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Christmas Reflections by Mike Reader

Michael Reader

Time through the Hands of the Young of Yesteryear

To me, and many others of my generation, the notion that time goes by more quickly the older we get, is actually becoming a reality.

When we were young, there seemed to be an eternity from one Christmas to the next. Remember when you were “five and a quarter” or “six and a half?” Looking back, I have fond memories of waiting for the Sears and the JC Penney Christmas catalogs to arrive—by U.S. Postal Service—sometime in early September. Plenty of time to dream about Christmas presents…   My sisters and I would flip through every page, front to back, looking for the latest in toys, so we could show our parents and put them on our Christmas lists.

Delivering Value to our Customers

Michael Reader

Doing business today, is no longer a static proposition. Driven by dynamic forces, it is an undertaking that is both exciting and challenging and requires constant reevaluation.

“Value” in manufacturing is often defined as the ratio of “function” to “cost.” “Function” brings the product to life. “Cost” is the amalgamation of elements such as raw materials, and production, including processes such as engineering, quoting, sales, purchasing, machine time, assembly, shipping, etc. Unfortunately, and as we all know, “Cost” is not simple to control.

“Value” can also be defined as the opportunity to implement improvements that will allow customers to remain competitive in the marketplace. At Precision Plus (PPI), we strive to deliver that value.

A Thanksgiving Note from Mike Reader

Michael Reader

On Thanksgiving, and all through the year, there is so much to be thankful for…

Thanksgiving is a special celebration in our country.  Although originally, people may have gathered to give thanks and bless the harvest after months of working the fields, the spirit of the celebration remains in a state of gratitude, when families and friends gather to pause, be grateful for the simple things in life, and break bread.

When I reflect on my own gratitude, the first thing that comes to mind is the health and wellbeing of my family, friends and colleagues.  This is a reality that can change in an instant, and deserves never-ending appreciation.

Next, I am also thankful to be surrounded by wonderful people who, in one way or another, make a difference in the lives of everyone with whom they come in contact.  Given the opportunity, each one of us has the chance to enrich someone else’s life, validating the deeper purpose and meaning of our actions and our existence.

Last, how fitting is it that during this month of Thanksgiving, we also honor our veterans, whom without their efforts and sacrifice, we would not enjoy the freedoms we do?  Let us remember to thank our veterans every day of the year.

In these times of ongoing conflict around the world, I hope we can find a way to have respectful and constructive conversations to solve our differences of opinion, and continue to build a better place for all.

On behalf of everyone at Precision Plus, we wish for you and yours to enjoy your time together this Thanksgiving.

Mike

Michael J Reader
President
Precision Plus
readerm@preplus.com

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.

 

Precision Plus’ President Mike Reader Speaks at The Economic Forum Presented by the La Crosse Area Development Corporation

Michael Reader

Mike Reader, President of Precision Plus of Elkhorn Wisconsin was invited to speak at The Economic Forum presented by the La Crosse Area Development Corporation (LADCO) on Thursday, October 8, 2015. The presentation was entitled “Workforce Development Challenges & Strategies,” addressing tangible steps for manufacturers to take to help tackle workforce challenges.


The October 8th event also featured Ann Franz from Northeast Wisconsin Technical College, and Mark Kaiser from Lindquist Machine Corporation, both representing the NEW Manufacturing Alliance (NMA) of Northeast Wisconsin. James Hill of LADCO moderated the forum.

All three presenters addressed two common threads: how to raise industry and career awareness, and how to promote collaboration between sectors.

The NMA represents a group of manufacturers who work with educators, workforce developers, chambers of commerce and state organizations to promote manufacturing in Northeast Wisconsin. Franz and Kaiser explained how the organization makes available valuable resources through their outreach program, listing manufacturers who regularly offer plant tours, have representatives who can speak about the industry and career opportunities, offer college internships, job shadowing, mentoring, and youth apprenticeships. In addition, the organization makes available to educators a number of tools to deploy in the classroom, and prospective employees a model pathway for shaping their careers.

