PM Blog

Production Machining Activity Contraction Slows at Year End

The Precision Machining Index moved higher in the last month of 2019, registering 47.6. December’s relatively higher reading compared with the prior month’s indicates that business activity contracted at a slower rate in the latest month. Readings above 50 indicate expanding activity and values below 50 indicate contracting activity. The further away a reading is from 50 the bigger the change in activity. Gardner Intelligence’s analysis of the underlying index components found that the Index was supported by expanding activity in new orders and supplier deliveries along with an improved -but still contracting- reading for production. The Index—an average of its components—was pulled lower by contractionary readings for employment, exports and backlogs. December’s strongly contracting backlog reading weighed down the Index significantly more than any other component.

The closing quarter of 2019 experienced components rebounding off their lows from the third quarter.  Production, employment, supplier deliveries and new orders all reported their fastest pace of contracting activity around the July to October period.  Only export and backlog activity at year-end continued to face a strengthening contraction.  December’s first expansion of total new orders since June, coupled with a relatively strong contraction in export activity implied a rebound in domestic manufacturing orders.  December’s implied domestic orders’ rebound, combined with almost unchanged levels of production activity, is believed to have slowed the contraction in backlogs.

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This month's Last Word is a discussion with the Precision Machined Products Association's (PMPA's) new executive director, Cate Smith. Ms. Smith started her role with the association on Dec. 2, 2019.

PM: Please give us some of your background story and how your previous experience can carry over, first, to directorial duties of the association, and second, to contributions to the precision machined parts industry as a whole.

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Webinars: Listen to Top-Rated Precision Machining Discussions on Hot Topics

Production Machining’s sister brands host many webinars per year with industry leaders and companies alike, presenting ideas and topics that capture the essence of manufacturing: always learning and always adapting.

This year, our parent company, Gardner Business Media Inc., collected a list of the top 10 webinars of 2019. With a variety of topics that span across the focus of our sister publications, there were several that may interest PM readers in the precision machined parts industry. Click on their titles to listen to the recorded webinar on the following hot topics.

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3D Printing vs. CNC Milling for Prototyping

In the process of assessing what is needed to set up a prototyping lab, the first order of business is deciding between 3D printing and CNC milling. Both options have proven critical to modern manufacturing processes, with each one featuring a roster of benefits over traditional manufacturing methods. Ultimately, the decision depends on a few things: price range, the size of the part/prototype and the type of materials used. While these features will differ for specific industries, projects and purposes, it is important to recognize the prevailing bias toward 3D printing over CNC milling. There are some misunderstandings about the benefits of 3D printing over CNC milling, and this article will set the record straight. Although 3D printing undoubtedly has its place, it’s important to not be short-sighted when evaluating the merits of CNC mills with respect to industrial prototyping. This information will help guide decisions about what a specific business needs when setting up a prototyping lab.


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Workforce Development—Training Shows How

We have four tools that we can use to upskill our employees: teaching, training, coaching and mentoring. Which tool we choose depends on what we are trying to help them accomplish. In this article, we will cover training.
Training is the tool that answers the question “How”—How do I perform this task? The goal in training is to achieve compliant performance to a standard. In our shops, the potential hazards from high voltage, high horsepower, torque, RPMs and sharp tool and workpiece edges also require that we train our performers to avoid hazards and minimize risk of injury to themselves and others. Using the 5W 2H method, let’s examine an approach to training to upskill our shop employees.

This is not as easy or obvious as you might think. Yes, of course the new trainee is the “Who” However, it doesn’t stop there. Who should do the training? Many times we err by assigning our experts to be the trainer with less than satisfactory results. How many of us have seen a new employee give up and walk out because they couldn’t get the understanding they needed from the expert training them? The expert is so fluent and knowledgeable that in performing they often omit key steps and information that they know, but are not obvious to the trainee. Add a lack of common vocabulary and shop concepts, and the frustration can run high, leading to the “surrender” of the trainee.

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