Sales and Shipments Leveling in Precision Machining

June 25, 2015

The PMPA Business Trends report for May 2015 showed a second month of declines from our all time high in March. 

Shipments are leveling not plummeting

Shipments are leveling not plummeting

With 84 companies responding, the PMPA Business Trends Index in May continued its descent to 121, a 7 point decline

from April, which was itself a 9 point drop from the record of 137 in March. This was our first April to May decline since 2010.

 Our three month moving average remains above the 12 month moving average, which supports the idea that demand is leveling.

When the 3 month Moving Average crosses the 12 month moving average, we take that as a convincing indication that the demand has in fact

“significantly changed.” (Compare dark orange to shaded orange lines on the graph below)

3 month moving average still above 12 month moving average...

3 month moving average still above 12 month moving average…

Sentiment was down slightly in the areas that we measure, but we are not wringing our hands.

Full report available here.

The Person is at the Center

June 24, 2015


I visited HORN to learn about their Workforce Development Program.

 For the German version of this post, go here.

Lothar Horn

Lothar Horn

“The best people are the basis of the future.

Our job is to help our people remain the best.”-Lothar Horn

In Germany they have a saying. It is a play on the word Punkt, which means both “point” and “period.” (“Period” as in “End of discussion!”)

“Der Mensch ist Mittelpunkt ( The man is the centerpoint -implies part of the team, respected)

Der Mensch is Mittel.” The man is center. PERIOD (implies just a means to an end, a resource not respected)

Der Mensch ist mittelpunkt

The man is the center of the company and important for  what it does.

This saying conveys that the human should be at the center of the company and its purpose, not just a means to an end.

But I say “It is really all about the People.”

Our People

Der Mensch macht unser Produkt.

Our people make the product.


Der Mensh sichert Qualität.

Our people assure the Quality

Der Mensch ist auch unser Kunde.

Our people are also our customers.

We are all customers, that is my POINT! (Punkt)

What did I learn about workforce development from HORN?

Lothar Horn

Lothar Horn

“You are not just a number, you are a name, everyone is important at HORN.”

And that is all that you need to know about workforce development philosophy.

Der Mensch Ist Mittelpunkt

June 23, 2015

English translation will be my follow up post.


Ich ging nach Horn, über Weiterbildungsprogramm erfahren.

Lothar Horn

Lothar Horn

“Die Besten Menschen sind die Basis für die Zukunft.

Unsere aufgabe ist es, unsere Mitarbeiter bleiben die beste.“- Lothar Horn

In Deutschland gibt es ein Sprichtwort:

“Der Mensch ist Mittelpunkt

Der Mensch is Mittal.” (Punkt!)

Der Mensch ist mittelpunkt

Der Mensch ist mittelpunkt

Dies bedeutet, dass der Mensch im Mittelpunkt des Unternehmens, nicht nur Mittel zum Zweck.

Aber ich sage: “Es ist wirklich alles über den menschlichen!”

Der Mensch

Der Mensch macht unser Produkt.

Der Mensch macht unser Produkt.


Der Mensh sichert Qualität.

Der Mensch sichert Qualität.


Der Mensch ist auch unser Kunde.

Der Mensch ist auch unser Kunde.

Wir alle sind der Kunde, das ist der Punkt!

Oder wie ich lernte Horn:


“Du bist nicht eine Zahl, ein Name bist du, jeder ist wichtig. “


Das ist alles, was Sie wissen müssen über Weiterbildungsprogramm Philosophie.

Revised OSHA Hazard Communication Standard Now In Effect

June 2, 2015

Starting yesterday, chemical manufacturers, importers, distributors and employers are required to provide a common approach to classifying chemicals and communicating hazard information on labels and safety data sheets.

HAZCOMM Overview

The June 1 deadline was established when OSHA aligned its Hazard Communication Standard in 2012 with the global standard for chemical product labeling.

Chemical manufacturers and importers must provide a label that includes a signal word, pictogram, hazard statement, and precautionary statement for each hazard class and category. Beginning in December, distributors may only ship containers labeled by the chemical manufacturer or importer if the labels meet these requirements.

Until then, your shop will likely see containers with old or new pictograms and information.

For more information, try the OSHA Hazard Communication WebPage

Small Business HAZCOMM Guide






6 Reasons Steel is Vacuum Treated

May 7, 2015

 Vacuum treated (vacuum degassed) steel is used for  critical applications that require steel with an exceptionally high degree of structural uniformity, internal soundness, and other characteristics which may be impaired by the effects of uncontrolled amounts of dissolved gases. Vacuum degassing treatments, along with various deoxidation practices are specified to control the amounts of dissolved gases in the steel. This post describes 6 benefits of vacuum treatment of steel.

 Liquid steel after treatment in a Siemens RH degassing plant achieves improved properties.

