Mark Beilman Joins Precision Plus as Its Director of Education and Training

Michael Reader

On August 3, 2015, Precision Plus (PPI) of Elkhorn, Wisconsin welcomed Mark Beilman as its new Director of Education and Training, to carry on the position first held by Barry Butters.

Beilman’s first job after graduating from the University of Wisconsin at Platteville was with Miniature Precision Components of Walworth, WI, where he served as a research and development engineer for seven years. From 2005 until 2012, he worked at Mukwonago High School as a technical education teacher, and prior to joining Precision Plus he taught technical education at East Troy High School.

When I first started contemplating a career change out of teaching in public education, I wanted to find a job that still included some interaction with young people, but within manufacturing; something I was missing since my days working at MPC, an injection molding company based in Walworth, WI.

I knew I had found that when Barry approached me and discussed this position.  I had worked closely with Barry while I was a teacher at East Troy, placing Youth Apprentice Amanda Mudlaff at Precision Plus  Barry told me how his job was a rewarding mix of working with young people and getting the word out about manufacturing.  He was right. It has been great so far!

As Mike has said, I have big shoes to fill but believe I am up for the challenge.  This challenge has been made easier by all the wonderful people who work at Precision Plus, how they have made me feel welcome, and helped me when I have questions.  It sure has been a whirlwind first three weeks: from sifting through files, learning the Swiss machining process, to meeting interesting people such as Bob Klockars, President of Walworth State Bank, or visiting Gateway’s new manufacturing facility. 

So far my experiences have exceeded my expectations.  I am excited to get our new group of youth apprentices started in the fall and to keep spreading the word about the benefits of a manufacturing career.


Mark Beilman and his wife of 14 years, are originally from Madison, but have lived in Walworth County since 1998 and consider it their home. The have two sons, Raymond (10 years old) and John (6 years old). Beilman coaches U8 soccer in Williams Bay.

The Beilmans recently bought a “new” boat (a 1978 Yar-Craft), and are excited to get out fishing and boating as much as they can as the summer winds down. They have a cabin up north, in Superior, WI, where they enjoy spending time in the summer months.

When time permits, Mark enjoys working with antique cars. He is the proud owner of a 1964 Ford 250 and a 1955 T-Bird.

Mark Beilman can be reached by phone or email.

Precision Plus Intern Amanda Mudlaff Receives a $5,000 Scholarship to MSOE

Michael Reader

Amanda Mudlaff, who has served both as an intern and an apprentice at Precision Plus, received a $5,000 Scholarship to Milwaukee School of Engineering (MSOE).

Barry Butters, Director of Education and Training presented the scholarship to Amanda during the Class of 2015 Senior Awards at East Troy High School, which took place on Sunday, June 7th.

The Precision Plus Team congratulates Amanda on her achievement.

John Espinoza, a Model Precision Plus Employee and a Testament to Second Chances

Michael Reader

When things feel as they might be falling apart, they may just be falling into place. Second chances are given out all the time…but they only work when someone takes them.

John Espinoza works as a finishing technician for Precision Plus His shift starts at 11:00 p.m. and ends at 7:30 a.m., just in time to take his young granddaughter Melanie to school. Melanie is a bright kindergartener with aspirations of becoming a doctor when she grows up.

On Monday mornings, after he drops Melanie off, John stays at the school for a couple of hours just to read one-on-one with every kid in Melanie’s class. “I like to read, so it gives me a real kick to experience the kids’ progress from just learning the letters, to reading entire stories—even with the appropriate inflections,” as they bring the stories to life. He credits the class teacher, Mrs. Autumn Petri, who “makes learning so much fun!” He adds, “ The children adore her!” But the children also really look forward to reading with John, whom they have nicknamed “Mr. Noodle,” after the beloved Sesame Street character. On Thursdays, he goes back to volunteer as a lunch parent.

There is nothing that gives John more satisfaction than to be involved in all aspects of Melanie’s life and to be a part of her formative years. Melanie is a busy girl, playing with the “Little Sis” Basketball Team, and with “The Varsity Deli” T-Ball Team, which John also happens to coach. She also attends children’s programs at Mt. Zion Christian Church and has plenty of time to play computer educational games, watch cartoons, and just play, like all kindergarteners should.

