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.

Take a Virtual Tour of Precision Plus, Swiss Precision Manufacturer in Elkhorn, Wisconsin

Michael Reader

Mike Reader, President of Precision Plus of Elkhorn, Wisconsin, takes us on a virtual tour of the plant. The company is a Swiss precision contract manufacturer, typically producing components requiring tight tolerances.

In this guided tour, Reader shows us how tiny components used in a variety of industries are actually made, some of them boasting tolerances as tight at 5/10,000 of an inch, or about 1/10 the diameter of a typical strand of hair.

Parts manufactured at Precision Plus on automatic lathe machines begin as bar stock, which through a number of operations is “peeled away” yielding complex, mission-critical components for industries such as aerospace, military, automotive, medical/dental, pneumatic/hydraulic and industrial.

In this video, Reader also talks about how the manufacturing industry has changed over the years, now requiring to employ exceptional individuals who excel in math and science and who can have the ability to program machinery and produce complex components with tight tolerances. The company supports many educational initiatives, offers internships and apprenticeships, and works with programs that support STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering and Math) disciplines.

This video was produced by Wisconsin Manufacturing & Commerce, an organization that supports Wisconsin manufacturers. October has been designed as Manufacturing Month in Wisconsin.

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.


Precision Plus to Host a Manufacturing Day Open House on Thursday, October 8, 2015

Michael Reader


Precision Plus of Elkhorn, Wisconsin, Joins the Manufacturing Community to Celebrate the Industry, Improve Public Perception, Promote Career Opportunities, and Inspire the Next Generation of Manufacturing Professionals

ELKHORN, WISCONSIN, September 28, 2015 – In celebration of Manufacturing Day (MFG DAY) 2015, Precision Plus invites the community to attend an open house on Thursday, October 8, 2015 from 5:00 pm until 7:30 pm, with the goal to continue to dispel outdated perceptions of the manufacturing industry, while sharing the outstanding opportunities available through careers in high-tech manufacturing.

A brief presentation by several Precision Plus Team members is scheduled to begin 5:30 pm. Guided tours of the plant and operation will follow the presentation. Light refreshments will be served at the completion of the tours and the Precision Plus Team will be at hand to answer questions.

“There is an increased demand for highly-skilled individuals to design, program and operate technology,” said Mike Reader, President of Precision Plus “Unless we proactively act together to reverse the trend, the shortage of skilled workers will be unprecedented.”

This is the fourth consecutive year for Precision Plus to host an open house to celebrate Manufacturing Day, a national event first organized in 2012 to promote the manufacturing industry. MFG DAY is supported by manufacturers throughout the U.S. and Canada who host events for students, teachers, parents, job seekers, community leaders, legislators and the community at large to spread the word about 21st century manufacturing.

Precision Plus is an ISO 9001:2008 registered contract manufacturer of precision turned components, specializing in Swiss-type turning , and serving customers across industries who demand exceptional quality.

To register for the Precision Plus Manufacturing Day Open House, click HERE. For more information, please contact Mark Beilman, Director of Education and Training via email or by calling 262-743-1700 ###

For a PDF of the invitation above, please click HERE.

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.

What Manufacturers Can Do to Attract, Retain and Keep Connected with Employees

Michael Reader

On September 18, 2015, the Independent Business Association of Wisconsin, in cooperation with the New Berlin Chamber of Commerce & Visitors Bureau, Bank Mutual and Sikich, presented the Wisconsin Manufacturing Summit 2015, which took place at The Wisconsin Club Ballroom in Milwaukee, Wisconsin.

Mary Spaight, HR Coordinator, and Mark Beilman, Director of Education and Training at Precision Plus attended the conference.

The keynote presenter was Christine McMahon, whose program entitled “Workforce Strategies: Attraction. Retention. Connection.,” addressed a hot topic among prospective employees: “Why should I work here?” This topic is especially of importance to the manufacturing industry, which is plagued with a shortage of high-skilled personnel. McMahon spoke about the role which company culture plays in answering that question, as well as about taking tangible steps for attracting and retaining the right talent.

Talent procurement is an ever-changing science that adjusts to current social sentiments. Employees are looking for a total proposition and a corporate culture they can trust. McMahon cited a statistic, which indicates that a high trust culture yields, on average, 30 percent better performance.

