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Millennials in Manufacturing – Precision Plus’ Interns Featured in Wisconsin Manufacturing & Commerce Video

Michael Reader

Several of Elkhorn, WI’s Precision Plus’s summer college or college-bound interns were recently interviewed to get their take on working at a 21st century high tech manufacturing facility. The video was produced by Wisconsin Manufacturing & Commerce, Wisconsin’s Chamber of Commerce, to celebrate Wisconsin Manufacturing Month.

Here are some of the comments from the interns:

  • “You create something from a piece of bar.”
  • “You can touch and see something you drew on the computer”
  • “You get to operate machinery that’s really expensive and they trust you.”
  • “In the classroom, you learn all of the logistics, but here you actually get to do it.”
  • “You look forward to the challenges, but you know that if you get stuck, you can ask someone.”
  • “Expectations are not right. This is not a manufacturing plant from the 1800s!”
  • “You’re just not sitting down. You’re constantly moving!”

Precision Plus is proud to have both internship and apprenticeship programs that connect millennials with manufacturing, providing hands-on experience that is bound to contribute to their future and the future of our country.

For more information on Precision Plus’ internship and apprenticeship programs, please contact Mark Beilman, Director of Education and Training by email, or by phone at 262-743-1700.

What’s It Like Working at Precision Plus in Elkhorn, Wisconsin as a Summer Intern?

Michael Reader

As we, at Precision Plus, were ready to send off our 2015 summer interns to (or back to) college, we asked them what they thought of their experience, what they took away from it, and how their internships may have an effect on their future careers.

This is what they had to say:

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After being an intern at Precision Plus for two years I’ve come to fully understand how on the job learning can greatly benefit my college experience. It’s taught me skills that I would later use some way in the classroom or in my extracurricular activities. I would definitely recommend being an intern at Precision Plus; it’s a great atmosphere, there are plenty of helpful co-workers, and any internship that can be done before graduating from school will help define what you want the future to hold. I have truly enjoyed my experiences here and have learned so much. Thanks to everyone at Precision Plus -Britt Campbell

The 3-year summer intern experience I have had at Precision Plus has awarded me with a better understanding of the manufacturing industry. In my first summer I got a little experience on the different types of machines and areas within the company. The second year I trained other interns while working as an operator, explicitly on the Tornos CAM platform. This was my third summer at Precision Plus, and I have gained a lot of further knowledge on the Tornos machines. I now know how to setup new jobs, and make adjustments to existing ones. This entire opportunity has allowed me to work with my hands and apply problem solving practices, which has been very rewarding to me. I thank everyone that I have worked with over the summers for their guidance and teaching me about manufacturing. -Bob Dall

My experience as an intern at Precision Plus has exposed me to what actually happens in the world of manufacturing a part. I have learned what features on parts are easy or difficult to hold, differences in materials, and fine-tuned my print reading skills. All of these things I believe will help me in my future as an engineer to make better parts, thus better products at cost effective pricing. The internship is something that many other people my age do not get the opportunity to be in, effectively setting myself apart in the job market. Whether you are straight out of high school or planning on attending a 2-year or 4-year post secondary education, an internship in something close to your field is very important. Actually having a job, no matter the field, is a large thing to help future employment opportunities. Precision Plus is helping me to transition from education to the workforce through my internship. -Matt Dowell

I very much enjoyed my time at Precision Plus The problems I was presented with, although frustrating at times, provided challenges that stretched my abilities and gave me a learning experience that cannot be provided in a classroom.  My favorite thing about this internship was being able to work in a field that pertains to my career aspirations. I will be majoring in computer engineering at MSOE this fall and, as the major suggests, hope to become a computer engineer. Working in an IT position has given me insight into how the computers I will be designing work together and communicate. Learning firsthand how a larger network is maintained has given me a perspective that not many students, and many fewer incoming freshman, will have. This advantage will help me not only in the classroom, but also in the job market. I would definitely recommend this internship program. Although there is only one IT intern position and I wouldn’t want someone else to take it, I know the other interns get similar firsthand experience that is invaluable to anyone going into manufacturing or a related field. -Jessica Flock

My name is Kyle Gorst.  I’ve been with Precision Plus for a year now, and am heading into my first year at Gateway Tech.  Doing this internship with Precision Plus has been very beneficial to my future career. They put me through all of the departments in their shop and taught me a lot. I am currently a CAM and Miyano operator.  I would recommend this internship to any student interested in the manufacturing field. -Kyle Gorst

