The 2002 National Technical Conference held in late April in St. Louis, Missouri, started off with a bang, at least for the early arrivals who were trying to fly in on Friday and ran headlong into the teeth of a massive Midwestern storm. Flights were diverted and many people spent the night somewhere other than their intended destination. By the next day things had calmed down, and were near normal—except for the inevitable lost pieces of luggage—when Saturday evening's reception began.
Things got off to a good start late Sunday morning with the traditional exhibits. PMPA's technical (supplier) members made an impressive showing, with nearly 70 companies represented at booths. Key manufacturers of the metals, software, support machinery, cutting tools, machine tools and machine tool accessories used by the industry were represented.
Sunday's round table sessions for job planning and layout (process engineering) were aimed at helping members be more productive and efficient. More than that, they encouraged the free flow and sharing of this industry's technical know-how. These 1 ½ hour sessions were offered for six machine types: CNC lathes; Swiss (CNC) machines; single spindle automatics; and three types of multi-spindle automatics: those with five, six or eight spindles. The engineers, estimators, shop floor experts and others who participated went to the rooms of their choice, where they were given a sample print and asked to develop a joint process at each table. Toward the end of these sessions, representatives from several of the tables shared their process with the others in the session. Next, the machine tool builders present described how the part would be made on one of their new machines. Lastly, the shop that actually ran the part went through the details of its experience and answered any unresolved questions from the group.
Simultaneously, another option was a rotary transfer machine class. It was a basic class that provided an introduction to rotary machining for people with little or no experience, and it covered the basic components and operation of the equipment, as well as a discussion of how to process specific parts. Troy Pohlman of Component Bar Products, Inc., a member company, served as the instructor of the class, and by all accounts was both thorough and effective.
Following Sunday evening's dinner, the group was entertained by the keynote speaker, Bryan Townsend. His topic was "Hitchin' Up a Winning Team." Using his gifts of humor and common sense, Mr. Townsend described how to be successful in life and demonstrated the value of teamwork.
Monday morning was given over to Jobs 2 and 3 of the job planning and layout round tables. New machine types were either added or substituted so that attendees could also participate in second operations, rotary transfer machine, and CNC machining center sessions. In addition, a new kind of session was offered during the morning, a shop process round table. Different pre-selected topics were discussed at the many tables, including "Tool Selection," "Drilling," "Speeds and Feeds" and "Setup Reduction Techniques." This new session was one of the best attended all morning. Evaluations showed high ratings, so it is likely to be repeated again next year.
The theme for this year's conference was "Gateway to Lean Manufacturing," and this turned out to be appropriate. Technical sessions one hour in length were featured on Monday afternoon. The most popular were the lean manufacturing case studies presented by Jerry Alexander and Harry Eighmy from American Turned Products; Don Klesser from Carpenter Specialty Alloy; Dennis Marcell, Mike Raftery and Diana Velez from Elyria Manufacturing Corporation; and Tim Martin, Luke Vonderwell and Adam Wiltsie from Vanamatic Company, all members of PMPA. Over the years, these kinds of sessions, where members describe "what we are doing," and "here's how we do it," have proved to be among the most valuable to Tech Conference participants. Other sessions during the afternoon included thread milling presented by Nicholas Korfias from Advent Tool and Manufacturing, Inc., and die head external threading presented by Bob Perkins of RSVP Tooling Inc. Both received high marks on their evaluations. Also offered during the afternoon was a 2-hour, 15-minute class on Setup Reduction for CNC, conducted by Mike Lynch of CNC Concepts, Inc.
The last half day of the conference, Tuesday morning, featured three longer 2 1/2 hour sessions allowing for a more thorough treatment of the topics. Again supporting this year's theme, the best attended was "Creating the Lean Manufacturing Organization," presented by Donna Hoying and Mark Gooch from the Advanced Integrated Manufacturing (AIM) Center in Dayton, Ohio. Next on the program was a session titled "Selecting the Right Gage for the Job," presented by Jack Teegarden, Mahr Federal Inc., and Terry Hoffman, Mectron Inspection Systems. The one non-technical offering of the morning was presented by Sam Lombardo from Worklife, Inc., who spoke on working successfully with anyone. All three sessions were very well received, earning some of the highest ratings seen over the years.
This 2002 edition of the National Technical Conference was officially adjourned at the end of Tuesday morning's sessions. In their closing remarks, the session moderators reminded everyone about next year's conference, which will be held in conjunction with the 2003 Precision Machining Technology Show at the Greater Columbus Convention Center. The dates for the Conference are May 3-5. PMTS 2003 is May 6-8.