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)


Precision Machining Industry Sales Up 6.8% in 2017

January 25, 2018

Our December PMPA Business Trends Report for December 2017 finished at 125 for the year, up 6.8% over last year’s 117. 

It has been a great year for our precision machining shops, and “Busy” is the watchword.

Our industry sales increased over twice the US GDP growth reported by BEA for 2017!

Our sentiment indicators for the year ahead were positive as well.

PMPA members can read the full report here 

By the way, we predicted in May that our year end sales level would be 126.25- an error of just 1.25% from the actual value of 125!

Press representatives desiring a copy of the report please contact mkirchenbauer@pmpa.org  to get a copy of the full report or to arrange an interview.

We are confident that 2018 will be a similarly strong year  for our industry- starting in 1st quarter where our indicators are all strongly positive.-Net Sales, Lead Times, Employment and Profitability.

Photo credit

September ISM PMI- Manufacturing Expansion Continues to Strengthen

October 2, 2017


“Economic activity in the manufacturing sector expanded in September, and the overall economy grew for the 100th consecutive month, say the nation’s supply executives in the latest Manufacturing ISM® Report On Business®.”- ISM PMI

Low inventories, growth in orders and strong production levels drove the PMI to 60.8 from last month’s 58.8. That 2 point increase is the largest monthly increase since May 2004, before the Great Recession

The slope of the line for 2017 tells you what you need to know about manufacturing. Any questions?

“The September PMI® registered 60.8 percent, an increase of 2 percentage points from the August reading of 58.8 percent. The New Orders Index registered 64.6 percent, an increase of 4.3 percentage points from the August reading of 60.3 percent. The Production Index registered 62.2 percent, a 1.2 percentage point increase compared to the August reading of 61 percent. The Employment Index registered 60.3 percent, an increase of 0.4 percentage point from the August reading of 59.9 percent. The Supplier Deliveries Index registered 64.4 percent, a 7.3 percentage point increase from the August reading of 57.1 percent. The Inventories Index registered 52.5 percent, a decrease of 3 percentage points from the August reading of 55.5 percent. “- ISM release

The data is why we continue to be optimistic– despite the imminence of the 4th Quarter and its seasonal low demand- LOW INVENTORIES will drive continued demand for our machined products!

Read that last line in the quote above: “The Inventories Index registered 52.5 percent, a decrease of 3 percentage points from the August reading of 55.5 percent.”

Those low inventories mean that demand will need to be met by new orders from our shops.

According to Industry Week: “Orders will probably remain strong in coming months as a gauge of customer inventories held close to a six-year low. What’s more, the ISM’s order backlogs index crept up to the highest level since April 2011, helping explain why more factories are stepping up hiring.”

We’ve been saying that right along in our monthly PMPA Business Trends Reporting. Anecdotal evidence from our shops indicates that lead time issues are causing some shops to off load business with others with open capacity.

We continue to believe that 2017 will be a strong year for shipments of precision machined products.

Chart courtesy of Calculated Risk Blog.



Job Openings Hit Record in July- BLS

September 14, 2017

The Department Of Labor’s Bureau of Labor Statistics JOLTS release yesterday showed that job openings posted by US employers reached an all time high in July.

The overall JOLTS Job Openings number was reported to be 6.2 million, up 0.9 percent from June.


Here is the graph of Job Openings posted for the manufacturing sector since the beginning of the JOLTS tracking.

Manufacturing  currently reports 394,000 openings – about 3.1% of manufacturing employment.


Here is the graph for Hires in Manufacturing since the beginning of JOLTS tracking.

The upward slope of the line on this chart is really compelling!

What does this mean for you?

  • If you are unemployed- There is no reason to be. There are a record number of job openings all across the economy, and as can be seen in the chart above, especially in well paying manufacturing career areas such as machining, welding, and other skilled trades.
  • If you are employed already- Now is the time to increase your skills. The sheer number of openings  means that opportunities for you to land a higher skilled job- promotion- with your current employer- have never been higher. (And this is not counting the wave of baby boomer retirements yet to come.)
  • If you are an employer- Training, Training, Training. The JOLTS numbers and chart above show that it is a very competitive market to try to find new hires. It is likely that the best employees that you will have in five years are employees that you already have on your payroll.  Train them to grow their capability and your shop’s competitiveness. PMPA member companies can use our online training to start training the talented performers that you already have. And to aptitude test candidates. PMPA MFG-TRAINING

Every week we get  a drumbeat of economic releases.  There are so many that sometimes it is easy to just nod and go on with what ever urgent thing is on our plate at the moment.

This JOLTS report is different. It is a sentinel call to us that the jobs market has changed, and how we think about talent and skills in our shops needs to change as well.

If you are a PMPA member, our new Online Training Program might just be the perfect tool to help you deal with the jobs and skills dilemma that you face.

If you are not a PMPA member, contact us to find out how you can become a member and gain access to our members only online training program for your employees.

And if you are unemployed, and would like to find out what a job in precision machining might be like, check out our Game Changer Video.

Strong ISM PMI Report for June 2017

July 3, 2017

A strong ISM Report for June: The PMI Index increased 2.9 percent,  New Orders Index up 4 percent, Production Index up 5.3 percent, and the Employment Index was up 3.7 percent over May. 

Manufacturing in June went something like this.

