Mark Albert

Mark Albert is editor-in-chief of Modern Machine Shop Magazine, a position he has held since July 2000. He was associate editor and then executive editor of the magazine in prior years. Mark has been writing about metalworking for more than 30 years. Currently, his favorite topics are lean manufacturing and global competitiveness. Mark’s editorial activities have taken him to numerous countries in Europe and Asia as well as across the United States many times. He is a graduate of the University of Cincinnati (Cincinnati, Ohio) and Indiana University (Bloomington, Indiana).

Posted by: Mark Albert 28. August 2015

Important MTConnect Deadlines Announced

The [MC]2 Conference focuses on MTConnect as a pathway to advanced, data-driven manufacturing. The Student Challenge was announced at this event last April.

Students and speakers interested in promoting the MTConnect manufacturing interoperability standard have two new dates to observe. Students now have more time to enter the first portion of the Student Challenge announced at the [MC]2 Conference last April in Chicago. Speakers interested in presenting at next year’s [MC]2 Conference have until October 16, 2015 to submit proposals for the first round of consideration. Dates for this conference are April 19-21, 2016.

For Students: The MTConnect Institute has extended the deadline for the Idea Creation portion of its MTConnect Student Challenge to December 15, 2015. In addition to allowing students more time to develop and submit their ideas, this nearly three-month extension also allows for more overall entries into the competition. Click here for rules and submission guidelines for the Idea Creation contest.

For the Idea Creation competition, students are required to interview manufacturers to identify their challenges, describe potential solutions to that challenge and create a conceptual mockup for a solution. The prizes for this competition are $5,000 for first place, $2,500 for second place and three $1,000 prizes for runners up. Winners will be announced February 5, 2016.

Suggestion: Manufacturers with connections at local community colleges, engineering schools, colleges or universities should consider reaching out to these institutions to encourage participation in this contest.

The second portion of the Student Challenge, Application Development, has an unchanged submission deadline of January 31, 2016. Winners of this portion of the challenge will be announced at the [MC]2 Conference in Dallas, Texas, April 20, 2016.

For Speakers: AMT—The Association For Manufacturing Technology and MTConnect Institute have issued a call for speakers to present at the 2016 [MC]2 Conference. Proposals should be submitted by October 16, 2015, for the first round of consideration. Submission details are here.

Conference organizers are seeking experts to present on the following topics:

  • Digital Factory, Industrial Internet, Industry 4.0
  • Big Data and analytics
  • Industrial automation
  • Cyberphysical security
  • Workforce and talent development.

Information about the proposed presentation must include title, target audience, top three takeaways from the presentation and an abstract. 

Suggestion: Because real-world case studies and end user stories are particularly valuable to conference attendees, manufacturers that have successfully implemented an MTConnect-enabled application should consider a presentation. These presentation proposals will be especially welcome.   

Posted by: Mark Albert 21. August 2015

What’s It Like to Work in a Machine Shop Underground?

Whitewashed cave walls and no windows set apart the machining areas of this underground shop in Missouri.

A machine shop housed a mile below the surface is a very unusual workplace, especially when it has to operate in a cleanroom environment. It’s the only way to make parts that are not affected by cosmic rays. The mile-deep shop is part of the Sanford Lab in Lead, South Dakota, where the Majorana Demonstrator explores the physics of material decay processes. You can read about what it’s like working in this shop here.

In another underground shop, conditions are rather normal despite being located in a cave. Yet, this has its own advantage. Brunson Instrument Co. has its production facility in cave near Kansas City, Missouri. The hillside cave location provides a vibration-free, temperature-stable space for manufacturing high-precision measurement instruments. Find this shop’s unusual story here

Posted by: Mark Albert 6. August 2015

The Lasting Appeal of Paper and Ink

collage of MMS covers

Despite the value and popularity of our digital media channels (such as this blog!), the print edition of Modern Machine Shop has proven its staying power. One reason: A magazine that supports its readers won’t lose the support of its readers

My monthly column for the August 2015 print edition of Modern Machine Shop analyzes this and other reasons why not all traditional media have gone away. I make the point that a magazine has to create a valuable reader experience that is anchored in high-quality content.