John and his wife Alicia are raising Melanie as their own daughter. When Melanie was a baby, her mother (one of John’s two daughters) left to never come back. John and Alicia are Melanie’s legal guardians, and are committed to be there for her every step of the way. John even takes parenting classes at his church.

But things may not have turned out this way, if John didn’t opt for taking a second chance.

Roll back the clock some years. John Espinoza, a third generation Texan of Mexican descent, grew up in mainstream North Dakota. His life was riddled with bad decisions, which put not only his own life in jeopardy, but also those of his first wife and their two young girls. “I was hard on my family,” he recalls. His life fell apart when his wife died. He continued to get involved in situations that eventually led him to spend time in jail.

It was while in jail, that John’s life made a sharp turn for the better. Through the turmoil, he found peace and endurance in the teachings from the Bible.

Fresh out of jail, John needed to find a job to support his family. He had worked as a CNC set up operator before, but now, time and time again his applications were rejected because of his dealings with the law…until he applied to work at Precision Plus, 13 years ago. He explained his situation to Mike Reader, and reassured Mike about the commitment he was willing to make to the company. He asked for a chance, and Mike, willingly, gave it to John. His career at Precision Plus, began as a tumbler.

“Mike was patient and through the years, he has helped to make my quality of life better. Mike makes a personal investment in his people,” adds John, “It goes beyond of just being an employee.”

When John was given a chance to raise his granddaughter, he knew that it was most important to be there for her and to be involved with her, so that Melanie would be better prepared to make the right decisions. “By allowing me to have night hours, Mike gave me the opportunity to spend the time I need to be with Melanie in her upbringing.”

Faith has been paramount in John’s life. But he not only leans on his faith for the second chances he has been given, he also gives back in more than one way. For the last 9 years, John has been preaching at local jails, hoping to impart the gift of a second chance he received once long ago. He also helps nurture a Hispanic group that recently joined Mt. Zion Christian Church.

When things feel as they might be falling apart, they may just be falling into place.  Second chances are there for the taking.

Precision Plus is proud to have John Espinoza in its team.

Barry Butters of Precision Plus Speaks at the 2015 PMPA National Technical Conference in Columbus, OH

Michael Reader

Barry Butters, Director of Education and Training at Precision Plus in Elkhorn, WI spoke to a wide audience during the 2015 Precision Machined Products Association (PMPA) National Technical Conference, which took place on April 19-21, 2015, in Columbus, OH. His presentation centered on Precision Plus’ active plan to help close the skills gap in manufacturing.

PMPA’s 54th Annual National Technical Conference focused on technical innovation, quality advancements and shop management, offering attendees a variety of seminars on subjects needed to meet today’s precision manufacturing challenges.

In addition to Butters, six other members of the Precision Plus Team attended the conference: Mike Brown, John McConville and Sam Kirkland, Machinists, Terry Mumper, Engineer,  Dale Wittlieff, Director of Quality and Continuous Improvement, and  Bill Wells, Sales and Engineering Manager.

On Monday, April 20th, during a session entitled, “How to Deal with the Skilled Training Issue,” Butters shared Precision Plus’ “13-Step Playbook for Workforce Development,” currently used by the company, in an effort to close the manufacturing skills gap.

In his presentation, Butters talked about Precision Plus, its plan to double its capacity, and the absence of qualified employees to operate machines that do the work that used to be done by people in the past. He also addressed the overall perception of manufacturing based on “what it was then,” and the lack of information of “what it is now.” Whereas in the past, a high school student who may not be doing great in school would have been a prime candidate to go into manufacturing, today’s industry requires individuals who have high technical and math skills as well as strong soft skills.

In a 2012 News Magazine 60 Minutes interview, Professor Peter Cappelli of the University of Pennsylvania’s Wharton School, stated that even as late as a generation ago, manufacturing companies had training and apprenticeship programs in place, but over the last few decades that responsibility shifted primarily to technical colleges. As technology advanced, the curricula offered by technical colleges drifted away from the actual skills needed for professionals in manufacturing. Cappelli suggested that manufacturers needed to be involved in the training of prospective employees in one way or another.

