Strong Optimism Arrives in January ISM-PMI

February 2, 2017

Manufacturing had a very strong January according to ISM-PMI  and as forecast by PMPA Business Trends respondents in our December Report.


Up up and away

Up up and away! Growth in Manufacturing sector and the broad economy continues.

Manufacturing expanded in January as the PMI® registered 56 percent, an increase of 1.5 percentage points from the seasonally adjusted December reading of 54.5 percent, indicating growth in manufacturing for the fifth consecutive month. A reading above 50 percent indicates that the manufacturing economy is generally expanding; below 50 percent indicates that it is generally contracting. A PMI® above 43.3 percent, over a period of time, generally indicates an expansion of the overall economy. Therefore, the January PMI® indicates growth for the 92nd consecutive month in the overall economy, and indicates growth in the manufacturing sector for the fifth consecutive month.”– Bradley J. Holcomb, CPSM, CPSD, chair of the Institute for Supply Management® (ISM®) Manufacturing Business Survey Committee.

The PMPA’s Business Trends Summary and Forecast for December 2016 showed our shops believing that Projected Net Sales in the first quarter of 2017 would be up substantially. Look at the slope of the Blue Line on the chart below.

Sentiment for Sales up sharply for first three months of 2017.

Sentiment for Sales up sharply for first three months of 2017.

We are pleased that the ISM-PMI confirmed our member sentiment expectations for a very strong January. We also hope that you are taking advantage of these opportunities, rather than remaining trapped in “hunker- down” thinking.

Why are we so positive? Bradley Holcomb explains:

 “The past relationship between the PMI® and the overall economy indicates that the PMI® for January (56 percent) corresponds to a 4 percent increase in real gross domestic product (GDP) on an annualized basis.” 

Our industry provides the essential componentry that empowers the functionality of all of those big ticket items that make up so much of GDP- Light vehicles, Aircraft and aerospace, Appliances, Agriculture and Construction equipment, etc, etc.

You will be busy in first quarter of 2017. Our members said so. ISM-PMI confirms it was so in January.

Share your positive optimism and expectations with your team. It is a great way to start a new year.

Postscript: Employment Outlook. In PMPA’s December Business Trends Report, the outlook for Employment was 92% favorable to employment remaining level or increasing. Only 8 % of respondents felt a decline in employment was  foreseeable.

The ISM Employment  Index “registered 56.1 percent in January, an increase of 3.3 percentage points when compared to the seasonally adjusted December reading of 52.8 percent, indicating growth in employment in January for the fourth consecutive month. An Employment Index above 50.5 percent, over time, is generally consistent with an increase in the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) data on manufacturing employment.”

It  is clearly a great time to consider a great career in Precision Machining and manufacturing!

Thanks to Calculated Risk Blog for their Chart of the ISM PMI.





PMPA Selected as National Partner to Grow Apprenticeships in Manufacturing

November 14, 2016

PMPA is proud to be partnering with NIMS, to help companies find new ways to help students and workers gain skills for success.

Apprenticeships to build a pipeline of skilled professionals for a great manufacturing career.

Apprenticeships to build a pipeline of skilled professionals for a great manufacturing career.

The National Institute for Metalworking Skills (NIMS) has been selected by the U.S.Department of Labor as an industry intermediary to support the expansion of registered apprenticeships within MANUFACTURING. The Precision Machined Products Association (PMPA) a founding stakeholder member of NIMS,  will work with NIMS to increase access to apprenticeships and assist employers in developing new programs that reach diverse talent pools among our membership.  As part of this initiative, $500,000 is available to support companies in establishing a registered apprenticeship program with the Department of Labor.

“For over two decades, NIMS has worked with companies, workforce development groups and community colleges to stand-up high-caliber apprenticeship programs across the country,” said Jim Wall, Executive Director, NIMS.  “This contract gives us the unique opportunity to create more impact in our industry by expanding apprenticeships to underrepresented populations and to new companies looking to establish a sustainable talent pipeline.”

