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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?"

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7 Industry Trends to Think About, New Technology Isn’t One of Them

Posted December 26, 2017 10:30 AM by Milo
Pathfinder Tags: machining manufacturing trends

You may be surprised that Technology as a stand alone item is not one of them.

Our future is not about shinier flying saucers.

We will master and implement whatever technologies are developed.

But our future is being impacted by these 7 items today:

  1. Loss of experienced workers taking tribal and craftsman knowledge out of our shops.
  2. Lower average wages as experienced workers with seniority leave and younger workers start at trainee wages, making it difficult to attract talent with facts about “increasing wages”- even though they are.
  3. Training growing in percent of spend as many shops are unable to purchase new technology to quote new work because they do not have trained workforce.
  4. More and more jobs being quoted out of more challenging, non free machining materials;
  5. A bit of relief from new regulations, but more uncertainty as Washington turns to trade issues which can impact availability and cost of imported materials, and tooling, as well as impact the exports of finished goods that contain our parts.
  6. Increasing demands for certification of production to a wide variety of customer demanded requirements regardless of legal obligations- Conflict Minerals, REACH, RoHS, Animal- Free; Ca. Prop 65. Etc.
  7. Possibility of an “Association Healthcare Insurance solution” in 2019 or beyond.

What do you see as the trends shaping our company and industry future?

Please don’t say technology- as Humans, we’ve been successfully implementing new technologies for quite some time.

Flying cars

Todd Rundgren Future

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Editor's note: CR4 would like to thank Milo for sharing his blog, which can also be read here.

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#1

Re: 7 Industry Trends to Think About, New Technology Isn’t One of Them

12/26/2017 4:19 PM

I think automation is a major trend, and I would classify that as new and evolving technology...

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/List_of_emerging_technologies

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#11
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Re: 7 Industry Trends to Think About, New Technology Isn’t One of Them

12/28/2017 1:22 PM

Well, I suppose so. I saw the automation trend starting as a little kid when the bank that my Grandfather took me to had photocells that opened the door.

So, well, yeah, but not really seeing it as a new development. I mean, how many years ago was your last operator assisted phone call?

Milo

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#2

Re: 7 Industry Trends to Think About, New Technology Isn’t One of Them

12/27/2017 1:09 PM

Aren't your points 1, 2 and 3 redundant because of CNC machines being programmable to function autonomously and doesn't that then mean you should be hiring programmers rather than machine operators?

I'm not in the machining business myself so feel free to refute what I'm assuming, but from what little I know and understand, isn't it true that once programmed, a machine can then deliver finished parts ad infinitum as long as unfinished parts are loaded onto it?

And can't that loading be done by robots?

And doesn't it then follow that the investment in autonomous machines and loading robots pays off by not requiring any skilled machinists but rather by hiring a single programmer who could program all your machines and then leave the machines and robots to make various parts ad infinitum?

I thought that was the state of the industry today and not just a pipe dream for the future.

Please tell me where I'm wrong if my understanding is incorrect.

5Axis Machine Cutting HELMET / DAISHIN SEIKI CORPORATION

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#3
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Re: 7 Industry Trends to Think About, New Technology Isn’t One of Them

12/27/2017 2:02 PM

Having been a CNC programmer (SmartCAM and MasterCAM) and then both a CNC Programmer and CNC operator (which did their own set-ups, tool setting and Maintenance). In a low part run job shop environment

Its a matter of specialty. No way could I be as efficient as a Full time Machine Operator. I only did it because the Yard was shutting down.

As a CNC Programmer, I could also do the responsibilities of the CNC Machine Operator. But the CNC Operator could not program using the software.

I do know the software came a long ways since then...

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#6
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Re: 7 Industry Trends to Think About, New Technology Isn’t One of Them

12/28/2017 10:21 AM

I was thinking more of a production process.

Something like say automobile engine manufacturers.

Isn't it cheaper, easier and more efficient for them to maintain consistent tolerances by having one programmer who programs their machines to make crankshafts, cylinder blocks and gearshafts, than have hundreds of machinists all making the stuff to different tolerances?

Isn't that exactly how the Japanese have got themselves to the top of the auto trade from nowhere just a few decades ago?

