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 18. December 2014

NLRB Action Will Hurt Manufacturing Employees and Employers


The Precision Machined Products Association (PMPA) last week strongly criticized the release by the National Labor Relations Board (NLRB) of a rule that restricts the rights of employees and drives a wedge between employers and employees.

On Friday, December 12, the NLRB released the “Ambush Election” rule, which limits the amount of time employees have to consider whether or not to join a union to as little as 10-14 days, down from an average of 56 days. The new rule, which takes effect April 14, also requires businesses to supply unions with the phone numbers and email addresses of employees ahead of an election, exposing workers and their families to unwanted calls at all hours. In a legal challenge supported by PMPA, the U.S. District Court for the District of Columbia previously struck down an almost identical version of the rule.

“While we are disappointed with the NLRB’s actions, we are not surprised,” says Miles Free, co-Interim executive director of the PMPA. “This rule continues a disturbing trend by the NLRB to drive a wedge between employers and employees. The current system is already working, and employees need time to weigh their options and understand what is at stake."

Regardless of a company’s size, actions like this sends a ripple effect throughout the manufacturing supply chain. Prior to the courts rejecting the NLRB’s earlier attempt, the U.S. Congress, whether under control of republicans or democrats, repeatedly refused to act on this proposal in legislative form.

Opponents of the most recent Ambush Election rule are exploring their legal options and expect to take action in the courts in the near future to challenge the NLRB’s authority to take this restrictive action.


Originally posted on blog

Posted by: Miles Free 9. December 2014

The Meaning of Ductility

Ductility arrives in our shops as indicated by burrs.

Ductility is the ability of a material to deform plastically without fracturing. In the materials usually machined in our shops, ductility is measured by determining the percent of elongation and the percent reduction of area on a specimen during a tensile test.

Ductility is often indicated by chip control issues in certain steels, as the chip readily deforms, but does not separate from the workpiece. This can result in persistent burrs attached to the work.

Ductility can also mean long, stringy chips that can form a dreaded “birds nest,” engulfing the tool and workpiece. Long necklace chips are another sign of ductile materials in machining (see below).


Short chips curled into “sixes and nines” showing a bit of heat discoloration are typical of less ductile materials and ductile materials machined at proper parameters using chipbreakers and high pressure coolant delivery.

Chips that look like sixes or nines showing a bit of heat discoloration are desired for safe practice.

In our machining practice, we would prefer materials that are “crisp” rather than ductile. In order to successfully deal with ductile materials, strategies such as chip control features on inserts, wiper style inserts, through-tool coolant, interrupted cuts, chipbreakers and high pressure coolant can be considered. Dialing in the appropriate feeds, speeds and depth of cut are crucial, too.

Posted by: Miles Free 2. December 2014

A Late Thanksgiving Tribute

Thanksgiving gives us a chance to recognize and thank the engineers and machinists who designed and built these modern technologies.


We have many blessings in our lives—the love of family and friends is chief among them. Most of us enjoy an unparalleled material well-being, and a lifestyle of modern convenience that is the envy of the world.

Thanksgiving provides us the chance to recognize and thank the engineers, machinists and entrepreneurs who have designed and built these modern technologies that keep us safe, comfortable and make our modern lifestyle possible.

Precision machined components enable almost all modern technologies to function safely and efficiently. It makes me smile to understand where all this behind the scenes technological “magic” is sourced. Thanks to the machinists who make them, the engineers that design them, and the investors who tool up their shops to be able to produce them.

Thanksgiving is also about recognizing how our loved ones contribute to our ability to produce our highly engineered components: They help us keep in mind what “safety critical” really means, and make sure we have what we need when we arrive on the job. They also give us a reason to return home, all body parts intact. I am thankful for the blessings of my family and friends.

I am grateful to live in a time where technology makes my life more about the joy of my family’s company than about battling forces to merely survive. Technology works, thanks to machinists.

In our shops, we have calibration routines to help us assure that our output is to spec and is acceptable.

Thanksgiving is a day for us to recalibrate and reflect on the blessings that collectively we share. I hope you had a great Thanksgiving with friends and family!


Originally posted on blog.

Posted by: Miles Free 25. November 2014

Teaching Manufacturing at High Schools is Becoming Popular

Miles Free.

Titled “More High Schools Teach Manufacturing Skills,” the article confirms that ”U.S. high schools that have launched or revived manufacturing programs in recent years to guide students toward good-paying jobs and help fill a critical shortage of skilled machinists, welders and maintenance technicians.”

Here are a couple of points the article makes that are worth sharing:

  • There is a glaring imbalance in the labor market. Despite high unemployment since the recession, manufacturers still struggle to fill hundreds of thousands of job openings.
  • Manufacturing is dogged by an outdated image
  • Because you’re working with computers and robots that are doing what you used to do by hand, it requires a skill set (in math and science) above what was required a generation ago.
  • Community colleges also are turning out more prospective employees, but not keeping up with demand. Nationwide, community colleges awarded 1,557 associate degrees or certificates in manufacturing last year, according to the American Association of Community Colleges. That’s up from 616 in 2005, but below the almost 1,600 doled out in 2000.

In addition, the "USA Today" piece has some informative graphics and video clips.

But the best takeaway from this piece is a quote from a student whose engagement with the manufacturing class has improved his grade performance and motivation:“With this class, I have the motivation … It’s a way out, I don’t want to be working at McDonald’s.”

Thank you, "USA Today," for this positive story.

Originally posted on blog. 

Posted by: Miles Free 18. November 2014

OSHA Reporting Requirements for Employers Go into Effect Soon


A new wallet card issued by OSHA will help your supervisors understand the changes to Injury and Illness Reporting Requirements that go into effect in January.

Under the final rule, employers must report the following events:
    1. Each fatality resulting from a work-related incident, within 8 
hours of the death. 
This requirement applies to all fatalities 
occurring within 30 days of a work-related incident. See Sec.  
1904.39(a)(1) and (b)(6).

    2. Each in-patient hospitalization resulting from a work-related 
incident, within 24 hours of the hospitalization. 
This requirement 
applies to all in-patient hospitalizations occurring within 24 hours of 
a work-related incident. See Sec. 1904.39(a)(2) and (b)(6).

    3. Each amputation resulting from a work-related incident, within 
24 hours of the amputation.
 This requirement applies to all amputations 
occurring within 24 hours of a work-related incident. See Sec.  
1904.39(a)(2) and (b)(6).

    4. Each loss of an eye resulting from a work-related incident, 
within 24 hours of the loss of an eye. 
This requirement applies to all 
losses of an eye occurring within 24 hours of a work-related incident. 
See Sec. 1904.39(a)(2) and (b)(6).

These requirements go into effect Jan. 1 next year.

Get the wallet card and review the upcoming changes with your team now. 


Originally posted on blog.


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