This internship has been extremely valuable to me. The way I believe it has been the most valuable is by giving me real experience in the manufacturing industry. This experience is something that cannot be gained through classes or books, but rather it can only be gained through an opportunity such as this one. The most beneficial thing I have learned during my time at Precision Plus is the knowledge of all of the steps involved in creating a certain part. As an engineer, it is one thing to be able to design a part that works in a model on the computer, but it’s an even more important thing to design a part that not only works in a model, but also is feasible to make without being cost prohibitive. By working here, I have gained a better understanding of what some of the limitations are of designing a part, which will hopefully set me apart from other engineers who have not had hands on experience like this. -Brad Killen

Overall, I had a great summer being part of the internship program here at Precision Plus I would say that my main role was a floater; I would help out where needed. I spent numerous weeks working in the finishing department, Quality Assurance, and as a CAM operator. While some jobs were more boring than others, the work day went by fast. There is always a job to be done, so you’re never left sitting looking at the clock. Over the past two summers, I have gained many valuable skills that I will be able to use in future jobs. I also believe that interning here has made me more marketable. I would highly recommend this internship. -Sergey Klyukvin

I gained the most from learning on the job and experiencing hands on what it’s like to create and design parts from scratch.  I enjoyed the critical thinking skills I had to endure while working on set ups as well. Learning different viewpoints from the other workers around here has helped me to better understand the multiple ways there are to inspect parts as well.  This experience has helped me to pursue this career even further than I had originally planned.  Working at Precision Plus has definitely encouraged me to always try my best and always be open to try new things. -Amanda Mudlaff

To say my experience at Precision Plus Inc. this summer has been invaluable is an understatement. I have been trained in multiple facets of the ‘business’ sector of Precision Plus Inc. – everything from quoting, to a visit to a customer plant has been covered. I also had the opportunity of testing/validating a laser engraver for some of the parts produced, which I really enjoyed. I really believe that my ‘real-world’ engineering knowledge has started to take form, and can be attributed to the experience I’ve received these past two years interning at Precision Plus Inc. I would certainly recommend an internship at Precision Plus Inc. for those pursuing a technical field of study. It’s a testament to work force commitment that a company of this size would invest so much time, money, and effort into us interns. I think I can speak for all of us when I say it is greatly appreciated. -Jake Ruemmele

Working as an intern for Precision Plus has been an invaluable experience as I was able to not only design parts, but also witness the process of making them. This experience will be extremely useful in my future plans of becoming an engineer. Knowing and understanding the manufacturing process will help make designing new parts or products much easier because I will know the process that goes into actually making them. At first, I pictured working in a factory as being dirty, grueling work, but after working here, I have realized that the manufacturing industry has improved drastically and is no longer the dirty work it used to be. I would recommend entering into the manufacturing to people who work better with their hands and to future engineers so that they can find what interests them in this field. -Tristan Steiner

My name is Troy Steinfest, and I was given the great opportunity to intern at Precision Plus The two summers that I spent here has given me the experience that will help me in my future endeavors. This opportunity will also impact my education as I will be furthering it as I attend the University of Wisconsin-Platteville pursuing a degree in Electrical Engineering. I would recommend any student looking into engineering to consider finding an internship like this that allows someone to see the overall process of how a business works. My favorite experience while working here has to be learning all the individual points of manufacturing a part, and then seeing all the individual work come together to form the final product. The platform that I most enjoyed in the process is Material Handling. Here I was able to see all the material that enters and leaves the company. I learned that a very important factor in keeping a company running smoothly is organization. These experiences are ultimately priceless, and I recommend all students look into programs similar to what Precision Plus has set up. -Troy Steinfest

Precision Plus thanks the summer interns for their contribution and enthusiasm, and wishes them continued success in their studies.

Firm Makes Precision Parts, Builds Talent – Precision Plus in the News

Michael Reader

This is a reprint of an article authored by Chris Schultz, which first appeared in the Lake Geneva News on July 21, 2015

Firm makes precision parts, builds talent

POINTING THE WAY, Barry Butters, education coordinator at Precision Plus, Elkhorn, leads Reggie Newson, right, secretary for the Wisconsin Department of Workforce Development, on a tour of the Precision Plus work floor during Newson’s visit to the plant on July 15.

July 21, 2015 | 10:23 AM

ELKHORN — Reggie Newson, Wisconsin Department of Workforce Development secretary, said he was impressed with Precision Plus, 840 Koopman Lane.

Newson paid a visit to the company on July 15. It was his first time at Precision Plus

The relatively small, privately-owned firm is a modern facility with state-of-the-art machinery that specializes in precision-turned metal components for a variety of uses, from cuff links to military ordnance.

But more importantly, the company is manufacturing talent, Newson said.

