Peter Zelinski has been a writer and editor for Modern Machine Shop for more than a decade. One of the aspects of this work that he enjoys the most is visiting machining facilities to learn about the manufacturing technology, systems and strategies they have adopted, and the successes they’ve realized as a result. Pete earned his degree in mechanical engineering from the University of Cincinnati, and he first learned about machining by running and programming machine tools in a metalworking laboratory within GE Aircraft Engines. Follow Pete on Twitter at Z_Axis_MMS.
Hoosier Pattern produced this video illustrating its use of 3D printing in sand to make cores and other mold components for casting.
Having this video is helpful to show customers, because—as we described in this article—the sand printing capability allows Hoosier to take a radical approach to casting. Instead of making the pattern and core box, the pattern shop can now skip this step altogether by printing the core and other mold components directly in sand. Design freedoms become easy to achieve that were never possible or practical before. Car maker Ford is making its own use of the same technology.
Can you remember a time when the only telephone in the production area was a landline shared by the shop employees? Today, practically any production employee is likely to have a sophisticated communication and media device in his or her pocket.
On Modern Machine Shop’s “Top Shops” network on LinkedIn, I began a conversation by asking shop owners and managers about their shops’ policies regarding employee cellphone use on the shop floor. Should employees be free to use their data devices, or should there be restrictions?
Here is some of what the participants in the LinkedIn discussion had to say….
Michael Sheridan, owner, Industrial Machine: “We allow the limited use of cell phones during work hours, meaning calls of a minute or two a couple of times per day. We do not permit texting or game playing, and no earphones are permitted. Because the employees are adults who consider these rules common sense, no one takes advantage of them.”
Amy Petersen, owner (now retired), Belding Tool and Machine: “At our plant, cell phones are kept in the employee lockers. Employees are free to check for calls, emails and texts during breaks and lunch period. In case of emergencies, they instruct family members to call the main office so they can be paged. Works great for us!”
John Baklund, owner, Baklund R&D: “We allow employees’ phones to be on, but we have a policy of only calling, texting or emailing members of our BRD team. This allows for quick and efficient workflow. Everyone appreciates this—they can still see texts from friends or family. We discuss the distraction factor often, so as to teach people how to structure their response to this new technology appropriately. We have young people who only have a cell phone, no land line. Some have thanked us for talking about this; it has helped them in life outside of work.”
A manufacturing engineer (I was unable to get his permission for a direct quote) commented that there had certainly been cell phone problems at his plant, but noted also that cell phones are handy. Shopfloor personnel can text him when they need him, saving them from time-wasting trips to the office area.
A job shop owner (ditto) said he had a flat rule about no cell phones in the shop. Employees leave them in their lockers and can use them on break. The lead carries a wireless handset for the main line in case of emergency.
Adam Govoni, machine shop supervisor, Vander-Bend Manufacturing: “It is clear that there are many policies regarding cell phones. Shop cultures will vary. The key is a balance between safety and productivity with a view toward employee satisfaction. I think we have the most productive crew in our region in part because of an attitude of mutual respect throughout the team.”
Mark Kenworthy, owner, Kenworthy Machine: “If you have an employee who will abuse having a cell phone at work, to the extent that the employee isn't working productively, then the issue isn't the cell phone policy. The issue is that employee's attitude. Either the attitude needs to change or that employee needs to be encouraged to find employment elsewhere. Otherwise, that person’s behavior will negatively affect the attitude and productivity of the rest of your team.”
One of the shop owners who got me interested in this question in the first place was Matt Guse of MRS Machining. He ultimately decided to implement a shop-wide cell phone ban. Read about how that went.
Oak Ridge National Laboratory produced this video of the world’s second 3D-printed car. The first 3D-printed car was made at IMTS. The second, in the words of Oak Ridge’s Dr. Lonnie Love in this video, does not “look like a printed vehicle,” but instead, “looks like a real car.”
Specifically, it is a working 3D-printed Shelby Cobra, made for the recent Detroit Auto Show. (This video was filmed prior to that show.)
One of the missions of the Manufacturing Demonstration Facility at Oak Ridge (the facility seen in this video) is to help American manufacturers adopt additive manufacturing. In October, this facility will be one of the locations for a two-day, in-depth Additive Manufacturing Conference organized by Additive Manufacturing and Modern Machine Shop. To learn more about the conference—and register to attend—visit additiveconference.com.
