What Could be on Santa’s List for Your Shop?

December 13, 2017

We spoke with the Jolly Old Elf earlier this year to try to learn what he had in store for us…

While Santa didn’t give us any clues as to what he had in his bag for our shops, I have consulted with some of his  economists -uhh- favorite elves-  to try to get a sneak peek, as well as some sensemaking from our own Business Trends Report. Our Business Trends Report has been reporting an 8% or more higher level of sales and shipments for our industry all year- we and our favorite economists see that continuing in 2018 first half for sure…

Here’s what I think Santa has in his bag for you going into 2018:

New Technology – Yes, we know that you can’t find the additional people that you need to run new machines. THAT IS ALL THE REASON YOU NEED  to try to automate everything that you already have, so that you can free up the talent that you already have to move up to their highest and best use. That highest and best use will be on the newer equipment you will need to stay competitive in the strong markets ahead. Also, reconsider your approaches to tooling and accessories for what you have now. Cheapest cost per tool makes economic sense (maybe) in a slow market and hunker down economy. When your shop is so busy that you are routinely scheduling overtime and are at the limits of your capacity, tooling and accessories that reduce set up time, operate longer between adjustments, and provide additional benefits such as tighter tolerance capability are  an investment that leads to maximizing income from the capacity that you have available. Talk to PMPA’s Tech members to see how their tools, accessories, software, specialty materials and metalworking fluids can help you wring more production out of your current capacity in less time.

Training, Training, Training – The talent already on your team is your strongest asset. Training them to perform at their highest and best use creates a win win for them and for your shop. The best people that will be in your workforce in five years are probably the people that are already on your team today. Whatever you can do to improve their skills will pay dividends all the way around. PMPA has created an online training program called PMPA MFG to help you upgrade the knowledge and competencies of your new hires as well as existing performers. Check it out here: PMPA MFG Workforce Training or give Sterling Gill, III a call at PMPA HQ to get a personal demonstration.

Increa$ed Working Capital – If you really intend to take advantage of the strong demand for manufactured products in the next year, you will need to look at your working capital and adjust accordingly. The economists  – uhh- Santa’s Helpers-  that we follow have walked back their “recession in 2019” forecast and are now talking about a much more likely “soft landing.” Continuing strength for our shops through the first half for 2018 and a slight slowing in Q3 and Q4. The capital needs of a business  in a strong and growing market are much different than those needed when we were all in “hunker down mode”in a barely tepid economy. Our Business trends shows that the market for our products has shifted to a new higher level, and we see that strength continuing in our immediate and actionable future. Plan for success. Talk to your banker.

Fewer Regulatory Surprises – Regulatory surprises have been the basis for my personal economy and full employment  since the 2008 election. The current administration’s noticeably different approach has allowed me to focus my attentions to other areas of compliance, improvement, and member service. However, we are now on the lookout for  Trade and Tariff storms which could suddenly disrupt the markets and demand for our components (By forcing Santa’s sleigh to pull over until they pass.) On the regulatory side, as shop owners we need to continue to be diligent, train, document, and audit our systems for safety and compliance. If we do this we will both intelligently manage our risk, and also allay any fears of finding a stocking full of coal…

That’s what I caught a sneak peek of when I met with Santa. I hope that you consider these points and take appropriate action. It is up to us to respond appropriately to the strength in demand and markets. PMPA members looking for further details are welcome to contact me at PMPA.

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Foaming- Why Base Oil Differences Matter In Your Shop.

November 6, 2017

You don’t need a degree in Organic Chemistry to understand the differences in your shops’ metalcutting fluid base oils and what they mean to you.

Synthetic base oils clearly are less prone to foaming than mineral oil base stocks.

A recent discussion on PMPA’s member’s only Technical Listserve centered around the issue of foaming in our machines and its relation to the type of cutting oil selected for use in our CNC and Swiss machines.

John Wiley, Business Development Manager for PMPA Technical Member Qualichem, Inc. contributed a nice piece of sensemaking regarding the role that the selection of base oil plays in the foaming we encounter on the machine.