Three years ago, Mike Reader, president and CEO of Precision Plus started a training program that brought in high school and college students from Wisconsin and Illinois, teaching them the basics of precision engineering and manufacturing, and giving them real-life experience on the work floor.

Reader also hired Barry Butters, a former teacher and school administrator in Elkhorn and Williams Bay, as the company’s education services coordinator.

Precision Plus has done well, fitting into its niche of shaping metal pieces to precise tolerances.

The company recently more than doubled its floorspace, going from about 45,000-square-feet to more than 100,000-square-feet.

It is also installing 100 kilowatt solar panels on the roof.

“It’s the largest industrial solar array in Walworth County,” Reader said. The array will feed sun-created electrical power into the building’s main panel and excess will go out on the grid. Reader said he’s working with the local utility so his company can earn credits for the electricity it creates.

But the company’s self-proclaimed mission of reaching out to students interested in manufacturing and enrolling them in the company’s apprentice training program has attracted interest from educators and business owners across the state.

In 2014, the company added a new education center with eight precision computer learning stations where, without wasting a single piece of metal, students can see how a part is cut and shaved and shaped by one of the company’s computer numeric control (CNC) lathes.

Autodesk Inc., San Rafael, California, makes the software for the virtual machining simulation.

The company donated $100,000 in computer software to Precision Plus for the education center.

Butters has said that the CNC machines, which operate in three dimensions, are smart. The human operators have to be smarter.

For its efforts, Precision Plus also won the 2014 State Superintendent Business Friends of Education Award.

Newson said he wished he had “50 or so” other manufacturing employers with him on the tour. “They are having a challenging time finding talented individuals to fill their positions,” he said.

Precision Plus has developed a strong relationship with Elkhorn Area High School, and JoAnne Pella, the school’s career and technical education coordinator.

KEEPING HER EYES on the job, Amanda Mudlaff, an apprentice at Precision Plus, is an East Troy High School graduate and student at the Milwaukee School of Engineering. Photo by Chris Schultz/Regional News.

The company and school coordinate an annual Manufacturing Careers Panel at Elkhorn High School, where leading manufacturers are invited in to talk with students interested in the business of making things.

Reader said Precision Plus is also collaborating with Scott Forge in Illinois in the apprentice training program.

Reader said he is now trying to create an intern exchange program with Swiss precision manufacturers.

Precision Plus has 16 high school and college students in the apprentice program now.

Newson said he was impressed with the knowledge and self-confidence of the students who are participating in Precision Plus’ program

“This is the model,” Newson said during a sit down talk with students in the Precision Plus apprenticeship program.

About three years ago, manufacturers around the state were complaining that schools were not producing enough talent to fit their needs, said Reader. And he decided about that time “it’s time to stop whining about it, and get involved.”

Reader said he’s still reaching out to educators to get them involved in getting information to students about the futures in manufacturing.

And, he said, he wants to convince other companies that training future engineers is in their own best interests, even if the engineers they train don’t wind up working for them.

He described the progress as “slow but sure.”

“This is a long-term project,” Reader said. “This is years in the making.”

The best salespersons may be the apprentices themselves.

Newson said he became interested in Precision Plus after meeting student Kyle Gorst at a Project Lead the Way conference at Elkhorn High School last year, where Gorst gave a speech and presentation about his apprenticeship at Precision Plus

Newson said he was so impressed with Gorst’s presentation about the Precision Plus program that he decided to visit. Among the students he met at Precision Plus were Amanda Mudlaff, an East Troy High School graduate, now attending Milwaukee School of Engineering, while gaining practical experience working on projects at Precision Plus

She was the recipient of a $5,000 scholarship to MSOE.

Brittany Campbell, a Badger High School graduate who races in the Midwest small car racing circuit has an interest in automotive design.

She’s been in the program for two years and is now in her sophomore year at MSOE.

Ryan Reader, Mike’s son, is also in the program.

Brad Pearson, now at Blackhawk Technical College, said his parents at first weren’t happy with his decision to go into manufacturing.

Many still think manufacturing in terms of the “3Ds,” Pierson said. That is, dumb, dirty and dangerous work.

He said his parents’ concerns weren’t allayed until Reader and Butters took them on a guided tour of the well-lit, atmosphere-controlled Precision Parts plant.

“We had to convince mom and dad, no doubt,” Butters said.

Newson said he was impressed with the level of proficiency the students were demonstrating on the production floor.

“You are very talented and you’re doing it. You’re running the machines.” Newson told the students.

