PM Blog

Registering 53.5 for November, the Gardner Business Index (GBI): Precision Machining Index moved lower as new orders grew relatively slower as compared with supplier deliveries and production. Compared with the same month one year ago, the index decreased by 1.4 percent. Supplier deliveries continue to be the fastest expanding component among all index components since the end of the first quarter of 2018. In addition to supplier deliveries, Gardner Intelligence’s review of all underlying components reveals that production followed by new orders strengthened the average-based index result for the month. In contrast, employment, backlog and exports brought the Index lower. In an unexpected move, exports reported its strongest expansion in a single month since May.

As was witnessed previously in July and repeated in November’s data, strong supplier deliveries and an expansion in production that was relatively stronger than that in new orders growth weakened backlogs, which fell by more than six points. This fall resulted in a contractionary backlog reading comparable with results not seen since late 2016. While recent readings for backlogs have waivered between mild expansion and contraction during the third and fourth quarters of the year, a significant part of this may be a result of the growth and expansion of production and supply chains in recent years.  As the production and supply chain pipelines have grown during this time it would be natural for backlogs to eventually contract. When compared with historical results, both new orders and exports continue to post above-average results, which lend support to the durability of the current market expansion and health of the manufacturing industry.

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Many shops look at inspection and quality assurance as non-value-added costs designed to simply verify that parts were made correctly. While that may be true, shops that look at the gaging station as a source of cost savings, parts must be verified anyway, can find value by applying an efficient inspection system to their process.

This article looks at one shop that adapted the idea of finding savings in its inspection operation and has seen a production cost reduction of 27 percent with 100 percent inspection. It’s success in achieving zero scrap has led to key industry approvals by becoming a preferred supplier to Rolls-Royce and BAE Systems. 

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Production Machining’s December Digital Edition is now available. This issue features emphasis topics of CNC Swiss-Type and Shop Management Software. For the cover story we visit a 102-year-old machine shop that has successfully applied appropriate technology over its long history, including the current use of CNC Swiss-type machines in lights-out manufacturing. Our other feature article covers a California shop, specializing in high precision parts for the semiconductor industry, that worked closely with its machine tool supplier to develop an app that drastically reduces setup times.

In our Special Coverage section, Gardner Intelligence provides an overview of the state of the industry and what we can look forward to in the coming year.

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As parts become more complex, so do the machines used to produce them. These machines can help save time and money, but as more capabilities are added, they become more difficult to use. Some CAM software companies are working to offset this complexity by making their products easier to use. The article “Machining Complexity with CAM” shows how Edgecam’s intuitive interface and automation tools help users produce intricate parts on advanced equipment.

One feature of Edgecam is its “Workflow” interface. Instead of using a toolkit design, Workflow reconfigures the same tools, so they feel like familiar products such as Windows and Microsoft Office. The program is also structed to naturally guide users through the programming process.

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Do you have a co-worker under the age of 40 who goes above and beyond his or her job description to improve a work environment or the precision machined parts industry at large? Do you know a colleague who is outstanding at his or her job who you think deserves recognition in the industry? If so, please nominate him or her for Production Machining’s 2019 Emerging Leader Awards.

The awards place emphasis on leadership and potential leadership, whether it is in the nominee’s company or their environment in the industry.

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