Chris Koepfer

Chris Koepfer has been involved in metalworking for 30 years. His first 14 were in the machine tool group at Cincinnati Milacron where he honed his technical writing skills in turning, machining and grinding before joining Modern Machine Shop in 1992 as an associate editor. In 2001, he helped found MMS’ sister publication Production Machining, which speaks to the precision machined parts segment of the industry. Chris is graduate of Xavier University in Cincinnati, as are three of his four children, and an XU basketball fan—which can be as daunting as working in metalworking, he says.

Posted by: Chris Koepfer 23. January 2015

60 Years and Still Moving Forward

This view of Vanamatic’s shop floor shows its aerospace manufacturing cell.


After 60 years in business, many shops have a “been there, done that” attitude. This is not the case for Vanamatic Company that has morphed from a multi-spindle screw machine shop into a flexible, precision machined parts manufacturer that handles the variety of long, short and complex runs that comprise today’s metalworking market.

The company serves the automotive, fluid power, refrigeration and general fittings industries along with its own line of low pressure push-on barb fittings. Using lean, self-directed manufacturing cells across CNC multi-spindle, CNC single-spindle and multi-spindle screw machines, the shop continues to innovate its approach to the art and science of metalworking manufacturing.

Through the years, we have written extensively about this long-time PMPA member because it continues to find new and better ways to make parts. An example is Vanamatic’s early use of PI (Predictive Index) to select and assign employees to tasks and teams that best suit the people. Read "How the PI Helps Vanamatic Develop and Retain the Best Employees."

Setup reduction has also been a passion for this shop as high-mix and low-volume jobs have redefined the traditional screw machine shop. It’s a second-generation family business that tries to stay ahead of the curve by pushing the innovation envelope. Click here to visit Vanamatic's new website. To read some of the stories we have published about this shop, click here. 


The owners of Vanamatic, left to right: Patricia Morris, James Wiltsie Jr., Jeff Wiltsie and Perry Wiltsie.  

Posted by: Chris Koepfer 16. January 2015

New Faces, Old Hands

Cory Barrette, Michael Belanger and Jonathon Artiss have been added to Delcam’s support team in Windsor, Canada.

Delcam North America announced this week it has added more than 40 years of experience to its customer support resources team. Together, these three newly hired gentlemen represent a priceless commodity in the manufacturing trade: real world, hands-on experience.

Demand for Delcam’s CAD/CAM systems continue to grow as shops automate the programming function and create increasingly complex toolpaths for increasingly complex machine tools. Rendering service and technical advice to seasoned machine shops is a critical function for a software supplier, and finding people who can accomplish the task is difficult. Experience counts, and that’s what the company feels Cory Barrette, Michael Belanger and Johnathon Artiss bring to Delcam’s North American team, based in Windsor, Canada.  

All three have shopfloor experience with programming and operating machines that manufacture a variety of discrete parts. Hitting the ground running is vital to helping Delcam’s customers achieve the productivity gains they expect with using the company’s software.

And as most manufacturers know, the search for experienced people goes on continuously. Click here to learn more about career opportunities available with Delcam.  

Posted by: Chris Koepfer 9. January 2015

Everybody Talks About the Skills Gap, But Some are Doing Something About It

Students get a first-hand look at several cutting demonstrations on state-of-the-art Okuma CNC machine tools.

The shortage of skilled young people to fill increasing demand for good, manufacturing jobs is no mystery. How to increase exposure to manufacturing in the 21st century is the challenge.

One recent effort to help change the skills gap was hosted by Okuma America at the company’s headquarters in Charlotte, North Carolina. Area students were invited to visit and see first-hand career opportunities for engineers, machine tool operators, programmers and service professionals. They also toured the facility and were able to see several cutting demonstrations on state-of-the-art machine tools and to speak with Okuma sales and technical professionals in the CNC manufacturing industry.

As part of the company’s dedicated STEM development in the area, Okuma sponsored the Royal Robotics Team from Piedmont Community Charter School, who attended and demonstrated its award winning robot to the Okuma members. The Royal Robotics Team is a member of FIRST (For Inspiration and Recognition of Science and Technology) and participates in the annual FIRST Robotics Competition. 

This is a winning strategy for other companies interested in doing something positive in their communities to help close the manufacturing skills gap. Ongoing, Okuma is hosting several student-related, educational events during the upcoming year, including a special event in October to celebrate Manufacturing Day.

The industry needs to reach out to change people’s minds about manufacturing opportunities for young people. 

The Okuma sponsored Royal Robotics Team from Piedmont Community Charter School demonstrates its team robot.

Posted by: Chris Koepfer 26. December 2014

Get Ready for PMTS 2015


The table is set and ready for you to register. Yes, it’s time to plan for attending the Precision Machining Technology Show (PMTS) being held in Columbus, Ohio, April 21-23, 2015.

This is a biennial gathering of companies focused on the manufacture of precision machined parts. Business is good for manufacturers in this industry segment, and PMTS is the venue to add and upgrade capacity to meet the challenges of changing and demanding market trends.

This year is the 8th edition of a trade show that continues to grow. The exhibitors are lined up to demonstrate products and processes to help precision parts makers compete. It’s a focused show designed to demonstrate machinery, tools, materials and software in demand for shops within our industry.

Please take a moment to register for attending the PMTS in April. Click here to find out more about the show. It’s worth learning more about the 2015 edition of PMTS. 

Posted by: Chris Koepfer 19. December 2014

U.S. Metalworking Continues Making the Cut


A recent joint release from the U.S. Cutting Tool Institute (USCTI) and the Association For Manufacturing Technology (AMT) reports cutting tool consumption for U.S. manufacturers was up 9.7 percent in October compared with a 3.3 percent increase in September. Strong cutting tool consumption bodes well for metalworkers as it indicates that shops are busy.

Cutting tool consumption is a leading indicator of both upturns and downturns in domestic manufacturing activity, as it is a true measure of actual production levels. Companies participating in the Cutting Tool Market Report represent about 80 percent of the U.S. market for cutting tools.

Going into 2015 with a strong fourth quarter gain in consumption seems to indicate that the manufacturing momentum of 2014 should continue into the New Year. Good news! Click here for a link to the report. 

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