“In this picture you can clearly see the differences in a base oil’s tendency to foam.  These are pure base oils, nothing added.  Poly Alpha Olefin (PAO) and Gas To Liquid (GTL) synthetics are  identical, while the two mineral oils foam considerably more than the synthetic stocks.  If you are a shop that has yet to experiment with new cutting oil technology, now is the time.  The benefits are firmly within your budgets. If you are doing medical work, the GTL oils are ideal.  If you are running lights out operations, the GTL are ideal.  If you want a cleaner shop, cleaner machines and cleaner parts, GTL is ideal.”

John went on to describe the scenarios where PAO’s and GTL’s would be expected to be the best choice for certain operations (like high pressure pumps) and applications, as well as compared the economics of  PAO’s and GTL’s. Our members got actionable insight as to the effects of the base oil in their metalcutting fluids in terms of both performance and economics.

You may not know a lot about Organic Chemistry, but the photo above is worth a semester in class (as well as a thousand words!) to show us why now is the time to consider Synthetic base oils in our CNC and High Pressure coolant metalcutting operations.

Qualichem,Inc.


7 Industry Trends to Think About- New Technology Isn’t One of Them

November 2, 2017

You may be surprised that Technology as a stand alone item is not one of them.

Our future is not about shinier flying saucers.

We will master  and implement whatever technologies are developed.

But our future is being impacted by these 7 items  today:

  1. Loss of experienced workers taking tribal and craftsman knowledge out of our shops.
  2. Lower average wages as experienced workers with seniority leave and younger workers start at trainee wages, making it difficult to attract talent with facts about “increasing wages”- even though they are.
  3. Training growing in percent of spend as many shops are unable to purchase new technology to quote new work because they do not have trained workforce.
  4. More and more jobs being quoted out of more challenging, non free machining materials;
  5. A bit of relief from new regulations, but more uncertainty as Washington turns to trade issues which can impact availability and cost of imported materials, and tooling,  as well as impact the exports of finished goods that contain our parts.
  6. Increasing demands for certification of production to a wide variety of customer demanded requirements regardless of legal obligations- Conflict Minerals, REACH, RoHS, Animal- Free; Ca. Prop 65. Etc.
  7. Possibility of an “Association Healthcare Insurance solution” in 2019 or beyond.

 

What do you see as the trends shaping our company and industry future?

Please don’t say technology- as Humans, we’ve been successfully implementing new technologies for quite some time.

Flying cars

Todd Rundgren Future

Fire

 


Top Ten OSHA Violations in 2017

October 4, 2017

Deputy Director  of OSHA’s Directorate of Enforcement Programs Patrick Kapust presented the agency’s preliminary list at the National Safety Congress and Expo on September 26.

Powered Industrial trucks 1910.178 makes the TOP TEN again in 2017

Here are the Top Ten, along with the number of citations.

  1. Fall Protection – General Requirements (1926.501) – 6,072
  2. Hazard Communication (1910.1200) – 4,176
  3. Scaffolding (1926.451) – 3,288
  4. Respirator Protection (1910.134) – 3,097
  5. Lockout/Tagout (1910.147) – 2,877
  6. Ladders (1926.1053) – 2,241
  7. Powered Industrial Trucks (1910.178) – 2,162
  8. Machine Guarding (1910.212) – 1,933
  9. Fall Protection – Training Requirements (1926.503) – 1,523
  10. Electrical – Wiring Methods (1910.305) – 1,405

If you are just now reviewing your OSHA training  performance, these standards would be a great place to start.

The  items numbered 1910 are General Industry, those numbered 1926 are Construction.

Photo courtesy Staffing Talk


Technology- Profit Differentiator or Limiter?

September 5, 2017

I have had some interesting conversations with a couple of shop owners after they read our article Technology or People in the July issue of Production Machining.

The point that I had hoped to convey was that while the contributions of technology to our shops’ bottom lines is undeniable, it is up to us to get our people in position to take maximum advantage of the technology- to lead the technology.

Technology As Enabler

One correspondent pointed out that they purchased technology so that they could still get production with the available manpower in their area. They thought that getting people who could use the technology that they had was chore enough. They were buying technology with canned cycles so that they could produce with out a lot of engineering and programming, which was not a strength of theirs based on their workforce.

