What Is Your Purpose- for Attending IMTS?

September 8, 2014


You are a shop owner or key employee attending IMTS this year. Congratulations. Manufacturing is enjoying a strong “bull phase” right now and it is a great time to plan improvements to your shop’s capabilities and services.

To help keep your piece of North American Manufacturing competitive.

To help keep your piece of North American Manufacturing competitive.

  • Of course you want to see the latest technology to add to your shop’s capabilities.
  • Of course you want to see your preferred vendors face to face, and find some that might become preferred vendors some day too.
  • Of course you’d like to find a bargain or two, for machine shop owners and anyone in Fab metal manufacturing, IMTS is really our “Disneyworld (TM).”
  • Of course you would like to catch up on industry happenings, and find out the latest and greatest.
  • Of course you would like to get some of your most vexing process questions answered.

One more reason to go to IMTS?

To find the  technology that will help you keep manufacturing here in North America by allowing your employees to operate at their highest and best use. And your equipment to have more time “in the cut.”

Finding a piece of equipment  or accessory that can be operated by a less skilled operator but still create high value is what I am talking about. Finding ways to do work simultaneously or in parallel while the tool is cutting is another.

Are your highest skilled people loading and unloading, or are they adding value? Can the loading and unloading be performed by the equipment itself? Does the tool need that adjustment on the machine, or can you get more production up time  with off-machine presetting?

Have fun at “Disneyworld ™.” Hope to see you there.

Fun Fact Friday- Why Do Dead Alkaline Batteries Bounce?

September 5, 2014

If you know how a dead blow hammer works, you can answer this question. Enjoy!

We found this originally  on Lifehacker.


Manufacturing Productivity Up 3.3%- BLS

September 4, 2014


The Bureau of Labor Statistics released Manufacturing Productivity Numbers  for second quarter 2014 this morning:

“Manufacturing sector productivity increased 3.3 percent in the second quarter  of 2014, as output increased 6.9 percent and hours worked increased 3.5  percent. The increase in output was the largest since the second quarter of  2010 (11.6 percent). Productivity increased 3.4 percent in the durable goods  sector and increased 4.7 percent in the nondurable goods sector. Over the  last 4 quarters, manufacturing productivity increased 2.1 percent, as output  increased 3.7 percent and hours increased 1.6 percent. Unit labor costs in  manufacturing decreased 1.6 percent in the second quarter of 2014 and  increased 0.8 percent from the same quarter a year ago.” BLS release.

If you have been following our blog, this is probably not unexpected news for you.

 Kalkaska;  August Indicators Bullish on MFG

Manufacturing is a great place to work!

Manufacturing is a great place to work!

Precision machining companies make the high precision highly engineered components that make most manufactured products function.

In other news today seasonally adjusted initial claims for unemployment increased  to 302,000; the real U-6 unemployment rate is 12.6%.

Given that the Civilian workforce is 156,123,000 persons, this represents 19,671,498 persons unemployed.

If I was unemployed, wanted to work, and I saw the bullish numbers about manufacturing, I know what I would do.

Career benefits for Precision Machining

Career Training

Photo Credit: StealingFaith

Kalkaska Screw- Manufacturing Growth Biggest In Years

September 3, 2014

Kevin Schlueter, President  of PMPA member company Kalkaska Screw Products, Inc.  (KSP) was featured on UpNorthLive, a news and information website covering Northern Michigan.

Great news for manufacturing in Northern Michigan according to KSP's Kevin Schlueter

Great news for manufacturing in Northern Michigan according to KSP’s Kevin Schlueter

Kalkaska Screw’s newsworthy subject- Manufacturing in Northern Michigan growing strongest in years.

“”There’s a lot of great manufacturing that’s taking place in this area,” Kevin Schlueter, Kalkaska Screw Products President & CEO, said. “Not just the Kalkaska area but the greater Traverse City area, there’s some amazing manufacturing going on.””

We know there is some amazing manufacturing going on at KSP- where they ship over 2.8 million high- tech, high-precision, often human safety critical parts- each month!  (Automotive Brake, Passenger Restraint, and Airbag parts among others!)

Kalkaska Screw Products has added almost 20 jobs this year and is looking to add 10 more. An Employee owned (ESOP) company, currently KSP has 91 employees- top employer in Kalkaska County.

“To add that many jobs and to help out the community is something we’re really proud of,” Schlueter said. “We need more employees. We ship about 2.8 million parts per month and so you need the right number of employees to get that work done.”

Yesterday, the ISM PMI report for August was released showing”the highest recorded New Orders Index since April 2004 when it registered 67.1 percent.”

Employment prospects for PMPA member shops remains High with 96% of responding companies expecting employment prospects to remain the same or increase over the next three months.

Thanks to Kalkaska Screw Products, Inc. President Kevin Schlueter for helping get the word out that Manufacturing is thriving and that we have great career opportunities in our shops for people “making things that make a difference.”

And thanks to UpNorthLive for the great story.


August ISM-PMI – Bullish on Manufacturing

September 2, 2014

“The August PMI® is led by the highest recorded New Orders Index since April 2004 when it registered 67.1 percent. At the same time, comments from the panel reflect a positive outlook mixed with caution over global geopolitical unrest.”

Manufacturing is looking good according to the writing on the wall- and August ISM PMI.

Manufacturing is looking good according to the writing on the wall- and August ISM PMI.

The ISM PMI index for  Manufacturing in the United States has been a good leading indicator for US GDP. We like to calibrate our Precision Machining Industry’s performance against it as well.

