PM Blog

Take a walk through "Any Shop USA" and observe the actions being taken to serve the customer. Rarely will you see someone with an open manufacturing work instruction book reading about how his or her particular task is to be completed. The vast majority of shop employees know what it takes to ensure that a high-quality product arrives at the customer’s dock on time. They have been instructed in specific tasks, and they follow those instructions.

So what is the purpose of documented work instructions? Besides having them available for audit review, why do such documents exist? Work instructions are created to guide workers in four key quality areas: training, reference, problem solving and continuous improvement.

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Perfectly ordered disorder designed with a helter-skelter magnificence.
— Emily Carr

I’m back with another month of exciting column writing—a lot of little things to discuss this time around. Writing can be fun. It can also be quite a challenge. Sometimes the words come to me, and sometimes they don’t. I’d guess designers face the same issues. Sometimes the ideas are numerous, but there’s only so much to say about them or do with them. Let’s say that was the case this month. Maybe June’s Midwest monsoons have washed the loquaciousness away.

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Standardized Controls Aid Shop's Apprenticeship Program

As machine shops grow, they face a decision: should they add more capacity to their current capabilities or expand by adding new capabilities? San Antonio-based Cox Manufacturing chose the former, focusing on high volumes of small parts made from barstock. But the company takes this decision to standardize beyond the types of parts it makes—it extends to its equipment and its apprenticeship program. The company believes this strategy has been vital to its growth, which includes the addition of 100 employees over the past 10 years.

William Cox Sr. founded Cox Manufacturing in 1956 with one Swiss automatic screw machine. Today, the founder’s son, Bill Cox, leads the company. Its 170 employees work three shifts, running about 100 machines to produce more than 1 million parts each week. The parts are for a range of industries, including agriculture, medical, fiber optics, firearms, automotive, trucking and aerospace. Despite the different end uses, all parts are 2¾ inches or smaller and made from barstock. “Our niche is production automatic bar products,” Mr. Cox says.

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A Peek Behind the Scenes at PMPA: A Morning with Miles Free

My office is right next to the office of Miles Free, interim director at PMPA. Thanks to the acoustics in our building, I have the privilege of hearing what Mr. PMPA does during the day. Granted, when his door is shut I can’t hear anything but muffled sounds, but since his door is open 90 percent of the time, I am granted admittance into a world of wisdom.

It’s Monday, which means Veronica has pulled the OSHA list of precision machining shops that have violations. Miles looks through the list for PMPA members, and if there are any listed, he will call them right away and offer assistance.

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Although it has been said inspiration comes from within, it can be argued that motivation from others goes a long way in evoking action. After reading these stories of Production Machining’s 2019 Emerging Leaders, it’s easy to see why their nominators (their peers) chose them for this award. These 20 young professionals under the age of 40 are working hard to improve the future of manufacturing and are specifically blazing trails in the precision machined parts industry, educating students and colleagues along the way. These creative, driven, passionate, innovative and talented individuals are not only opening doors for themselves in their careers, but simultaneously opening doors for younger generations in the industry.

Every year Production Machining will select industry leaders under the age of 40 who are striving to be the next generation of leaders and innovators, and recognize them in the magazine and online. To nominate a 2020 Emerging Leader, visit

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