Technology As Equalizer

Another person called to discuss the article and said that to them, they thought that technology was in fact a “great equalizer” or “homogenizer.” That shops with the same technologies would likely quote similar parts to similar times and costs based on using the technology in similar ways based on how it was equipped from the factory. So they saw technology not as a way to differentiate  shops, as much as a way for multiple shops to get to a common and competitive level of performance.

Technology as Empowerment

The third caller raised the point that I had tried to make, but in much richer detail. “If you use the machine just out of the box, you’re no different from anyone else. If you use the machine’s built in roughing cycles,  for example, you’ll get the exact same result as everyone else with that same machine. The profits are made when you go out past the “built in” capability and create greater value by customizing your process.  On a complicated part, using the machine “normally” might require you to use 12 tools, and require a very expensive machine because of the relationship of certain features to each other. But what if I build several of those interdependent features into a special tool, whether OD form, or ID step drill, for example? Now I don’t need so many consecutive tool’s stacked up to do the cutting and adding up time for each part. Because the features are built into the tool, I don’t need so much precision out of my machine. And now I don’t need all of those expensive stations… ”

They had quite a bit more to say about how the canned cycles are conservative and wasteful and in some cases a compromise that  might not be best for the particular job. But when I thought about what he had said, it raised a question in my mind- “Since we don’t need so many tools and so much precision because of the “novel way” that was determined that would work- “Doesn’t that mean we don’t need that original expensive high tech machine tool?”

Not So Fast, Vigo!

The third caller shared how they were able to make parts using a sub $100,000 mill in their shop- while their Customer could not get the parts correct on their million dollar plus technology.

Was he saying that the little guy and the cheap equipment will always beat the big guy and their expensive technology? Not at all.

What he was saying is that it is up to all of us to assure that our people and our technology are operating at their highest and best use. Not just their nameplate or nominal capacity.

He was saying that technology is the tool that can best help us achieve our vision and fully realize our abilities. Technology is the best means available to us to deliver the best that we can think of. It is our thinking therefore, that leads our technology.

Final Questions

What is the purpose of technology in our shops?

Is it to substitute for knowledgeable people and still get acceptable parts to ship?

Is it to ensure that our shops are competitive in the market?

Is technology merely a means to an end, and best driven by deliberate intention to give the engineer the ability to make the parts the best way that they know how? Without the need for an unnecessary investment?

Or is technology the tool that empowers our people to deliver the best that that they can imagine?

What Is The Purpose of Technology In YOUR Shop?

Thanks to the folks that gave me a shout to discuss the article. We learn so much from our conversations.


Thank You to My Readers

April 12, 2017

Actually, a million thank yous! Thanks to readers like you, SPEAKINGOFPRECISIONBLOG has over 1,000,000 views.

1,000,000 views!

Our first post  was from June 30, 2009 and remains as relevant to day as it did then: 5 Reasons to choose a Career in Precision Machining

We’ve come quite a way since that very first post!

What do you like? 

Our post on The Difference Between Accuracy and Precision Measurement in Your Machine Shop is our most popular with 44,445 views.

Hardness vs. Hardenability- There is a Difference is our second most popular post at 35,780 views.

5 Facts About Manganese in Steel, 7 Causes for Quench Cracking of Steel, and Why Manufacturing is the Right Career Choice- DATA! all came in between 21,000 and 30,000 views each.

Average number of times a post gets seen on PMPASPEAKINGOFPRECISIONBLOG: 1048 times.

1,000,000 is an aspirational number. How many of us get to measure anything that we do in quantities of millions?  (Actually, all of our shops do, they call it “normal production!”)

But as an individual, as someone sharing knowledge and experience- 1,000,000 views;  1,000,000 shares of information; 1,000,000 human to human connections- that is an unexpected and very satisfying validation.

Thank you for spending a small part of your day with me here at my blog.

Together, we’ll continue to make sense of the the issues that make a difference to all of us in North American Manufacturing.

Especially Precision Machining.

