SWISS TURNED COMPONENTS | (262) 743-1700

Welcome Ed Flores, CNC Operator

Michael Reader

Ed Flores joined Precision Plus (PPI) in November as a CNC Operator in the Miyano CNC turret lathe platform of the company’s Production Department.  He reports to Sam Kirkland, the Miyano Platform Supervisor.  Ed comes to PPI with five years’ CNC experience and in the near future, looks forward to continuing his education in pursuit of an associate’s degree in CNC technology.

How To Attract, Develop and Retain Our Future Workforce?

Michael Reader

On November 19, 2015, twenty-two Walworth County manufacturing business leaders held a roundtable meeting to discuss the possible creation of a manufacturing council dedicated to encourage, sustain and grow the manufacturing industry in Wisconsin’s Walworth County. According to a recent survey, the manufacturing sector provided 13.3% of all jobs in the county for the year 2013.

The breakfast meeting took place at Precision Plus (PPI) of Elkhorn, Wisconsin. Coffee, juice, water and light breakfast snacks were provided by First Business Bank.

Gateway Technical College Elkhorn Campus CNC Lab and Manufacturing Center Set to Open January 22, 2016

Michael Reader

With just a bit over a month to welcome in students and instructors for the next semester, Gateway Technical College’s (GTC) new CNC Lab and Manufacturing Center in Elkhorn, Wisconsin is buzzing with energy and excitement. Construction is coming to an end, equipment continues to arrive, and instructors are reinforcing their own knowledge by familiarizing themselves with the new equipment and software.

Rich Shouse, CNC Technology Instructor, spent a week in October at a PartMaker Training Workshop focusing on programming Swiss CNC machines. Shouse explains, “Learning this computer-aided manufacturing (CAM) system was a very easy transition for me, considering what I have used in the past. I have already programmed, set-up and ran ten jobs through our shop using PartMaker. Personally, I feel it is the strongest CAM system that I have ever used.”

Precision Plus Education Update for November of 2015

Michael Reader

For Mark Beilman, Director of Education and Training at Precision Plus (PPI) in Elkhorn, Wisconsin, no two days are alike. Under the umbrella of his title, there is a wealth of responsibilities that include, among others,

  • Day-to-day management of PPI’s apprenticeship, mentoring and summer internship programs
  • Community and education outreach that communicates and brings awareness to careers in manufacturing
  • Participation in industry and commerce events to exchange ideas and knowledge with colleagues
  • Assisting in career development at any stage of the process

In November 2015, Mark Beilman represented Precision Plus at two career development events.

On November 4th, Beilman was a panelist at the Beloit Memorial High School Career Panel. Other panelists were Clint Wallisch of Corporate Contractors, Inc., Stephanie Leuder and Brandon Flexsenfar of Fairbanks Morse Engine, Vance Wilmovsky and Cory Brown of Scot Forge, and Joe Schwengels of JP Cullen.

The hour-long event was attended by about 70 students, and was organized by Lindsay Healless, Career Advocate for the school. Each panelist had the opportunity to introduce himself or herself, and give a short presentation about employability skills typically required by their companies.

The panelists spoke about the importance to “doing something you love.” Beilman added, “Never settle for second best.” Several panelists also discussed the benefits of “following one’s own passion” when determining what career to pursue, and let that be the guide to a choice of school and/or position that can nurture their passion. Following, students asked questions of the panelists, mostly about suggested educational paths.

Among the students, there was a variety of career aspirations, from becoming skilled tradesmen to becoming engineers. The panelists discussed options such as attending a 4-year school, getting a 2-year associates degree, or going into the skilled trades as an apprentice.

The panelists also reiterated the importance of developing employability skills—from showing up to work on time every day, to passing a drug test, writing a coherent resume, looking at the potential employer in the eye when speaking with them, doing their best in all their classes, and declaring their desire to succeed within the organization as a positive team member.

Career panels such as the one presented by Beloit Memorial High School open career possibilities for students, who can listen to and interact with employers and learn about the education and skills required to work at their type of businesses.

On November 12th and 13th, Mark Beilman participated in one-on-one employment mock interviews with two Occupations Program students at Elkhorn Area High School (EAHS).

