sure that you’ve  already trained (and documented that training for) everyone on your crew to never be “caught beneath” any overhead lift.)

Whose responsibility is it to inspect these in your shop? When was last time that they did? Show me the record.

Rigging and lifting devices are an important responsibility.

Who has it in your shop?

Can you show me records of their diligence?

Is now the right time for you to start your career in U.S. Manufacturing?

The phrase "get in on the ground floor" comes to mind...

I found this chart on Global Macro Monitor Blog on WordPress.  They look at it for their purposes. Lets look at it for ours.

I started my manufacturing career in September 1973, near the bottom of the “Nixon Decline.” It wasn’t easy- I had plenty of layoffs- but there was plenty of upside and I went from laborer in a sintering plant through a series of jobs to become, senior plant metallurgist, quality director, plant manager, division director for quality and technology.

Being in the right place at the right time (manufacturing) from 1973 to 1977  allowed me to take advantage of the upside in manufacturing that  gave me the momentum to grow my career.

Looking at the chart above, 2012 looks like the exact same opportunity, only better.

Global Macro Monitor lists some of the factors which influenced the chart above:

  1. Strengthening of the dollar during the 1980′s;
  2. Globalization;
  3. Entry of China and India into the global labor force;
  4. The internet;
  5. Improved productivity; 
  6. Technological innovation; 
  7. Demographics and worker preferences;
  8. All of the above.

I speak and meet with precision machining company managers and owners daily.

All are looking for people with skills and talent.

All are investing in training for their proven performers.

Our National Technical Conference last week  had over 102 first time attendees.

Twice as many companies offerred internships as there were  students in our first Right Skills Now class.

A comment I received yesterday on Linked In: “I teach Precision Machining and our students are all getting jobs now and the starting pay is getting better… ”

These are some very strong indicators that now is a great time to start a career in manufacturing.

 If you can do the math and solve problems based on your experiences, we’d love to have you in our precision machining industry.

P.S. And even though I characterized it as the “Nixon Decline,” I am not at all holding any president responsible for these.

There are far more important factors at play in this chart than whether or not there is a Donkey or an Elephant in the oval office.


No training at all!

The money saved by not training won’t begin to cover the direct and indirect costs of failing to train, let alone actual damages, consequential damages, potential liability, and possible loss of customers or even the business itself.

What is your training budget this year?

How does it compare to your cost of claims last year?

Your cost of expedited shipping?

Photo courtesy FlightGlobal

Great question came in the other day.

“Since the computers control the machines, why do we need to have physics in our graduation curriculum?”

I won’t tell you the State Board of Education that was looking at removing Physics from the  high school curriculum.

Apparently they don’t see a need for a  person entering the Precision Machining workplace  to know any physics.

Who needs physics to push a button?
Who needs physics to push a button?

If they don’t understand the forces around them, how can they keep from getting hurt?

Here’s what I shared with them.

Since everything is computer controlled– that’s the new MAGIC, right?- why would any high school graduate going into the workplace these days need to know any physics?  I’m guessing that, “so they can understand how the electricity that powers his machine the computer, and the lights,”  isn’t a good enough answer.
1)Power and Work: All machines are horsepower rated. This determines what jobs they can perform. Materials are machined based on horsepower per cubic inch  of removal per minute.  By the State Board’s reasoning, “Since the clock takes care of the minutes, are we okay to just not know any of this?”
2) Mechanics: This is our craft! We need leverage, thread pitch, gear ratios, belts and pulleys. We calculate the surface feet per minute of rotating tools or workpieces,  given the RPM and diameter. Even the computer needs this info. Cams, clutches, springs, motors, friction and frictional losses- these are physics. Bearings,  force, stress, strain- these are applicable to understanding the machining task regardless of machine control type. Compressed air- expansion, horsepower required, volume, fluid flow…
3) Heat: Heat is the enemy in machining operations. Why not learn a little bit about this? Savvy shops today are using infrared thermography to detect bearing wear in equipment. Some kinds of tool failure are  caused by heat. Understanding insulation, conduction, thermal expansion and contraction are key if the parts will be in spec after they have cooled down  post machining.
4) Sound: Decibel measurement is important as applied to occupational exposure. Harmonics come into play on tools and workpieces as oscillation- chatter. Water hammer in plumbed systems and fluid power applications.
5) Light and optics: Non-contact gaging using lasers, optical projectors for quality control; optical flats for high precision measurements rely on counting interference bands…  We use portable spectrometers for product sorting.  Someone in the shop will need to have an understanding of spectrums, wavelengths, and emissions  if they are to be more than an idiot operated go/no  go gage.
6) Magnetism: Magnetism can cause surface finish problems if chips cling to work. There are several types of magnetic tests performed in our shops and those of our suppliers. They use eddy currents, permeability,  gauss, oersteds, saturation, coercivity. We employ  magnetism for proximity detection of parts, magnetic workholding , and for testing. It goes with out saying that it is magnetism in the electric motors that drives our machines.
What do you think about this topic? Do the people showing up looking for work have what it takes to understand your process? Or are they merely able to do what they are told?