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#8
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Re: 7 Industry Trends to Think About, New Technology Isn’t One of Them

12/28/2017 10:36 AM

Isn't it cheaper, easier and more efficient for them to maintain consistent tolerances by having one programmer who programs their machines to make crankshafts, cylinder blocks and gearshafts, than have hundreds of machinists all making the stuff to different tolerances?

In a way yes. there are tolerances and limit dimension that needs to be held to.

If a Machinist cannot hold a tolerance,... that machinist, isn't really a machinist... at least a skilled one.

the reason being is the term tolerance and its definitions listed below.

Tolerancing Definitions

NOMINAL SIZE : The size used for general description. Example; 7/8 inch Shaft, 25mm Shaft etc.

BASIC SIZE : The size used when the nominal size is converted to the decimal and from which deviation are made to produce limit dimension. Example: .8750inch shaft which is the basic size for a 7/8 inch nominal shaft.25mm nominal size which can be basic size of 24.950mm.

LIMIT DIMENSION : The Lower and Upper permitted sizes for a single feature dimension. 0.500-0.506 inch where 0.500 inch is the lower limit and 0.506 inch upper limit dimensions

TOLERANCE :Tolerance is the allowable variation for any given size in order to achieve a proper function. Tolerance equals the difference between lower and upper limit dimensions. Example; for 0.500-0.506 inch the tolerance would be 0.006 inch.

BILATERAL TOLERANCE : It is a way to express tolerance by using both minus and plus variations from a given size. Example;
inch. The limit dimensions are 1.120-1.130 inch. The tolerance is 0.010 inch.

UNILATERAL TOLERANCE : It is a way to express tolerance by using only minus or plus variation from a given size. Example
inch. As you can see the first case uses a minus variation.

or

inch. The first case uses a minus and plus variation.

*************************************

Isn't that exactly how the Japanese have got themselves to the top of the auto trade from nowhere just a few decades ago?

No you touch upon the Japanese, it not all that simple, what you are referring to is SPC (Statistically Process Control) and some of the techniques introduce by Dr. W. Edwards Deming, and btw, it was introduced post WWII, of which the Japanese disagreed to by only adopted it because of the respect to General MacArthur. but that's another story.

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#9
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Re: 7 Industry Trends to Think About, New Technology Isn’t One of Them

12/28/2017 11:25 AM

Thank you for the reference to Deming.

The following is a paragraph from Wikipedia about him and it implies to me that the Japanese adoption of his theories resulted in better quality parts .... hence their holding of the top postion in auto manufacturing now.

Deming's teachings and philosophy are clearly illustrated by examining the results they produced after they were adopted by Japanese industry, as the following example shows. Ford Motor Company was simultaneously manufacturing a car model with transmissions made in Japan and the United States. Soon after the car model was on the market[when?], Ford customers were requesting the model with Japanese transmissions over the US-made transmissions, and they were willing to wait for the Japanese model. As both transmissions were made to the same specifications, Ford engineers could not understand the customer preference for the model with Japanese transmissions. Finally, Ford engineers decided to take apart the two different transmissions. The American-made car parts were all within specified tolerance levels. However, the Japanese car parts were virtually identical to each other, and much closer to the nominal values for the parts—e.g., if a part was supposed to be one foot long, plus or minus 1/8 of an inch—then the Japanese parts were all within 1/16 of an inch, less variation. This made the Japanese cars run more smoothly and customers experienced fewer problems.[9]

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#10
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Re: 7 Industry Trends to Think About, New Technology Isn’t One of Them

12/28/2017 12:10 PM

It gets quite indepth, about the quality from Japan. The company I work for (Shipyard) set up a college courses in SPC where I was elected to take.

And as it was explained, Quality is where everyone takes part. On the assembly line for example, each employee was responsibly for quality, and each employ had the power to shut the assembly line down if quality went outside of quality specs.

We had also covered Motorola, the quality was so high, as I recall in the 80's, that rejection was none existent.

The Japanese also made mistakes.... When touring the U.S. steel making plants, they were horrified at the dirty conditions... When they returned to Japan, they were confident that they could produce quality 'cleaner' steel than the U.S. did... and they were right.

Problems didn't show up until the 70's, when all their cars exported to the United States rusted prematurely in the northern parts of the States. Turned out, the lower quality 'dirty' steel the U.S. made, was more durable against oxidation.

