It’s Not One Thing

August 10, 2015

 5 Lessons I learned about our machining business.

Last month I was privileged to attend Horn Technology Days.

Here are some  5 6 lessons learned.

Lesson Number 1- It’s not one thing.

  • There is no magic bullet.
  • There is no miracle pill.
  • Machining is a system.
  • Understand the system, and address system weaknesses.


Stop looking for magic answers. There is seldom a single change that  you can make that will single -handedly optimize your process. You must consider the entire system. I took in every technical session while I was there. I expected to be told that “whatever it is I’m showing you” is the answer to your machining problems.

I was not told that at all. In all of the sessions the focus was on understanding and optimizing and understanding the interactions of the system and its components. Very refreshing.

Lesson Number 2- In our business, success is defined by sustainability, not lowest price.

By sustainability, I do not mean Greenwashing.

Sustainability is not about Greenwashing!

Sustainability is not about Greenwashing!

To be sustainable, a company must learn to solve problems.

Problems  unsolved have the potential to bring your company down.

How to be come more sustainable:

  • Solve problems first.
  • Solve the problem for good.
  • Understand that the lowest cost over the long term is not the lowest price over the short term.
  • Spend less time on maintenance by planning it.
  • Spend more time on production.
  • Spend more time on innovation.

This is why we have root cause analysis. We should only have to solve a problem once. Assure organizational learning takes place. And move forward.

Lesson Number 3- Pay attention to energy

Energy Quadrennial review

This one was a complete surprise. Who knew that 37% of Machine tool energy consumption is related to coolant and lubricant?

  • Through tool coolant typically runs at a rate of about 1 liter per minute (About a quart  here in the US)
  • Traditional flood coolant is typically 18 liters per minute. (That’s about a 5 gallon bucket in imperial units.)
  • And the through tool coolant is applied exactly where it is needed.

I’m not quite convinced that MQL is the answer for production machining, but I saw some demonstrations that continue to make me think.

On another note, typically utilities run from 6-10% of sales dollars in our shops.  we’ve seen estimates that shop lighting can run as much as 37% of the electrical consumption in Warehouses and light manufacturing shops. Even if you cut that in half, it is probably wise to evaluate your current shop lighting. We can talk about compressed air another time. If you hear compressed air in your shop- you are listening to dollars floating away.

Lesson Number 4- Conventional milling = Conventional rubbing

Your daddy's way of milling is no longer preferred today.

Your daddy’s way of milling is no longer preferred today.

All of the programs  on milling at Horn  showed climb milling as the preferred practice. I’m not going to pretend expertise here- just that what I thought I knew is no longer what I think I ought to know in regards to cutter rotation and material feed. Climb milling is the preferred way in modern shops today.

Lesson Number 5- Be optimistic.

HORN is expanding again. Another new building was being built just down the road.

New building on Dusslinger Way

New building on Dusslinger Way

Why be optimistic? How can you be optimistic?

  • It is easy to be optimistic if you are a private company.
  • If you believe in continuous improvement, then you want tomorrow to be better than today.
  • Today is today, but our way is the future. Our way is going forward.
  • Do it today. For tomorrow.

Can’t argue with that. That is why HORN has a full class of apprentices in development.

How about you?

Bonus Lesson Number 6- “The Best People are the Basis of the Future”

Lothar Horn

Lothar Horn

Lothar Horn shared that thought with me in a private conversation. It really fit hand in glove with HORN’s optimistic approach to the future. By training the people and making available opportunities to learn and grow, the company  is preparing their team for an anticipated, but not yet understood future.

There is a continuous demand to upgrade our tools. We can only meet that demand by upgrading the skills of our workforce and the technology they apply.”

When that future arrives, they know that they have done their best to be prepared for that day and its challenges.

That future will arrive. It arrives every day. What have you done to prepare your shop for the future that will soon arrive?




Conventional Milling


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.


Get every new post delivered to your Inbox.

Join 91 other followers