To help us in that pursuit, we recently started an email campaign to our subscribers asking them to share their thoughts and opinions on what we put in the magazine. If you’re a subscriber and received the message about this survey, please be sure to respond if you haven't already done so.

Want the MMS print experience each month? Qualified individuals can subscribe here.


Posted by: Mark Albert 31. July 2015

Surprises Uncovered at a Groundbreaking

The honor of moving the first shovelful of earth at Hydrotech's groundbreaking belonged to CEO/Owner Pete Jones as other Hydrotech executives stand beside him.

Companies customarily mark new construction with a groundbreaking ceremony. Such an event to celebrate Hydrotech Inc.’s expansion of its suburban Cincinnati headquarters, however, revealed some unexpected facets to this diverse fluid power and automation solutions provider.

Because Hydrotech is a local company, taking in its recent groundbreaking was a convenient way for me to get to know the company better. I was partly motivated by the fact that, as the company has expanded, it is branching into areas of growing interest to metalworking companies. These include minimum quantity lubrication systems for environmentally friendly machining and a soon-to-be announced Internet of Things approach to preventive maintenance, for example.

These developments build on Hydrotech’s 48-year history of providing solutions to the hydraulic, pneumatic, lubrication, machining and automation industries.

The groundbreaking marks the commencement of the company’s 23,000 square-foot expansion to its headquarters in West Chester, a northern suburb of Cincinnati. Company officials explained that the expansion is necessary because the firm has grown 14 percent per year since 2010, has hired 35 people in the past five years (with 10 more positions to be added this year), and needs more room for offices and additional factory/warehouse space.

At least three other news items about the company caught my attention because they are not so typical of other groundbreaking events I have covered.

  1. As a family-owned company, Hydrotech actively supports the Goering Center at the University of Cincinnati. This center offers programs to help family and private companies meet the challenges that can keep them from growing and prospering. Hydrotech benefited from these programs and now mentors other companies that work with the Goering Center.
  2. Philanthropy is important to Hydrotech, as it often is for family companies who naturally feel compelled to give back to the community and the industry they serve. For example, at the ceremony, the company announced a donation of four new hydraulic training stands to Cincinnati State Technical and Community College. The stands represent a total value of $120,000. This marks the second major donation to this program. Last year, similar pneumatic training stands were also donated.
    Three hydraulic training stands like this one are going to Cincinnati State's Electro-Mechanical Engineering program to help train technicians in the fluid power industry.

    Four hydraulic training stands like this one are going to Cincinnati State's Electro-Mechanical Engineering program to help train technicians in the fluid power industry.

  3. Hydrotech has a sideline in educational, therapeutic and practical life products for children and teens living with autism. Called Got-Autism LLC, this business sprang out of an employee’s experience with finding resources for her son, who has a form of autism. With the parent firm’s support and investment, Got-Autism develops and distributes products that encourage individuals with various forms of this disorder to grow, learn and enjoy life. Proceeds go back to local and national autism charities.
    Although it may a seem sideline unrelated to industrial hydraulics, company backing has put Got-Autism LLC into the mainstream of providing products and resources that help youngsters with autism.

    Although it may a seem sideline unrelated to industrial hydraulics, company backing has put Got-Autism LLC into the mainstream of providing products and resources that help youngsters with autism.

It didn’t take much digging for me to discover these aspects at the event, but I would probably have missed them otherwise. Unfortunately, I am not able to get to many events like this. I was pleased by what turned up at this one.

Posted by: Mark Albert 24. July 2015

Tips on Breaking Chips When Turning Transmission Parts

Components for automotive transmissions are typically made of ductile steels such as SAE 1018, 1020 and 8620. Turning these parts is often plagued by problems with chip control, especially the tendency for these materials to produce long, stringy chips that interfere with efficient operation and/or automated production. This article from Sandvik Coromant addresses the complex variables and strategic trade-offs that must be considered in designing the most effective insert for this application. The insights into the problem and its solution will help anyone think more clearly about vexing chip control issues.

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