After listening to this segment, Mike Reader, president of Precision Plus decided to get involved. “What’s the return on investment on doing nothing?” Reader asked.

Butters used Precision Plus’ “13-Step Playbook for Workforce Development” slideshow presentation to showcase the initiatives taken by Mike Reader and Precision Plus over the last two and a half years to get involved and become a catalyst. These efforts included hiring Butters, an educator, to help deploy the playbook. In 2013, Reader had organized a Manufacturing Career Panel at a local high school, which was attended by more than one hundred area students. When students asked about internship availability, Reader knew something had to be done.

Today, Precision Plus offers a summer internship program for young people typically becoming mechanical engineers, as well as a school-year apprenticeship program for students interested in pursuing a career in manufacturing.

Both programs expose students to all aspects of manufacturing and have been designed on a rotating department basis. In addition, students go on tours and attend tradeshows, among other activities. Parent involvement is key, as they must tour the facility before their child is accepted into either program.

In addition, Precision Plus is involved with local schools at all levels, from elementary through college. The company is a member of several career and technical education (CTE) committees, has brought more than 90 teachers, counselors and career coaches through the facility, and has welcomed students on field trips. In addition, Barry Butters has traveled to schools and has addressed students at all levels. Precision Plus also offers a Project Lead the Way (PLTW) engineering design and development (EDD) class, taught by Butters in the Precision Plus classroom to local high school students.

Having community support is crucial, so the public at large is regularly invited to tour the plant and learn about today’s manufacturing. Precision Plus has also reached out to vendors and customers to help enrich the experience, and has brought manufacturing industry awareness to local, state and national legislators, having had high ranking public officials across party lines tour the plant and engage in conversation, in an effort to find common ground and talk about workforce issues.

Butters information was well received and followed by many favorable comments, as per this letter from Monte Guitar, PMPA’s director of technical programs.

For more information on this presentation, please contact Barry Butters via phone or email.

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’ Barry Butters Is Certified to Teach Project Lead The Way’s Engineering Design and Development Capstone Course to High School Students

Michael Reader

Barry Butters, Director of Education and Training at Precision Plus spent two full weeks at Milwaukee School of Engineering (MSOE) in June to complete intensive training to enable him to teach the course ‘Engineering Design and Development’ (EDD) to high school students. The course is a capstone course of the Project Lead The Way (PLTW) curriculum.

As per the description of the capstone course on PLTW’s website, “Engineering Design and Development (EDD) gives students the opportunity to work in teams to solve problems of their own choosing.  Under the guidance of a community mentor, teams employ all the skills and knowledge gained through previous coursework to brainstorm, research, construct and test  a model in real-life situations (or simulations); document their designs; and present and defend the designs to a panel of experts.”

Butters participation was sponsored by the Elkhorn Area School District. Beginning in fall 2014, he will be teaching Elkhorn Area H.S. students as well, as other students from local school districts, the EDD Course at Precision Plus’ classroom.

The instructors’ training at Milwaukee School of Engineering teamed up the participants to go through a simulation of the EDD program, which they will be teaching during the school year. Butters collaborated with Phil Winegar, Technology and Engineering Instructor at Menomonie High School, and Brent Siler, Technology and Engineering Instructor at Middleton High School.

The mission for the teams in the training course was to come up with a problem, a solution, develop three design models to implement the solution, and, after choosing one, present their project to a panel of engineers.

Butter’s team pursued a solution for preventing young children from chocking on food. The team focused on the development of a consumer device that would check the softness of food. It was not so much about having a working solution to the problem in two weeks, but rather about understanding how to approach the entire engineering process to come up with a solution.

After a great deal of brainstorming and a decision matrix, three possible prototype solutions–a spring-loaded plunger, a collapsible knife, and an elastic cutter–were printed on a MakerBot 3D printer.

Next, the team selected one potential solution and the solution was tested through experimentation. In the image to the left, butters tests the selected model for its ability to detect the softness of food consistency.

