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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.”

Gateway Technical College Elkhorn Campus Launches First Midwest Micro Machining Advanced Manufacturing Lab

Michael Reader

By Dana Runimas-Plazyk
Reporting for Precision Plus

Recently, I had the pleasure of talking with Dr. Bryan Albrecht, President of Gateway Technical College (GTC), about the launch of a micro machining (Swiss screw machining) advanced manufacturing facility at the school’s Elkhorn, WI Campus.

When Albrecht joined GTC as its president in 2006, he was charged with creating curricula that directly responded to the need for a highly skilled workforce by Southeast Wisconsin employers, imperative to have in place in order to grow the local economy. He began his tenure by holding “listening sessions,” with local businesses, to enable GTC to understand that need.

The requests were vast and included a ready workforce need for manufacturing, HVAC, IT, health sciences, aeronautic, automotive, hospitality, law enforcement and everything in between. Over the last nine years, many programs have been developed and are successfully in place, addressing the needs of the local business community. Today, Gateway Technical College operates from three campuses in Racine, Kenosha and Walworth counties, and offers advance technical certificates, associate degrees, technical diplomas, and certificates, some online classes, and dual enrollment options with the University of Wisconsin, Parkside.

“On an annual basis, 23,000 students attend Gateway,” says Albrecht. “We currently offer 100 certificate programs and 65 degree programs. Last week alone, we graduated EMS technicians, certified police officers, and SharePoint developers. Additionally, we are working with primary and secondary schools on K12 articulation.”

However, Albrecht points out that in as much as the workforce needs of manufacturers in Kenosha and Racine counties had been met, GTC “couldn’t wrap up” their thoughts for the needs of manufacturers in Walworth County.

He recalls meeting Mike Reader, President of Precision Plus, in 2012 at a career and technical education advisory committee meeting. “Mike’s concern about the lack of a qualified workforce to address the requirements of Walworth County manufacturers struck a chord,” says Albrecht. “Mike and Precision Plus were adamant about changing the situation, and had launched, single-handedly, an educational initiative geared to correct this issue, while bringing attention to–and gaining the support of–educators, organizations and legislators.”

“Changing the situation would also require higher-level technical education,” reflects Albrecht. “Both the Racine and Kenosha Campuses offered associate degrees in manufacturing and machine tool, as well as CNC programs. None was available in Walworth County.” Albrecht recalls Reader’s words: “We have to get this done, Bryan.”

Albrecht considers Mike Reader “a true champion,” who enlisted the help of fellow manufacturers, vendors, customers, legislators, educators, students, and organizations to “get things rolling.” A preliminary study conducted by GTC indicated Walworth County was one of two national hubs (the other being Kosciusko County, IN) for Swiss-type precision manufacturers (micromachining), and that the absence of technically skilled employees to run the specialized equipment, made it hard to grow the local economy.

Albrecht presented Gateway’s Board of Trustees with a plan: To expand the Walworth Campus to include a state-of-art manufacturing center, offering the traditional manufacturing programs already in place at the other two campuses, plus a unique Swiss screw (micromachining) advanced manufacturing program. The latter, would make Gateway Technical College the first institution in the Midwest to offer this specialized training, also contributing to better position Wisconsin in the overall global market.

The current plans for the new manufacturing center include remodeling of the the Elkhorn Campus South Building and an expansion which will bring the total area dedicated to the center to 4,000 sq. ft. The center (yet to be named) will house welding, fabrication, rapid prototype, computer aided design (CAD), engineering, and full-scale precision machining labs. The footprint construction will start in November with an estimated Spring of 2016 completion date.

GTC’s Manufacturing Center officially opened over the summer by offering a Youth CNC Boot Camp, a program designed for high school seniors to finish the school year with a high school degree and a CNC operator certificate.

The CNC adult programs will begin to be offered at the Elkhorn Campus in September.   “We have recently added two new instructors, as all CNC classes at all three campuses are fully enrolled,” adds Albrecht.

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Equipment has been steadily arriving to the new manufacturing center over the last couple of months, and Albrecht reiterates that the total endeavor would not have been possible without Mike Reader’s resolve, his ability to see the big picture, and his talent to simultaneously engage all the pieces that were needed to make the center a reality.

