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Precision Plus’ President Mike Reader: Looking Back and Looking Forward

Michael Reader

It’s hard to believe 2013 is well behind us already, and March is right around the corner.  Now that the new year has arrived, I thought it would be a good time to thank everyone that helped make last year a success and, at the same time, lay out a few key initiatives for 2014.  Before I go into what lies ahead, let me recap a few of the highlights from last year.

2013 was a busy year with a new Precision Plus sales record and many new faces.  All told, we welcomed 18 new full-time employees to help us build for the future.

It all started in February while hosting a Manufacturing Career Panel at Elkhorn Area High School, where a number of fellow industry leaders joined me to share with these young adults all the great things going on in manufacturing.  March saw the launch of the Wisconsin Aerospace Consortium, which I am honored to serve.  In the spring, we implemented the newly-developed strategic plan where we restructured responsibilities to best align skills with roles, and set the foundation for an even better future.  June launched our first full-scale summer internship program with 10 bright young minds getting hands on experience in nearly every facet of our business.  And July saw the arrival of our Director of Education and Training, Barry Butters.  In the fall, we were all sad to see the summer interns go back to school, but we did get three new high school seniors starting a full year internship program.

2014 is already in full swing and aside from ‘Old Man Winter’ and the ever growing piles of snow, we are very busy and happy to be on track. We are putting the final touches on our new training room and must thank Hanan Fishman of PartMaker for the generous donation of 8 licenses of their CAM software.  PartMaker was here for advanced training the week for February 10th!  We are anxiously awaiting word from AutoDesk regarding a similar donation of Inventor 3D modeling software to allow us to train our team and possibly do the same as an extension of the Elkhorn Area High School this coming summer.

We are also excited to announce the Second Annual Manufacturing Career Panel at the Elkhorn Area High School, on February 26, 2014.  I am honored to be part of the panel to drive this effort forward with the school and our fellow business leaders.  Joining me will be Hanan Fishman of PartMaker, Mary Isbister of GenMet, and Brian White from GE-Energy Waukesha Gas Engines.  A day later,  I will be at the Wisconsin Manufacturing Matters Conference, being one of  three  panelists discussing the ‘Skills Gap’ and what we are doing to close it.   In March, we have scheduled the launch of Micronite software to enhance our Quality Management System in order to provide the production staff the best tools available.  Wow! That is only the first three months of the year, and I do not expect the pace to slow a bit.

Our success has not gone unnoticed and it is exciting to field calls from people looking to learn more about what we are doing.  Some wish to learn how they may join us in the effort to raise awareness of manufacturing, while others are looking to see how they or their children can be part of the internship program.  The last few years have reinforced the importance of our single greatest asset:  people.  So while our Vision is “To be the number one solution provider of machined components for our current and future partners,”  our Mission speaks loud and clear:  “To provide a profitable, secure future for team members by building a cultural foundation based on Integrity, Empowerment, Innovation, and Respect”.  These statements will guide us in all we do, as well as those who wish to join us on this journey.

Building Expansion Update

A year ago at this time, we were working with Magil Construction to design an addition to address both current and future expected growth.  Our goal was to also add dedicated classroom and lab space for training/education, addressing both our internal training needs as well as those of the area schools that do not have the resources to do so.

While keeping up with our customers’ accelerating demands, we were filling much of our machine capacity.  From that situation, one thing was clear: our single greatest constraint to growth is finding and hiring talented people.  So, we had to rethink our priorities:  Our real focus was two-fold:  first to wring every last ounce out of the equipment we have with as many hours per week possible; and second,  we needed to establish a skilled-workforce development process to ensure we have the strongest possible pipeline of talent for the future.  So, as we continue to refine the drawings and layout for the day we put the shovel in the ground, we must now focus our energies on the most important of all: human capital.

As a footnote, we want you to know that we reconfigured some space to have a real classroom for our interns as well as for special classes.

Equipment and Technology Update

Many of you might have read the announcement about our two new ‘Killer Bs!’  We welcomed two state of the art B-Axis machines from Tsugami to the production floor.  Counting these, we have reinvested nearly 11 million dollars in production and inspection equipment over the last six years.  We now have 27-CNC Swiss-type machines from 12mm to 38mm, 6-twin and triple turret CNC lathes to 2.5” diameter, while we remain committed to our 55 Tornos single spindle Swiss-cam machines.  While often overlooked with all the cool new technology, these vintage masterpieces of engineering remain production assets in the hands of skilled craftsmen/women.  Maintaining this skillset into the next generation will be our challenge.   We continue to evaluate new equipment platforms and will invest as needed.

Advocacy

On one hand, our industry has strived to make a difference; on the other, however, we have fallen short in getting involved in matters outside our own four walls.  Too often our energy focuses inward and we forget what is happening outside of the building. Whether it’d be to work in the community and/or with schools to raise awareness about the manufacturing industry, or to stand up as a voice for the industry, it is critical we come together and step forward to craft solutions, rather than remain content to let others do this for us.