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#4
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Re: 7 Industry Trends to Think About, New Technology Isn’t One of Them

12/28/2017 1:51 AM

One of the biggest problems facing all industries today is the "university educated idiot", these are people who have a degree in something and think that it really matters in the real world. Most trades take longer to qualify than a degree to obtain, the theory is basically the same but a trade also requires real world hands-on experience in a variety of situations. Someone who refines their knowledge by further study after gaining a trade knows a lot more about the job and related jobs/trades than anyone with just book learning. They will in a machining environment know how to deal with different materials and material treatment. How to instantly recognise or 'feel' when things aren't right and make corrections. Computer programs are a very long way from the ability to do that. Nobody with book learning can or ever will be able to do that.

Maybe in a bulk manufacturing situation multiple machines can be programed to do the bulk of the work but for jobbing work and oddball stuff you just can't beat an experienced skilled human at the controls. Experience being the most important factor.

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#5
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Re: 7 Industry Trends to Think About, New Technology Isn’t One of Them

12/28/2017 6:39 AM

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#7
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Re: 7 Industry Trends to Think About, New Technology Isn’t One of Them

12/28/2017 10:32 AM

" Computer programs are a very long way from the ability to do that. "

Well what are CNC machines for then, and why are sold in such great numbers to all the auto manufacturers all over the world at such great cost?

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#14
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Re: 7 Industry Trends to Think About, New Technology Isn’t One of Them

12/28/2017 1:35 PM

CNC machines can reduce the variation and hold higher precision, but they are not divinities. Someone has to locate the tools so that there location (datums) are correct and reflected in the code. Else. Crash. Because CNC's require less human intervention, the human operator's value can be divided across a number of production processes.

Before it was solely for a single stream of production output.

So the operator expense and healthcare and benefit expense can now be split across the out put of three or more machines at a time, rather than being all in on a single product which has to cover all of those costs.

Milo

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#16
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Re: 7 Industry Trends to Think About, New Technology Isn’t One of Them

12/28/2017 2:30 PM

Running the program is the easy part. Setting up the machine and tooling is the hardest and most time consuming part.

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#13
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Re: 7 Industry Trends to Think About, New Technology Isn’t One of Them

12/28/2017 1:30 PM

Experiential learning in a craft is far different than Book learning or University learning.

When an experienced craftsman goes back to university for furthering education, fast en your seat belts, because they will absolutely destroy a book learning only professor with their third or fourth "WHY?" or "HOW?"

Milo

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#21
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Re: 7 Industry Trends to Think About, New Technology Isn’t One of Them

12/29/2017 10:01 AM

lol... back in the 90's, I took a class for the CAM software I was using at the time (SmartCAM, now defunct I believe)... the instructor never had practical any experience except classroom training.

He started the first project out wrong... wrong.... how did I know... I actually MADE the same mistake when at work I took my program out on the shop floor to the machine to run.

I corrected him,... at first he didn't realize what I was talking about until I demonstrated it in a demonstration simulation. Graphically on the screen it look like there wasn't any problems.... But when you looked at and read through block by block the actual 'G' code it generated, it was doing all kinds of funky chit and was crashing.... Basically the problem was when there was (3) involute surfaces converging to a point.

He told me, at my level this class would not help me. and he advised me to drop the class.... Still don't know if he was insulted or just looking after my best interested... ...I feel I insulted him.

The instructor could have used me as a resource which supports your argument.

Experiential learning in a craft is far different than Book learning or University learning.

When an experienced craftsman goes back to university for furthering education, fast en your seat belts, because they will absolutely destroy a book learning only professor with their third or fourth "WHY?" or "HOW?"

The school later did contact me for an instructor position to teach CNC Programming using CAM software.... unfortunately I had to declined for (2) reasons

1.) I already had a job doing 45-50 hours a week on top of doing consulting at 10-15 hours a week.

2.) they could not come close for compensation.

At least that what I tell people...

But I have to say,... If there was a 36 hour day instead of a 24 hour day... I probably would have took it for one reason... I really enjoyed doing the work.

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#22
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Re: 7 Industry Trends to Think About, New Technology Isn’t One of Them

12/29/2017 3:03 PM

The schools really want to pay you in prestige rather than cash for your craft knowledge.

I do feel that I am donating to the craft with my teaching and mentoring- it is more than just about the dollars- and the time consumed.

