Machining for Hobbyists-Getting Started

July 29, 2015

Surprisingly complete and easy to understand book that can be used to supplement training on the job for beginners, and a nice reference for those with a year or so on the job. Machining and measurement principles and techniques clearly explained.

A nice easy to understand supplement for newcomers to machining.

A nice easy to understand supplement for newcomers to machining.

I was genuinely surprised  to find some really great nuggets like “the Basic Nomenclature of Measurement ” which clearly defines:

  • Nominal size
  • Allowance
  • Limits
  • Tolerance
  • Basic Size
  • Unilateral Tolerance
  • Bilateral Tolerance
  • Precision
  • Accuracy

…in just a little over a page.

Nice graphics, sample calculations, and well done explanations on how to read a micrometer, vernier, as well as tables with feed and speed data for various types of materials for specific machining operations. very focused coverage of the essentials of the topics.

Do not confuse this book for a hobbyist project catalog.

This is a very clear and understandable text that explains the “how, why, and what” of machining and the use of  tools of our craft.

Nice photos too.

What I like the most is how the author really distills the information down to useful essentials. And makes them understandable.


Metric Day- Celebrating Since 1866

July 28, 2015

On this day in 1866, an act of Congress, signed into law by President Andrew Johnson, made it “lawful throughout the United States of America to employ the weights and measures of the metric system in all contracts, dealings or court proceedings.”

Andrew Johnson was President when this was passed.

Andrew Johnson was President when this was passed.

Our best shops are operating in metric and measure in Microns- millionths of a meter.

How large is a micron?



Happy Metric Day. And a hat tip to David Parker of Metric Machining and Mike Preston of Micron Manufacturing.

And to all of the engineers, machinists and technicians who call the metric system “theirs.”

metric team

HR 596



Industry Shipments Up 6.6% Year Over Year

July 28, 2015

How are you doing compared to your peers?

With 80 companies responding, the PMPA Business Trends Index in June recovered to 128, which had been the Index’s

previous high until the March 2015 record of 138. This strong showing (from 80 respondent shops) is up 8 points from last June and is right on track with our April forecast for 2015 to be 6.7% over last year.

128 was our highest value historically until March 2015...

128 was our highest value historically until March 2015…

 By the way, we are out performing the Fed’s IP indicator as well.

Our index is up 6.6% over the average for 2014. According to the FED:

Industrial production increased 0.3 percent in June but fell at an annual rate of 1.4 percent for the second quarter of 2015.

In June, manufacturing output was unchanged: The output of motor vehicles and parts fell 3.7 percent, but production

elsewhere in manufacturing rose 0.3 percent… at 105.7 percent of its 2007 average, total industrial production in June was

1.5 percent above its year-earlier level.”

Our industry’s sales and shipments continue to outperform the Fed IP numbers.

We personally believe that it is the wide cross section of industries served and customer zero inventory policies that keeps our numbers higher in the

aggregate than the Fed’s IP.

Our four sentiment indicators for Sales, Lead time, Employment and Profitability remained level from May.

Get the full report.




Plan Do Study Adjust- The Engine of Continuous Improvement

July 14, 2015

Continuous improvement is of necessity in the very DNA of our shops.

Continuous improvement is in our DNA

Continuous improvement is in our DNA

In ISO 9000:2000 Section 8.5.1 read :

The organization shall continually improve the effectiveness of the quality management system through the use of the quality policy, quality objectives, audit results, analysis of data, corrective and preventive action, and management review. 

In TS16949:2009 it read: Continual Improvement of the Organization

The organization must define a process for continual improvement . Manufacturing Process Improvement

Manufacturing process improvement must continually focus on control and reduction of variation in product characteristics and manufacturing process parameters.

The standard defined continual improvement as : “recurring activity to increase the ability to fulfill requirements.”

Recurring activity. To me that means cycle.

It is not a wheel, PDSA is a continuous cycle of cycles!

It is not a wheel, PDSA is a continuous cycle of cycles!

Karen Martin shared this graphical representation of PDSA in her book The Outstanding Organization.

Plan. Do. Study. Adjust.

This is the process of continuous (continual) improvement.

Plan. Do. Study. Adjust.

It’s what we do.

If this sounds familiar, it is because I first wrote about this here Karen Martin

DNA Photocredit

Buy American- What Does That Mean?

July 13, 2015

Industry Week Reports that “Ford Plans Move for Compact Car Production Out of US.” What exactly does “Buy American” mean these days?


In 2009 , While two of the three  bankrupt thinking Detroit firms were using the government to bully their way through Bankruptcy, running roughshod on their suppliers and creditors, I wrote a piece about “The New Domestics.”

Here are a few points that I made in that article:

  • More than 70 percent of the value added in a new car is provided by the suppliers, not the assemblers;
  • More than 300 companies have created jobs in Ohio as a result of the state’s “New Domestic” auto industry;
  • Honda has plants or major operations in Alabama, California, Connecticut, Colorado, Georgia, Indiana, Iowa, Michigan, New Jersey, North Carolina, Ohio, South Carolina, Tennessee and Texas.
  • Mercedes has a plant in Alabama too.
  • And BMW has a plant in South Carolina.
  • Volkswagen has broken ground for an assembly facility in Chattanooga, Tennessee. (It’s been making cars since 2011, employs 2000 people)

So what is an American Car?

  • One made by my friends and neighbors;
  • Made from materials and parts purchased locally;
  • One that the first digit of the VIN is a “1”;
  • One that has more than 50% “domestic content;”

Want to know more about American Cars in 2015?


What is the US’s leading auto exported abroad?

Surprise Answer

Industry Week Article

Thanks to Draplin Design for the neat graphic.

Camry Photo

Postscript- Not to diminish the role of Canadian Manufacturers- nor their vehicle assembly plants.  PMPA members in Canada produce high volumes of high technology systems parts for the automotive markets- fuel injectors, anti-lock brake parts,  fluid power system components and much, much more. But the irony of the whole Ford “Wrap ourselves in the flag while we really export your jobs” marketing  is really the “driver” behind this post.

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.


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