A New Era Began Today

February 6, 2018

Autonomy in our technology is real! (Photo courtesy Joshua Andrade- Heinlein Forum on Facebook)

I was privileged to be able to witness the live cast of the Falcon Heavy Lift vehicle today. The photo above shows two booster engine modules simultaneously and autonomously landing. This was just a small part of the technology displayed today by the Falcon Heavy launch.

But here is why I say that a new era starts today:

  1. This is proof that Autonomy in our technology is real. It’s no longer about listening to a reporter somewhere talking about autonomous cars on test tracks. We got to see it ourselves today. It works. Now, it’s just a matter of scaling and networking the technology. We’ll be seeing this in our customers products sooner than we expected.
  2. Private enterprise for the win. NASA’s Bill Gerstenmaier, Associate Administrator for Human Exploration and Operations said that “the NASA SLS (Space Launch System) heavy rocket would cost about $1 billion per launch.” The Falcon Heavy cost is about $90 million per Launch. That’s about $910,000,000 in unneeded taxes per launch.
  3. Today’s launch has proven that the existential joy of engineering is alive and well and making cost effective technology in private enterprise. Space is no longer limited to staid, bureaucratic, rationalizations that it is for research for the common good missions. Today, it is about the human spirit and what we can achieve.
  4. This was not cobbled together by the lowest bidder with a bunch of imported parts. Although the label on a circuit board proudly proclaims “*Made on Earth by humans” this is validation of the capability of US private enterprise, engineering, and the entrepreneurial equivalent of  the gold record on Voyager.
  5. This is the defining event of the new renaissance of Engineering, Entrpreneurialism, and Manufacturing to further mankind’s material progress.  Through our own capable efforts.

Made on Earth by humans (Photo courtesy Joshua Andrade)

I am glad to be a witness to this milestone in the renaissance of manufacturing, engineering, and entrepreneurial accomplishment here in America today.  An electric car, is on its way to Mars. I watched two booster engines land themselves simultaneously. I watched the joy of the engineers as their work accomplished its demonstration of the power of our technology. This is the current generation’s SPUTNIK moment.

Baby boomers can just barely remember what Sputnik did  to transform for our culture, but many of us chose science and engineering and technology careers.  Today, we all had the chance to see a similar watershed for technology, manufacturing, and entrepreneurial spirit, and that it is cool again.

Existential Joy of Engineering- Why shouldn’t we love what we do?

The existential joy of engineering is alive and well, and it has just sent a red car hurtling towards a rendezvous with the red planet.

Red car to rendezvous with a red planet


…to be continued

Link to video Space X Falcon Heavy Launch– start at 4:14:24 to start with the launch

Photocredits: for Landing and Circuit board: Joshua Andrade (J Meauho Andrade on Facebook)


Making a List and Checking It Twice

December 22, 2016

What’s on your list? Lists?

Holidays provide a great time for reflection. Santa checking his list started me thinking…

Didn't know that Santa was into over-inspection

As a quality guy, I didn’t know that Santa was into over-inspection

Here is our list of “to be given”

  1. To our customer’s- Zero Defects, 100% on time, delightful answers and best in class service
  2. To our suppliers- Sufficient lead time and clear requirements on the specification and purchase order.
  3. To our employees- Sincere appreciation and offers of further training
  4. To our community- Continuing to be great citizens and networking

And our “Wish List”

  1. From our customers- Orders with sufficient lead times and clear specifications
  2. From our suppliers- the same treatment that we give our customers
  3. From our employees- attention to safety and their best efforts
  4. From our community- respect for the magic that our people and processes accomplish that makes a difference in everyone’s lives.

What’s on your list?

Need help with creating and using lists? There’s a great book for that:

Maybe a great gift Idea for some of your key performers...

Maybe a great gift Idea for some of your key performers…

Checklist Manifesto Amazon

Savage Chickens

Thinking Precision, Thinking Big- Keystone Threaded Products

June 9, 2016

The Team at Keystone Threaded Products shows us that “Precision” doesn’t necessarily mean “Tiny” as they thread the ends of some 20 foot long, 10 inch stainless steel bars for a Metalworking press. The thread is a 10-1/4″ : 4 UNJ RH applied to  each end of the  3 and a half ton bar.

@0 feet long two ends to thread, 3 and a half tons of precision.

20 feet long, two ends to thread, 3 and a half tons of precision.

At Keystone, they roll the thread form onto the material which makes for a stronger thread. Alignment and following the process is critical to assure a good thread.

Thread rolling dies create the thread form on the workpiece.

Thread rolls create the thread form on the work piece.

Multiple passes are needed to build the thread up to the proper dimensions.