What’s in it for your company? NIMS will focus on providing companies with tools and resources to develop customized registered apprenticeship programs. These programs combine on-the-job training with job-related classroom instruction and meet national standards for registration with the Department of Labor or State Apprenticeship Agencies. PMPA is working with NIMS to help facilitate the creation of registered apprenticeships for our member companies.

If you are interested in enhancing your talent pipeline through apprenticeships, this program may be for you.

Companies that are interested in building an apprenticeship program or organizations that are interested in partnering with NIMS should contact Sterling Gill; for more information go to or email the NIMS ApprenticeshipUSA team at



Metalworking Fluids- Learn How Latest Trends Will Impact Your Company

August 12, 2015

The 5th International Conference on Metal Removal Fluids will explore the latest trends and advances in the Metal Removal Fluids and Lubricants industry. And it will have a session focused on Impact of Regulations.

5th International Conference on Metal Removal Fluids

Topical Tracks include

  • Health and Safety Effects/Occupational Medicine
  • Exposure Measurement and Guidelines
  • Managing Metal Removal Fluids in the Plant Best Practices
  • Impact of Regulations
  • Practitioner Focus

PMPA is a sponsor of this conference and will be participating.

The conference is presented by ilma, STLE, and UEIL

If you have someone in your shop that is responsible for managing Metal Removal Fluids, handling the regulatory impacts of Metal Removal Fluids, assuring the use of best practices for Metal Removal Fluids, this conference will provide the latest intelligence.

Here is the link: 5th International Metal Removal Fluids Conference

It’s Not One Thing

August 10, 2015

 5 Lessons I learned about our machining business.

Last month I was privileged to attend Horn Technology Days.

Here are some  5 6 lessons learned.

Lesson Number 1- It’s not one thing.

  • There is no magic bullet.
  • There is no miracle pill.
  • Machining is a system.
  • Understand the system, and address system weaknesses.


Stop looking for magic answers. There is seldom a single change that  you can make that will single -handedly optimize your process. You must consider the entire system. I took in every technical session while I was there. I expected to be told that “whatever it is I’m showing you” is the answer to your machining problems.

I was not told that at all. In all of the sessions the focus was on understanding and optimizing and understanding the interactions of the system and its components. Very refreshing.

Lesson Number 2- In our business, success is defined by sustainability, not lowest price.

By sustainability, I do not mean Greenwashing.

Sustainability is not about Greenwashing!

Sustainability is not about Greenwashing!

To be sustainable, a company must learn to solve problems.

Problems  unsolved have the potential to bring your company down.

How to be come more sustainable:

  • Solve problems first.
  • Solve the problem for good.
  • Understand that the lowest cost over the long term is not the lowest price over the short term.
  • Spend less time on maintenance by planning it.
  • Spend more time on production.
  • Spend more time on innovation.

This is why we have root cause analysis. We should only have to solve a problem once. Assure organizational learning takes place. And move forward.

Lesson Number 3- Pay attention to energy

Energy Quadrennial review

This one was a complete surprise. Who knew that 37% of Machine tool energy consumption is related to coolant and lubricant?

  • Through tool coolant typically runs at a rate of about 1 liter per minute (About a quart  here in the US)
  • Traditional flood coolant is typically 18 liters per minute. (That’s about a 5 gallon bucket in imperial units.)
  • And the through tool coolant is applied exactly where it is needed.

I’m not quite convinced that MQL is the answer for production machining, but I saw some demonstrations that continue to make me think.

On another note, typically utilities run from 6-10% of sales dollars in our shops.  we’ve seen estimates that shop lighting can run as much as 37% of the electrical consumption in Warehouses and light manufacturing shops. Even if you cut that in half, it is probably wise to evaluate your current shop lighting. We can talk about compressed air another time. If you hear compressed air in your shop- you are listening to dollars floating away.

Lesson Number 4- Conventional milling = Conventional rubbing

Your daddy's way of milling is no longer preferred today.

Your daddy’s way of milling is no longer preferred today.

All of the programs  on milling at Horn  showed climb milling as the preferred practice. I’m not going to pretend expertise here- just that what I thought I knew is no longer what I think I ought to know in regards to cutter rotation and material feed. Climb milling is the preferred way in modern shops today.

Lesson Number 5- Be optimistic.

