Precision Plus’ President Mike Reader: Looking Back and Looking Forward

Michael Reader

It’s hard to believe 2013 is well behind us already, and March is right around the corner.  Now that the new year has arrived, I thought it would be a good time to thank everyone that helped make last year a success and, at the same time, lay out a few key initiatives for 2014.  Before I go into what lies ahead, let me recap a few of the highlights from last year.

2013 was a busy year with a new Precision Plus sales record and many new faces.  All told, we welcomed 18 new full-time employees to help us build for the future.

It all started in February while hosting a Manufacturing Career Panel at Elkhorn Area High School, where a number of fellow industry leaders joined me to share with these young adults all the great things going on in manufacturing.  March saw the launch of the Wisconsin Aerospace Consortium, which I am honored to serve.  In the spring, we implemented the newly-developed strategic plan where we restructured responsibilities to best align skills with roles, and set the foundation for an even better future.  June launched our first full-scale summer internship program with 10 bright young minds getting hands on experience in nearly every facet of our business.  And July saw the arrival of our Director of Education and Training, Barry Butters.  In the fall, we were all sad to see the summer interns go back to school, but we did get three new high school seniors starting a full year internship program.

2014 is already in full swing and aside from ‘Old Man Winter’ and the ever growing piles of snow, we are very busy and happy to be on track. We are putting the final touches on our new training room and must thank Hanan Fishman of PartMaker for the generous donation of 8 licenses of their CAM software.  PartMaker was here for advanced training the week for February 10th!  We are anxiously awaiting word from AutoDesk regarding a similar donation of Inventor 3D modeling software to allow us to train our team and possibly do the same as an extension of the Elkhorn Area High School this coming summer.

We are also excited to announce the Second Annual Manufacturing Career Panel at the Elkhorn Area High School, on February 26, 2014.  I am honored to be part of the panel to drive this effort forward with the school and our fellow business leaders.  Joining me will be Hanan Fishman of PartMaker, Mary Isbister of GenMet, and Brian White from GE-Energy Waukesha Gas Engines.  A day later,  I will be at the Wisconsin Manufacturing Matters Conference, being one of  three  panelists discussing the ‘Skills Gap’ and what we are doing to close it.   In March, we have scheduled the launch of Micronite software to enhance our Quality Management System in order to provide the production staff the best tools available.  Wow! That is only the first three months of the year, and I do not expect the pace to slow a bit.

Our success has not gone unnoticed and it is exciting to field calls from people looking to learn more about what we are doing.  Some wish to learn how they may join us in the effort to raise awareness of manufacturing, while others are looking to see how they or their children can be part of the internship program.  The last few years have reinforced the importance of our single greatest asset:  people.  So while our Vision is “To be the number one solution provider of machined components for our current and future partners,”  our Mission speaks loud and clear:  “To provide a profitable, secure future for team members by building a cultural foundation based on Integrity, Empowerment, Innovation, and Respect”.  These statements will guide us in all we do, as well as those who wish to join us on this journey.

Building Expansion Update

A year ago at this time, we were working with Magil Construction to design an addition to address both current and future expected growth.  Our goal was to also add dedicated classroom and lab space for training/education, addressing both our internal training needs as well as those of the area schools that do not have the resources to do so.

While keeping up with our customers’ accelerating demands, we were filling much of our machine capacity.  From that situation, one thing was clear: our single greatest constraint to growth is finding and hiring talented people.  So, we had to rethink our priorities:  Our real focus was two-fold:  first to wring every last ounce out of the equipment we have with as many hours per week possible; and second,  we needed to establish a skilled-workforce development process to ensure we have the strongest possible pipeline of talent for the future.  So, as we continue to refine the drawings and layout for the day we put the shovel in the ground, we must now focus our energies on the most important of all: human capital.

As a footnote, we want you to know that we reconfigured some space to have a real classroom for our interns as well as for special classes.

