Miles Free

As Director of Technology and Industry Research for PMPA, Miles brings 38 years of hands-on experience in areas of manufacturing, quality and steelmaking. He helps answer "HOW?","WITH WHAT?" and "REALLY?"

Posted by: Miles Free 16. September 2014

Manufacturing in Northern Michigan Sees Strongest Growth in Years

Great news for manufacturing in Northern Michigan, according to KSP’s Kevin Schlueter.

Kevin Schlueter, president of PMPA member company Kalkaska Screw Products Inc.  (KSP), was featured on UpNorthLive, a news and information website covering Northern Michigan. Kalkaska Screw’s newsworthy subject: Manufacturing in Northern Michigan growing strongest in years.

“There’s a lot of great manufacturing that’s taking place in this area,” Kevin Schlueter, Kalkaska’s president and CEO, says. “Not just in the Kalkaska area, but in the greater Traverse City area, there’s some amazing manufacturing going on.”

We know there is some amazing manufacturing going on at KSP, where they ship more than 2.8 million high tech, high precision, often human safety critical parts (automotive brake, passenger restraint, and airbag parts, among others) each month. 

Kalkaska Screw Products has added almost 20 jobs this year and is looking to add ten more. An employee-owned (ESOP) company, currently KSP has 91 employees and is the top employer in Kalkaska County.

“To add that many jobs and to help out the community is something we’re really proud of,” Mr. Schlueter says. “We need more employees. We ship about 2.8 million parts per month, and so we need the right number of employees to get that work done.”

Yesterday, the ISM PMI report for August was released showing “the highest recorded New Orders Index since April 2004, when it registered 67.1 percent.”

Employment prospects for PMPA-member shops remain high, with 96 percent of responding companies expecting employment prospects to remain the same or increase throughout the next 3 months.

Thanks to Kalkaska Screw Products Inc. President Kevin Schlueter for helping get the word out that manufacturing is thriving and that we have great career opportunities in our shops for people “making things that make a difference.”

And thanks to UpNorthLive for the great story.


Originally posted on blog. 

Posted by: Miles Free 2. September 2014

Grinding Advice for Safety

Miles Free

Our post on "No Gloves When Working on Grinders" has prompted a number of responses. Here are some additional reasons why you should not need gloves when working on grinders and grinding machines.

Issue: There are sharp edges or burrs that will cut me if I hold the part. The grinding will be to remove the burrs.

Response: Use a file to knock down the burrs so that you can safely hold the part for grinding, or use leather finger cots to grip the part for grinding.

Issue: The part gets too hot to hold.

Response: Then you are grinding wrong. Here is a list of some of the things that can go wrong by letting the heat of grinding get out of control:

  • Remove the temper from steel. Especially on tools, loss of temper means loss of tool hardness and edge life. A drop from Rc63 to about Rc48 for a couple of tenths (0.0002-0.0005) can contribute to side wear and edge failure.
  • Crazing or checking on carbide can be caused by burning during grinding.
  • Work hardening. Overly shiny surfaces are usually the clue that work hardening has occurred.
  • Creation of untempered martensite.

Untempered martensite can be formed in high carbon and alloy steels by getting high surface temperature from grinding—red heat—then quenching in water. Untempered martensite is very brittle and reduces toughness.

Keeping the work cool continuously while grinding is an important aspect of preventing damage to work, the wheel, and injury from occurring to the worker. Hogging off material and infrequently quenching is a great way to destroy a tool by grinding.

Water needs to be plentiful to absorb the heat from grinding, and frequently used to reduce heat buildup in the work.

Take multiple small passes and cool in between in a large bath of water while grinding to minimize heat buildup.

Wearing the required PPE, making sure the grinding wheel is properly dressed, all guards are in place and properly adjusted are also key to safe grinding in our shops.

Bottom line: If the work is too hot for your fingers, it may be approaching the danger zone regarding loss of mechanical properties and function in end use.


Originally posted on blog.


Posted by: Miles Free 26. August 2014

Gloves and Grinders Don’t Mix

If there is a worse combination than grinders and gloves, I don’t know what it is, except perhaps gloves and a drill.

