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.

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.

PMPA Continues to Be At the Center of the Precision Manufacturing Industry

Michael Reader

For over eighty years, the Precision Machined Products Association (PMPA) has played a key role in the journey of the industry. The PMPA is truly a 360-degree trade organization comprised of industry leaders who understand that having an active and strong manufacturing industry is vital to the overall strength and stability of our economy. Through a full-range of programs and services, the PMPA helps its members “meet their operational challenges and focus on new business opportunities.”

With plenty of involvement opportunities at all levels of membership–active, associate, technical or affiliate, the PMPA attributes the success of the organization to its members and their ongoing involvement at all levels.

Precision Plus is vested in this organization, actively participating in several committees at the national level including Strategic Planning, PMTS (Precision Machining Tool Show), Management Update, Government Affairs and Quality, as well as playing an active role in the PMPA local Wisconsin chapter.

Precision Plus will be represented at the PMPA Management Update Conference taking place in San Antonio, TX from February 27 through March 1st, and the Precision Machining Technology Show (PMTS)  in Columbus, OH scheduled for April 21-23, 2015.

Jeff Lemmermann, Precision Plus’s CFO and CTO is scheduled to speak at the Management Update Conference on the subject of hacking.

Then, preceding PMTS, Precision Plus’ Barry Butters, Director of Education and Training, and Dale Wittlieff, Director of Quality and Continued Improvement, will be at hand at the 2015 PMPA National Technical Conference, also taking place in Columbus from April 19 through the 21st. Along with Robin Rutschlling of Clippard Instrument Laboratory, Inc., and Rich Nast of Bracalente Manufacturing Group, Butters will share actionable steps during a program titled, “How to Deal With the Skilled Training Issue.” The panel will provide real-world examples of “what their shops are doing in their communities to draw the best and the brightest into our industry.”

Dale Wittlieff will assist in a presentation entitled “ISO-9001:2015; A Look over the Horizon.” Although this revision will not become official until the end of 2015, this session aims “to provide insight as to how you can best prepare for this change,” learning about key changes, understanding what is needed to comply, and hearing examples on how to implement the new requirements.

Click here for more information on the PMPA, and timely information industry updates on their Speaking of Precision Blog.

To Celebrate Manufacturing Month, Precision Plus in Elkhorn, Wisconsin Welcomed Five Area High Schools for Plant Tours

Michael Reader

One hundred and forty-one students and eleven chaperones from five area high schools visited Precision Plus of Elkhorn, Wisconsin during the month of October 2014, to celebrate Manufacturing Month and learn about the industry and the company. MFG DAY 2014 held earlier in October, had kicked off the month-long event. The schools in attendance were Delavan Darien High School and East Troy High School on October 16th, Elkhorn Area High School and Lake Geneva Badger High School on October 23rd, and Tenor High School on October 27th.

The tour began at Precision Plus’ classroom with personnel introduction, a PowerPoint presentation about the history of the company and the role of a contract manufacturer, followed by a demonstration of the software used at Precision Plus, and a video showcasing the trajectory of a part from concept to completion. After a question and answer session, the students took a plant tour. Upon returning to the classroom, students had another opportunity for Q&As and received a PMPA pen/flash drive with information about CNC training and career statistics.

Precision Plus received several notes from the schools, reiterating the importance of such opportunities for students who are evaluating their future career possibilities.

PMPA Wisconsin Annual Golf Outing at Lake Lawn Resort a Great Success

Michael Reader

Bill Wells, Precision Plus’ Director of Engineering, organized the PMPA (Wisconsin Chapter) Annual Golf Outing at Lake Lawn Resort on Delavan Lake, which took place on September 24, 2014. Eighty-eight golfers participated in the event, which kicked off the 2014-2015 programs for the Precision Machined Products Association members. The weather was perfect for a good game of golf, and the event culminated with a wonderful dinner and door prizes by the lake.

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PMPA’s Wisconsin Chapter Tees Offs Their 2014-2015 Program Year With Their Annual Golf Outing at Lake Lawn Resort on September 24, 2014

Michael Reader

The Wisconsin Chapter of PMPA (Precision Machined Products Association) is hosting its annual golf outing on Wednesday, September 24, 2014 at Lake Lawn Resort on Delavan Lake. This annual event brings together precision manufacturers and suppliers for a great day of golf, friendly competition, dinner, door prizes and networking.

Shotgun start and the scramble event begin at 12pm, with lunch courtesy of Corey Steel Company. Following the game, the event continues with 5pm cocktails and 6pm dinner. $125 per person includes 18 holes, cart, and dinner. A dinner only option is avaukabke $55 per person.   Download a registration form here.