Liquid steel after treatment in a Siemens RH degassing plant achieves improved properties.

Vacuum treatment of molten steel

  • Reduces Hydrogen content. This reduces the tendency of steel to “flake” or become “embrittled.”
  • Reduces Oxygen content. This makes it easier for the steel to conform to restrictive microcleanliness requirements.
  • Improves the recovery and uniformity of distribution of alloying elements and other additives.
  • Helps control the composition of the steel closer than without vacuum treatment.
  • Results in higher and more uniform transverse ductility, improved fatigue resistance, and improved high temperature performance.
  • Can be used to achieve exceptionally low carbon content that are otherwise unobtainable by conventional means.

What are some situations where vacuum treatment is employed?

  • Large forgings and large cross sections where hydrogen would otherwise remain and contribute to flaking and embrittlement.
  • Bearings where uniformity throughout the section is important for critical performance.
  • Inverted delta, human critical safety applications where steel toughness and performance place high demands on the steels properties in all directions.

The removal of Oxygen by degassing  is a challenge for the steelmaker, because this element is extremely reactive- it can exist in the steel in many forms, such as free oxygen, dissolved in the melt as a soluble nonmetallic oxide, can combine with carbon to form gaseous oxides, and it can exist as complex oxides in the accompanying slags and refractories in the process.

In post will describe some steel deoxidation  practices and the types of vacuum degassing that are used in the North American steel Industry

Siemens Vacuum Degasser Photo

March 2015 Business Trends- In Like a Lion!

April 27, 2015

With 84 companies responding, the PMPA Business Trends Index in March roared in from February’s 122 to a seasonally correct but record breaking 138. We don’t expect to use Santa references in our professional writing in March, but based on that strong 138 showing we “checked our list twice.” No anomalous entries. Nobody keying in an extra digit in sales. Ten shops reported sales increases of 40% or more.

New Record!

New Record!

At 138, our index is 7 points above our October 2014 record of 131, a five percent (5%) increase in reported sales by our respondents. Adding to the credibility of this “Lion Market” indicator, you will find our article in the May issue of Production Machining “Prosperity In 2015: If You Dare” that reviews the very positive economic forecast by Brian Beaulieu of ITR given at our Management Update meeting.

Also corroborating our report is Steve Kline Jr.’s March Gardner Business Index Report:

“With a reading of 54.3, the Gardner Business Index showed that the production machining industry expanded for the second month in a row and at its fastest rate since June last year. The industry clearly has been trending up since November. The industry has expanded 3 of the previous 4 months… New orders grew for the third time in 4 months. Growth in new orders has been quite strong the previous 2 months. Production increased for the 15th consecutive month. The index has been on a significant uptrend since December, and it is at its highest level since June 2014.”

Bulls? Bears?


Nope! In like a LION. Do you dare to manage for prosperity in 2015?

 March 2015 PMPA Business Trends Report

Ra Is Different Than Rz

April 3, 2015

The methodology of measurement and what is measured are quite different. this is critical to understand if  you will not be paid for your parts because the Ra you measured is not in fact the Rz surface profile that customer specified.

Ra is calculated by an algorithm that measures the average length between the peaks and valleys and the deviation from the mean line on the entire surface within the sampling length. Ra averages all peaks and valleys of the roughness profile and then neutralizes the few outlying points so that the extreme points have no significant impact on the final results.

Rz is calculated by measuring the vertical distance from the highest peak to the lowest valley within five sampling lengths, then averaging these distances. Rz averages only the five highest peaks and the five deepest valleys—therefore extremes have a much greater influence on the final value.”- George Schuetz, Modern Machine Shop

RA Rz Swedev

“Ra is the arithmetical average value of all absolute distances of the roughness profile from the center line within the measuring length. Rz is the average maximum peak to valley of five consecutive sampling lengths within the measuring length.  Ra averages all measurements and does not have any discriminating value in separating rejects from acceptable cylinders.”- Swedev

And by the way the definition of Rz has also changed over the years. Which definition of Rz exactly is your customer using? How do you know?

You will find “Conversion Ratios” on the internet provided by well meaning people. But how useful can these be when the range said to be equivalent goes from 4:1, to 7:1 to 2-:1?

4:1 is equivalent to 20:1? Really? Not in my math class!

Smart shops will avoid using these “approximations in name only” and communicate with their customers to determine the customer’s true need. Gambling on conversion factors that you found on the internet is not professional, it is an example of poor engineering practice, and it fails to serve and protect your customer.

Don’t Do It!

Read this well written, not terribly mathematical treatment of the subject on MMSOnline

It’s a classic.

Authoritative standards : Surface finish measurement procedures, general terminology, definitions of most parameters and filtering information can be found in American Standard ASME B46.1 – 2009, Surface Texture, and in International Standards, ISO 4287 and ISO 4288.


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