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Speaking of Precision

Speaking of Precision is a knowledge preservation and thought leadership blog covering the precision machining industry, its materials and services. With over 36 years of hands on experience in steelmaking, manufacturing, quality, and management, Miles Free (Milo) Director of Industry Research and Technology at PMPA helps answer "How?" "With what?" and occasionally "Really?"

It Takes a Factory to Make a Manufacturer

Posted July 18, 2014 11:00 AM by Milo
Pathfinder Tags: factory manufacturing

How can you call yourself a manufacturer if you don't manufacture anything?

If they don't really manufacture, why should we call them manufacturers?

The Economic Classification Policy Committee (ECPC) of the Census Bureau is considering changing the definition of manufacturing to include "Factoryless Goods Producers" (FGP's) as part of an update to the North American Industry Classification System (NAICS) 2017.

They say "A factoryless Goods Producer (FGP) establishment outsources all of the transformation steps traditionally considered manufacturing (i.e., the actual physical chemical or mechanical transformation of inputs into new outputs), but undertakes all of the entrepreneurial steps and arranges for all required capital, labor, and material inputs required to make a good." Factoryless Goods Producer Fact Sheet

Buying stuff from other manufacturers isn't manufacturing, it's wholesale trade.

If an establishment doesn't actually manufacture something, why should it be classified as a manufacturer?

If a company doesn't have a factory and means of transforming inputs into goods, why should that be classified as manufacturing?

If a firm doesn't employ workers to transform inputs into finished goods, why is that manufacturing?

We submitted our comments on this issue.

You can too go to then

  • Type in "NAICS for 2017″ in quotes in the search box labeled 'Rules, Comments, Adjudications or Supporting Documents'
  • Click search;
  • Click the Comment Now!
  • Follow instructions for submitting your comments.

There are many reasons to oppose the creation of a type of manufactuirer called a Factoryless Goods producer. I put a bunch of them in my comments.

But you only have to ask one logical question, really- How can you call yourself a manufacturer if you don't manufacture anything?

And how does that help create statistics we can use if manufacturer no longer means "company that manufactures?"

Photo credit:

We've covered this before:

Editor's Note: CR4 would like to thank Milo for sharing this blog entry, which you can finish reading here.

7 comments; last comment on 07/21/2014
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Time to Review the Precautions for Heat Stress

Posted July 11, 2014 10:30 AM by Milo
Pathfinder Tags: heat osha

I was reminded of the possibility of heat stress in our shops when I started the car the other day.

Early in my career in the blast furnace casthouse and on the ore docks staying safe from the effects of high heat was a daily event.

On top of the coke plant batteries it was a minute by minute struggle.

While we do not face these same levels of heat in our precision machining shops per se, the summer can bring high, unaccustomed temperatures. Temps of over 100 degrees are easily attained in places with high solar gain and stagnant air.

Unloading trucks outside or doing external work on roofs or even landscaping can put even the most fit worker into some form of heat stress if precautions have not been taken.

Here is the OSHA pocket card for Heat Stress Awareness

Click here for link to the PDF

Editor's Note: CR4 would like to thank Milo for sharing this blog entry, which you can finish reading here.

5 comments; last comment on 07/13/2014
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Upside-Down Degrees Connect Skills Acquisition and Education--Milstein Symposium

Posted June 24, 2014 11:00 AM by Milo

"Upside-down" programs allow students to transfer accredited technical training, work experience, military training, or community college coursework as credit toward a bachelor's degree. Expansion of such programs, with emphasis on manufacturing-related fields, will reduce barriers between skills training and degree attainment, and enhance the quality of the manufacturing workforce." - Milstein Symposium Building a Nation of Makers

Small and medium sized enterprises (SMEs) have traditionally succeeded by combining practical production knowledge with technical expertise and business acumen. The blend of practical, technical and managerial that typifies these firms is not the result of a 4 year college program. While technical and managerial knowledge can be obtained in college coursework, obtaining practical production type skills are gained in another path.

According to the Milstein Symposium report, "More troubling is that students are given little incentive to connect these two tracks. Colleges and universities frequently do not offer transfer credit for technical skills acquired either on the job, in community colleges, in the military, or through training."

To overcome this disconnect, they propose an expansion of upside-down degrees.

An "upside-down" program essentially inverts the traditional four-year college model. Upside-down students start with the focused technical training and then take the broader coursework to both expand their knowledge base and enhance their critical thinking (see diagram above).

An "upside down' program would entail academic credit / recognition for varying combinations of:

  • Technical training,
  • Military training,
  • Associate's degrees,
  • Job experience

These could be counted as up to two years of college credit.

Students then need only complete the remaining coursework to earn a bachelor's degree from a four-year institution.

Upside-down degrees can provide an excellent means of integrating the skills needed by employees at todays advanced manufacturing SMEs- technical, practical, and managerial/academic.

We think that this idea is worth considering. We know that it works- as many of our PMPA member companies provide support for continuing education of both technical and college subjects.

Upside-down degrees

For more details on upside-down degrees see idea #2 (page 16 of the PDF) at the Milstein Report on PMPA's homepage.