Finally, the results of their entire project and engineering  process were presented to a panel of engineers for scrutiny and recommendations. Pictured on the image to the right are Butters and his teammates Phil Winegar and Brent Siler.

Upon completion of the course, Butters and all the other participants received certificates from PLTW Master Teachers Sharon Tomski and Denise Kimblern, PLTW Affiliate Director Steve Salter, and MSOE V.P. of Academics, Dr. Frederick Berry.

All the training course graduates were looking forward to teaching this program in the fall.

Introducing the 2014 Precision Plus Summer Interns

Michael Reader

Precision Plus is pleased to announce the selection of these nine young individuals to participate in the company’s 2014 Summer Internship Program. The nine were selected from nearly 40 applications submitted by bright and talented students.

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Riley Bruce – Riley is a 2014 graduate from Elkhorn High School. He plans on attending a four-year university for Engineering. Riley was on the Soccer Team, Mathletes, and the E-Tech Club. He also supports the Youth Soccer Program as a volunteer.

Matt Dowell – Matt is a junior at Wilmot High School. Matt participates in the Key Club and in the Skills USA competitions. This year, he and his Skills USA team have qualified for the Skills USA National Competition in Kansas City on Monday, June 23rd through Saturday June 28th.

Alden Filko – Alden is a junior at Richmond Burton High School. Alden participates on the Math Team, Future Problem Solvers and (WYSE) Worldwide Youth in Science and Engineering. He also participates in the Marching Band and is a member of the Cross Country Team.

Sergey Klyukvin – Sergey is a 2014 graduate from Williams Bay High School. He plans on attending U.W. Madison in the fall. Sergey has participated on the Basketball Team, Math Team, History Club, Spanish Club, and in Student Government.

Amanda Mudlaff – Amanda is a junior at East Troy High School. She is the Captain of her Cheer and Poms Teams and she is also on the Track and Field Team. She is a FFA member, Wrestling Manager, Multi-Cultural Club Member, and a Youth Cheerleading Coach. Amanda is also a National Honor Society member.

Jake Ruemmele – Jake is a 2012 graduate from Elkhorn High School. He has just finished his sophomore year at U.W. Platteville. Jake is an accomplished swimmer. He was the Captain of the High School Team and was 1st Team All Conference. He is also a member of the U.W. Platteville Swim Club. He is a member of the National Honor Society and a Member of the Alpha Lambda Delta Honor Society.

Augie Scott – Augie is a 2014 graduate from Woodstock High School. He plans on attending Purdue University upon his return from a German Work Exchange Program this fall. He participated on the Football, Basketball, and Baseball Teams. He participated in the Key Club, Peer Mentoring, and Worldwide Youth in Science and Engineering. Augie is also a member on the National Honor Society and German Honor Society.

Troy Steinfest – Troy is a junior at Elkhorn High School. Troy is on the Football and Golf Teams and serves on Student Council. He also participates on the Math and Academic teams. Troy is also a member of the National Honor Society. He will be attending Badger Boys State Leadership program from June 16th through the 20th.

Tristan Steiner – Tristan is a junior at Lake Geneva Badger High School. He participates on the Football, Wrestling and Track Teams. He is a member of the Academic Bowl Team and the French Club. Tristan also serves on the Badger Academic Leadership Council.

Welcome to all!

Precision Plus Interns are Featured on Geneva Lake West News

Michael Reader

Precision Plus interns Britt Campbell, Markus Gudel, Eric Bain, Martin Korsholm,  and Brad Killen were featured on a recent issue of the Geneva Lake West News in two articles, which were published on January 9th.

On “Manufacturer confronts worker shortage,” LGWN’s Chris Schultz interviews Mike Reader and Barry Butters to report on the state of the manufacturing industry, and the shortage of skilled personnel to fill jobs, preventing companies such as Precision Plus from expanding. Precision Plus is taking a very active role in reversing the trend, and has established internship programs for high-school and college students, while expanding on educational and in-house training programs.  The article features some of the interns from Precision Plus’ pilot summer program, and follows their progress within the industry.

On “Badger benefits from Precision internship,” Chris Schultz chats with Britt Campbell of Badger H.S., who also races a Mazda Miata race car.