Our July PMPA Business Trends Report showed that our industry outperformed several FED manufacturing indicators. Our July Sales  usually low because of summer shutdowns, vacations and retooling in Customer plants, were at the average for the Calendar year. today, ISM PMI shows that that positivity extending to August.

Today’s report from Institute for Supply Management showed the indicator rose 1.9 percent to 59 in August from 57.1 in July. This is a very optimistic reading, showing that the manufacturing economy expanded for the 15th consecutive month.


What does a bull sound like for prospects in manufacturing?

“This month’s PMI® reflects the highest reading since March 2011 when the index registered 59.1 percent. The New Orders Index registered 66.7 percent, an increase of 3.3 percentage points from the 63.4 percent reading in July, indicating growth in new orders for the 15th consecutive month. The Production Index registered 64.5 percent, 3.3 percentage points above the July reading of 61.2 percent. The Employment Index grew for the 14th consecutive month, registering 58.1 percent, a slight decrease of 0.1 percentage point below the July reading of 58.2 percent. Inventories of raw materials registered 52 percent, an increase of 3.5 percentage points from the July reading of 48.5 percent, indicating growth in inventories following one month of contraction. The August PMI® is led by the highest recorded New Orders Index since April 2004 when it registered 67.1 percent. At the same time, comments from the panel reflect a positive outlook mixed with caution over global geopolitical unrest.” -Bradley J Holcomb, Chair of the Institute for Supply Management® (ISM®) Manufacturing Business Survey Committee.

PMPA  Business Trends data for July has also painted a picture of stronger than seasonally expected performance. We can hardly wit to see how the PMI August Data compares to our industry performance.

Graph courtesy Calculated Risk Blog

Street art courtesy REDBOY at Street and Stage Blog

Pipe Steel- Internal Defect

August 28, 2014

The majority of defects encountered in steel bars in our shops are found on the surface. Internal defects can also be encountered, and we posted about central burst (chevron) defects here. This post describes Pipe Steel.

Definition: A central cavity formed by contraction of the metal during solidification is called pipe.

When this cavity is found in wrought or cast products, this is also called pipe.

Pipe steel centerline defect in wrought steel bar. We had this specimen hard chrome plated and made it into a bookend.

Pipe steel centerline defect in wrought steel bar. We had this specimen hard chrome plated and made it into a bookend.

In the days of ingot casting, the location of the shrinkage cavity was controlled by ingot mold design and the addition of hot tops to assure that after cropping the material containing the void off, there would remain sufficient sound material to roll into product.

Today with modern computer controlled billet and bloom casting processes, pipe steel and center porosity is very seldom encountered.

Recently a question was asked about centerline defects on cast billets in one of my LinkedIn Groups.

“hello can any one tell us why some times whe have holes along the center of the billets just casted thanks”

Despite a lack of specifics about grade, deoxidation, and many other factors,  we can make some comments based on the fact that this is continuously cast billets according to question.

Here are my comments addressing the continuous  billet casting process and how it can be implicated in the creation of centerline voids (pipe steel defects).

The three key parameters in the casting process that are most likely to result in centerline pipe are

  1. Casting speed
  2. Superheat
  3. Electromagnetic Stirring. EMS amperage and frequency (Together they drive intensity.)

1. Casting Speed- Incorrect casting speed can result in pipe/ centerline looseness/ porosity. This can be aggravated by issues with mold level control.  Slow down your casting speed to get sufficient solidification.

2. Superheat is critical to maintaining the proper fluidity and solidification dynamics in the mold. Liquid metal shrinks in three steps; 1) volume decreases the liquid cools goes from the pouring temperature to the freezing temperature;  2) volume decreases as the metal solidifies. This is reinforced by the driving out of dissolved gases as the metal freezes; 3) the metal shrinks as it cools from solidification temperature to ambient  temperature.

3. Electromagnetic Stirring (EMS)- If you macroetch transverse sections of the billets and still see columnar rather than equiaxed grain structure in the cast billet, it is a sign that the EMS is ineffective.

There are a host of other operating parameters as well as chemistry and processes that can contribute to porous centers or central cavity pipe steel defects. Here is a list of questions to help address these:

Do you have adequate cooling water through the molds? Are you running EMS? What is the metallurgical distance on this caster? What is the mold level control? Evidence of turbulence into the mold? Meters per minute for casting speed?  Shrouding status on nozzles? What was superheat? What was water flow?

Do you have chemistry in control, steel deoxidized, so that the large void is a result of solidification shrinkage, not divorce of gas from the liquid steel? What is grade? What was deoxidizer?

Continuous casting of steel is a complex process with a large number of operating parameters and processes that need to be in close control. Understanding how these parameters can impact the final product is critical to eliminating defects that result from lack of control.

Precision Machining Industry Out-Performed Industrial Production and Factory Output July 2014

August 27, 2014

The Precision Machining Industry continues to show solid sales in 2014. The PMPA Business Trends Index for July 2014 rose 3 points  over last month (~2.5%) from 120 to 123. Up 8 points over July 2013. 

According to the Fed, Industrial Production (IP) for July was up 0.4% and Factory Output was up 1%.

Our index out-performed these Fed Benchmarks.

up 8 points over last year, 3 points above last month.

Up 8 points over last year, 3 points above last month.


Automotive is a market heavily served by our industry, and the Fed reported Auto Production to be up 10.1% in July.

We believe our  industry’s strong sales performance was a result of the surge in auto production in July.

Forward looking sentiment of respondents for next three months rose for Profitability; leveled off for Sales; while Lead Time and Employment declined.

The July Industry sales was right at the average of industry sales for the year to date.

July garnered  a strong report.

See the July 2014 PMPA Business Trends Report here. 


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