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!

Auspicious!

Auspicious!

 

Link to ISM December 2016 report

Statista Age of Light Vehicles in U.S.

Calculated Risk December ISM Post and Chart


Thread Rolling Thin Walls- CJ Winters

November 3, 2016

Guest post by Lib Pietrantoni, CJWinter

Flaking threads and thread damage can be avoided when thread rolling thin walled parts.

Distortion during the thread rolling process can cause

  • Flaking,
  • Non-uniform thread geometry
  • Tearing
  • Collapse of threaded portion of part

These are particularly troublesome issues on thin walled parts.

These can be avoided if you assure that a minimum wall thickness is maintained for the process.

 

Minimum Wall thickness is determined by Nominal Thread diameter and thread pitch

Minimum Wall Thickness is determined by Nominal Thread Diameter and Thread Pitch

Larger nominal thread diameters require thicker minimum wall thickness; so do coarser thread pitches.

The way that you roll the thread can also be a factor.

According to Lib Pietrantoni at CJWinter, specialized pneumatic radial-pinch-type thread rolling machine attachments can apply equalized rolling pressure across the workpiece, ensuring thread concentricity, eliminating side pressure on both the parts and the machine, and allowing precise control of the penetration rate — especially important for thin-walled parts.

You can download the Thread Rolling Reference Chart at CJWinter’s website: reference chart

As a steel mill Quality Metallurgist, I saw my share of complaints that “the steel was flaking- it must be the steel.”

But the lab results never found the flaking anywhere except where the thread had been rolled – it was never on the bars as shipped.

Pay attention to minimum wall thickness when thread rolling!

And  don’t forget to pass this handy chart along to the engineer at your customer that is designing the parts that you make.

Thanks to Lib Pietrantoni at PMPA member CJWinter for providing this reference information.


Attending IMTS-Think Differently!

August 19, 2016

About this time of year the  advice starts rolling out – have a plan so you don’t miss anything. Make a  checklist of key contacts.  Map your show. Make sure to stop at So and So’s booth for the free give-aways. Etc.  Etc. Etc.

This year, I’ll not exhort you to go to IMTS with a plan of exhibitors to visit.  I’ll not ask you to make a list of the key people that you need to connect with. And will you really have room in you bag for whatever it is that So and So  is giving away this time?

Instead, I’d like to issue you a challenge. I’m asking you to think up a theme for your visit, an idea that you would like to discover the means of achieving while at IMTS.

Several IMTS’s ago, I had just such a theme in mind. My theme was, “What can I find  here at IMTS that will help us keep manufacturing jobs here in the U.S.? That will help our talent operate at their ‘Highest and Best Use?’

At that show, I found the PAWS Workholding System, and relearned the importance of knowing my multiplication tables.

Why hold (and machine) just one part, when I can hold and machine say, 16 at once?

They never told me about this when I was learning my times tables...

They never told me about this when I was learning my times tables…

Why indeed?

  • 60% increase in parts per shift
  • 50% reduction in Operator Load and Unload Time
  • 50% reduction in Operator Tasks/ shift
  • Reduced impact on operator of repetitive motion operations (Seriously, 10 hours a day of hand clamping?)

By using an automatic clamping system and multiple part holding fixtures, the operator is able to work on higher value added tasks while the machine runs  multiple parts. And because the clamping and pressure is more consistent, so is your process.  This also frees up your higher skilled individuals  to work on other things,  allowing a lower skilled individual to load and unload the operation, while increasing consistency of workholding accuracy and force applied.

Now, you might not need a reminder about  how the times tables can work in your favor by loading 16 parts at once, I get that.

And maybe your equipment only does machine one piece at a time.

But, my challenge to you remains-

  • Don’t go to IMTS looking for what you already know.
  • Don’t go just to speak with the people that you already know.
  • Go to find something that will make a marked difference in your quality, productivity, or ability to use your talent more effectively.

Instead, ahead of time, ask yourself what would be a delightful thing to discover that could really move the needle in your shop operations and quality. While at IMTS keep your eyes open, and ask EVERYBODY if they have seen what it is that you are hoping to discover.

Yes, of course you need to see your stalwart suppliers.

But I ask you, are they the ones that will give you that unexpected new insight to reduce your operations time or tasks by 50-90%?

(I’m guessing that they have already given you their best advice and counsel.)

Or will it be something new, unexpected, and unanticipated?

By all means, make your plans of what booths to visit and who to talk to. 

That’s why most folks go to shows like IMTS.

But the REALLY BIG PAYOFF will come if you find that unanticipated, as yet undiscovered technology that will yield incredible benefits for your operations.