Tristyn Nichols and Alexis Parise, both seniors at EAHS, practiced their skills for the mock interviews conducted by Beilman. Each took approximately 30 minutes, and was followed by a 15-minute immediate feedback session, not only assessing the interview, but also suggesting ways to improve their employability skills.


Both students were well prepared with resumes and cover letters. Tristyn was “interviewing” for a sales position at Polaris Snowmobiles, while Alexis was “interviewing” at a horse stable to work as a vet technician, horse groomer and animal care provider. Both asked pertinent questions and responded to questions posed by Beilman such as,

  • Can you tell me a bit about yourself?
  • What is your biggest accomplishment?
  • What is your biggest regret?
  • Explain a time when someone told you about correcting your behavior – what was the situation and how did you react?

For students looking for a summer job or a full-time job after school, Mark Beilman has the following recommendation: “Prepare and be yourself: you are selling yourself to the company as well as your skills. Be energetic and enthusiastic.”

For more information about these programs or other education and training initiatives and events, please contact Mark Beilman via email, or by phone at 262.743.1700.

 

Precision Plus Welcomes Two Youth Apprentices and Two Gateway Youth CNC Boot Camp Students

Michael Reader

Youth Apprentices

Jordan Belanus, a senior at Elkhorn Area High School in Elkhorn, WI and Jake Sherwin, a senior at Big Foot High School in Walworth, WI, have joined Precision Plus’ Youth Apprentice Program.

Jordan Belanus began working as an Information Technology (IT) youth apprentice at Precision Plus (PPI) on November 9, 2015, reporting to Jeff Lemmermann, the company’s CIO and CFO. The IT apprenticeship adheres to the IT Skill Standards Checklist established by Wisconsin’s Department of Workforce Development.

Items on the checklist vary from soft skills such as communicating effectively and thinking critically, to job-specific skills such as upgrading an operating system or installing software. The checklist serves as a guideline to help the apprentice obtain designated competencies.

Jordan enjoys working on computers for friends and family, having developed an affinity for programming and networking. As an IT apprentice, he will also be putting those skills to work, performing back up operations, upgrading operating systems and installing software as needed. He will also assist to process employee IT help requests. As his internship progresses, Jordan should be able to perform certain tasks of his own volition, rather than being directed to do so.

In order to receive a certificate for his internship, Jordan must complete 450 total hours of work by August 2016. By state law, however, he cannot exceed 20 hours per week. He learned about PPI’s apprenticeship opportunity through his school’s career and technical education coordinator.

At Elkhorn Area High School, Jordan’s favorite subjects are algebra, physics and geometry. He plans to attend Gateway Technical College in the fall of 2016 and subsequently use its 2-plus-2 articulation agreements with the University of Wisconsin or with Milwaukee School of Engineering to continue his education in computer engineering.

In his spare time, Jordan enjoys playing video games, playing guitar, and practicing Tae Kwon Do, for which he holds a second-degree black belt.

Jake Sherwin began his manufacturing apprenticeship with PPI on November 2, 2015. He reports to Mark Beilman, Director of Education and Training.

The manufacturing apprenticeship follows the Skill Standards Checklist established by Wisconsin’s Department of Workforce Development for that purpose. The first part of the apprenticeship will include a general assessment of Jake’s math skills, micrometer and blueprint reading skills and geometric dimensioning and tolerancing (GD&T) interpretative skills.

After the first phase is completed, Jake will spend time with mentors from different departments to learn skills and applications from them first hand. Jake will be completing the core skills and machining unit of the Production Pathway of the Skill Standards Checklist.   Mentors will sign off on the acquired competencies at the end of their mentoring.

The curriculum at PPI goes hand in hand, with Jake’s curriculum at Big Foot High School. Jake learned about the apprenticeship opportunity at Precision Plus when Mark Beilman spoke to his technical education class in September. Jake knows that he wants to work in the trades—most likely in construction—after his graduation. However, he enjoys the science and agriculture classes he is taking, as well as helping with his family’s farm. In addition, he works part-time at Heyer True Value Hardware Store in Walworth, Wisconsin, so he is keeping his options open. His apprenticeship will also require him to complete 450 hours by August 2016.

When time permits, Jake enjoys hunting and fishing, baseball, and playing bass guitar in a band.