1,000,000 views!

Do I believe in the power of social media to help us connect and share?

You bet I do! 1,000,000 times YES!

Tooting Own Horn  photo credit.


Decarburization and Your Precision Machine Shop

March 17, 2017

Decarburization on surface layers can affect heat treatment and hardness attained on parts. Decarburization also provides evidence of where in a process a defect or imperfection occurred.

Most defects  in steel workpieces encountered in our precision machine shops are longitudinal in nature. While their presence alone is enough to concern us, for the purposes of corrective action, it becomes important to identify where in the process the longitudinal imperfection first occurred. Visual examination alone is not enough to confirm the source. Did it occur prior to rolling? During rolling? After rolling? Understanding decarburization and how it presents in a sample can help us to identify where and when  in the process the imperfection first occurred.

The question that we want to answer as part of our investigation is usually “When in the process did the defect first occur?” Looking at decarburization and any subscale present can help us answer that question with authority.

What is Decarburization?

The light area (ferrite) surrounding the dark intrusion is decarburization. note the lack of pearlite in this decarburized (lighter) zone. There is no evidence of scale, indicating that this defect was created during, rather than prior to rolling.

“Decarburization is the loss of carbon from a surface layer of a carbon containing alloy  due to reaction with one or more chemical substances in a medium that contacts the surface.”Metals Handbook Desk Edition

The carbon and alloy steels that we machine contain carbon. In the photo above, the carbon is contained in the pearlite (darker) grains. The white grains are ferrite. In an etched sample, decarburization surrounding a defect is identified as a layer of ferrite with very little, or none of the darker  pearlitic structure typically seen in the balance of the material. The black intrusion in the photo above is the mount material that has filled in the crevice of the seam defect.

What is Subscale?

The grey material adjacent to defect within the white decarburized area is subscale. This subscale is evidence that the crack was present on the bloom prior to reheat for rolling

Subscale is a reaction product of Oxygen from the atmosphere with various alloying elements as a result of time at high temperatures. The presence or absence of the subscale is the indicator that helps us to pinpoint the origin of the defect. For a subscale to be present,  the time at temperature must be sufficient for oxygen to diffuse  and react with the material within the defect. According to Felice and Repp, 2250 degrees F and fifteen minutes  is necessary to develop an identifiable subscale. Lower temperatures would require longer times. Typically rolling mill reheat cycles offer plenty of time to develop a subscale in a prior existing defect. However, for defects that are created during rolling, the limited time at temperature and the decreasing temperatures on cooling make formation of subscales unlikely.

Reading Decarb and Subscale to Understand the Defect

Decarburization is time and temperature dependent. This means that its relative depth and severity are clues as to time at temperature, though interpretation requires experience and understanding of the differences in appearance from grade to grade based on Carbon content.

Symmetrical Decarburization

If the decarburization is symmetrical this is an indication that the defect was present in billet or bloom prior to reheat and rolling. oxygen in the high temperature atmosphere of the reheat furnace depletes the carbon equally from both sides of the pre-existing defect.

Asymmetrical Decarburization

Decarburization that is obviously asymmetrical indicates that the defect is mechanical in nature and was induced some time  during the hot rolling process.

Ferrite Fingers

Unetched specimen of seam (top). Etched specimen showing “ferrite finger.” (Bottom)

Ferrite fingers are a surface quality problem that is associated with longitudinal bar defects. During reheat, a defect in the bllom or billet is exposed to high temperature atmosphere, forming decarburization and subscale  around the defect. Rolling partially closes or “welds shut” the crack. However, a trail of of subscale is entrained in a  formation of almost pure ferrite which has been depleted of pearlite, carbon and alloy by the reaction at elevated temperature.   This trapped scale remains a potential oxygen source, driving further internal oxidation and decarburization if temperatures remain high.

Continuous improvement requires  taking root cause corrective action. Obviously identifying the root cause is critical. When we encounter longitudinal linear defects in our steel products, using a micro to characterize the nature of the decarburization and presence or absence of sub scale or ferrite fingers are important evidence as to when, where, and how in the process the defect originated.