Thus far, four brand new Haas ST-10 lathes, one Tsugami S205 CNC Swiss machine, and an MTA barfeeder are already in place thanks to the tremendous help from Brad Morris of The Morris Group, and Jamie Schwartz of CNC Indexing & Feeding Technologies. Precision Plus not only assisted with the equipment installation, but also with a generous donation of $50,000, which facilitated the purchase of the equipment. Plans are to have at least eight Haas machines, 4 turning and 4 vertical machining centers, when the center is in full operation.

Industry support for GTC’s manufacturing center has been unprecedented, notably, a long-term agreement reached by GTC with Hanan Fishman of PartMaker who will provide computer aided manufacturing (CAM) software for students in the center. Also, a recent $2,500 tool donation by Grainger for the CNC Boot Camp, will contribute to the student experience.

On August 15, 2015, Mike Reader and Mark Beilman, Director of Education and Training at Precision Plus, toured the repurposed space housing the equipment. “We met with Dean of Students Michael O’Donnell and instructor JD Jones,” mentions Reader. “We had a great meeting and everyone is excited about the new equipment rolling in.”

The next few months promise to be exciting for the Elkhorn Campus of Gateway Technical College, and for the local industry, community, and economy. Precision Plus thanks Dr. Albrecht for his time to conduct this interview, and looks forward to continue to report on the progress of Gateway Technical College Elkhorn Campus’s new manufacturing center.

MFG DAY 2014 Celebrated at Precision Plus in Elkhorn, Wiscosin with an Open House and Tour

Michael Reader

On Thursday, October 2, 2014, Precision Plus welcomed the community, educators, students, the Mayor of Elkhorn, Wisconsin, and representatives from several companies to an open house to celebrate MFG DAY 2014—a nationwide event to celebrate manufacturing in the U.S.

Mike Reader, President and Barry Butters, Director of Training and Education, kicked off the evening with a presentation on the history of Precision Plus , and what initiatives are firmly in place to close the existing manufacturing skills gap. Later, Barry Butters gave the audience an overview of how the classroom capabilities are a key element in this initiative, acknowledging the important support from Autodesk and PartMaker. Mike and Barry also shared the company’s current expansion plans.

The keynote speaker, was Ken Turner, Division Supply Chain Manager of Parker Hannifin Corporation’s Quick Coupling Division. His presentation included a detailed explanation of how some of the components manufactured by Precision Plus become a part of Parker Hannifin’s products.

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The evening ended with a guided tour of Precision Plus’ facilities.

We look forward to MFG DAY 2015, and look forward to the milestones that will be met in the year to come.

The Last Two School Visits by Precision Plus During Academic Year 2013-2014 Were a True Testament to the Spirit of Collaboration

Michael Reader

During the 2013-2014 school year, Precision Plus has made a concerted effort to visit as many area schools as we possibly could. Neither Barry Butters, Director of Education and Training, nor Mike Reader, Precision Plus’ President, allowed snow or sleet, extremely cold temperatures, rain, or heat stop them from making themselves available for meetings, events, or to speak to a class full of students about manufacturing.

Butters explains to a student how a part is machined

The last two visits of the year were to the Real School in Racine, Wisconsin on their Career Day, and to Burlington Area High School to speak to students in Casey Miller’s advanced metals and pre-engineering classes. Both schools had invited Precision Plus to come to their facilities.

Butters demonstrates how the PartMaker software is used at Precision Plus

But, how did they know about Precision Plus and their efforts to close the manufacturing skills gap? These schools made use of a common resource: Inspire Wisconsin, powered by Career Cruising.

Inspire Wisconsin—the Pathway from Talent to Careers—has a distinct mission:

Inspire Wisconsin’s mission is to develop and disseminate an organized, integrated community-development platform for life-long career planning and learning which creates bridges between employers, educators and students and connects students and adult job seekers with work-based learning experiences and job opportunities.

By bringing all parties to the table–employers, educators, students, parents and job seekers, Inspire Wisconsin offers an opportunity for maximizing careers and talents. Its leadership says it all: respected individuals from education, industry, and government, who understand the importance of a highly skilled and educated workforce.

Finally, Career Cruising, developers of “The world’s most engaging and inspiring career learning program” makes it all possible. By integrating with Inspire Wisconsin, their tool can be used by Wisconsin schools. Their interactive program helps “people of ages achieve their full potential in school, career and life,” and provides an arena for matching needs with initiatives, and talent with careers.