Reader recounted his own personal journey to turn the skills gap tables, when he “stopped complaining” and began reaching out to educators, legislators, associations and fellow manufacturers, while organizing career panels, plant tours for students and parents, participating in career fairs, and hiring a dedicated individual to undertake the outreach efforts on a full-time basis. He also established internships and apprenticeships, created scholarships, crafted tuition reimbursement programs, joined career and technical education (CTE) committees, and invested in local education—efforts which, along the way, have nurtured individuals who now make Precision Plus their employer.

LADCO businesses attending the forum, walked away with a wealth of executable ideas. La Crosse, WI is a key city in Western Wisconsin located along the Mississippi River, in what is called the “Coulee Region Business Center,” ideally located to serve the tri-state area of Wisconsin, Minnesota, and Iowa. LADCO is an organization that strives to promote and retain business in the area, offering an array of business related programs throughout the year.

 

Precision Plus of Elkhorn, WI Celebrates MFG DAY with an Open House for the Community on October 8, 2015

Michael Reader

We want to extend a sincere “Thank You!” to everyone who helped make Precision Plus’ (PPI) 2015 Manufacturing Day (MFG DAY) Open House a success!

In all, there were forty-two guests who participated in the event on Thursday, October 8, 2015–members of our community that included educators, students, business partners, and the public at large.

The evening event, which began at 5:00 pm and concluded at 7:30 pm, centered on the manufacturing process as it is practiced at Precision Plus

Mike Reader, President and CEO of Precision Plus kicked off the evening by introducing the team, and sharing his thoughts about manufacturing. He pointed out the marked shift the industry has made over the years from a “dark, dirty and dangerous” environment, to clean, high tech industry surroundings that offer rewarding, high-paying careers to individuals who can combine their applied knowledge of STEM disciplines (Science, Technology, Engineering and Math), with the practical know-how of how things get done.

Following, several team members spoke about some of the different aspects of the operation:

  • Bill Wells, Sales and Engineering Manager, addressed the quoting and purchasing aspect of the business;
  • Rachel Cates, CAD Drafting, Engineering & Quality Assurance Support Specialist, talked about the design process, and featured a 3D design of a component;
  • Steve Dues, Application Engineer, explained how the CAM software works, and shared a video that takes a part from a 3D print design, through the CAM software to the CNC machine;
  • Terry Mumper, Manufacturing Engineer, talked about the Tornos machines, and the importance of math for designing CAMs;
  • Tom Lankford, Production Manager, explained how to optimally schedule production on different machines, and talked about the benefits to start “getting your hands dirty early in shop classes,” in order to become successful in a machining career;
  • Dale Wittlieff, Director of Quality and Continuous Improvement, talked about how quality fits into “everything” that PPI does, and explained the specifics.
  • Mark Beilman, Director of Education and Training, spoke about PPI’s education outreach, and showed the “Millennials Video” made by Wisconsin Manufacturing & Commerce.

Following the presentations, guests took tours of the facility, had refreshments and took home a key chain souvenir, a scaled replica of the component featured by Rachel Cates in the 3D design and by Steve Dues in the video.

We look forward to MFG DAY 2016!

Take a Virtual Tour of Precision Plus, Swiss Precision Manufacturer in Elkhorn, Wisconsin

Michael Reader

Mike Reader, President of Precision Plus of Elkhorn, Wisconsin, takes us on a virtual tour of the plant. The company is a Swiss precision contract manufacturer, typically producing components requiring tight tolerances.

In this guided tour, Reader shows us how tiny components used in a variety of industries are actually made, some of them boasting tolerances as tight at 5/10,000 of an inch, or about 1/10 the diameter of a typical strand of hair.

Parts manufactured at Precision Plus on automatic lathe machines begin as bar stock, which through a number of operations is “peeled away” yielding complex, mission-critical components for industries such as aerospace, military, automotive, medical/dental, pneumatic/hydraulic and industrial.

In this video, Reader also talks about how the manufacturing industry has changed over the years, now requiring to employ exceptional individuals who excel in math and science and who can have the ability to program machinery and produce complex components with tight tolerances. The company supports many educational initiatives, offers internships and apprenticeships, and works with programs that support STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering and Math) disciplines.

