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.

Barry Butters Invited to Speak at the 2015 Youth Apprenticeship Forum on April 23 in Wisconsin Dells

Michael Reader

On Thursday, April 23, 2015, Scott Fromader, Youth Education Consultant for the Wisconsin Department of Workforce Development (DWD), the Division of Employment and Training (DET) , the Bureau of Workforce Training (BWT), and the Workforce Investment Act (WIA), led a state-wide “Youth Apprenticeship (YA)” Conference in Wisconsin Dells, to address strategic plans for Wisconsin’s talent development that include youth apprenticeships as a catalyst for the success of this endeavor.

Barry Butters, Director of Education and Training at Precision Plus, was asked to be a panelist during the conference.

Wisconsin’s workforce, education and economic development partners have intentionally aligned strategies and resources to address the labor shortage and skills gaps. Collaborative workforce models such as YA and registered apprenticeship can be scaled, expanded and “bridged” to build sustainable local talent pipelines for employers and skilled employment opportunities for students and job seekers. Demand driven models like Wiscosin Fast Forward and the Blueprint for Prosperity have funded almost 20,000 training opportunities for students, job seekers and incumbent workers to gain market-relevant skill sets and employment opportunities. Let’s set a vision for what the YA practitioners in WI can do to leverage the capabilities of collaborative networks and successful workforce models.

The day-long conference covered a myriad of topics which, in one way or another, affect the development of successful youth apprenticeship programs in the State of Wisconsin.

Jim Chiolino, DWD Equal Rights Division, Labor Standards Bureau Director, Joy M. Gander, CPCU, ARM, Principal, Gander Consulting Group, LLC, and Joseph Moreth, DWD, Workers Compensation Division, Bureau of Insurance Programs Director, addressed child labor law, insurance and workers’ compensation impacts and implications. The session’s moderator was Amy Phillips.

Ann Westrich, Wisconsin Technical College System (WTCS) Education Director, Career Prep/YA/K-12/Articulation, spoke about existing and upcoming articulation agreements with Wisconsin’s technical colleges, or the ability to earn transferable college credits while completing a youth apprenticeship certification. Cathy Crary was the moderator.

Karen Morgan, DWD-DET, Bureau of Apprenticeship Standards (BAS) Director and Jamie Bernthal, DWD YA Program Coordinator, talked about strategies for placing youth in registered apprenticeship programs.

Robin Kroyer-Kubicek, Department of Public Instruction (DPI) Career Pathways Education Consultant, addressed youth apprenticeships, work-based learning, certification and academic and career planning as discussed with DPI.

Scott Fromader, DWD-DET, BWT, WIA Youth Education Consultant, explained both the Workforce Investment Act and the Workforce Innovate and Opportunity Act (WIOA) Youth Programs in detail. The moderator for this session was Phil Koenig.

Phil Koenig served again as moderator for the session on how social media impacts the world of workforce programs. The session’s panelists were Andre Small, DWD-DET, BJS, Business Service Section Chief, Meghan Spranger, DWD Office of the Secretary, Communications Specialist Advisor, and George (Dom) Tervalon, DWD-DET, BJS, Employer Consultant Specialist.

Shelly Harkins, DWD-DET, Office of Skills Development Program Outreach, Barry R. Butters, Director of Education & Training, Precision Plus, Elkhorn, WI, Tania Kilpatrick, Career and Technical Education Coordinator and YA Regional Coordinator, CESA 6, Jill Preissner, YA Regional Coordinator Sheboygan Area YA Consortium, Cyndy Sandberg, YA Alternate Regional Coordinator, SC WDB YA Consortium & YA Coordinator, Jefferson County YA Consortium, Kristine Niehus, Director, Human Resources at CL&D Graphics, and Paul Liethen, School District of West Salem, Technology Education were panelists for the program entitled “Wisconsin Fast Forward: A Blueprint for Prosperity Through Education and Business Partnership Collaborations.” The core message centered on collaborative efforts between school districts, technical collages and businesses to “provide high school pupils with industry-recognized certifications in high-demand fields,” and how DWD’s programs bring it all together. The moderators were Cathy Crary and Lori Uttech-Hanson.