Equipment and Technology Update

Many of you might have read the announcement about our two new ‘Killer Bs!’  We welcomed two state of the art B-Axis machines from Tsugami to the production floor.  Counting these, we have reinvested nearly 11 million dollars in production and inspection equipment over the last six years.  We now have 27-CNC Swiss-type machines from 12mm to 38mm, 6-twin and triple turret CNC lathes to 2.5” diameter, while we remain committed to our 55 Tornos single spindle Swiss-cam machines.  While often overlooked with all the cool new technology, these vintage masterpieces of engineering remain production assets in the hands of skilled craftsmen/women.  Maintaining this skillset into the next generation will be our challenge.   We continue to evaluate new equipment platforms and will invest as needed.


On one hand, our industry has strived to make a difference; on the other, however, we have fallen short in getting involved in matters outside our own four walls.  Too often our energy focuses inward and we forget what is happening outside of the building. Whether it’d be to work in the community and/or with schools to raise awareness about the manufacturing industry, or to stand up as a voice for the industry, it is critical we come together and step forward to craft solutions, rather than remain content to let others do this for us.

This March 25th/26th, together with my industry colleagues, I will be in Washington, DC representing all U.S. manufacturers.  We will address matters such as: workforce development to address the skills gap, tax reform to stimulate investment for innovation and domestic manufacturing, and free trade with a level playing field.

Do you want to get involved?  Call me or email me! For too long, we’ve been in reactionary mode.  Now is the time to go into action and make a difference.

Keep up with our future.  We want to keep up with yours.  After all, they are one and the same.

Precision Plus Recognized with the Walworth County Economic Development Association’s 2013 Workforce Investment Award

Michael Reader

Barry Butters and Mike Reader of Precision Plus Receive the Workforce Investment Award from
Joe Cardiff, Board Member
for the Walworth County Economic Development Association’s Workforce Development Committee

During this year’s Walworth County Economic Development Association’s (WCEDA) Annual Meeting, which took place on Tuesday, November 5th at the Grand Geneva Resort, Precision Plus received the organization’s 2013 Workforce Investment Award.

Mike Reader, President of Precision Plus and Barry Butters, its Director of Education and Outreach, were at hand to receive the award from  Joe Cardiff, WCEDA’s Board Member representing the Workforce Development Committee.

Precision Plus was recognized for its initiatives in education by sponsoring several manufacturing programs, including plant tours, manufacturing panels and establishing an internship program while promoting the importance of careers in manufacturing.

Mike Reader credits the Precision Plus’ team of high skilled professionals for their continued support and active participation in making these initiatives possible.

Manufacturing Day Highlights from Precision Plus’s Day-Long Event On October 4, 2013

Michael Reader

Nearly one hundred visitors, the majority area high school students, toured Precision Plus’s facilities on October 4, 2013, to celebrate National Manufacturing Day, a nationwide initiative.

The purpose of the open house and plant tour was to create awareness about the possibilities that are available with careers in manufacturing.  The event featured plant tours of four area manufacturing facilities: MedPlast, Certified Power, Inc., Hudapack Metal Treating, Inc., as well as Precision Plus’s.  The students also toured Gateway Technical College.  The event was sponsored by Dream It Do It Wisconsin, the Walworth County Economic Development Alliance, Inc., and Elkhorn Area High School.

Precision Plus wishes to thank all attendees  and our great staff for engaging with the students to answer their questions.  We look forward to a new generation of talent in manufacturing!

Precision Plus in Elkhorn, Wisconsin Kicks Off Manufacturing Month With a Plant Tour Open To Everyone

Michael Reader

In recent years, the possibility that a career in manufacturing could offer a great future, has become something of a well-kept secret.  In spite of the downturn in the economy, jobs in manufacturing abound, but the skills gap continues to widen.

In October of 2012, a nationwide initiative by U.S. manufacturers was launched to showcase this industry which is the backbone of this country.  The initiative was called “Manufacturing Day.” This year, the initiative continues to gain momentum.  In Wisconsin alone, more than 450,000 careers are in manufacturing, and Governor Scott Walker has officially declared October, “Manufacturing Month.”