Newson said that the Wall Street Journal did a study and found that students with work and intern experience, even those with mediocre grades, were far more likely to be hired by manufacturing companies than students without experience, even those with the high grades.

Newson said there are hundreds of companies now with programs similar to Precision Plus, “but we want thousands.”

He said there are now 3,000 students who are part of the state’s youth Apprenticeship program, an increase from 2,500 just a few years ago. Many of the Youth Apprentice programs are coordinated through the state’s Cooperative Education Service Agency (CESA) districts.

“Youth Apprenticeship is one of our big programs we want to promote,” Newson said.

Before leaving, Newson asked what he could do. Reader said it was important that the state get the word out about the apprenticeship programs to other manufacturers in the state.

“They haven’t seen it, they haven’t heard about it and they can’t figure it out for themselves.” Reader said.

“I want to see this everywhere,” Reader added. “Help us get that message out.”

A Day in the Life of Precision Plus Apprentice Amanda Mudlaff

Michael Reader

So, what does it take to be a Precision Plus apprentice?

This is Amanda’s story.

Amanda Mudlaff is your typical high school senior, involved in sports—track and field, including pole vaulting, cheerleading, dancing…and homework.  Her extracurricular activities include being an FFA member, a wrestling manager, a multi-cultural club member, and a youth cheerleading coach. She is also a member of the National Honor Society.

Amanda also loves everything marine related. She practically grew up “living” on boats during her summers in Wisconsin, enjoying water sports, boating, and helping take care of her family’s Sea Ray 250 SLX. In fact, her passion for the marine field has inspired her to pursue a degree in marine engineering.

When her junior year shop teacher at East Troy High School mentioned a summer internship opportunity at Precision Plus, Amanda jumped at the opportunity. Not knowing what to expect, she was impressed with the process, as it required filling out an application, going to a formal interview, and having to wait about a week to get a reply. She was accepted into the program, along with 18 other interns, selected from dozens of applications.

The paid summer internship was held from June 15 through the last week of August of 2014, and it required interns to work 40 hours per week. The program included classroom time to learn and design with Autodesk Inventor CAD and PartMaker CAM software, as well as plant, machinery and business processes observation, and hands-on learning on tools and equipment.

When in the summer of 2014, Precision Plus announced their 2014-2015 Apprenticeship Program, Amanda turned in her application again and was subsequently accepted as one of six apprentices. The program expects active participation at both the company and their respective high schools, and the apprentices must adhere to a number of academic standards.

Monday through Friday, Amanda arrives at Precision Plus at 6am and primarily works in the Quality Lab, where she counts the components for a particular order, inspects the finish and checks all dimensions against order specs. She inspects parts visually for chips and she also uses equipment such as calipers, micrometers, oasis, comparators, and gauges to help streamline the process, making sure to record all discrepancies and accept or reject the components. She compares the inspection process with that of an active investigation, where no stone remains unturned.

At 9am, Amanda leaves the plant to go to class, and tend to all of her extracurricular activities.

This fall, Amanda will begin a new chapter in her life as a freshman at Milwaukee School of Engineering, where she will pursue marine engineering as a career. Amanda is also a recipient of one of two $5,000 Precision Plus MSOE merit scholarships.

For more information about Precision Plus’ Summer Internship and School-Year Apprenticeship Programs, please contact Barry Butters, Director of Education and Training via phone or email.

Precision Plus Featured in Wisconsin STEM Pathways Magazine, Fall 2014

Michael Reader

Precision Plus is honored to be featured in the latest issue of Wisconsin STEM Pathways Magazine.  The article, entitled Companies in the Classroom–Putting the Classroom in the Workplace, chronicles the company’s two year journey from a concept to the reality of having an internship and a apprenticeship program for high school and college students, as well as a fully equipped classroom within its facilities.  To download a PDF of the complete article, click here.

 

Precision Plus Spotlighted During the Project Lead The Way’s Wisconsin Professional Development Conference

Michael Reader

Project Lead The Way (PLTW) is much more than a slogan to companies involved in trying to find new talent.  It exemplifies one of the premier programs in providing educational curricular programs to schools across the United States with over 5,000 schools nationwide participating in the movement.

PLTW’s focus is on science is on STEM–technology, engineering, and mathematics. STEM education is at the heart of today’s high-tech, high-skill global economy.  In a typical year, over 3,000 high-school and middle-school teachers and counselors are trained through the PLTW programs, and PLTW-Wisconsin ranks second among all states, with over 60 new Wisconsin schools joining PLTW in 2013.