So, what makes a company a great place to work, and how can employees and employers be sure that it is a right match? McMahon suggests pre-qualifying employees by outlining the qualities which a successful candidate must possess for the position, prevents future disconnects and discords.

Jeff Lemmermann, Chief Financial Officer and Chief Information Officer at Precision Plus explains that the company currently gives every prospective employee a short survey which creates a ‘Predictive Index’ (PI). “This index provides an insight into what motivates each person, as well as their preferred internal style of giving and receiving information,” he continues. “This is essential in placing someone in the right position or team. The survey does not measure any type of skill level, but addresses the type of situations in which the employee can best engage.” Precision Plus has been using the PI program for workforce analytics since 2011.

Talent acquisition often carries a pricey investment tag, which includes advertising, marketing, interviewing and training, among other costs. What can companies do to retain their employees? McMahon suggested that hiring an employee is only the beginning of the journey. Employees must have a feeling of inclusiveness from the get go, need to feel the company’s story, and must be on board with the company’s values.

Additionally, employees must have clear performance expectations as well as a clear knowledge of what they can expect from the company. “Performance reviews are going away,” said McMahon, “being replaced by ongoing documented performance conversations and real-time feedback that can correct or improve performance midstream.”

Lemmermann states that transparency and understanding members’ style is vital for team building and team cooperation. Employees at Precision Plus are encouraged to learn each other’s predictive index in order to have a better understanding of how people prefer to communicate and work together.

Precision Plus Completes Recertification of ISO 9001:2008 Accreditation Status

Michael Reader

Precision Plus of Elkhorn, Wisconsin has recently completed a recertification audit to remain accredited as an ISO 9001:2008 organization. The audit was conducted by an independent third-party auditor.

ISO (the International Organization for Standardization) is a worldwide federation of national standards bodies representing 162 member countries, which collectively develop international standards for products, services and systems. The ISO is an independent, non-governmental organization with standards that aim to ensure quality, safety and efficiency, and are instrumental in global trade.

The ISO 9001:2008 Standard refers to the requirements for an organization to have a quality management system in place that meets the requirements outlined by ISO, which are generic in nature and can be met by any organization “regardless of type, size and product provided.”

According to ISO, any organization seeking to meet these requirements:

  • needs to demonstrate its ability to consistently provide product that meets customer and applicable statutory and regulatory requirements, and
  • aims to enhance customer satisfaction through the effective application of the system, including processes for continual improvement of the system and the assurance of conformity to customer and applicable statutory and regulatory requirements.

Dale Wittlieff, Director of Quality and Continuous Improvement at Precision Plus (PPI) is responsible for ensuring the company meets the requirements set by ISO. When he joined the company in 2012, Wittlieff was charged with the task of reengineering PPI’s quality management system, which has been since followed by maintaining and improving on the system’s effectivity by means of continuous assessment.

Audits of PPI’s quality management system occur every three years over 3.5 days, with 1.5 days surveillance audits scheduled for the two years in between. For all audits, Precision Plus must present work instructions, procedures and documented evidence to show their system’s compliance with the standard.

This year, ISO has revised and released ISO 9001:2015 and replaces the 2008 version. This update increases the requirement sections from eight to ten, includes new areas such as risk management, and removes some items. Dale Wittlieff has already begun planning out the reengineering process required for Precision Plus to meet the 2015 standards.

Wittlieff is also responsible for coordinating audits required by customers whose mission-critical products demand a thorough assessment of PPI’s quality management system. Accountability and documented evidence are a major part of the process.

For more information, please contact Dale Wittlieff by email or by calling 262-743-1700.

Machining a Great Career Path: Matt Schowalter’s Steps to Success in Manufacturing Technology

Michael Reader

When you ask what machining means to me, I could go on for hours with stories about how I made very complex parts on machines that are even more complicated than the parts themselves. Machining is by far more interesting than what most people know. From the challenges of implementing new complex equipment in the shop, to CNC programming, or even making complex parts in one setup. It is definitely a career choice that most don’t know how advanced it can be, especially the machining of today. Now, we can make parts in one setup that were once made in many setups on multiple pieces of equipment over a long time frame. My career is a success story in manufacturing technology as I have embraced the technology of today and here is how I made it happen with six easy steps in career success.

