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. September 2016

Good Night IMTS. See you Again in 2018


The 31st edition of North America’s largest manufacturing exhibition has come to a close. According to the early numbers released by AMT - The Association for Manufacturing Technology, it was a show for the books. As the show packs up, McCormick Place will be relieved of 76 million pounds of equipment that represents the totality of what a record number of exhibitors (2,407) brought to show.

For me, the fact that more companies with new and innovative things to display speaks to the health of metalworking manufacturing. In addition, the themes of digital manufacturing, additive manufacturing and connectivity are early in their development and seem to be poised for long-haul integration across the spectrum of manufacturing.

There were 115,612 in attendance, which is the third highest attendance recorded for an IMTS. Attendees come to this for a variety of reasons, and over the years, the addition of technical sessions and conferences as well as the high attendance numbers for them has enhanced the experience for people looking for capital equipment and more technical information.

AMT is releasing additional post-show reports as the data is processed and analyzed. 

The dates for IMTS 2018 have been set for September 10-15, 2018. It’s never too soon to start planning. 

Posted by: Chris Koepfer 9. September 2016

Meet Russ Willcutt

Using a hammer, anvil and steel rod, Russ hand forms a good luck amulet during a business trip to Sweden.

Russ Willcutt has joined the staff of Production Machining as associate editor. He has been a member of Gardner Business Media since January 2014, as associate editor of Modern Machine Shop and editor of its supplement, Gear Production. His responsibilities will involve supporting the precision machining industry as a writer, editor, and advocate for the use of social media as a marketing and communications tool. He is also associate editor of sister publication Products Finishing magazine. He’s a pretty versatile guy.

Russ is a graduate of the University of Alabama at Birmingham, where he studied English, journalism, and art history, working throughout his undergraduate years writing for the student and faculty campus newspapers. He was hired by his alma mater to produce magazines for the Schools of Engineering, Business, and Medicine, among others. He then joined the HealthSouth Corp. as group managing editor before going on to launch magazines including Gear Solutions and Wind Systems as executive editor of Media Solutions Inc. He was senior editor of the Health Care Division at Cahaba Media Group before relocating to Cincinnati, Ohio, to join Gardner.

In addition to his responsibilities as a writer and editor, Russ will continue supporting audience development for Production Machining and building on the magazine’s longstanding relationship with the Precision Machined Products Association (PMPA), hosting the Precision Machining Technology Show (PMTS) every other year, which is co-located with PCx, the Parts Cleaning Exposition. Coverage will also be provided for events such as the International Machine Technology Show (IMTS) and technical open houses presented by OEMs around the country and world. Follow him @pmprodmachining and @russ_willcutt on Twitter. More feet on the ground give you and us better and broader coverage of our industry.

Posted by: Chris Koepfer 2. September 2016

Metalworking Senior Citizens

C.H. Hanson's shop floor in 1912.

A 150th anniversary is an important, rare and exciting milestone for any company and especially a family-owned manufacturer. C.H. Hanson, a worldwide manufacturer in the metalworking industry, is celebrating just that this year. Its sesquicentennial celebration will include a ceremony at the company’s Naperville, Illinois, headquarters. Congratulations to this family-owned business!

Danish immigrant, Christian Henry Hanson, founded the company in 1866 after a stint in the Union army. Six years later, the Great Chicago Fire destroyed his first factory, which was making stencils for manufacturers. He rebuilt the company, and it has thrived ever since. Needing more floor space, the company moved to the current location in Naperville in 2006.

Today, the company manufactures more than 5,000 products worldwide that serve the metalworking, abrasive finishing, workholding, marking and several other industrial markets. Andrew Hanson, great grandson of the founder, says very few companies can boast family ownership for 150 years.

He is correct, but in my travels I’ve encountered several other, older shops that are also family owned. One that comes to mind is Laubscher in Tauffelen, Switzerland. It started in 1846 and continues to operate under seventh-generation family ownership. Click here to read a short report on my visit.

