PM Blog

I have always loved every single one of my customers except one. Callen owned and operated a small machining company in Wisconsin. Initially I liked him. A military veteran with a direct communication style, he ran a tight ship. One of the parts he machined for his customers required an outside operation that Callen’s company couldn’t do. But our company could, so he outsourced the operation to us. About six months into the relationship I received a phone call inviting me to Callen’s office to discuss a lead-time issue. As it turns out, one of our customer service people had committed to a delivery date, and due to an unexpected maintenance issue, we missed it—not ideal, but it happens. Callen’s reaction was over the top. For a good 10 minutes he berated me and our company. As his tirade culminated, he finished it off by saying, “If your customer service person ever lies to me again I’m going to drive over to your plant, reach down his throat and rip out his lungs.” I saved him the trouble by firing him as a customer. I didn’t like Callen very much.

I have always loved every single one of my customers, except a second one. Like Callen’s company, Robert’s outsourced a secondary operation to our company because his didn’t have the particular capability. Robert machined about 50 different SKU’s for a major OEM. The parts were very similar to one another, meaning that lot control was paramount. If an order was misidentified and the parts were labeled using the wrong part number, they could arrive at Robert’s customer’s production line misidentified. Despite our efforts to the contrary, after processing our very first set of orders, we were alerted by Robert that several of the parts had gotten mixed up when we ran them.

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Production Machining’s April Digital Edition is now available. This issue features emphasis topics of Workholding and Data-Driven Manufacturing, with special coverage of Multi-Spindle Machines. The cover story looks at how a system of quick-change collet chucks can benefit a range of turning applications. Our other feature profiles a shop specializing in the production of custom control products and communication accessories that has an unusual approach to multi-spindle production.

This month’s Tech Brief examines a predictive maintenance system that can warn of machine failures before they occur by means of infrared thermal imaging, vibration and oil analysis and integrated sensors and monitoring modules.

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By: Julia Hider 11. April 2019

PMTS 2019 Recap

The Precision Machining Technology Show (PMTS) celebrated its 10th edition with a move to a new city (Cleveland) and a record number of exhibitors (more than 300). The show is the only one in North America that focuses on precision machining. Exhibitors displayed products specially geared toward the industry and gave live demonstrations of their technology, while experts gave presentations on practical subjects for shops in the Tech Talk theater. PMTS is co-located with the Parts Cleaning Conference, which helps shops stay on top of the latest cleaning regulations and technologies.

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The Gardner Business Index: Precision Machining registered 53.9 during March, bringing the first-quarter average reading to 54.8. Compared with the past eight quarters—which capture almost all the expansion experienced in the current business cycle—the latest quarterly reading was higher than four of the last eight quarterly readings. This is no small feat considering that many market analysts believe that the economy is at the late-cycle stage. This limited outlook is understandable considering that the GBI: PM peaked in January 2018 and that compared with the same month one year ago, the Index is 9.9 percent lower, indicating much slower, but still positive industry growth. Gardner Intelligence’s review of the underlying components of the Index revealed that it was driven foremost by an increase in new orders followed by supplier deliveries and production. The Index—a calculated average of the components—was pulled lower modestly by employment and further by backlogs and exports. All components less exports expanded in March.

The surprise expansion in new orders during March marks the first time since January 2018 that new orders was the fastest growing component of the Index. Based on past analyses, an expansion in new order often has positive lagged effects on many of the other components of the business index. In past research, when the expansion in new orders is relatively larger than that of production, backlogs expand almost immediately, and production frequently expands in the following month. Furthermore, an increase in new orders activity is frequently correlated to additional supplier deliveries two to three months afterwards. The influence of new orders on other business index components was particularly evident at the peak of the business cycle in early 2018. The impact of new orders in January resulted in elevated production and at least 12 months of elevated supplier deliveries between March 2018 and present.

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Panel building on machine tools is no longer as simple as wiring a few components. Now, there are more deadlines, cost pressures, standards, new directives and increasing pressure to innovate. Besides common problems related to time, cost, compliance and quality, there is also an increased degree of automation in the pre-fabrication of cables and production of sheet metal parts. In addition to the mechanical design and development of the automation concept, planning the electrical power supply and distribution is the third engineering discipline involved in producing a new machine. Electrical planning provides the framework for the automation engineer, as it involves specifying basics such as communication, topology and the control concept.

Increasingly, the daily work of electrical designers involves more than planning. It includes downloading, storing, processing and backing up data. Data management is an important part of the process, but it is time-consuming. To save time, machine tool companies should create and implement a plan for handling data. Machine tool builders with more than one electrical designer should relocate product databases to a central server. Data only needs to be imported once, then every user can access it. Because the engineering process is closely tied to other processes like procurement, storage, project-specific provisioning, assembly and inspection, it is useful to connect them electronically. Electrical computer-aided design (ECAD) programs can connect to enterprise resource planning systems, making it easier to calculate the price of a control panel. The prices can then be transferred from the ERP system to the ECAD solution’s product database.

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