Since I don’t have cable TV, I have been missing out on a show that practically everyone reading this is liable to be interested in checking out. Titan: American Built is a reality show on MAVTV about a northern California CNC machining job shop founded and led by Titan Gilroy. Recently, another shop owner connected me with Mr. Gilroy, who shared an episode with me that I enjoyed watching.
Here are some of my thoughts about the show:
Mr. Gilroy (I’ll call him Titan hereafter) is more than what a quick sample of the show’s promotional materials might portray him to be. His trademark expression is the hard, stern game face. But part of the fun of the show is watching for the times when his humor, sensitivity or gentleness come through. He has the strong personality needed to be the central figure in the show, but in some of the impassioned speeches he gives about American manufacturing, he is also seen to be an able communicator who knows what he wants to say.
The producers of the show often choose to show manufacturing technology without any explanation. This is an interesting choice. I am so familiar with the work and technology of CNC machining that I can follow everything that happens on the show. But when I watch a scene such as the one in which Titan is explaining G-code programming to his son (also Titan), I wonder what the uninitiated viewer is seeing in this, and how much the viewer is getting. (Maybe a great deal.)
Titan is also speaking to other shop owners with his show. He knows they’re watching. In his comments about five-axis machining, software, and the use of capable cutting tools, he has a message for other owners: You’ve got to invest in technology.
The machining footage in this show is beautiful. One of my favorite moments is where Titan explains why it is beautiful. That is, he explains to the viewer that he is not using coolant in the milling of an aluminum part specifically for the sake of the footage, which is a choice he could not get away with if he was milling a different metal such as titanium. Every TV reality show is unreal to a certain extent, but in this case Titan took care to note the unreality, and to describe how authentic machining might look different.
Though there was added dramatic flourish, the episode I saw portrayed a realistic job shop situation that really is dramatic. That is, a customer called with a sudden order, needing a complex, critical, tight-tolerance part in a short period of time. When the part was machined, Titan got in his truck to hand-deliver it. Cinematically, this was done to shift the scene to where the customer would use and install the part. However, how many job shop owners haven’t also gotten in their trucks to make precisely this kind of hand delivery to a waiting customer?
The part in question was a prototype. I’d like to see an episode about production in the U.S. Can this challenge be realistically dramatized? I bet it can! When the challenge is to machine, say, 2,000 pieces of the same part, or 300 per month over the course of a year, then how does a manufacturer do this in the most efficient way, with the least cost for labor, material, cycle time and tooling? Manufacturing professionals do not just wield skill and technology, they also fight against cost. By applying the same respect for the audience that shows G-code programming without explanation, could the show portray the kind of thinking that goes into successfully winning and keeping a production job?
Modern Machine Shop recently devoted a cover story to the idea of hiring employees for personal strengths rather than manufacturing skills. The skills can be taught, but character and a good fit with the culture of the company cannot. Bob Bussey, manufacturing director of Excelsior Marking, sent me an email recently to say he had read that article and taken it to heart.
“I hired someone who knew nothing about machining,” he wrote. “He’s been employed with us over two months now and is doing very well operating a Haas Mini Mill,” one of five CNC machines in the shop. Mr. Bussey said the idea that a person with desire but lacking machining skills could begin to succeed in machining made sense to him, because he himself began to learn about manufacturing in his father’s tool and template shop when he was completely unskilled at 14 years old.
The new employee Excelsior hired and began to train is Kris Porter. Mr. Porter had previously worked in warehousing and for an insulation company. He also had worked near to skilled manufacturing with a previous employer, initially helping with preventative maintenance, then being moved into a role of tool crib superintendent.
However, given the lack of credentials or direct experience in CNC machining, Mr. Bussey had to evaluate this prospective hire according to other criteria. He says these are some of the valuable traits he saw in Mr. Porter before hiring him or just after he began to work:
He is friendly, Mr. Bussey says—not argumentative or convinced he’s right.
He wants to learn.
He is teachable. Company leaders saw this in his first week on the job, when he took interest in a Basics of Machining class they had him take through Mastercam University. Excelsior has also supplied him with a self-study mathematics book, which he has been using to develop the math skills pertinent to his job.
In the efficiency of his performance at the machine, he shows regular improvement.
He is flexible about working overtime.
He is also grateful for the opportunity. To Mr. Bussey, this means a lot. He values manufacturing and wants to share it with those who see the same value in it he does.
The biggest factor that led to Mr. Porter’s new job was Mr. Porter. But to read the article that contributed to his opportunity, go here.