And that is how, the last two visits of academic year 2013-2014 came to be. There were a direct result of separate entities working together: Inspire Wisconsin, Career Cruising, the schools, and Precision Plus No shots in the dark here. Instead, targeted, skilled shots that hit the bulls-eye.

Precision Plus looks forward to a great 2014-2015 year!

In The News: Precision Plus Open House Featured on Lake Geneva Regional News

Michael Reader

On April 29, 2014, Precision Plus, inc. of Elkhorn, Wisconsin, welcomed guests to an open house to showcase its new training classroom featuring CAD and CAM software from PartMaker and Autodesk.  The event was featured in an article by Chris Schultz on the Lake Geneva Regional News of May 8, 2014. The article describes Precision Plus’ journey from idea to reality, and future plans.

For a PDF copy of this article, please click here!

Precision Plus in Elkhorn Announces Autodesk 3D CAD and PartMaker CAM Additions to Training Classroom

Michael Reader

Precision Plus of Elkhorn, Wisconsin is pleased to announce the addition of eight seats of Product Design Suite Ultimate 3D CAD software ) as a donation from Autodesk,  as well as eight seats of CAM software as a donation from PartMaker to their Training Classroom.

When Roger Orban, Territory Sales Executive–Manufacturing Solutions for Autodesk, visited Precision Plus in January of 2014, he saw the viable inroads being made by Precision Plus in an effort to close the manufacturing skills gap.  So did Hanan Fishman, President of PartMaker, Inc.  Then, something incredible happened:  both companies committed to donating CAD and CAM software respectively, to support the active effort.  Precision Plus’ goal is to provide courses on advanced machining to local high school students.

On behalf of the entire Precision Plus Team and the future manufacturing professionals who will come through the training class, Mike Reader, President, and Barry Butters, Director of Education and Training wish to thank PartMaker and Autodesk for their generous donation. The marriage of the 3D CAD (Computer Aided Drafting) software Inventor  from Autodesk with the CAM (Computer Aided Manufacturing) software from PartMaker will allow students to learn the complete design process from print to product.

Second Annual Manufacturing Career Panel To Be Held on February 26, 2014 at Elkhorn Area High School in Elkhorn, Wisconsin

Michael Reader


Elkhorn Area High School
in Partnership with Precision Plus,
Hosts The Second Annual Manufacturing Career Panel
Wednesday, February 26 – 1:00-2:30 p.m.
Elkhorn Area High School Auditorium

Did you know…

  •  The highest concentration of manufacturing jobs in the United States lies within a 90-mile radius of the city of Waukesha?
  • By the year 2020, there will be 123 million openings in manufacturing in the country with only 50 million people ready to fill those jobs and that currently, there are 1000’s of job openings in our own region?
  • The manufacturing industry pays a sustaining wage that is 20% higher than most other industries?
  • Manufacturers are getting behind training programs to help ensure they will have the skilled workforce they will need for the future?

The time to get the word out to young people about these facts and the awesome career opportunities and rewards that the manufacturing industry has to offer is now!

Please plan to join Elkhorn Area High School in partnership with Precision Plus, for the 2nd Annual Manufacturing Careers Panel comprised of industry experts who will share the opportunities and rewards a career in manufacturing has to offer.  Panelists will also lay out career paths for students or community members interested in engineering or manufacturing careers with an opportunity for the audience to ask questions at the end of the presentations.

The panel will take place on Wednesday, February 26, 2014, in the Elkhorn Area High School Auditorium from 1:00 p.m. until 2:30 p.m.

This year, we are pleased to welcome the following manufacturing experts:

  • Ms. Mary Isbister, President of GenMet, a metal fabricating business located in Mequon, WI
  • Mr. Hanan Fishman, President of PartMaker, Inc., a computer-aided manufacturing software developer
  • Mr. Brian White, President of GE’s Waukesha Gas Engines, manufacturer of natural gas engines, located in Waukesha, WI
  • Mr. Mike Reader, President of Precision Plus,  manufacturer of precision turned components, located in Elkhorn, WI

Mary Isbister is president of GenMet Corp., a 75-employee metal fabricating company located in Mequon, Wisconsin.  She, along with her husband purchased the business in 1999. Since that time, GenMet has quadrupled its revenue.  In addition, the business has become ISO Certified, undergone a lean transformation, and been awarded ‘Fabricator of the Year’ by the National Fabricators and Manufacturers Association.