In both instances, the emphasis is on educational proactivity to empower the manufacturing industry.

Britt Campbell, Brad Pearson and Don Newman Join Precision Plus’ 2013-2014 Internship Program

Michael Reader

2013-2014 Precision Plus’s interns: Britt Campbell, Brad Pearson and Don Newman.

Mike Reader, President of Precision Plus continues to push forward the company’s efforts to make an impact on the manufacturing skills gap epidemic.

The success achieved during the pilot internship program launched during the summer of 2013 has resulted in the establishment of a formal internship program for the 2013-2014 school year.  Three high school seniors, Britt Campbell (Badger H.S.), as well as Brad Pearson and Don Newman (Elkhorn Area H.S.) have been awarded this year’s internships.

Intern Britt Campbell tests a component with OASIS equipment.

Britt Campbell, a senior at Lake Geneva Badger, starts her day at 6:30 a.m. and works until 9:00 a.m.  Britt plans to pursue a degree in mechanical engineering at Milwaukee School of Engineering or at Purdue University.  Britt’s interest in the engineering field stems from her racing background.  Britt began racing go-karts and now races a Mazda Miata.

Intern Britt Campbell Races a Mazda Miata at Road America in Elkhart Lake

She is a licensed novice wheel-to-wheel racer in the Midwestern Council of Sports Car Clubs (MCSCC) in the Sports Car Club of Rockford (SCCR), currently working towards her full competition license.  You can read more about Britt’s racing on her Facebook page and contact her there to become a sponsor.

Intern Don Newman using the Earth-Chain spinner micro-deburring station

Interns Brad Pearson and Don Newman are seniors at Elkhorn High School.  They are part of an apprenticeship program, which is overseen by Joanne Pella, Career and Technical Education Instructor/Coordinator at the school.  The program is run in conjunction with Blackhawk Technical College.

The students start at 6:30 a.m. at Precision Plus Inc. and then head to school at 10:00 a.m., earning credit from school as well as being paid by Precision Plus for the work performed.  Brad and Don are considering attending a technical college or a four-year college to pursue a degree in CNC machining or engineering.

The Internship Program at Precision Plus begins with classroom time, where interns receive instruction on blueprint reading, how to use measuring tools and general procedures.  The interns then are rotated through the various operations and machining platforms.

The goal of the internship program is to immerse the students in the precision manufacturing industry so they can gain an initial understanding of the entire manufacturing process.

Precision Plus is looking to hire interns for the summer of 2014 as well as for the 2014-2015 academic year.  For more information, please contact Barry Butters, Director of Education & Training at (262) 743-1700, or email him at

Brian White’s Manufacturing Story is An Inspiration for New Generations Coming Up Through the Ranks

Michael Reader

By Mike Reader
About a year ago, I had the pleasure of attending a Waukesha County Business Alliance (WCBA) Manufacturing Alliance panel discussion on workforce development issues and meeting Brian White. Brian, President of GE Energy’s Waukesha Gas Engines, was one of the panelists and he spoke frankly about manufacturing and the privilege of employing about 700 Wisconsinites.

In September of 2012, and under Brian’s leadership, GE Energy’s Waukesha Gas Engines had announced the hiring of 115 employees, following a $3.1 million investment into its engineering center.

Brian is a brilliant leader, but his story is not your typical rise-to-the-top story, because Brian didn’t go to college after graduating from high school. As a matter of fact, he didn’t know what to do with his life, until he found the opportunities that manufacturing presented to him—opportunities which he did not hesitate to pursue.
In May 2013, Dream It! Do It! Wisconsin, featured Brian in a video titled “Upward Bound – Wisconsin Manufacturing Careers.” In just a few statements, Brian tells us about his early life, and gives anyone looking into a career in manufacturing the assurance that anything is possible.

Last night, I attended another WCBA meeting, hosted by GE Energy’s Waukesha Gas Engines, which included tours of the engine assembly area and featured the Dream It! Do It! Wisconsin video featuring Brian. I was pleased to connect with Brian again. We had a very good discussion about what each was doing to address the skills gap and looked forward to collaborating in the future.

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