Success at a show like IMTS is not about making a plan- that’s a given. In my mind, it is about discovering your next surprising insight into doing what you do better- with fewer inputs and more consistently.

Think differently this trip. Discovery mode rather than checklist mode. Prepare by asking yourself “What can I find here that will…?”

And if you must have a checklist, well, try this checklist for checklists from  Projectcheck.org

You can see the PAWS workholding system at this year’s IMTS  at Booth W-2138

 


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.”


Orders of Magnitude – Key to Process Problemsolving

May 17, 2016

If you have an intermittent  or periodic problem, start counting frequency of occurrence, and then figure out what the order of magnitude is compared to your process.

 in our shops, order of magnitude reflects the relative scale of our processes and helps us see what is and is not applicable to the problem at hand.

In our shops, order of magnitude reflects the relative scale of our processes and helps us see what is and is not applicable to the problem at hand.

To solve periodic or intermittent problems in our shops, the first step after identifying the problem is collecting data about “When” and “How often” it occurs. Then, comparing it to the orders of magnitude that occur naturally in your shop can help you narrow down the likely causes.

Relative frequency can be a big help, when you figure out that the frequency has some relationship or equivalence to some aspect of your process. For example, if the frequency is about equal to two occurrences per bar, than it becomes relevant to look at bar ends first, With two ends per bar, or the fact that you might get just two parts out of the first bar end, this tying of frequency to an order of magnitude denominator saves a lot of thrashing about to try to identify root cause.

What are some orders of magnitude that occur in your shop that you should consider for your problemsolving efforts on intermittent or periodic problems?

Material Order of Magnitude

  • Per Piece
  • Per Bar
  • Per Bundle
  • Per Lot
  • Per Order
  • Per Heat
  • Per Supplier

Your shop processes have orders of magnitude too.

Per Machining Operation

  • Per Spindle
  • Per Stock Up
  • Per Machine
  • Per Shift
  • Per Release
  • Per Batch
  • Per Lot
  • Per Production Order

How does this work? In a prior life I had an intermittent customer complaint for a twisted square bar product. The customer was counting bad pieces cut from bars in bundles.The frequency was extremely low, it was not at one per bar or one per ten bars, nor one per twenty bars. It turned out to be approximately, slightly less than  “one piece per bundle.” Knowing that the frequency was that low, we were able to eliminate most of our upstream of bundle process steps. They would have generated much higher frequencies – more on the order of multiple occurrences per bar.

Based on our frequency being an  approximate order of magnitude of one per bundle, we focused our investigation on the product and process at and after the bundle stage.  Which was where our problem occurred-when a single bar  end was being twisted by the movement of the last strapping and clip installation as it was tightened for packaging. the balance of the bar was held securely by the prior installed starps, but the tensioning unit grabbed one corner of a bar as it secured the final band around the bars, creating a twist in the end of the bar held under the tension of the clip that locked in that last strap.

Without comparing frequency of occurrence to orders of magnitude in our process, we would probably still be trying to figure out where in our process we could twist  just one 14″ segment out of 3,260 feet of bars. We’d be in denial, and eventually lose the customer.

If you have an intermittent  or periodic problem with your products, start counting frequency of occurrence, and then figure out what the order of magnitude is compared to your process.

 

 

Image credit


Upset Testing- Steel in Compression

April 5, 2016

Mechanical properties of a given steel under compression compare closely with its tensile properties. An upset can be performed to determine how the steel will perform under compressive load.

Upset testing

Upset testing

A brittle steel under compression will ultimately fail by breaking along cleavage lines at an angle approximately 30 degrees from the axis of pressure being applied.

A more ductile steel flattens out, rather than cleaving, showing vertical cracks around the outer circumference. This ductile steel will not break, but will continue to flatten  as more stress (load or force) is applied.

This compression or upset test is helpful for assuring that a steel will successfully cold work.

It can also be used to determine the extent of seams, laps or other surface imperfections  on the surface of the bar. That’s what I used to do when we were producing drawn wire for cold heading applications.


ISM PMI Indicates Manufacturing Industry Growth Resumed in March 2016

April 1, 2016

“Economic activity in the manufacturing sector expanded in March for the first time in the last six months, while the overall economy grew for the 82nd consecutive month, say the nation’s supply executives in the latest Manufacturing ISM® Report On Business®.”

Manufacturing is back!

Manufacturing is back!