Precision Plus helped sponsor the 2013 PLTW – Wisconsin Professional Development Conference held at the Country Springs Hotel and Convention Center on December 9th & 10th .  President Mike Reader, and Director of Education and Outreach, Barry Butters were in attendance for the opening night dinner and keynote speech by Lieutenant Governor, Rebecca Kleefisch.

Not only did Mike and Barry find themselves at the same dinner table as the Lt. Governor and Milwaukee School of Engineering President, Dr. Hermann Viets, but were both deeply humbled to hear the Precision Plus name prominently mentioned in the keynote address, with reference to setting the foundations for economic development in our State.

Specifically, Lt. Governor Kleefisch referred to the ongoing efforts of Precision Plus in helping with education and training efforts throughout the community.  Internships, participation in the Wisconsin Aerospace Consortium, activities for Wisconsin Manufacturing Day, and an active role with local school programs have all helped to put the company at the forefront of developing the next generation of manufacturers.

Precision Plus supports  PLTW Wisconsin and works with the organization to bring STEM to the front burner. The Lt. Governor’s comments reiterated the values for which Precision Plus stands.  Two of our pillars of business are ‘Integrity and Empowerment.’ Being a valuable member of the community is one of the values of our ‘Pillar of Integrity.’  Providing training opportunities to our current and future employees, fuels our ‘Pillar of Empowerment.’

In as much as we are thankful for the recognition, we know that our efforts to bring manufacturing back to the United States are just at the beginning stages.

Precision Plus of Elkhorn, WI Hires Ten Interns During Summer 2013

Michael Reader

Precision Plus’s Efforts to Fill the Skills Gap:  First Installment.
By Barry Butters

Mike Reader, President of Precision Plus is attempting to do his part to fill the skills gap in the manufacturing industry. He explains that there is no shortage of work and that Precision Plus is ready to commit to expansion. However, he adds, “One of the greatest impediments to our expansion project is the lack of a large enough work force with the skills necessary to meet the new demands of  CNC machining.”

As a result, Mike Reader has felt a sense of urgency to act and take steps to become part of the solution.  Reader’s involvement stems from a personal goal to help local, state, national and global communities understand the manufacturing industry as a whole and its employment opportunities.

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Committed to the movement, Mike Reader and Precision Plus have begun to put the gears in motion:

Late in 2012, Mike invited twenty-four area administrators, guidance counselors and educators to tour Precision Plus and to discuss the manufacturing opportunities available for high school graduates in the area.

Following that meeting and together with Elkhorn Area High School, Mike organized a career panel comprised of manufacturing professionals.  Panelists included Dan Murphy, Regional Sales Manager at Rem Sales, LLC, Darlene Miller, President and CEO of Permac Industries and Vice President of Precision Machined Products Association (PMPA), John Murphy, President of Morris Midwest, LLC, Olaf Tessarzyk, Managing Partner of ZPS America, LLC, and himself. In spite of a severe winter snow storm, 180 students from three area high schools (Geneva Badger, Williams Bay and Elkhorn) attended the event.  For one and a half hours on February 27, 2013, the panelists and students engaged in a genuine discussion about the state of the industry and the possibilities manufacturing has available for young people finishing high school.

The career panel meeting stimulated a great deal of interest from students which led to Precision Plus’ hiring of ten summer interns, who joined Precision Plus on June 10, 2013.

Three of the interns were college students pursuing engineering majors:  Markus Gudel, attending University of Wisconsin—Platteville, and Milwaukee School of Engineering’s Charlie Dall and Mike Reader, Jr.  Four of the interns were graduating high school seniors, who would begin their undergraduate engineering schooling in the fall:  Bob Dall and Brad Killen who would attend University of Wisconsin–Madison, Martin Korsholm, who would attend Purdue University,  and Jon Stopple, who would attend University of Wisconsin–Platteville.  The other three interns were high school students from Richmond Burton H.S. and Elkhorn Area H.S., Ryan Reader, Carson Filko and Jordan Barr.

The interns came to Precision Plus with high-achieving academic records and outstanding characters. The goal was to immerse them in the real operations of the precision CNC machining industry, as they rotated through each department and the four machining platforms.  They learned to help with set-ups and operated the machines doing off-sets and verifying the components were within tolerances.  The interns also participated in three outings as they toured the  Milwaukee Area Technical College (MATC) machining facilities, the SC Johnson Integrated Manufacturing and Engineering Technology (iMET) Center in Sturtevant, and the Snap-on Tools facility in Kenosha.

At the end of the internship, it was obvious that these interns took away more than just hand-on experience, but an understanding of the value of manufacturing, committing to become ambassadors for the manufacturing industry.

Precision Plus looks forward to the next crop of interns who will continue to help forging the future of the industry.