We posted a really cool video on our career blog about making a light saber sword here. But we were shocked to see the guys in the video wearing heavy leather gloves while working with grinders. By “grinders,” we mean abrasive belt grinders, bench grinders, pedestal grinders, surface grinders, and also abrasive cutoff machines.

Sanders, polishers and buffers that involve rotating wheels or transversing motion are also included in this classification for the purposes of hazard analysis.

Here are six reasons to not wear/not permit the wearing of gloves while working with grinders or grinding machines:

  • It’s the general duty of employer to provide a workplace free of recognized hazards
  • Gloves can catch on rotating equipment and pull operators hands into the equipment; the operator cannot get hand out of glove when it catches
  • Rotation of grinding wheels is at high RPMs
  • Equipment horsepower and machine material properties exceed those of the operator’s flesh; amputations can occur

We did a quick calculation of a 12-inch grinding wheel and 3,600 rpm and arrived at a speed on the periphery of 120 miles per hour. This speed leaves no time to react.


Originally posted on blog.


Posted by: Miles Free 19. August 2014

Factoryless Goods Producer Classification Proposal Withdrawn

Withdrawing proposal for a Factoryless Goods Producer Classification in NAICS 2017.

In a resounding victory for actual manufacturers—the people that make things—the Office of Management and Business reported on August 8 that the proposal to create a “Factoryless Goods Producer” classification for the NAICS 2017 has been withdrawn.

PMPA has been on the forefront of challenging the classification, which would have created a class of phantom manufactures that did not actually manufacture goods, but rather purchased finished goods for resale, and possibly from foreign sources. 

On May 22, the administration announced the U.S. Census Bureau was considering a proposal to count a business as a manufacturer, even if they outsource all of the transformation steps traditionally considered production activities, or manufacturing. The proposal would have counted some activities outsourced overseas as U.S. manufacturing and included financiers and others as manufacturers even though they never visit a shop floor.

Among PMPA’s objections to the scheme were the following:

  • NAICS is based on the primary activity of an establishment 
  • NAICS is for classifying domestic activities only
  • If manufacturing processes are not actually required for a “manufacturing” classification, the statistics produced by such a distorted definition are virtually useless

“This is an important victory for U.S. businesses, and we applaud the administration for recognizing the flawed thinking behind this proposal,” says Mike Kobylka, executive director of PMPA. “This proposal would have created a class of phantom manufacturers. The NAICS classification system has never and should never take into account foreign sourced production processes.”


Originally posted on blog. 


Posted by: Miles Free 12. August 2014

No Such Thing as Carbon Steel Without Manganese

More than fools gold, iron pyrite can prevent steel from being hot worked by inducing "hot shortness."

Manganese ties up sulfur before it can chemically combine with iron to form iron pyrite. Iron pyrite occurs at grain boundaries and leads to hot shortness (brittle behavior) at rolling temperatures.

Several people found blog with the search term “Carbon Steel Without Manganese.” So we’ll take this opportunity to address this. We have already written “5 Facts about Manganese in Steel,” which explains the contributions of manganese to a steel’s properties. But let’s answer the question, “Is there a carbon steel without manganese?” The answer is no, and primary reason is because of iron pyrite.

There are always small amounts of sulfur in steel, and sulfur combines with the iron in the steel to form iron pyrite. Iron pyrite is also known as iron sulfide, though a more descriptive name might be iron persulfide.

Regardless, the iron pyrite material is formed as sulfur in the melt reacts with iron, segregates at grain boundaries and causes intergranular brittleness at rolling temperatures. This causes it to break, rather than behave in a ductile fashion and reduce under the pressure of the rolls.

By adding manganese to the melt, manganese preferentially ties up the available sulfur, forming manganese sulfides. This prevents the formation of iron pyrites in the grain boundaries, preserving the ductility of the steel at rolling temperatures. That is why every steel that we have encountered contains enough manganese to react with the sulfur in the melt.

Steel without manganese? I’ve never encountered it. And that is a good thing.


Originally posted on blog.


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