HORN is expanding again. Another new building was being built just down the road.

New building on Dusslinger Way

New building on Dusslinger Way

Why be optimistic? How can you be optimistic?

  • It is easy to be optimistic if you are a private company.
  • If you believe in continuous improvement, then you want tomorrow to be better than today.
  • Today is today, but our way is the future. Our way is going forward.
  • Do it today. For tomorrow.

Can’t argue with that. That is why HORN has a full class of apprentices in development.

How about you?

Bonus Lesson Number 6- “The Best People are the Basis of the Future”

Lothar Horn

Lothar Horn

Lothar Horn shared that thought with me in a private conversation. It really fit hand in glove with HORN’s optimistic approach to the future. By training the people and making available opportunities to learn and grow, the company  is preparing their team for an anticipated, but not yet understood future.

There is a continuous demand to upgrade our tools. We can only meet that demand by upgrading the skills of our workforce and the technology they apply.”

When that future arrives, they know that they have done their best to be prepared for that day and its challenges.

That future will arrive. It arrives every day. What have you done to prepare your shop for the future that will soon arrive?




Conventional Milling


Machining for Hobbyists-Getting Started

July 29, 2015

Surprisingly complete and easy to understand book that can be used to supplement training on the job for beginners, and a nice reference for those with a year or so on the job. Machining and measurement principles and techniques clearly explained.

A nice easy to understand supplement for newcomers to machining.

A nice easy to understand supplement for newcomers to machining.

I was genuinely surprised  to find some really great nuggets like “the Basic Nomenclature of Measurement ” which clearly defines:

  • Nominal size
  • Allowance
  • Limits
  • Tolerance
  • Basic Size
  • Unilateral Tolerance
  • Bilateral Tolerance
  • Precision
  • Accuracy

…in just a little over a page.

Nice graphics, sample calculations, and well done explanations on how to read a micrometer, vernier, as well as tables with feed and speed data for various types of materials for specific machining operations. very focused coverage of the essentials of the topics.

Do not confuse this book for a hobbyist project catalog.

This is a very clear and understandable text that explains the “how, why, and what” of machining and the use of  tools of our craft.

Nice photos too.

What I like the most is how the author really distills the information down to useful essentials. And makes them understandable.


Metric Day- Celebrating Since 1866

July 28, 2015

On this day in 1866, an act of Congress, signed into law by President Andrew Johnson, made it “lawful throughout the United States of America to employ the weights and measures of the metric system in all contracts, dealings or court proceedings.”

Andrew Johnson was President when this was passed.

Andrew Johnson was President when this was passed.

Our best shops are operating in metric and measure in Microns- millionths of a meter.

How large is a micron?



Happy Metric Day. And a hat tip to David Parker of Metric Machining and Mike Preston of Micron Manufacturing.

And to all of the engineers, machinists and technicians who call the metric system “theirs.”

metric team

HR 596



Industry Shipments Up 6.6% Year Over Year

July 28, 2015

How are you doing compared to your peers?

With 80 companies responding, the PMPA Business Trends Index in June recovered to 128, which had been the Index’s

previous high until the March 2015 record of 138. This strong showing (from 80 respondent shops) is up 8 points from last June and is right on track with our April forecast for 2015 to be 6.7% over last year.

128 was our highest value historically until March 2015...

128 was our highest value historically until March 2015…

 By the way, we are out performing the Fed’s IP indicator as well.

Our index is up 6.6% over the average for 2014. According to the FED:

Industrial production increased 0.3 percent in June but fell at an annual rate of 1.4 percent for the second quarter of 2015.

In June, manufacturing output was unchanged: The output of motor vehicles and parts fell 3.7 percent, but production

elsewhere in manufacturing rose 0.3 percent… at 105.7 percent of its 2007 average, total industrial production in June was

1.5 percent above its year-earlier level.”

Our industry’s sales and shipments continue to outperform the Fed IP numbers.

We personally believe that it is the wide cross section of industries served and customer zero inventory policies that keeps our numbers higher in the

aggregate than the Fed’s IP.

Our four sentiment indicators for Sales, Lead time, Employment and Profitability remained level from May.

Get the full report.