This video was produced by Wisconsin Manufacturing & Commerce, an organization that supports Wisconsin manufacturers. October has been designed as Manufacturing Month in Wisconsin.

Production Machining Magazine Features Precision Plus’s Internship Program

Michael Reader

Production Machining Magazine’s Chris Koepfer, Editor in Chief, writes a monthly column to its readership, expressing his thoughts on certain topics. In September of 2015, his column focused on talent acquisition and featured Precision Plus as a game changer.

Koepfer recounted a recent trip to visit Horn, a cutting tool manufacturer in southern Germany. Horn, as most companies in Europe regardless of size, has an apprenticeship program in place. This manufacturer regularly employs 60 apprentices, contributing to the creation of a pipeline of qualified manufacturing professionals.

Koepfer remarks that although the U.S. lags behind, there is a “maker movement” afoot, a grassroots initiative which has begun to change the course of manufacturing. In his column, he spotlights Wisconsin’s Precision Plus and President Mike Reader as examples of what some manufacturers are doing to promote the trend, including establishing internship and apprenticeship programs that nurture future manufacturing professionals. “The idea is to give these candidates real-life experience on the shop floor with the goal of showing that manufacturing’s historic image is simply not relevant in a modern shop.”

For a PDF of this article, please click HERE.
To read it online on Production Machining Magazine, click HERE.

Precision Plus appreciates the recognition and thanks Chris Koepfer and Production Machining Magazine for the inclusion.

 

Stefan Brusky of Tsugami/Rem Sales Rebuilds a Petermann No. 0 Lathe, and Brings Swiss Precision History to the 21st Century

Michael Reader

Stefan Brusky serves as Midwest Regional Sales Manager at Tsugami/Rem Sales Machine Tools. Rem Sales is the exclusive North American importer of Tsugami’s extensive range of Swiss precision CNC machines and tools. This technical sales position keeps Brusky quite busy, as he oversees Tsugami/Rem’s sales operations in Minnesota, North Dakota, Northern Illinois, South Dakota and Wisconsin.

Machines have been a part of Stefan Brusky’s life from the time he can remember, learning all about them hands-on from his father. However, he admits that one of his favorite pastimes has always been taking engines and machines apart and rebuilding them. “I typically don’t work from plans,” he says, “I’ve been rebuilding engines and machines since I was 14 years old…so I know how these things work.”

A few years ago, Brusky came across a No. 0 Petermann Swiss-Auto lathe, which was collecting dust in his father’s basement and appeared to be in dire need of restoration. So, he took it upon himself to take it apart and rebuild it…”a fun labor of love that took about two months to complete,” he adds.

The Petermann automatic lathes originate from the French-speaking town of Moutier in Switzerland, one of the most important Swiss watch and Swiss precision centers, also the home of Swiss precision pioneers such as A. Bechler and Tornos.

The Swiss precision industry was revolutionized in the 1870s by the introduction of the automatic lathe, where some its actions could be mechanically automated, by being driven by flat belts from overhead line shafting. By 1930, most Swiss-Auto machines had self-contained drives with built-in motors and countershafts or speed-change gearboxes. However, their complex design did not yield the spindle speeds range the industry consistently demanded.

Petermann solved this issue when the company introduced its No. 0 model, accomplished “by passing the drive through a simple gearbox fitted with ‘pick-off’ wheels that the operator could change himself.” This pre-WWII jewel, was the smallest Petermann lathe, and was intended “for material up to 4 mm (0.157″) diameter in brass, and 2.5 mm (0.098″) in steel.” Additionally, with the No. 0 model, Petermann also was able to introduce the ‘micro-differential apparatus’, where a micrometer was mounted on the end of each tool holder, which allowed for very precise adjustments when making small parts. “The first setting took accuracy to within 0.01 mm of turned diameter and the second to within 0.001 mm (0.00004″).” Petermann subsequently produced larger machines that could handle diameters up to 30 mm.