Lisa Perkofski, DWD-DET, BAS, Apprenticeship Training Representatives, Area #8: Outagamie, Waupaca, Waushara, and Winnebago counties and Ben Stahlecker, DWD-DET, BAS, Apprenticeship Training Representative, Area #4: Adams, Forest, Langlade, Lincoln, Marathon, Oneida, Portage, Price, Taylor, Vilas, and Wood counties, led the workshop entitled “Registered Apprenticeship: A Strategic Advantage for Today’s Workforce,” or anticipating industry needs by having apprenticeships programs available for students in advance. Jamie Bernthal was the moderator.

Meredith Dressel, DWD-DVR, Bureau of Consumer Services, Deputy Director, provided an overview of DVR services, including “initiatives to promote employment opportunities for youth with disabilities.” The session was entitled “Division of Vocational Rehabilitation (DVR) Transition Youth Initiative and promoting Readiness of Minors in Supplemental Security Income (PROMISE) Grant. The moderator was Scott Fromader.

Cathy Crary, DWD-DET, BWT, Youth and At-Risk Programs Section Chief, Tom Martin, Southwest WI YA Regional Coordinator, Cyndy Sandberg, South Central WI YA Alternate Regional Coordinator and Jefferson County YA Coordinator, discussed YA program budget, legislative, policy and administration updates.

Finally, facilitators Jamie Bernthal and Amy Phillips, DWD YA Program coordinators, led a discussion giving YA consortiums an opportunity to highlight best practices and exchange ideas.

Participants left with valuable takeaways to implement.

Precision Plus of Elkhorn, Wisconsin Presents Gateway Technical College with a Check for $50,000

Michael Reader

On April 16, 2015, Mike Reader, President and Owner of Precision Plus of Elkhorn, Wisconsin, presented a check in the amount of $50,000 to the Gateway Technical College Board. This contribution follows the announcement of a new manufacturing center that will be built and developed at the school’s Elkhorn Campus.

Mike Reader writes:

On behalf of our 65 dedicated manufacturing professionals here at Precision Plus, I was delighted to present a gift to the board members of Gateway Technical College.  Our check for $50,000 will go towards securing additional equipment/materials to enhance the students’ experience and better prepare them for their careers ahead.  In addition to the monetary support, this gesture serves merely as a starting point for a long-term partnership, as we also look forward to assisting with technical support, materials, mentoring and work experience opportunities.

Gateway Technical College has several campuses throughout the counties which it serves–Kenosha, Racine and Walworth—offering general curriculum studies, as well as targeted programs to address specific local industry needs.

For many decades, Southeast Wisconsin has been known for housing a cluster of Swiss precision manufacturers. Unfortunately, a training facility to address these specific needs was not available until now. I am pleased to announce that through the joint efforts of the Gateway leadership team and the engaged business community, Gateway Technical College will house a state-of-the-art training facility in its Elkhorn Campus.

It will unfold as a two-step solution starting in the fall of 2015 with new curriculum, equipment and instruction, followed by new brick/mortar and more equipment within a year.

 This new advanced manufacturing training lab will house state-of-the-art turning and milling equipment from strategic partner Haas Automation, coupled with a Tsugami S205 Swiss-type (sliding headstock) machine, compliments of the Morris Group and Morris Midwest.  It will be fitted with a Tracer 6’ magazine bar-feeding system from CNC Indexing & Feeding, along with a 1,000 PSI high-pressure pump to replicate real scenarios which the students are bound to also experience once in a real career track.

Joining me during the presentation also were Wall Mulvaney, John Holt and Dave Kramer, representing Haas Automation and the Gene Haas Foundation.  In addition to the equipment support, they also presented the Board with a check for $10,000 to fund ten-$1,000 student scholarships for those choosing to pursue a career in technical education focused on machining at Gateway Technical College.