I started my career in metalworking when I was in high school after I enrolled in the Wisconsin Youth Apprenticeship program. It is a program that is a partnership between the school, state, and industry. I learned all about machining from both high school shop classes and while working in a machine shop. It proved to be an excellent foundation for my career. The shop that I worked at turned out to be an excellent learning environment. The mentors were great, they encouraged me to go on in my career and do great things. Matt Schowalter

Matt Schowalter, CMfgT (Certified Manufacturing Technologist) is Machining Group Lead at Gauthier Biomedical. He recently wrote a four-page brochure to not only tell his manufacturing story, but to reach out to high school students and their parents to inform them about machining career paths.

Schowalter feels that is his way of giving back after being rewarded with a satisfying career in manufacturing, and represents the guideline he himself would have liked to have received when he was 16 years old.

To have a great career in manufacturing I have come up with six steps that I used to develop career success. They all are building blocks to great career accomplishments and are easily obtained by applying yourself to your career goals. You can do it, here’s how:

  1. Get a Technical Degree -A solid educational foundation is a critical building block, you will make a lot more money in your career if you follow through with a Technical College education.
  2. Serve a State Sponsored Apprenticeship -This is an excellent way to learn the skills of the trade and climb the pay scale also. It also will ensure that you are viewed as a professional in your career. By finishing an apprenticeship and becoming a journeyman, you will be put in a position to make a good wage for the rest of your career.
  3. Never Stop Learning – Enroll in at least two specialized classes per year. It is an excellent way to build a great resume also, as it shows future employers that you are a dedicated career professional.
  4. Become Proficient in Working with Others – This is the most important factor of the six steps. You will have more opportunities presented to you if you have the ability to work with everyone effectively
  5. Gain the Ability to Turn Manufacturing Issues into Career Opportunities – some may look away from the major issues that hinder the shop. These are the challenges that build a great resume, so ask your boss how you can help fix the major issues they encounter throughout the shop.
  6. Become a Certified Professional in Manufacturing – Consider this the bow on your career package.It will set you apart from the others in the industry. A certification from the Society of Manufacturing Engineers ensures that you have the knowledge to make a difference in the manufacturing industry. It also challenges you to be your best, by obtaining credits for recertification.

By following these steps you will become a leader in the manufacturing industry. You may ask what is next in my career. I can tell you working with others on machining issues and keeping up on the latest technology, more technical classes too, the keys to success in the manufacturing industry.

Schowalter encourages people to read his guideline and share it with others. To obtain a printed version to distribute, please contact Matt Schowalter via email, or download a PDF of his Machining a Great Career Path – The Steps to Success in Manufacturing Technology HERE.

Precision Plus’ 2015-2016 Year Education Update

Michael Reader

By Mark Beilman
Director of Education and Training

The 2015-2016 academic year is well underway, and so are Precision Plus’ efforts to continue spreading the word among students, parents and teachers about career possibilities in manufacturing.

In addition to visiting schools, talking to technical education teachers, and participating in career and technical education (CTE) committees, Precision Plus (PPI) makes itself present at high school and college career fairs.

On September 9, 2015, PPI was present at the Panther Fest Career Fair at Wilmot Union High School, and plans to be at Beloit High School’s career fair on the 24th. On October 9th, the destination will be Milwaukee School of Engineering (MSOE), which will hold its career fair then.

On September 15, 2015, PPI attended Gateway Technical College Elkhorn Campus’s Open House, which showcased the new Community Center conference room, the Student Life Center, Walworth County Job Center, Walworth County Economic Development Alliance (WCEDA), the Veterinary Sciences building, and the Walworth County Educational Consortium’s Alternative High School.

Drawings of the anticipated new CNC Center were also on display. Precision Plus is fully vested in the success of this program. The first Youth CNC Boot Camp at the Elkhorn Campus began in July. One of the highlights of the program is the mentorship which each individual student receives from a designated industry professional.

A “Meet-and-Greet” luncheon for students and mentors was held at the college on September 18th, where mentors were announced and appointed. The luncheon was sponsored by WCEDA and the Walworth County Job Center. Precision Plus is excited to mentor two students during the 2015-2016 year: Elliot Salentine from East Troy High School and Cameron Bunne from Elkhorn High School. The students will not only receive ongoing mentoring, but will have an opportunity to work at PPI beginning in February of 2016, in accordance to their curriculum.