Ms. Isbister’s civil service includes being named in 2010 to the U.S. Manufacturing Council, which reports to the U.S. Secretary of Commerce, where she currently serves as the Council’s Vice Chair.  She has been reappointed to serve an additional two-year term as a member of this advisory council.  In 2013, Ms. Isbister was appointed by Governor Walker as Chair of Wisconsin’s Council for Workforce Investment reporting to the Secretary of the Department of Workforce Development.

Ms. Isbister’s current civic participation includes service as a member of the Boards of Directors for a variety of non-profit organizations including:

  • Wisconsin Manufacturing Extension Partnership (Chair)
  • WUWM Community Advisory Board (Chair)
  • MMAC’s Council of Small Business Executives (Chair)
  • MMAC (Director)
  • M-7 Executive Partner (Small Business Representative)
  • FMA Precision Sheet Metal Council (Director)

In 2013 Ms. Isbister received the following awards:

  • An inaugural recipient of the Manufacturing Institute’s STEP (Science, Technology, Engineering and Production) Award
  • The Milwaukee Business Journal’s Women of Influence Award

Mr. Hanan Fishman is the President of PartMaker, Inc., a division of Delcam Advanced Manufacturing Solutions, the world’s largest specialist in computer aided manufacturing (CAM) software development.  PartMaker, Inc. pioneered the field of CAM software for Turn-Mills and Swiss-type lathes with its patented ‘Visual Programming Approach’ for programming multi-axis lathes with live tooling. It assures quicker learning and easier use. It makes an extensive use of pictures to help the user describe tools, part features, and machining data. Synchronization of tools working on multiple spindles is achieved by a few mouse clicks

Mr. Fishman is the co-author of two U.S. patents dealing with the subject of automating the programming of multi-axis CNC machines.  He is a graduate of the University of Pennsylvania.

Mr. Brian White is president of GE’s Waukesha Gas Engines, part of GE Distributed Power, a world-leading provider of power generation, energy delivery and water processing technologies serving all areas of the energy industry, including wind, solar, biogas, alternative fuels, natural gas and nuclear energy.

In 2010, White joined Waukesha Gas Engines, which specializes in the design and manufacture of natural gas engines to drive compressors, generators, pumps, and other equipment. Previously, he was vice president of reengineering for Dresser, Waukesha’s parent company. At Dresser, he led the transition to a ‘lean thinking enterprise’ culture, established a strategic global sourcing and logistics group to drive cost savings, oversaw facilities consolidations, led a worldwide Oracle implementation, and introduced a goal deployment process.

He began his career as an apprentice at Caterpillar Tractor Co.  Later at Sperry Sun UK, he moved up from a design engineer to program manager through a series of successively responsible positions, ultimately being named vice president of manufacturing for Sperry Sun Drilling Services.

Mr. White has a bachelor’s of science in electrical and electronics engineering from Northumbria University, Newcastle, UK.

Mr. Michael Reader, President/Owner Precision Plus has spent the last 18 years working to advance the family-owned and operated business, which specializes in precision turned metal components.  Serving a diversified customer based–from aerospace to music instrument manufacturers and from Fortune 100 companies to small businesses–has allowed the company to experience tremendous growth over the years.  Reinvestment in people, training, and state-of-the-art equipment are all part of the foundation driving success for Precision Plus and their 60-team members.

Precision Plus understands an organization is only as good as their people. Facing an imminent shortage of highly skilled manufacturing professionals, Precision Plus became proactive in the efforts to attract the next generation of skilled machinists, engineers and support staff. Starting in the fall of 2012, Michael hosted faculty from the Elkhorn Area High School for plant tours and conversations regarding critical skills needed for today’s advanced manufacturing.  This led to a career panel presentation involving approximately 180 students in February of 2013, and then to 10 internships over the summer.  Precision Plus has continued its internship program throughout the school year and is preparing for the Second Annual Manufacturing Career Panel EAHS.

While deeply invested in workforce development efforts, Michael is also very active with the industry trade association PMPA (Precision Machined Products Association), where he is a former board member and currently sits on several different committees to advance the industry and association membership.