Precision Plus’ Barry Butters Continues His Outreach to Area Schools by Promoting Manufacturing to Elementary Students

Michael Reader

On February 23, 2015 Barry Butters, Director of Education and Training at Precision Plus in Elkhorn, Wisconsin, visited Gaston Elementary School in Beloit to talk to second and third grade students. Then, on Wednesday, March 18th, he made the same presentation to the second grade classrooms at Westside Elementary School in Elkhorn. Both of the schools are participating in Project Lead The Way (PLTW) Launch Curriculum.

The presentation included sharing the story of manufacturing with the students, and how people who are strong in the STEM arts (science, technology, engineering and math) are the ones who can change the world. Butters also talked about the engineering design process as it is introduced in the PLTW curriculum.

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“It is so cool to see the excitement of these young students holding parts and bar ends. It cannot be too early to plant the seeds of a potential career in the manufacturing field with these young students,” said Butters.

Learn more about Project Lead The Way Launch Curriculum here.

Precision Plus Intern Matt Dowell Places 5th at SkillsUSA Nationals

Michael Reader

Precision Plus intern Matt Dowell and his team placed 5th out of 22 teams at the National SkillsUSA Competition in Kansas City, MO.

Matt and his teammates Mikaela Coose and Cecily Fico earned the a trip to the national competition by taking 1st place in Wisconsin’s SkillsUSA Engineering Technology/Design Competition in Madison on April 29-30, from six teams competing in this category. Precision Plus congratulates Matt and his teammates!

Their product, called ecoTUBE,  is an innovative medical tube designed to dispense 100% of any salve or ointment.

The national competition spanned from Monday, June 23 through Saturday, June 28, 2014. In the Engineering Technology/Design category, teams of three students demonstrated their ability to design an innovative an engineering project and present those ideas along with a display and live model. During the presentation, students were judged on their performance as a professional team, presentation of their project to a panel of judges from the engineering field, their storyboard presentation model, and the overall effect of the presentation.

Matt and his teammates developed their project while taking the Project Lead The Way (PLTW) capstone course Engineering Design and Development (EDD) at Wilmot Union H.S. Their advisor for the SkillsUSA competition was George Troupis.


Problem Origination: Team member Mikaela Coose’s dog suffers from dry-eye syndrome, which requires regular application of an ointment medication. The ointment comes in a tube, most similar to that of a toothpaste tube, but smaller in size. Because this medication is costly and a substantial amount remains in the tube after it is squeezed out, the team decided they would redesign the current not user-friendly squeezable tube design for these types of applications.


Design Statement: Patients find it increasingly difficult to utilize the full value of expensive salve medicine due to the current structure of medical tubes.

Design Objective: Design and develop an innovative medical tube that allows patients to more adequately utilize the full value of costly salve medicine.

Target Market:

  • Elderly or Individuals with Arthritis – due to the limited force needed to squeeze the medication out compared to other containers
  • Handicapped or Disabled Individuals With Limited Motor Skills
  • Anyone Looking to Save Money – The product’s low waste results in cost savings

 Description of Product Overview (As Shown On The Video Above):
The design was rendered in Autodesk Inventor, and 3-D modeled using the same software.

  • The first segment shows ecoTUBE’s assembly sequence
    • The spring moves left into the far left component
    • The assembly moves from left to right, snapping the left most pieces together
    • The plunger gets screwed on
    • An O-ring is added to seal the assembly
    • The product is placed in the tube
    • The sub assembly from before gets snapped into the tube
    • The cap gets placed on it.
  • The second segment shows an working model of ecoTUBE
  • The third segment demonstrates the child lock on the bottom of it. Initially it just spins, but once pushed in, it twists the entire unit

Note: There is also a model that does not include the child lock, and is geared for over-the-counter products such as sunscreen, toothpaste, etc. The team included a child lock on the original design presented, as their target market was medical-type applications.