But it "ought" to pay a wee bit more, You would think.

Thanks for the conversation.

Milo

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#12
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Re: 7 Industry Trends to Think About, New Technology Isn’t One of Them

12/28/2017 1:28 PM

Ad infinitum- if only that were so. Tools wear, edges buildup, chips get in the way of coolant. There are many things that a savvy Operator brings to the job. In the old days, an operator may have tended two machines. (Prior to automatic cam machines the operator ran the machine- moving tools in and out. one man one machine one part at a time. Today my son is running three CNC axis swiss machines, while he sets one up and is the go to guy for the rest of the shift. So No I don't think that the automation makes humans unneeded. just way different than the old machine tenders used to be.

Milo

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#15
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Re: 7 Industry Trends to Think About, New Technology Isn’t One of Them

12/28/2017 2:28 PM

Yes,... that's why its called a skilled trade.

And a seasoned operator understands the slight nuances (temperament or personality) of each of the machines they are operating and makes the adjustments and compensate to those nuances.

And these 'good' machinists... look at the machine tools they are operating as an extension of themselves.

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#17
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Re: 7 Industry Trends to Think About, New Technology Isn’t One of Them

12/28/2017 3:55 PM

Tool wear, edge buildup and chips can all be programmed out, so where is the problem, I still haven't heard anything that prevents the theory meeting reality.

Ad infinitum- if only that were so.

Then how are so many autonomous CNC machines sold to so many smart auto and aviation manufacturers all over the world if they can't actually make parts ad infinitum?

Making parts ad infinitum is precisely their selling point isn't it - otherwise what is the point of all that extra expense?

We're not talking autonomous cars here, where there are masses of unforeseen and constantly variable possibilities, we're talking about a tightly controlled environment where everything can be foreseen and factored in.

And if you find out by practice that there was something you didn't factor in, then adjust the program till it's 100% perfect.

Surely this isn't rocket science in 2017 is it?

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#18
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Re: 7 Industry Trends to Think About, New Technology Isn’t One of Them

12/29/2017 12:17 AM

I’m not for or against, but there are issues that occur that displays the pro or cons of a didicated skilled machinist. And of course it’s for the low run job shop.

I’ve operated machines where the machine would develop a resonance vibration using a certain type of tool when run at the recommended rpm and/or travel, only by changing the rpm and/or speed does the vibration drops away.

while an identical machine, does not.

only a operate whose is experienced that executes the correction adjustments.

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#19
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Re: 7 Industry Trends to Think About, New Technology Isn’t One of Them

12/29/2017 9:33 AM

You haven't convinced me.

That vibration's source you mentioned could be found and rectified if someone decided or wanted to do it, and tuning it out is just a temporary fix which will have to be addressed sooner or later, whatever it is.

And is it so absurd to think a programmer could also be a highly skilled machinist?

If I were responsible for Toyota's or Boeing's hiring's that's who I'd be looking to hire and I'd lay money to say that's who actually gets hired at those places to set up their machines to run ad infinitum.

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#20
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Re: 7 Industry Trends to Think About, New Technology Isn’t One of Them

12/29/2017 9:50 AM

That's fine,... as my first sentence tried to convey... Each company has its own unique process that is developed around not only their resources but their own internal culture with in the company.

To put it as an analogy,... Its like when you buy your CNC software... it actually comes generic (like the post processors it may have different posts for the different controllers such as FANUC, Mitsubishi ect..., but its still generic) and the company then customizes it to meet their own needs.

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#23
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Re: 7 Industry Trends to Think About, New Technology Isn’t One of Them

12/29/2017 3:09 PM

Well, it is not about I'm right and you're wrong.

It is not out of the realm of possibility that the programmer could also be skilled machinist. but typically people with valuable skills gravitate to work that reflects their "highest and best use." Its both their preference, and often economically reinforced.

Your comment "...if someone found it" is precisely my point, this sort of thing happens in real time every day on every machine. change a batch of material, and often adjustments to the process need to be made. The output is not determined by the CNC, but by many factors in the process. The CNC just minimizes the variation and maximizes the precision. Think of the CNC as an instrument. In the hands of an expert it will make beautiful ... parts. The operator is key to the process performance.

Thanks for the engaging conversation.

Milo

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