Wilson Bohannon, a shop that’s been making pad locks since 1860, is another multi-generational shop that I’ve written about in PM. Click here to read the article.

Something that these gray beards have in common is a dedication to their industry and a strong culture willing to innovate from generation to generation. Perhaps it’s in the family DNA. 

Posted by: Chris Koepfer 26. August 2016

Thinking Ahead

The Nakamura-Tome AS-200L lathe is provided by OptiPro Systems for the Finger Lakes Community College-G.W. Lisk Co. advanced manufacturing machinist training program.

Many companies are seriously thinking about their workforce demographics, and some are doing something about it. Recently, an Ontario, New York, machine tool builder and distributor, OptiPro Systems, donated a Nakamura-Tome lathe valued at $200,000 to Finger Lake Community College - G.W. Lisk Co.’s advanced manufacturing machinist training program. 

Don Miller, technical sales engineer for OptiPro, says he understands the value of advanced training and its need to train on advanced equipment. “Because of a lack of academic resources, business and academia need work as partners to provide well trained workers. Everybody needs to be a winner,” Mr. Miller says.

“It’s tough to dedicate a sophisticated machine tool to just training,” says Dave Phillips, G.W. Lisk’s training manager. Modern machine tools are so sophisticated and expensive that taking them out of production can be cost prohibitive. Placing the machine in a dedicated training facility solves the in-production issue and allows the students more hands-on time.

A regional, tri-lateral partnership such as this may well be a harbinger for the future as manufacturing proactively addresses the skilled worker shortage. According to Scott Cummings, director at G.W. Lisk, about 20 percent of his workforce will reach retirement age within five years. 

Posted by: Chris Koepfer 19. August 2016

Homage to a Machine Tool Family Man

Herb and Phil Miller, machine tool men. 

Phil Miller, managing director at Tornos Technologies U.S., submitted the following homage to his father who recently passed. I thought it was worth sharing in part because it speaks to the generational nature of the machine tool industry and how we tend to pay it forward.

My father, Herbert Louis Miller, was a “machine tool man” through and through. He was a fixture in the industry for over 40 years, and he influenced and shaped the lives of many people who knew him. He was also a mentor to his sons and grandchildren, as three sons and two grandsons have followed in his path into machine tools.

He was a hard-working and hard-driving individual, and it was his drive and persistence, that became a part of all his children’s psyche. “We do not give up.”

After serving in the U.S. Army, he began his apprenticeship as a machinist at Koppers Company, in Baltimore, Maryland. It was there that he gained the foundation and tools, for a lifelong career in machine tools. He went on to night school, attending John Hopkins University for seven years, studying echanical engineering. During this period, he also sold pots and pans door to door on weekends, always trying to get ahead. At the same time, our family was growing in size every year, as he and my mother ultimately raised seven children. He then joined Western Electric as a manufacturing engineer and expanded his technical knowledge.

In 1964, he joined New Britain Tool Co. as a young sales engineer. After completing training, he relocated our family to Hoffman Estates, Illinois, to handle the Chicago sales territory. This was the beginning of his machine tool career. 

During his tenure at New Britain, he did exceptionally well. He worked his way up to regional sales manager, then national sales manager, and in the end was offered the position of V.P. of sales. However, after 17 years with New Britain, he decided it was time to go on his own. It was the summer of 1980 that H.L. Miller Machine Tools Inc. was born, and by year’s end, my brother John, and then I, joined the company. Years later, my brother Dan joined the team as well. At the time, we were known as the screw machine dealer, as we carried all the best screw machine lines available and all the related equipment. After many years in the field, he finally retired in 2007.

My father was a charismatic and dynamic salesman that knew his products intimately. He was known internationally for his technical expertise in the screw machine Industry. He also made many endearing friendships along the way. However, his true legacy is the large and growing family that he leaves behind, carrying on his name.

I loved him very much, and he will always be with me.

Click here to read a similar homage I wrote about my dad last year. 

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