Personal Project Roles Of The Team Members:

Matthew Dowell – Headed up the CAD modeling and prototype building

Mikaela Coose – Presentation materials such as the PowerPoint and Storyboard

Cecily Fico – Much of the documentation such as the design brief and made the label


This was not Wilmot’s first trip to Kansas City, as Mikaela Coose (past Senior) and Matt Dowell (past Junior), made their second trip along with new member Cecily Fico (past Sophomore) to the 50th SkillsUSA National Leadership and Skills Conference. Having placed 14th in last year’s competition in the Engineering Technology/Design category, Coose and Dowell learned what it would really take to bring their presentation to the next level.

With Fico on board, the Wilmot team devoted most of their free time throughout the school year to work on their ecoTUBE – coined for its economical and ecofriendly qualities – an innovative medical tube designed to dispense 100% of any salve, such as medicine gels, toothpaste or sunscreen lotion.

During the week of June 22 -27, 2014, Coose, Dowell, and Fico had the opportunity to demonstrate and explain their creative idea to each of the judges in personal interviews as well as to the public. They also took on a spontaneous team problem-solving problem, involving building a roller coaster for a marble out of provided materials. The team ended the competition week with a professional presentation of their product. Wilmot came very close to medaling at the Awards Night, but were completely thrilled to find out the team notably placed 5th in the Nation.

Although Coose will be moving on to study engineering at Olivet Nazarene University, Dowell and Fico have a promising future as they look forward to using the priceless experience they have gained to improve and eventually compete at the next SkillsUSA Conference in 2015. Dowell is looking to a future of becoming a mechanical engineer, and Fico desires to be a civil or architectural engineer.

Precision Plus Inc. Supporting the CNC Boot Camp at the iMET Center in Sturtevant, Wisconsin

Michael Reader

The CNC Boot Camp is an innovative, fast-paced, hands-on program to learn the essentials of Computer Numerical Control (CNC) operations. Gateway Technical College, in partnership with the Workforce Development Centers offers this training as a certificate program. Satisfactory completion of Boot Camp courses earn college credit toward a diploma or degree. The Boot Camp is a 14-week program that requires attending class 8-hours a day, 5 days a week.

Image Courtesy of Gateway College

On April 2, 2014, Barry Butters, Director of Education and Training at Precision Plus was invited to make a presentation to the current class on a typical day for CNC machinists at Precision Plus Butters used a PowerPoint about the company and demonstrated the software essential to the programing of the CNC machines. The presentation also included an explanation of the soft skills employers are looking for and the benefit package available at Precision Plus Butters will also participate in a mock interview exercise with the students so that they know generally what to expect on real interviews. “We are excited to support any efforts to help feed the pipeline of machinists,” said Butters.

100% funding is available for qualified Boot Camp participants through the generous support of SC Johnson & Sons, A Family Company.

Wisconsin Fast Forward Program Plans to Award $15 MM in Grants to Support Employer-Led Worker Training

Michael Reader

In March of 2013, Wisconsin State Governor Scott Walker, with nearly full support of the State Legislature, signed the “Wisconsin Fast Forward” program, whereby $15 million in grants would be made available to support employer-led worker training programs, and ultimately connect job seekers with employers.  This initiative is in line with the State’s intention to educate and train high-skilled workers.  The program is being administered by the Department of Workforce Development’s (DWD) new Office of Skills Development (OSD), and has already helped create worker-training programs, preparing workers for Wisconsin jobs available today and in the years to come.

DWD’s Shelly Harkins has made a number of presentations to the manufacturing community to explain the grant procedures and requirements.  On March 18, 2014, Precision Plus welcomed Ms. Harkins to our facility where she would address a number of Walworth County manufacturers who gathered at  the company’s new multi-purpose classroom.  The following Walworth County’s companies attended the presentation:  Iseli, Hudapack Metal Treating, Inc., Prop Shaft Supply, MacLean Fogg, Bliss Machine, Ltd., ScotForge, Micro Precision, Inc., Aztalan Engineering, and R & L Spring Company.

More information about the grant may be found here.

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.