 

Youth CNC Boot Camp Students

Two Gateway students, currently enrolled in Gateway Technical College (GTC)’s Elkhorn Campus Youth CNC Boot Camp have begun their job shadowing experience at Precision Plus, as part of their current semester requirements.

Monday through Friday, Elliot Salentine from East Troy High School and Cameron Bunne from Elkhorn High School attend high school in the morning, followed by classes and training at GTC from 12:30 until 4:30 in the afternoon. As they learn different processes and applications at school, a concurrent shadowing program lends them the opportunity to watch professionals performing those jobs. Each student spends one hour per week at PPI to meet those requirements.

Thus far, the students have shadowed Marty Baumgardner in the Quality Assurance Lab, Ryan Landreman and Brad Pearson on the Miyano platform, and Curtis Hibl in the CAM Department. The shadowing will continue on the Tornos platform, the Secondary Department, the Scheduling Department and, finally, the Shipping Department.

Elliot and Cameron will continue their high school/boot camp schedule until the spring semester begins on February 2, 2016. At that time, they will attend their high school classes in the mornings, but will participate in a mentoring program at Precision Plus in the afternoon, learning and working in different departments. The mentoring phase will end in May 2016. The students will receive high school and boot camp credits for their experience at the company.

Although the Youth CNC Boot Camp mentoring program is similar to the Youth Apprenticeship program already in place, possible modifications may be made based on the students’ incoming skill level.

Cameron and Elliot are members of the first Youth CNC Boot Camp to graduate from GTC’s Elkhorn Campus in Walworth County. The program had already been running successfully at GTC’s other two locations in Racine and Kenosha.

For more information about Precision Plus’ apprenticeship and mentoring programs, please contact Mark Beilman via email or by calling 262-743-1700.

 

For Cathy Giese, Secondary Operator at Precision Plus, The Secondary Department Always Comes First

Michael Reader

Cathy Giese, Secondary Operator at Precision Plus (PPI) in Elkhorn, Wisconsin, has been a team member since March of 2010, as part of the Secondary Department.

For Swiss precision manufacturers such as PPI, secondary operations play just as an important role as manufacturing the parts themselves. Processes such as polishing, grinding, deburring, special assembly, or laser marking help to deliver a product with consistent quality and to specification.

Operation of the state-of-the-art equipment found in the Secondary Department requires individuals who are not only highly trained, but also be willing to learn about new equipment and operations. Cathy Giese has proven to be one of those individuals.

Terry Mumper, Manufacturing Engineer, who supervises Giese, explains: “My favorite thing about Cathy is her eagerness to learn. She is punctual and always arrives to work with a positive attitude. She works hard and is very conscientious of the quality of her work. She is a great part of the PPI Team and it is a pleasure to work with her.”

Giese concurs that she is driven by the opportunity to learn new things, such as inspecting job orders as well as learning to operate the OMNI-VISION® 2D/3D Inspection System, which allows for inspection of components and assemblies with the use of digital multi-frequency Moiré inspection probes.

Cathy appreciates her fellow team members, her excellent supervisor, and the company’s culture of respect for the family through workplace flexibility.

Outside of work, she loves to spend time with friends and family—especially her granddaughter. Cathy is an avid cook and baker, and is known for bringing samples of her delicious creations to share with co-workers. She also shares her culinary gift with her church, baking items for funerals and serving food at church dinners. In addition, Cathy is also a dedicated volunteer who helps with ushering on Sundays. She also loves sports, and is an avid fan of the Green Bay Packers and the Brewers.

FABTECH 2015 Highlights: The Show, GTC Student Wins Welding Competition, Customer/Partners Attending the Show Visit Precision Plus

Michael Reader

Representatives from companies from around the world come together once a year to attend FABTECH, North America’s largest metal forming, fabricating, welding, and finishing exposition, to see everything from the most basic metalworking machines to fringe of technology equipment, products and services.

In 2015, the event was held over four days (November 9-12) at Chicago’s McCormick Place, spread over 700,000 square feet, and welcomed over 40,000 attendees from more than 90 countries.

FABTECH was first held in Cleveland, Ohio in 1981 to showcase advances in technology. Over the years, it forged partnerships with five key trade associations: FMA (Fabricators & Manufacturers Association International), SME (formerly the Society of Manufacturing Engineers), AWS (American Welding Society), PMA (Precision Metalforming Association), and CCAI (Chemical Coaters Association International), resulting in a show that brings together buyers and sellers, and features the latest. FABTECH also offers industry-targeted education.