“The March PMI® registered 51.8 percent, an increase of 2.3 percentage points from the February reading of 49.5 percent. The New Orders Index registered 58.3 percent, an increase of 6.8 percentage points from the February reading of 51.5 percent. The Production Index registered 55.3 percent, 2.5 percentage points higher than the February reading of 52.8 percent.”

Graph courtesy Calculated Risk Blog

Graph courtesy Calculated Risk Blog

This is good news for the precision machined products industry. Our products make most manufactured technologies function and perform whether, electrical, electronic, hydraulic or fluid power, or simply utility control.

Of the 12  markets reporting growth in March,  Furniture & Related Products; Miscellaneous Manufacturing; Machinery; Plastics & Rubber Products;  Fabricated Metal Products;  Primary Metals; and Computer & Electronic Products are served by our industry. Of the remaining markets reporting contraction, Electrical Equipment, Appliances & Components; Transportation Equipment are markets heavily served by our industry.

The resumption of manufacturing expansion is welcomed, and we hope will put  to rest the speculation of a recession just around the corner. Manufacturing represents almost a third of our economy see our article here

ISM report here

Calculated Risk (Graph)


Scissors Lift Fatalities Prompt OSHA Safety Alert

April 1, 2016

OSHA Issues Safety Alert- Scissors Lifts

10 fatalities and 20 serious injuries over a one year period spurred the alert.

What you need to know:

  • Only trained operators permitted to use;
  • Training must be complete;
  • Equipment must be properly maintained;
  • PPE must be worn;
  • Lift platforms must have guardrails in place, and employees must not stand on guardrails;
  • Never move a lift when the platform is elevated per Manufacturer’s instructions;
  • Outdoor operations only when wind speeds are below 28 mph.

Pre-shift scissors lift inspection Graphic Courtesy Toyota Lift Truck of Minnesota:

scissor-lift-preshift-inspection-1-638

Link to OSHA Alert: Scissors Lift Hazard Alert

ToyotaEquipment of Minnesota Graphic

OSHA Aerial Lifts Fact Sheet


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?

 


3 Keys to Productive Drilling

March 3, 2016

Here are  three of my favorite and most shared ideas to get the most from drills in your shop.

135 Degree Screw Machine Drill

135 Degree Screw Machine Drill

  • Keep the drill short.
  • Get the feed rate right.
  • Replace the drill on schedule before it dulls.

 

Keep the drill short. Drills need a rigid setup. Having extra length can lead  to deflection and drill wander. There is a reason that drills for screw machining applications are short- we need the rigidity. I learned this while working as the metallurgist for a steel bar company. I got a call from a customer that my steel wouldn’t drill straight. After a 3-1/2 hour drive to the customer’s shop out of state, I found a very narrow diameter drill (maybe 3/16″) being held in a Jacobs chuck the size of my head, being held on a Morse taper the length of my forearm. Or maybe a bit longer. Add to that a very short cycle time, and the drill and chuck never got to a repeatably steady location- they were vibrating until they entered into the next workpiece.  They could enter that workpiece at a number of different locations based on that vibration and moment arm. We shortened the setup considerably and suddenly the steel that we provided was drilling straight, true and on center.

Get the feed rate right. When I was learning machining, I was taught that the feed rate determines your success in drilling. After years and years in shops like yours, I am convinced that what I was taught is correct. Yes, the wrong speed can burn up a drill. But getting the feed right assures that the chips break up appropriately. that they will flow smoothly down the flutes. Proper feed assures that the drill won’t “chip out” on the cutting edge, and also that the drill itself won’t crack  or split up the center from too heavy of a feed.

Planned replacement of the drill before it dulls will make  you more parts per shift. This is an under- appreciated way of thinking. In most companies, they have a purchasing culture and want to get the most out of a tool before replacing it. In the most profitable companies, they have a “respect the process” culture that focusses on maintaining process control, not maximum tool life. By replacingthe drill before it gets dull, they minimize downtime, They minimize the production of defective parts. They minimize the creation of workhardening in the parts produced prior to tool replacement. This means less downtime, more trouble-free uptime, and more parts at the end of the shift. Twenty extra minutes of production on a part with a ten second cycle time is an extra 120 parts at the end of the shift. Shippable, billable, no- anomaly parts.

There are other factors besides feed that influence drilling, I will grant you that.

Proper speed, proper coating, proper geometry, effective delivery of coolant– we could create quite a list.

But in my experience, the three factors that hold the secret to productive drilling in our precision machining shops are short rigid setups, proper feed, and planned or scheduled replacement. These three factors are the keys to getting more parts with less trouble out of your shop.

What do you think?

Photo credit:  ENCO