If you would like to become a sponsor, please email or call Bill Wells, Precision Plus,  at 262-743-1700.

PMPA’s Wisconsin Chapter Annual Golf Outing is an event not to be missed.

On March 26, 2014 PMPA Members Took On Capitol Hill

Michael Reader

On March 26, 2014, thirteen members of the PMPA’s  (Precision Machined Products Association) Government Affairs Committee flew into Washington D.C. to discuss several industry key issues with members of the U.S. Congress.

Photo Courtesy of PMPA

These issues included:

  • Tax reform
  • Skills gap
  • EPA and OSHA regulations and NLRB rulings

The group was also able to conduct a PMPA Government Affairs Committee meeting and briefing at the U.S. Chamber of Commerce headquarters, which is located across the street from the White House.

Mike Reader, President of Precision Plus was among the delegation.  In the image to the left, Mike and PMPA Executive Director Michael Kobylka stand before the Capitol.

On the image to the right, Mike Reader stands next  Paul Ryan, U.S. Congressman representing Wisconsin’s 1st District.

Read the original report, “PMPA VOICES HEARD ON CAPITOL HILL” here.


PMPA’s 2014 Management Update Conference to Take Place February 21-23, 2014 in Las Vegas

Michael Reader

For three intense days, members and industry colleagues of the PMPA (Precision Machined Products Association) will convene in Las Vegas, Nevada to attend their annual Management Update Conference, which begins on February 21, 2014 and will be held at the new Cosmopolitan Hotel.

This conference is not limited to PMPA members only, but it is open to the entire North American precision machined products industry. In an open letter to the industry, Conference Chairman Brad Smith, wrote:  “Management Update, which is widely considered the premiere management conference for our industry, has much to offer this year as you’ll see when you review the conference program.  The education sessions offer wonderful learning experiences, combined with daily networking opportunities where you’ll have time to pick the brains of leaders from the industry’s top companies.”

Some of the topics to be covered during this conference will be lifestyle motivation, customer service, marketing and sales, business development strategies, social media applications for manufacturers, improved communication with employees, accountability, laws affecting the industry, and the economic outlook for 2014.

Click here for more information.

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.”

Precision Manufacturers Address Shortage of Skilled Personnel on Many Levels

Michael Reader

Shortage of skilled precision manufacturing craftsmen is rapidly approaching the danger zone.   As Baby Boomers retire from their positions at a rate of 10,000 per day, we are confronted with vacancies which are unable to be filled due to the lack of availability of qualified and trained men and women.

As manufacturers, Precision Plus and many others are undertaking a targeted  bulls-eye campaign, to address this issue from all possible points:

    In March of 2012, a group representing PMPA (Precision Machined Products Association ) flew into Washington, DC to engage in conversation with government officials regarding this impending issue. The Franklin Partnership arranged 75 congressional visits for members of PMPA , while Second Vice President Darlene Miller of Permac Industries, arranged meetings and a tour with White House Officials.  Many important issues relevant to preserving manufacturing in the U.S. were discussed, with an emphasis in tax reform and job training. A second Fly-In is scheduled for early October.  By then, according to PMPA, “Attendees will have a chance to tell their elected officials directly about the importance of manufacturing as they campaign. It will also better position PMPA as we head into the lame duck session having recently briefed members of Congress about our priorities on tax reform and other issues.”
    Precision manufacturers have vowed to bring awareness to local elected officials by inviting them to tour our facilities and sitting down for frank discussions on how to improve the future of manufacturing.
    We are many, but collectively, we are a force and we have one voice.  Nothing comes without acute dedication to our beliefs, in that our country deserves to once again soar in the manufacturing world.
    Precision manufacturers understand that time does not stand still and that in every person exists  the goal is to better themselves.We promote and provide further education to solidify their skills and knowledge.  By being involved in formulating high-caliber continuing technical education curricula, such as that provided during the PMPA’s Annual Technical Conference, we ensure that our employees are at the forefront of industry and technology know-how.
    Precision manufacturers are actively working with local colleges and technical institutes to establish courses and training that will result in the opportunity to provide high-school graduates with a valuable option of going into a trade.   Specialized technical curricula will ensure graduates comprehend and can fulfill the responsibilities of a craftsman-type job.
    We are committed to bringing technical studies back to the high-school level.  As such, we will support organizations who are actively engaged in the promotion and advancement of technology training at the high-school level.

The precision manufacturing community commits to pursue a targeted bulls-eye campaign to address the deficit in skilled manufacturing labor force that exists in the United States today.

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