The initiative addresses the shortage of skilled professionals from many angles, with a focus on education and awareness.

Precision Plus is delighted to actively participate in this endeavor.  To kick off Manufacturing Month, Precision Plus is hosting an Open House at its premises located at 840 Koopman Rd. in Elkhorn, Wisconsin on Thursday, October 3rd starting with an information presentation at 6:30 pm and a plant tour at 7:00 pm.  Everyone is invited.

On Friday, October 4th, Precision Plus will host several high school groups for tours and information on manufacturing.

As always, Precision Plus welcomes individuals, groups and organizations to tour our facilities.  Please contact Barry Butters, Director of Education & Training at (262) 743-1700 to schedule a time, or email him at

Precision Plus Invites Walworth County High Schools in Wisconsin To Attend A Plant Tour to Celebrate Manufacturing Day

Michael Reader

On Friday, October 4, 2013, and to celebrate the 2nd Annual National Manufacturing Day, Precision Plus of Elkhorn, Wisconsin will host local high school groups for a plant tour and informal conversation about the manufacturing industry and its career opportunities.  Please contact Barry Butters, Director of Education & Training at (262) 743-1700 for more information, or email him at

PMPA and Production Machining Magazine Feature Precision Plus in Recent Publications

Michael Reader

In an article published in the PMPA Magazine on April 18 2013, Miles Free, its Director of Technology Services, describes the events of February 2013 that took place at Precision Plus and surrounding schools following a manufacturing education initiative.  The article was also reprinted by Production Machining Magazine.

“A career in precision machining can be part of a dual path of work and education. A dual track leads to a lifetime of career success.”

 PMPA Member Company Precision Plus, and CEO Mike Reader, in Elkhorn, Wis., is showing manufacturers how to engage effectively to get the word out about skills needed in manufacturing.

On February 22, Precision Plus hosted an open house attended by Wisconsin Lt. Governor Rebecca Kleefisch, Wisconsin Economic Development Corp. CEO Reed Hall, staff members and local press. The shop tour allowed the attendees to see how manufacturing is an important part of the Wisconsin economy, and the critical role Precision Plus and their machinists play in making high-technology, precision-engineered components—components that are used by many companies in the state, as well as across North America and around the world.

On February 27, Precision Plus hosted the Elkhorn Area High School Manufacturing Career Panel. “The skills gap that we hear about is real, and we opened our shop to show the attendees that there are great career opportunities right here in their own back yard,” Mr. Reader says. “Earn while you learn through tuition reimbursement programs is something many families haven’t considered.”

To help students understand the nature of the opportunities available, speakers from across the industry were brought in to share their experiences. Olaf Tessarzyk, managing partner and president at ZPS America LLC, discussed the wages earned in the trade across the country and around the world. He also discussed the opportunities available nationally and internationally for skilled people in manufacturing.

“Bring your math, engineering and problem solving skills, and you can have a great career in manufacturing,” Mr. Tessarzyk says. “Our service techs earn great pay, have great careers, have good quality of life and get to travel. They are also highly respected as the people who can get your equipment back into operation when no one else can. It is a great feeling to be the ‘go-to guy or gal’ today when so many people remain unemployed.”

John Murphy of Morris Midwest discussed the companies in Wisconsin that purchased precision machined products from companies like Precision Plus “It is a veritable ‘Who’s Who of Wisconsin manufacturers,’” he says. “While the job and opportunity is local, the fact is that the products made are vital to other companies and jobs all across the state.”

Dan Murphy, regional sales manager and product expert with REM Sales, spoke to the 180 students in attendance and described the technologies and how they are used. “A lot of orthopedic and surgical implant components are made using Swiss machining technologies like those here at Precision Plus,” he says. “I was really impressed when about eight of the students attending, all of whom were in the highest ranking of their graduating class, came up to me to tell me two of them were considering a career in biomedical engineering. The visibility and importance of precision machining in their future field was easily seen by these students.”