The show appeals to a vast audience representing the varied and diverse makeup of the manufacturing industry—from the smallest job shop to the largest Fortune 500 manufacturing—as both (and everyone in between) are looking for innovating solutions that could increase their competitive edge.

Live demonstrations, educational sessions, networking and even welding competitions take place over the 4-day event. This year, special event presentations were on point with technology trends and featured programs on additive manufacturing/3D printing, security risks, women in manufacturing, the significance of teamwork within successful organizations.

An always-favorite event is the welding competition, where talented welders compete for the “Best Welder in America” title. The participants were graded on speed and quality, while they demonstrated their skill by making a single-pass SMAW weld with an E7018 on low-carbon steel. First place and $2,500 were awarded to Aaron Oetken, a self-employed welder/fabricator from Iowa. Andrew Miller, a welding engineer at Caterpillar received $500.00 and the third place in the competition. It is worth noting, however, that the second place winner and recipient of $1,000.00 was Tommy Ruge, a student at Gateway Technical College (GTC) in Racine, Wisconsin. Congratulations to Tom, his instructors, and GTC.

Representatives from Precision Plus typically attend FABTECH, as do some of their customer/partners. This year, management team members from a distinguished customer/partner located in Costa Rica, paid a visit to Precision Plus in Elkhorn, Wisconsin, after the show.

On this occasion, the representatives from the company gave a presentation to the entire Precision Plus Team on their company and products. They also discussed the culture they have developed with their employees, their customers and their supply chain partners from whom they require parts that have tolerances as close as +/- 0.0002”, confirming that the final product is not just a mere object, but the result of creative solutions that are obtained through collaboration and dedicated relationships.

In 2016, FABTECH is scheduled to take place in Las Vegas, Nevada on November 16-18, providing, once again a powerfully aligned hands-on, face-to-face business growth experience, featuring North America’s largest collaboration of technology, equipment and knowledge in the metal forming, fabricating, welding and finishing industries.

Updates from Precision Plus’ Quality Assurance Department: Zeiss DuraMax CMM Added to The Production Floor; ISO 9001:2008 Certification

Michael Reader

Zeiss DuraMax CMM

Dale Wittlieff, Director of Quality and Continuous Improvement at Precision Plus (PPI) in Elkhorn, Wisconsin has recently announced the addition of a second Carl Zeiss DuraMax Coordinate Measuring Machine (CMM).

The Zeiss DuraMax CMM is a compact 3-D measuring machine designed for shop floor and production applications, replacing traditional measuring gages with automated CMM programs. The DuraMax is equipped with a “VAST XXT” scanning sensor, which quickly and accurately delivers dimensional information on parts (such as size, form and position) that can be easily reproduced on CNC machines.

Precision Plus placed its first Zeiss DuraMax in the Quality Assurance (QA) Department, and was made available to both the QA staff for inspection purposes, as well as to machine operators, as it is perfect for quick in-between inspections of components.

The accuracy and popularity of the CMM prompted PPI to purchase a second one, to be located on the production floor, near the Miyano CNC machines, increasing operator efficiency, as the operators would not have to walk across the plant to use the CMM in the Quality Assurance Department.

The CMM also comes with the Calypso software, which calculates the ideal measuring run and travel paths. Additionally, it can be loaded from three sides, which contributes to its flexibility.

Along with the new CMM, Precision Plus received an offline seat where CMM programs can be created offline and tested before being released to inspect parts. It also opens up time to perform capability studies for new and existing parts on the CMM in the Quality Assurance Department.

ISO 9001:2008 Recertification

Following an intense recertification process, Precision Plus has formally received its ISO 9001:2008 recertification certificate, valid until September 14, 2018.

The surveillance audit process checked for the company’s ability to consistently provide product that meets customer and applicable statutory and regulatory requirements, as well as enhancing customer satisfaction through the effective application of the system, including processes for continual improvement of the system and the assurance of conformity to customer and applicable statutory and regulatory requirements.

For more information about Precision Plus’ Zeiss DuraMax CMM and/or the company’s ISO recertification, please contact Dale Wittlieff via email or by phone at 262.743.1700.

