Delivering Value to our Customers

Michael Reader

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

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

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

Manufacturing Matters! Conference Update: The Skills Gap: Is it Real?

Michael Reader

The Manufacturing Matters! Conference was held at the Hyatt Regency in Milwaukee on Thursday, February 27, 2014.  The conference was sponsored by the Wisconsin Manufacturing Extension Partnership (WMEP), which focuses on delivering unmatched opportunities for learning, networking, and collaboration.

For 17 years, the conference has raised public awareness of the vitality, strength and contributions of the manufacturing sector, and promoted the well-being of manufacturing as essential for a healthy, vibrant economy in Wisconsin.

One of the conference’s breakout sessions was a spirited debate concerning the skills gap.  The room was packed full to hear an exchange between Professor Marc V. Levine, Founding Director of the Center of Economic Development of University of Wisconsin at Milwaukee, Mike Reader, President of Precision Plus, and Eric Isbister, CEO and co-owner of GenMet Corporation. WMEP President Buckley Brinkman moderated the panel discussion.

The subject being debated was the existence–or absence thereof–of a manufacturing skills gap in Wisconsin, and the program was headlined as “The Skills Gap: It is Real?”  The controversy stemmed from a 2013 study conducted by Levine, who proposed the manufacturing skills gap to be just a myth.

Levine’s arguments were based on statistical data of national averages in a job creation crisis scenario. Isbister and Reader contradicted Levine’s findings, by suggesting that the crisis was with skills, not job creation.

A summary of their views:

  Job Crisis

  • Creating too few
    good jobs
  • Economic numbers don’t
    support crisis
  • Well educated workforce
  • Skills just one piece
    of the puzzle
  • Employers aren’t effective “finders”
  Skills Crisis

  • Too few qualified workers
    to fill jobs
  • 82% of all manufacturers
    cite problems
  • Unskilled workforce
  • Skills are a
    critical need
  • Engaging more channels
    than ever

According to an article in by Dan Shafer, “Isbister called the study itself ‘detrimental’ to the future of manufacturing,” alleging that it discourages people from pursuing high-skilled careers in this field.  Mary Baer, Director of Member Development a Waukesha County Business Alliance, said there was a “disconnect between educators like Levine and the business community.”  Both Reader and Isbister extended Levine an invitation to visit their particular facilities, and observe the skill gap first hand.

At the end of the debate, Brinkman gave Levine credit for “appearing in front of a group of passionate manufacturers who all dispute the findings.” Levine mentioned that he it was not his intent to harm the industry, and that he considers “manufacturing…the heart of innovation.”

A Note From Mike Reader, President of Precision Plus

Michael Reader

As we enter the second half of the year I am happy to report we have many good things happening here at Precision Plus  All and all, it was a successful first half with sales surpassing those of last year, and the addition of our 4th Miyano ABX lathe.  Our customers remain optimistic and continue to ask us to take on more work from them.  It is a testament to the hard work of all our staff when I hear a long-standing customer ask me “we need to resource a package of parts, how much more can you take on?”.  Especially with existing customers, we have developed a trust that ensures them that we know what we are doing and that we will produce what they ask for.  As the degree of difficulty in developing and manufacturing new components continues to increase, we understand that the complexity of the part will make a difference in our customers’ profitability and efficiency.

We are continually improving “embedding” ourselves with our customers’ product engineering teams, so as to add more value and be in the best position to transition from prototype to production.  Our customers love this because they can understand cost and manufacturing challenges early on in a design project.  We love this because we want to make the entire process seamless. Bill Wells, our Sales and Engineering Manager, devotes much of his time working with these engineers.  It’s a time-consuming proposition, but an investment in both our futures.

Since the beginning of the year, we have taken on over 100 new jobs, not only from new customer-partners, but from our existing customer-partners from a variety of industries, including pneumatic and hydraulic, aerospace, industrial, automotive, medical and dental and movie and still motion product manufacturers.

This organic growth, coupled with new opportunities developed through our website and media efforts have us plenty busy.  As I mentioned earlier, we continue to reinvest in capital equipment and technology to support our customer’s needs, and remain committed to ongoing improvements.

However, while we can put all the new equipment we want on the floor, it is the difficulty in finding/developing skilled machinists that will constrain our growth moving forward.  This is a real problem for us, our industry and our country that requires a true Manufacturing Training Plan.  We are addressing this issue on many levels.  Locally, we are participating in trade school and college programs designed to instruct young and/or unemployed individuals in the crucial trade of manufacturing.  On a national level, with the PMPA, we are talking to Congress and Senate leaders in order to create a mind shift with respect to training younger people in the trades, so they can fill in the open spots that retiring Baby Boomers are leaving at a rapid pace.  The goal is to bring manufacturing back to the U.S.

Reach out to me with any questions, suggestions or comments you may have!  My door is always open.

Mike Reader