For Brusky, rebuilding the No. 0 Petermann Swiss-Auto lathe meant experiencing the history of an industry he loves. Over 200 parts came apart and came together after castings were blasted and repainted, ways were hand scraped, and missing parts were made and incorporated. Today, Stefan Brusky’s No. 0 Petermann  is a completely restored, operational and fully functional gem and piece of history.

Fully-involved in today’s Swiss precision industry, Stefan Brusky has shown his Petermann No. 0 Swiss-Auto lathe at trade shows, and has granted Precision Plus the opportunity to showcase this amazing piece of Swiss precision history.

Stefan Brusky and his wife Barbara, also own and run SJB Engineering LLC, where they design and produce fly fishing reels, medical parts, and are also involved in gunsmithing and rebuilding machinery.

Mike Reader, President of Precision Plus and the Precision Plus Team give Stefan Brusky a shout out on his outstanding job for rebuilding the Petermann No. 0, and for reminding us of the arduous work and achievements made by so many to make our industry what it is today. ”This is a skill that may soon to be lost if we cannot find the next generation willing to embrace it and carry on the legacy of great accomplishments,” notes Reader.

Precision Plus’ 2015-2016 Year Education Update

Michael Reader

By Mark Beilman
Director of Education and Training

The 2015-2016 academic year is well underway, and so are Precision Plus’ efforts to continue spreading the word among students, parents and teachers about career possibilities in manufacturing.

In addition to visiting schools, talking to technical education teachers, and participating in career and technical education (CTE) committees, Precision Plus (PPI) makes itself present at high school and college career fairs.

On September 9, 2015, PPI was present at the Panther Fest Career Fair at Wilmot Union High School, and plans to be at Beloit High School’s career fair on the 24th. On October 9th, the destination will be Milwaukee School of Engineering (MSOE), which will hold its career fair then.

On September 15, 2015, PPI attended Gateway Technical College Elkhorn Campus’s Open House, which showcased the new Community Center conference room, the Student Life Center, Walworth County Job Center, Walworth County Economic Development Alliance (WCEDA), the Veterinary Sciences building, and the Walworth County Educational Consortium’s Alternative High School.

Drawings of the anticipated new CNC Center were also on display. Precision Plus is fully vested in the success of this program. The first Youth CNC Boot Camp at the Elkhorn Campus began in July. One of the highlights of the program is the mentorship which each individual student receives from a designated industry professional.

A “Meet-and-Greet” luncheon for students and mentors was held at the college on September 18th, where mentors were announced and appointed. The luncheon was sponsored by WCEDA and the Walworth County Job Center. Precision Plus is excited to mentor two students during the 2015-2016 year: Elliot Salentine from East Troy High School and Cameron Bunne from Elkhorn High School. The students will not only receive ongoing mentoring, but will have an opportunity to work at PPI beginning in February of 2016, in accordance to their curriculum.

Precision Plus also encourages schools to bring classes to tour its facilities. On September 16, 2015, Career Advocate Lindsay Healless from Beloit Middle School brought her students to interview Mike Reader and Chris Clausen about careers in manufacturing. The students asked very good questions during the interview, but two of the students, Emily and MacKenzie, stumped Reader and Clausen when asked how they balanced work and their personal lives, and what were the most difficult portions of their jobs.

Two other schools are scheduled to tour the facility in October: the Walworth County Educational Consortium’s Alternative High School on the 8th, and Whitewater High School on the 15th.

The most anticipated event, however, is the celebration of Manufacturing Day (MFG DAY). Precision Plus is opening its doors for an open house on Thursday, October 8, 2015 from 5:00 p.m. until 7:30 p.m. Students, educators, parents, legislators and the public at large are invited to partake in an informal presentation by several PPI employees on what their roles are at the company, and take guided tours of the plant. To attend this event, please register HERE.

Precision Plus is committed to education and to bringing awareness of career opportunities in high-tech manufacturing. To schedule a tour of our facility and/or allow us to make a presentation to your group or organization, please contact Mark Beilman by email or by calling 262-743-1700.

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