 

The Brad Pearson Story: A Problem Solver Defines the Future of Manufacturing

Michael Reader

On Saturday, October 10, 2015, Brad Pearson attended Blackhawk Technical College’s Gala and Grand Opening of the school’s new “Advanced Manufacturing Training Center” in Milton, Wisconsin. He was there with his parents, Lori and Don Pearson, and Precision Plus’ Administrative Assistant Luann Dall and her husband Dan. Wisconsin’s Lt. Governor Rebecca Kleefisch was the guest of honor at the function.

Brad is a straight A student at Blackhawk Technical College (BTC), where he is also the student representative for the CNC Technician Advisory Committee. In the afternoons, he drives from Milton to Precision Plus (PPI) in Elkhorn, where he works part-time.

On the night of the event, Lt. Governor Kleefisch approached Brad, and said, “I’ve heard about you and your story! Congratulations!”

 

As a youngster, Brad had always had an affinity for making things, building things, and working on things. He did well in school, and there was no question that after graduating from Elkhorn Area High School, he would probably enroll at U.W. Whitewater to pursue a business degree.

But for Brad, February 27, 2013, would prove to be a day filled with opportunities, as on that day, the First Manufacturing Career Panel would take place at Elkhorn Area High School (EAHS), organized by Mike Reader, President of Precision Plus and JoAnne Pella, CTE Coordinator at the school. Brad was one of nearly 180 students who came to the event to hear industry professionals talk about manufacturing and the highly rewarding careers available, especially for the younger generation.

Brad recalls, “I found Mike’s message amazing, and even thought I didn’t have a chance to meet him personally then, I talked with Mrs. Pella about my interest in meeting him. That request eventually resulted in  youth apprenticeship at Precision Plus in the fall.”

Mike Reader recalls,

It must have been the spring of 2013, when Elkhorn High School CTE Coordinator JoAnne Pella sent me three candidates to interview for the Youth Apprenticeship program Precision Plus was about to launch.

Our directive to Mrs. Pella was clear: We were looking for the “best and brightest” of the next generation, including exceptional character and the willingness to commit to about 3 hours of daily time, starting at 6:30 am–which could be a difficult feat, taking into consideration high school schedules that are jam-packed with coursework, and extracurricular activities.  

One of the candidates was a young man who although did not seem too enthusiastic during the initial interview, exuded with it the moment he stepped on the production floor. Yes, a light flickering in the eyes that proved we had now captured his attention.  I replied to Mrs. Pella that while I had some early reservations about Brad, he had shown a lot of interest on the shop floor, and that we wanted to offer Brad the opportunity to work with us during his senior year.

Brad started out the 2013-2015 PPI Youth Apprenticeship with two other students—one also from EAHS, and the other from Lake Geneva High School.  All three worked directly with Barry Butters, then Director of Education and Training, first covering all the basics in the classroom.  This included basic blue print reading, understanding Geometric Dimensioning & Tolerances (GD&T), measurement equipment and techniques, and machine shop vocabulary—no, not the swear words, but the manufacturing lingo. 

Each apprentice received clear instructions on how they would be introduced to all facets of manufacturing, and that while some activities would be extremely rewarding, others might challenge them with boredom through redundancy. 

After completing classroom instruction, the apprentices worked in a variety of support roles, reinforcing what they had learned, while exercising both body and mind through hands-on activities. These included working in the Secondary Department, where parts receive additional processing; the Finishing Department, where parts are washed/polished; and the Quality Assurance Department, where parts are given a second inspection.  Although sometimes tedious and/or boring, these experiences provide our apprentices with a foundation to draw from as they progressively move from basic platforms to much more complex responsibilities.

Once they had demonstrated an eye for detail and earned the confidence of their mentors, the apprentices were introduced to the Tornos Swiss-Screw machine platform, a mechanical machine used in the production of small, very close tolerance turned parts using custom-shaped cams mounted on a camshaft. Working on the machines helped the students understand the interaction between tools and material.  Once confident on this platform, the apprentices moved through different CNC Swiss platforms, and eventually onto the Miyano CNC turret lathe machines, which can cost up to $600,000 when all tooled up.  The students not only ran the machines, but also inspected them with different gauging equipment, made tooling offsets, and inserted changes.