Precision Plus also encourages schools to bring classes to tour its facilities. On September 16, 2015, Career Advocate Lindsay Healless from Beloit Middle School brought her students to interview Mike Reader and Chris Clausen about careers in manufacturing. The students asked very good questions during the interview, but two of the students, Emily and MacKenzie, stumped Reader and Clausen when asked how they balanced work and their personal lives, and what were the most difficult portions of their jobs.

Two other schools are scheduled to tour the facility in October: the Walworth County Educational Consortium’s Alternative High School on the 8th, and Whitewater High School on the 15th.

The most anticipated event, however, is the celebration of Manufacturing Day (MFG DAY). Precision Plus is opening its doors for an open house on Thursday, October 8, 2015 from 5:00 p.m. until 7:30 p.m. Students, educators, parents, legislators and the public at large are invited to partake in an informal presentation by several PPI employees on what their roles are at the company, and take guided tours of the plant. To attend this event, please register HERE.

Precision Plus is committed to education and to bringing awareness of career opportunities in high-tech manufacturing. To schedule a tour of our facility and/or allow us to make a presentation to your group or organization, please contact Mark Beilman by email or by calling 262-743-1700.

Boys’ Club No More – Ladies of Harley Make Their Mark on the Biker World

Michael Reader

An excerpt from Life in Rock County – Great People, Great Stories, Volume 4, Issue 3, Fall 2015

While motorcycle riding primarily was a man’s world decades ago, more and more female riders have grown to love the purr of an engine beneath them. These bikers have firmly embraced the femininity of the hobby and have inspired ever-growing lines of clothing and gear made especially for them.

In the South Central Wisconsin Janesville Chapter of the Harley Owners Group (H.O.G.), about 30 percent of the members are female. The Ladies of Harley have become a major player, meeting monthly as a group for rides and planning their annual Poker Run, raffle and silent auction at Boardtracker Harley-Davidson’s (formerly Kutter Harley-Davidson/Buell) Spring Open House. The event, held every May, raises money for CAMDEN Playground, a play area for children with special needs.

One of these ladies, is Precision Plus’ Laura Farnsworth, the company’s Shipping Manager. She is an active member of the community who combines her love for riding motorcycles with the riding club’s mission of raising money for the CAMDEN Accessibility Playground in Janesville, Wisconsin.

Laura Farnsworth, 56, loves to brag about her dedication to riding. She has become well-known in her H.O.G. chapter for her long rides: In 2013, she won the female prize for logging the most miles in one year (20,000).

A resident of Darien, Wis., Laura points out that up until a year ago, her bike was the only one in the parking lot at Precision Plus in Elkhorn, Wis., where she works as a shipping manager. “I thought it was funny that the only motorcycle there belonged to a girl,” she says. “Years ago, when I used to ride, I turned heads. People would look at me and say, ‘There’s a woman on a motorcycle!’”

While Laura has been riding since she was 17, it took her daughter Sarah Conroy, 34, of Elkhorn, Wis., a little longer to obtain her motorcycle license — she got it just three years ago. “When you think about it, riding a motorcycle is a really expensive hobby,” she says. “I spent years in college and earning my master’s degree in counseling, and I was so far in debt that buying a motorcycle was the last thing I was thinking about.”

Sarah had ridden as a passenger on her mom’s bike for years. Eventually, she found the allure of the open road to be irresistible and started taking classes. Shortly after obtaining her license, she tagged along with her mother to an event at what is now Boardtracker Harley-Davidson in Janesville and met John Harris. “He said, “You wanna go for a ride tomorrow?” Sarah remembers. She did, and now the two are engaged and planning a wedding for February 2016.

Sarah was able to solve her financing issue, too: She bought a Honda last summer, and this spring, she bought Laura’s first Harley from her. “Her bike is classic, and it’s a keepsake,” says Sarah. “It’s kind of neat to say it was her first Harley, and now it’s my first Harley.”

The article also features two other women, Kellie Sinks, who teaches other women to ride motorcycles and is a motorcycle safety instructor at Boardtracker Harley-Davidson, and Jody Sterr, who has logged thousands of miles together with her husband. Precision Plus celebrates the Ladies of Harley and applauds their cause.

For a PDF of the article, click HERE.

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