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Does Political Action Make a Difference?

Michael Reader

On December 1 and 2, 2015, seven representatives from member companies of the Precision Machined Products Association (PMPA) flew into Washington, DC to meet with congressional representatives, senators and committee staff to discuss the impact that inaction on the part of the U.S. Congress has had on the industry.

How To Attract, Develop and Retain Our Future Workforce?

Michael Reader

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

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

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

Michael Reader

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

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

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

Michael Reader

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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.

 

Bill Wells Represents Precision Plus at the Wisconsin Aerospace Partners Roundtable in Oshkosh, Wisconsin

Michael Reader

On Tuesday, October 6, 2015, the Wisconsin Aerospace Partners held a roundtable to discuss the possible initiatives that should or could be put in place in order to attract more aerospace business to the State. The meeting took place at the Batten Board Room of the EAA AirVenture Museum in Oshkosh, Wisconsin.

Present at the meeting were the seven member companies of Wisconsin Aerospace Partners (Astronautics Corp., Fives-Giddings and Precision Plus), along with Lt. Governor Rebecca Kleefisch, and representatives from the Wisconsin Economic Development Corporation (WEDC) and the University of Wisconsin at Oshkosh. Bill Wells, Sales/Engineering Manager at Precision Plus represented the company.

The discussion centered on the steps which could or should be taken to attract new business to the State, given the strong supply chain already in place. It was noted that Lt. Governor Kleefisch has been a champion in promoting Wisconsin’s aerospace industry to the world, and the attendees were asked to share their thoughts on what the State’s government could additionally do to support the overall endeavors of Wisconsin businesses involved in the aerospace industry.

“There’s just an unbelievable amount of activity in this industry right now in Wisconsin,” recently said Gail Towers-MacAskill, Aerospace Sector Development Manager with WEDC. “These new projects will put Wisconsin on the map in the aerospace sector, nationally and internationally.”

“Wisconsin is climbing as a leader in aviation and aerospace innovation,” recently stated Lt. Governor Kleefisch. “Our assets of industry research and manufacturing know-how, and regional collaboration between manufacturers, engineers and innovators will strengthen Wisconsin and the Midwest’s unique position in the global aviation and aerospace industry.”

Precision Plus is proud to be a part of the supply chain of Wisconsin’s aerospace industry, and a member of the Wisconsin Aerospace Partners.

Milwaukee 7 Summit Meets to Discuss Steps to Attract Talent to Manufacturing

Michael Reader

Mark Beilman, Director of Education and Training at Precision Plus of Elkhorn, Wisconsin, attended the October 1, 2015 Milwaukee 7 Summit, which was themed, “Attracting Talent to Manufacturing.” The Milwaukee 7 (M7) Talent Partnership at the Manpower Group’s facility in Milwaukee hosted the half-day summit.

The constant challenge of attracting, recruiting, hiring and retaining top talent, especially in industries such as manufacturing where technology is regularly changing and a shortage of highly skilled personnel is apparent, has caused HR professionals and businesses at large to consider new rules of engagement utilizing tools that could result in the perfect employee/employer match.

The summit’s agenda included a keynote presentation by Milwaukee Bucks President Peter Feigin, who shared the critical advantages that make Southeast Wisconsin “a great place to live, work and play.” Following, George Bolgrem, Culture Strategy Director at The Good Jobs and Council Member and Talent Attraction Committee Co-Chair at M7, presented the M7 Talent Attraction & Retention Kit.

Subsequently, there was a panel discussion by area manufacturers and HR professionals: Angie Kasten, Recruitment & Organizational Development Specialist at Palermo’s Pizza; Rachel Lloyd, Human Resources Manager at Glenroy, Inc.; Waylon Gross, Workforce Development and Training Program Manager at Kenall Manufacturing, Patrick Jungenblut, Applications Engineering Manager at Hermle Machine Company; and Natalie Glumm, Manufacturing Sales Manager at Midland Plastics, Inc..  Alicia Dupies, VP of Community Relations at the Milwaukee Bucks moderated the panel.   A Q&A session concluded the summit.

Mark Beilman recounts,

“Overall, it was a very informative summit. George Blogrem’s tool kit presentation for improving a company’s culture and attract talent was on point with remarks such as:

  • Culture/Brand: Be authentic, relevant, consistent and different. Culture is most important to new hires, who want to be part of the team. Communicate culture and brand through employee testimonials, job postings, videos and website.
  • Hiring: Have an effective “welcome on board” program, assign a mentor, give clear description of goals, ask for feedback.
  • Retaining: Conduct micro surveys to gather feedback on what is working and what is not. Make employees feel valued.
  • Referrals: There is no better way to recruit than actual employees recruiting future ones.  Have an effective incentive-based program in place.

 

Peter Feigin spoke about the corporate brand and reinvesting in the community.

The panelists addressed recruitment, retention, and the difficulty in finding skilled employees. Two of the companies represented on the panel, Kenall Manufacturing and Hermle Machine Company, have programs in place that include talking to high school students about careers in manufacturing, and they both work closely with Milwaukee Area Technical College and Gateway Technical College to align their curriculums with the needs of area manufacturers. The other panelists acknowledged that school involvement was a viable route to take in order to improve the availability of prospective employees.”

Almost 150 people attended the summit. The Milwaukee 7 Talent Partnership aligns regional talent resources with high-growth industry clusters, resulting in a stronger, more agile workforce.

 

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.

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.

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