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)

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January ISM PMI Growth in Manufacturing Moderates as it Continues

February 1, 2018

Positive indicators for our precision machining shops from ISM and PMPA.

According to today’s release of the January 2018 Institute for Supply Management -Purchasing Manager’s Index,  economic activity in the manufacturing sector expanded in January, although at a slower rate than in December 2017. The  January PMI came in at 59.1%, down 0.2% from 59.3% in December. 

Continued strength in Manufacturing according to the nation’s Purchasing Managers at the Institute for Supply Management.

 

A reading above 50 percent in the PMI  indicates that the manufacturing economy is generally expanding; below 50 percent indicates that it is generally contracting.

While the ISM-PMI report highlighted slight declines in the following indicators for our manufacturing businesses, they still bode well for manufacturing’s strength:

  • The New Orders Index registered 65.4 percent, a decrease of 2 percentage points from the seasonally adjusted December reading of 67.4 percent.
  • The Production Index registered 64.5 percent, a 0.7 percentage point decrease compared to the seasonally adjusted December reading of 65.2 percent.
  • The Employment Index registered 54.2 percent, a decrease of 3.9 percentage points from the seasonally adjusted December reading of 58.1 percent. The Supplier Deliveries Index registered 59.1 percent, a 1.9 percentage point increase from the seasonally adjusted December reading of 57.2 percent.

Other comments from this report that convey positivity for our sector including “expanding business conditions, with new orders and production maintaining high levels of expansion; employment expanding at a slower rate; order backlogs expanding at a faster rate; and export orders and imports continuing to grow faster in January. Supplier deliveries continued to slow (improving) at a faster rate. Price increases occurred across all industry sectors. The Customers’ Inventories Index indicates levels are still too low. Capital expenditure lead times increased 8 percent during the month of January.” These all signal that manufacturing continues to be very busy up and down the supply chain. The “Customer’s inventories  being too low,”  comment tells me that there will continue to be strength in  demand for manufactured goods in the coming months.

PMPA’s own Business Trends Report for December 2017 and year end summary reported that our companies’ sales were up 6.8% over calendar year 2016’s levels. This  January ISM PMI report continues the positive outlook for manufacturing. PMPA Year End Summary Blog Post

ISM Press Release

Calculated Risk Chart of January 2018 ISM PMI

 

 

 

 


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


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.


November ISM-PMI Report Down Half a Point- We Think It Is Remarkable!

December 4, 2017

The Institute for Supply Management last week reported that “The November PMI® registered 58.2 percent, a decrease of 0.5 percentage point from the October reading of 58.7 percent. “ This value means that “Economic activity in the manufacturing sector expanded in November, and the overall economy grew for the 102nd consecutive month.”

We’d like to provide a wee bit of sensemaking to this report- as normally  people would think that a decline in the index is  not a positive thing.

  • The decline is just 0.5 point- which means that this November reading is higher than every other monthly reading this year except for October and September.  Can you say “unseasonably high?”
  • That decline is also higher than 45 of the last 50 readings, going back to October 2013. Do you agree with us that the data indicates that “the process has shifted.”
  • The absolute values of the index  are consistent with Economic activity in the manufacturing sector expanding as well as growth in the overall economy.

Here’s the chart, courtesy of Calculated Risk Blog

November value remains above most historical values since the end of the great recession, despite seasonality.

We took the liberty of running the ISM PMI averages for January through November for 2014, 2015, 2016- they came in at 55.84, 51.67, 51.22; together, they average 52.91.

The 2017 January-November average for the ISM PMI is 57.38.

We believe that the data is clear that the process has shifted, in a positive direction. Up 4.47 points  98.4%) over the average for the same period for the last three years.

Manufacturing in the United States is performing substantially better than it has over the past three years, and we believe that is is not an anomaly.

ISM PMI November Announcement


OSHA Injury and illness Electronic Reporting Rule Deadline Now Dec 15, 2017

November 22, 2017

OSHA has issued a final rule to delay the electronic reporting compliance date of the Improve Tracking of Workplace Injuries and Illnesses rule from July 1, 2017 (actually it was December 1, 2017) to December 15, 2017. The reason given is to provide employers the same four month window for submitting data that the original rule would have provided.

Department of Labor OSHA Headquarters in Washington D.C.

The actual deadline had been December 1, 2017 to report 2016 OSHA 300A data for employers in manufacturing industries with 20-250 employees in most states. Employers in state plan states- California, Maryland, Minnesota, South Carolina, Utah, Washington, and Wyoming were not required to comply

Here is the link to today’s OSHA News Release.

According to the agency “OSHA is currently reviewing the other provisions of its final rule to Improve Tracking of Workplace Injuries and Illnesses, and intends to publish a notice of proposed rulemaking to reconsider, revise, or remove portions of that rule in 2018.

We have been following this rule since we testified against it back in 2014.

We have posted on this from time to time

OSHA Mandatory Reporting Delayed

OSHA Clarifies Reporting Rule 

Department of Shaming?

PMPA gave our members a step by step guide to how to report earlier this week.

The final rule will be published in the Federal Register on Friday, November 24, 2017. Here is the public inspection version

 


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.