We often refer to our apprenticeship program as “Karate Kid School,” as the apprentices must first learn all that it takes to get perfect product out the door for our customers.  Some tasks may not be exciting, but every task is as important and it must be considered the most important task in the world.   And every experience is a learning opportunity…even if just to learn why it is important to do it right the first time.

Over the course of the fall semester, Brad was learning quickly and embracing what manufacturing had to offer. He was particularly intrigued by the nuances and the challenges of the manufacturing process and the problem-solving skills required to bring the part from drawing to reality. “Just checking on a part’s tolerance,” mentions Brad, “requires problem-solving skills. If it’s off, I need to offset the problem by making the necessary adjustments.”

Brad was excited about manufacturing and regularly shared his excitement at home. However, there was obvious resistance from his parents, who did not believe manufacturing should be part of the options for Brad’s future.

However, at Mike Reader’s request, they agreed to come to the plant to see what Brad was learning as a youth apprentice. Brad’s parents and sister spent one and a half hours touring the plant, talking with Mike and Barry, observing the type of technology Brad was utilizing, and the skills and knowledge required to properly use the equipment. At the end of the tour, Brad’s parents understood what they saw was not “vintage” manufacturing, but 21st century technology, and have since become Brad’s greatest supporters in his decision to pursue a career in manufacturing.

Upon his high school graduation in the spring of 2014, Brad rolled into PPI’s summer internship program, where he continued his journey. “And it’s been a journey ever since,” reiterates Brad, “Precision Plus and manufacturing are very special to me. One day I may even want to have my own manufacturing business!”

As the beginning of the 2014-2015 academic year was approaching, Brad had to make a final decision as to his next step. He had three options: he could continue with his on-the-job training while working full time, he could enroll in a technical college to pursue a machining degree, or he could pursue a 4-year degree. “Barry and Mike took me around to different technical schools, but I fell in love with Blackhawk Technical College in Milton and with its state-of-the-art CNC training facilities.” And that was his final choice.

Mike continues,

Between Brad, Barry and myself, we set a plan in place where Brad would take classes during the day and work about 4 hours in the evening to reinforce what he was learning in the classroom.  We also had set up a reimbursement plan whereby we would refund him 100% for As, 50% for Bs and nothing for Cs.  Some would say this is a tall order, but the goal is clear: We want to nurture the “best and brightest.” Average does not cut it these days. 

Brad continued his school/work efforts through both the fall and spring semesters, and then brought his transcripts in for Barry and me to review.  It was with great delight that we saw nothing but straight As in every class, both semesters.  A check was drafted and presented to Brad for his full year tuition expenses.  It was a great day for Precision Plus, Brad and his parents. 

Brad is now in his third of the four-semester program and leading his class in all aspects.  BTC and his instructors have done a great job furthering Brad’s education, while we reinforce and focus his energies on how both must go hand in hand.  He is still considering his options for after graduation.

Brad is thoroughly enjoying his experience at Blackhawk Technical College, including being the liaison between his fellow students and the CNC Technician Advisory Committee, serving as a communication bridge between the two groups.

At Precision Plus, he currently operates a Miyano lathe and loves the process involved in solving problems. He thanks his mentors, Ryan Landreman, Sam Kirkland, Victor Moreno and Curt Hibl.

Whenever he can, Brad also shares his message with others as he promotes manufacturing as a career, and a not job.  As a matter of fact, a year after he first heard Mike at EAHS, Brad talked about his manufacturing experience to 200 attendees at the Second Annual Manufacturing Career Panel. He has also talked to students at Delavan High School, has been to the Capitol, was interviewed by the Lake Geneva News, and by the office of Secretary Reggie Newson of the Wisconsin Department of Workforce Development, just to name a few.

As far as the future is concerned, Brad will continue to look at all opportunities, but hone in on his own hope to make a difference and change the world. After all, he is a problem solver.

At Precision Plus, we are grateful for that snowy day in February of 2013, not only for Brad, but also for everyone who has shared in his enthusiasm for the industry ever since.

It is clear why so many people, including Lt. Governor Kleefisch, already know Brad Pearson, his story and his love for and commitment to manufacturing. And there is no question that given the opportunity to change the world, he will.

 

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