This March 25th/26th, together with my industry colleagues, I will be in Washington, DC representing all U.S. manufacturers.  We will address matters such as: workforce development to address the skills gap, tax reform to stimulate investment for innovation and domestic manufacturing, and free trade with a level playing field.

Do you want to get involved?  Call me or email me! For too long, we’ve been in reactionary mode.  Now is the time to go into action and make a difference.

Keep up with our future.  We want to keep up with yours.  After all, they are one and the same.

The Plus – A Note from Mike

Michael Reader

My wife Pat and I took a U-Haul truck of “stuff” to our daughter Tina’s place in NYC earlier in the month.  Not exactly the way I prefer to see America, but it needed to be done.  After hauling all her stuff up two flights of narrow stairs in the heat, we were all in need of some good food.

We went for lunch at Joseph Leonard, a cozy seven-table bistro and bar, located
at the heart of West Village, and I must tell you it was great.  The atmosphere was relaxed, the food was excellent, and the service was beyond par.  It is what we, at Precision Plus, call
THE PLU
S.

The brainchild behind Joseph Leonard is Gabriel Stulman, a fellow
UW – Madison grad, who runs a hell of a restaurant.   There were plenty of Wisconsin themes in the restaurant and all the staff clearly understood customer service:  Michael and Logan, and Grand Rapids’ “Big Guy” in the kitchen, made it a memorable experience.

Gabriel Stulman, who named the restaurant after both his grandfathers, got his inspiration from Madison’s Café Montmartre, a bistro where he tended bar while in school.  “Here I am,” he said, “a guy from Wisconsin who wanted to work with a bunch of his friends from Wisconsin.”  He’s kept his promise, as most of his staff comes from the Upper Midwest.

I drew some parallels between what they are doing and what we are doing here at Precision Plus  We also strive to always deliver THE PLUS to our customers:  Quality products at a reasonable price, experienced design engineers and caring customer service reps.  I strongly believe THE PLUS is what keeps satisfied customers coming back.  And as we continue to expand by adding space and equipment, we know that THE PLUS we deliver must remain intact.

In the two or so years since Gabriel Stulman first opened Joseph Leonard,  he has opened three more restaurants in West Village under the “Little Wisco” umbrella:  Jeffrey’s Grocery, Fedora (a former speakeasy), and Perla.  These are all unpretentious neighborhood joints that, according to some, “exude Wisconsin friendliness” and consistently deliver THE PLUS.

By the way, a Bloody with the beer chaser had me hooked from the beginning.  We’ll be back for more.

A Note From Mike Reader, President of Precision Plus

Michael Reader

As we enter the second half of the year I am happy to report we have many good things happening here at Precision Plus  All and all, it was a successful first half with sales surpassing those of last year, and the addition of our 4th Miyano ABX lathe.  Our customers remain optimistic and continue to ask us to take on more work from them.  It is a testament to the hard work of all our staff when I hear a long-standing customer ask me “we need to resource a package of parts, how much more can you take on?”.  Especially with existing customers, we have developed a trust that ensures them that we know what we are doing and that we will produce what they ask for.  As the degree of difficulty in developing and manufacturing new components continues to increase, we understand that the complexity of the part will make a difference in our customers’ profitability and efficiency.

We are continually improving “embedding” ourselves with our customers’ product engineering teams, so as to add more value and be in the best position to transition from prototype to production.  Our customers love this because they can understand cost and manufacturing challenges early on in a design project.  We love this because we want to make the entire process seamless. Bill Wells, our Sales and Engineering Manager, devotes much of his time working with these engineers.  It’s a time-consuming proposition, but an investment in both our futures.

Since the beginning of the year, we have taken on over 100 new jobs, not only from new customer-partners, but from our existing customer-partners from a variety of industries, including pneumatic and hydraulic, aerospace, industrial, automotive, medical and dental and movie and still motion product manufacturers.

This organic growth, coupled with new opportunities developed through our website and media efforts have us plenty busy.  As I mentioned earlier, we continue to reinvest in capital equipment and technology to support our customer’s needs, and remain committed to ongoing improvements.

However, while we can put all the new equipment we want on the floor, it is the difficulty in finding/developing skilled machinists that will constrain our growth moving forward.  This is a real problem for us, our industry and our country that requires a true Manufacturing Training Plan.  We are addressing this issue on many levels.  Locally, we are participating in trade school and college programs designed to instruct young and/or unemployed individuals in the crucial trade of manufacturing.  On a national level, with the PMPA, we are talking to Congress and Senate leaders in order to create a mind shift with respect to training younger people in the trades, so they can fill in the open spots that retiring Baby Boomers are leaving at a rapid pace.  The goal is to bring manufacturing back to the U.S.

Reach out to me with any questions, suggestions or comments you may have!  My door is always open.

Mike Reader
President

 

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