Editor's Note: CR4 would like to thank Milo for sharing this blog entry, which you can finish reading here.

7 comments; last comment on 06/28/2014
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Six Ideas to Reinvigorate the American Dream Through Manufacturing

Posted June 17, 2014 11:01 AM by Milo
Pathfinder Tags: career employment manufacturing

"By almost any measure the American Dream is in Peril. The robust middle class growth of the 1950′s and 1960′s began to fade in the 1970′s and the core elements of the American Dream- homeownership, (job security*), secure retirement, and building a better life for your children- steadily eroded in the decades that followed."-Milstein Symposium report, Building a Nation of Makers, June 13, 2014, Washington D.C.

The report indicates that Manufacturing remains a vital pathway to Middle Class, and achieving the American Dream.

Here are the 6 fresh, actionable ideas to expand the opportunities for middle class manufacturing jobs, restoring the American Dream developed by the Millstein commission:

  • Talent Investment loans to Expand Human Capital
  • Upside-Down Degrees to Connect Classroom Learning with On-the-Job Learning
  • A Skills Census to Build a more Efficient Skilled Labor Force
  • A National Supply Chain Initiative o Fully Map America's Manufacturing
  • Up-Skilling High School Students with Expanded Technology and Engineering Certification Programs
  • A "Big Trends- Small Firms initiative to Diffuse the Latest Technologies to Manufacturing SME's

Together these recommendations wield tremendous transformative potential.

These ideas are actually able to be done. They address remediable issues in the manufacturing ecosystem- outside of politics, which appear to be in perpetual gridlock.

These ideas are implementable. In future posts, I hope to show how in fact these are actually part of the existing work product of PMPA, and how the identification of these by the Commission validates our work and strategic plan.

These ideas add value. PMPA has been involved in skilled workforce in manufacturing actively since the President first convened the Presidents Council on Jobs and Competitiveness (PCJC), and ongoing through our work with other organizations including MFG Day and Business Leaders United, various community colleges and others. Yet, there are ideas in the Symposium's report that are new and worth trying.

Next post: Talent Investment Loans to Expand Human Capital

* I added job security- MKF

Editor's Note: CR4 would like to thank Milo for sharing this blog entry, which you can finish reading here.

15 comments; last comment on 06/19/2014
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Technical Workers are Knowledge Workers

Posted June 10, 2014 11:15 AM by Milo

The majority of the demand for skilled workforce in industry is in this area of engineering and production technology requiring some post high school education or credential, but less than 4-year bachelors degree education.

University of Toledo Engineering Department has a great graphic that shows where various jobs fit on the "knowledge worker" spectrum based on need for mathematical skills. We have added some additional thinking about "where the jobs are- and what they demand."

The occupations on the right side of the diagram demand less mathematics in daily work. Distribution and sales would require counts and arithmetic to balance quantities and sales orders and payment.

  • Operations, Service and Maintenance positions would typically use numbers to look up and specify parts, measurements for fits, and evaluate process inputs and outputs.

  • Production positions would use gages and hand held measuring instruments as well as data from sensors to determine conformance to tolerances and to plot statistical control charts.
  • Senior manufacturing positions would take this a step further to determine offsets and "true positions."
  • Testing and evaluation and quality control works almost exclusively with numeric data and uses Coordinate measuring machines, Optical comparators, and gage blocks to determine conformance to print and capability of process.

The far right of dark blue portion of the diagram corresponds to high school math including algebra; more to the left the positions demand ability to use geometry and trigonometry. The production and manufacturing portions are typically best fit for persons with a one year credential such as a CNC operator certificate, various NIMS credentials, or 2-year associate degrees in various technology fields.

The left most portion of the light blue portion is the realm of 4 year degree engineers and technologists and specialists ((Mechanical Engineers, Metallurgists, Tooling Engineers, Chemists)

The white area on the left typically are positions filled by Master's and Ph.D level grads.

The majority of job openings in advanced manufacturing today require some post high school skilled training, but do not require a 4 year degree.

Technical workers are knowledge workers.

And they are in high demand.

University of Toledo Engineering

Editor's Note: CR4 would like to thank Milo for sharing this blog entry, which you can finish reading here.

2 comments; last comment on 06/11/2014
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What do Machinists Dream Of?

Posted May 23, 2014 11:00 AM by Milo
Pathfinder Tags: Concept Dreams machinist

"We are not given a dream unless we also have the power to make it happen." -PMPA President Darlene Miller.

I was in the audience when she made that comment at a meeting of students considering their future careers.

That quote resurfaced over the weekend when my son, a CNC operator, sent me the following video "What Do Machinists Dream of?"

It made me smile, because our machinists can in fact make the high precision, high reliability components shown in the video needed for the sponsor's "Dream Mission."

What you dream is important, because it determines what you have the power to achieve. What do you dream of ?

If you dream of an interesting and well paying career, you might want to investigate precision machining.

And yes, we can make the stuff that you see in the video in our shops.

"Moon Mission, anyone?"

Poncari Sweat is a sports drink

6 comments; last comment on 06/18/2014
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