Darlene Miller, CEO of Permac Industries in Burnsville, Minn., had a message for the female students in attendance. “We actually have an advantage in this industry. We think differently. Critically. Our asking ‘why?’ leads to improvements and efficiencies in processes. Our attention to detail helps minimize mistakes. But our passion helps keep everyone motivated and working toward the same goal.

“After working in manufacturing, I moved into sales, and bought an interest in the company. I grew my share and grew my company. Today, we supply leading companies around the world. I was recently honored as one of 122 Women in Manufacturing by the Manufacturing Institute,” Ms. Miller continues. “Another honoree was a young woman who operates a CNC machine and designed an assembly process for her employer. I don’t know of any place with so many opportunities for a career, recognition and to make a difference as precision machining and advanced manufacturing.”

Mr. Reader summarizes his take on the career panel, “I think this year’s Manufacturing Career Panel was a success. Despite our lovely Wisconsin weather, we engaged almost 200 students, including a valedictorian and several others at the top of their class. The best and brightest showed up. While many of them still plan on attending college, and we hope they do, they now are aware that they have another choice besides going deep into debt. They now know that they can earn while they learn, gain a skill as they get an education and integrate their manufacturing experiences into their engineering studies.”

“Learn your skills locally, but understand they are needed globally,” he concludes. “Your highest and best use may just be becoming a skilled craftsman in high-demand globally. Even the Swiss, who are known for their culture of manufacturing expertise and quality, are trying to find more manufacturing talent. A career in precision machining can be part of a dual path of work and education. A dual track leads to a lifetime of career success.”

Wisconsin Lt. Governor Rebecca Kleefisch to Tour Precision Plus on Friday, February 22, 2013

Michael Reader

February 19, 2013, Elkhorn, WI – In a continued effort to increase Wisconsin’s in-state manufacturing, particularly in the aerospace and aviation sector, Lt. Governor Rebecca Kleefisch will tour the facilities of Precision Plus of Elkhorn, Wisconsin.  She will be joined by Wisconsin Economic Development Corporation’s (WEDC)  Executive Director Reed Hall and Communications Manager Tom Thieding.

The purpose of this tour and discussion is to present Lt. Governor Kleefisch with a clear picture of Wisconsin’s manufacturing supply chain, showing how the State can benefit from developing additional manufacturing opportunities.  By engaging State agencies in promoting advanced manufacturing targeting the aerospace and aviation industries, the State of Wisconsin can also benefit from the growth potential offered through this type of business development.

“We are excited to have the Lt. Governor and WEDC Executive Director tour our manufacturing facility,” said Precision Plus President Michael Reader.  “It is critical to the State’s economy for us to work together in promoting advanced manufacturing as we offer great career opportunities and compensation packages for highly-skilled machinists and support personnel.”

Precision Plus is a high-precision machining and solution provider to numerous OEMs around the world.  With over 8 million dollars spent on state-of-the-art machining equipment over the past 5 years, and a staff of highly-skilled machinists, Precision Plus has been recognized as a leading supplier of Swiss-type and CNC-turned components.  The company was recommended to WEDC by a large aerospace group as a supplier well-positioned to help grow Wisconsin’s aerospace and aviation industries.  Mr. Reader added, “Let’s put hard working Wisconsinites back to work in rewarding careers and grow our way out of this economic slump”.

The event will take place on Friday, February 22 from 3:45pm until 5:00pm (originally scheduled from 9:30am until 10:45am ) and Precision Plus cordially invites the news media and press to partake in the tour and discussion.  Precision Plus is located at 840 Koopman Ln., Elkhorn, Wisconsin 53121.  Should this tour need to be rescheduled due to anticipated weather conditions in our area, it will be announced on our social media channels and on this blog.

Precision Plus is devoted to bringing manufacturing back the United States through awareness and education and actively promotes its vision within the State of Wisconsin and the country.

For more information on this event, please contact Michael Reader at (262) 743-1700 x105 or via electronic mail.