HAldf a million pounds of pressure are imparted on the rolls to plastically move the steel of the bar into the thread form. Read the gage.

Half a million pounds of pressure are imparted on the rolls to plastically move the steel of the bar into the thread form. Read the gage.

Obviously it takes knowledge, skills, and experience to apply half  million pounds to produce precision work.

Rich says that he's rolled larger bars, but the confidence that skills and experience and a great team to work with make precision manufacturing a great career.

Rich says that he’s rolled larger bars, but  skills and experience and a great team to work with  create the can do spirit that makes precision manufacturing a great career.

Here’s another look at a finished bar. Precision does not necessarily mean tiny!

Just another point of view so you can see the size of the work.

Just another point of view so you can see the size of the work.


Thanks to Betsy Minnick and the Team at PMPA member Keystone Threaded Products for showing us that “Precision” is not a synonym for “Tiny.”

Lean Explained In Just 2 Photos

March 31, 2016

Editing to remove non- value adding distractions and waste is the true essence of Lean.

There are many distractiong non value added elements in this photo.

There are many distracting non-value-added elements in this photo.


lean eliminates those distractions to reveal the true value.

Lean eliminates those distractions to reveal the true value.

Who is the “Lean Editor” to cut the non-value-added distractions and waste throughout your shop?


Bolted Joints- More Than You Think

December 23, 2015

Bolted joints are a staple of modern engineering and manufacturing practice.

Modern life is modern because of our mastery of materials and bolted joints.

I would be hard pressed to name a technology that does NOT depend on bolted joints in some aspect of its construction and operation.

Here are two videos that describe the challenges faced by bolted joints.

When you see that piece of heavy equipment, man lift, or structural application, you can be assured that the engineers have evaluated the risk.

For those of us in manufacturing, these are great tutorials to stoke our “Mastery of our craft.”

In maching, bolting that secures our tools and fixtures is subject to the same challenges as shown in these films.


Hat Tip to Jeff Remaley of Motch and Eichele for the find.

Do you have a favorite video explaining some aspect of engineering, machining, or manufacturing? Send us a link  in the comments so we can share it.


NOT Labor Day- Process Owner Day

September 3, 2015

Labor doesn’t add much value. In my experience, it only moved stuff around. The labor jobs went away. Today, I celebrate the process owners  like the machinists that can tear down and set up a multi-spindle cam machine in under 2 hours. They own their process and own their craft.

Process Owners are what I will celebrate.

Process Owners are what I will celebrate.

Today, as PMPA’s director of industry research and technology, I compile a survey and report on the wages for the member companies of the Precision Machined Products Association. It covers almost 6 percent of the industry’s employment, according to the U.S. Census. I just reviewed our latest report, and we don’t even have a job title for “laborer.”

Process Owners, Not Laborers

The day of laboring for a living is done. In my career, it was gone by the 1980s. In our industry, the last labor jobs left during the 2009 recession. Today, our shops rely on process owners to operate, set up our equipment, produce parts and inspect them to the highest standards. Today, our shops’ process owners are the go-to men and women that we turn to for understanding when making control plans and corrective action plans, as well as matching machine and process capability to the new jobs we quote.

Here’s what I see when I walk into a PMPA member shop:

  • I see esprit de corps every day observing the handoff between purchasing, planning, operations, quality control, shipping and the customer.
  • I see our team achieve just-in-time, zero PPM routinely.
  • I see our folks are using, viewing, studying, programming and coding using computerized technology, and often doing so in more than three axes.
  • I see the pride in our craftsmen and craftswomen when they gage the part, look at the reading, dial an offset into the control, hit start and the next part measures exactly what was required. I share their joy when the parts come back with a green tag and not a red tag.
  • I see when they look at the part magnified 50 times or 100 times and the geometric form matches the template perfectly, that tiny smile shows they love their craft and their accomplishments with the technology they use.
  • I see our people adding value by assembling components, packaging them securely and getting the correct information in and out of the computer and onto the shipping documents, labeled, then loaded on the correct truck.

The people of the precision machining industry don’t “labor,” they own processes. They master their processes. They are process experts. They use their talent, insight and craft to add value. So automobiles go and stop. So planes fly and land. So people can be healed and reassembled.

I will not be celebrating Labor Day this year. But Process Owners Day- you can bet that I will be appreciative of the craftsmen and women that make our modern lives possible because they own, and have mastered their Craft.

Happy Process Owner Day!

Original Article in Production Machining


Minions For Safety

August 24, 2015

Even though this shop does not exceed the decibel limit over time, specified by OSHA, they do require PPE for all personnel and visitors.

Minion wearing PPE including Hearing Protection

And minions!