Timothy R. Fiore, Chairman of ISM Manufacturing Business Survey Committee released this statement:

 “The June PMI® registered 57.8 percent, an increase of 2.9 percentage points from the May reading of 54.9 percent. The New Orders Index registered 63.5 percent, an increase of 4 percentage points from the May reading of 59.5 percent. The Production Index registered 62.4 percent, a 5.3 percentage point increase compared to the May reading of 57.1 percent. The Employment Index registered 57.2 percent, an increase of 3.7 percentage points from the May reading of 53.5 percent… Comments from the panel generally reflect expanding business conditions; with new orders, production, employment, backlog and exports all growing in June compared to May and with supplier deliveries and inventories struggling to keep up with the production pace.”

The consensus for the ISM PMI was to be up slightly at 55.1; the 57.8 actual index strongly outperformed analyst expectations.

That out-performance also aligned with the sentiment indicators from PMPA’s own Business Trends Report from May which had 82% of respondents expecting sales of precision machined products  to remain level or increase…

Here is the long term  ISM PMI graph courtesy of the Calculated Risk Blog

“Economic activity in the manufacturing sector expanded in June, and the overall economy grew for the 97th consecutive month.”- ISM

We continue to remain optimistic about career opportunities in Precision Machining. The ISM numbers showed employment growth up 3.7% for manufacturing in June.

Strong Athlete Lifting Photo courtesy The Athlete Daily.

ISM Data 

Calculated Risk Blog

December ISM PMI Positive Bellwether for 2017

January 5, 2017

The Institute for Supply Management announced on Tuesday that its Purchasing Manager’s Index (PMI) for Manufacturing index rose 1.5 percentage points to 54.7 in December, its highest level in two years and up from 53.2 in November.

This is great news- let’s look at some details to find out why:

  • New Orders component– new orders rose 7.2 percentage points to 60.2 – their highest level since November 2014
  • Strength in Employment component– employment rose 0.8 percentage point to 53.1 – the highest since June 2015
  • And strength in the Production component-production improved to 60.3- very unusual outcomes for Manufacturing in December.

This is an unexpectedly solid report showing Manufacturing industry performance stronger in December than in November.

Highest in 2 years and up 1.5 points over November 2016

Highest in 2 years and up 1.5 points over November 2016

Here is why we see this as a bellwether for a great 2017 for our precision machining companies.

  • U.S. Light Vehicle (Auto) Sales set annual sales record according to the Wall Street Journal and reports we heard from online videos from AUTO NEWS. “A total of 17.55 million vehicles were sold in 2016, roughly 60% of which were classified as light trucks” according to the Wall Street Journal.
  • 2016 sales volume was up ~ 700,000 light vehicles, according to reports from Auto News
  • The average age of the U.S. Light Vehicle Fleet in 2016 was a record 11.6 years, According to Statista online, 

There is still plenty of reason to expect demand for light cars and trucks to be sustained based on the average age of the U.S. Fleet and the current low unemployment rate reported by the Federal government. Knowing that Automotive is the precision machining industry’s most heavily served market convinces us that these numbers reported by ISM, WSJ, Auto News and Statista bode well for our precision machining shops in 2017. I hope that you are preparing for success, not for hunkering down in 2017.

Happy New Year, indeed!




Link to ISM December 2016 report

Statista Age of Light Vehicles in U.S.

Calculated Risk December ISM Post and Chart

Great Info on Advanced Manufacturing at Industry Week

August 9, 2016

Mark Muro is the author of the Brookings Institution’s latest report on advanced manufacturing which we blogged about here. He is also Industry Week’s Manufacturing Leader of the Week and we are urging you to read his interview over at Industry Week.

Convincing, factual, insights about advanced manufacturing.

Convincing, factual, insights about advanced manufacturing.

Here are a couple of excerpts from his Industry Week Interview to convince you to read the full interview;

  • “The advanced (manufacturing) sector is where we can see the promise of the U.S. economy. The virtues of the advanced sector are what we want more of for our economy.”
  • “They are the single most important source of innovation.
  • “These industries dominate the private sector expenditure on R&D.
  • “They provide 60% to 70% of exports.
  • “These are the most highly productive industries we have at a time when there is a lot of concern about drifting productivity in the country.
  • “And because of this, they also pay well. There is a wage premium for people of all education levels. Half the people in the advanced industries don’t have a college degree, yet they are enjoying those wage premiums too…

“Advanced manufacturing is innovative, it’s productive, it exports, it pays well and it is inclusive.”

“Your report mentions an inclusive benefit to advanced manufacturing. Why that conclusion rather than manufacturing will become the realm of a technical elite?

“Upskilling is happening in the advanced manufacturing sector. It is not sufficient to just show up at the plant and do the same thing all day for 250 days a year. It is a more collaborative, more creative and more technical set of activities. That doesn’t mean that one has to have a college degree. Employees will require a modicum of digital skill. So much of this is about automation, computerization, CNC operation and so on. But remember that we have a lot of people retiring. There is going to be demand for workers to staff what are going to be highly productive and hopefully growing industries.”

There is much much more to this interview about workforce development, policies, and local impacts. Go to Industry Week Interview to get the complete story about advanced Manufacturing impacts.

Thanks Industry Week for this insightful, make-a-difference coverage.