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Posted by: Mark Albert 1. August 2014

Still Thinking about a Summer Vacation?

In a column that I wrote some years ago, I described my idea for a very different sort of "vacation spot" that appeals to me strongly.  I don't know if such a place exists, but I like to imagine that it does and that I might retreat there once a year to be made new and whole again.

The place is run by a very strict order of monks, but they welcome guests who come to experience their lifestyle for a week or two. The monastery/retreat house is located in hilly country somewhere, far from the city.

This is a place of contemplation, prayer—and work. The institution is self-sufficient, to keep the world at a distance. Excess earnings help support several charitable missions.

The monks and their guests arise at 6 a.m., with chapel at 6:15 a.m. (There's hardly time to dress or shave—no wonder the good brothers wear simple robes and beards!) Thirty minutes of chanting and meditation wake not only the body but also the mind and spirit.

Breakfast is plain but hearty like all of the meals here. Lots of cheese, eggs, fish and fresh fruits and vegetables. We eat quietly, each morning one of us taking turns reading scripture to the rest.

Work, which starts a little after seven, is "animal, mineral or vegetable," as they say. Guests are assigned in rotation to the dairy barn, the machine shed or the bakery. I would always want to be in the machine shed, of course, but duty in the other buildings teaches lessons about the blessings of a bountiful earth.

The machine "shed," it turns out, is actually a well-equipped little shop, with a mixture of manual and older CNC equipment. Brother Ted, a journeyman machinist who had his own job shop for 10 years, runs the place efficiently and calmly. The seven monks who work here full time are busy with several long-running contracts for a bank of automatic lathes, but they also manufacture a line of mostly hand-crafted antique reproductions for the gift shop and catalog sales. Guests help out in housekeeping, packing and shipping, or at the deburring bench or hand assembling some pieces.

Lunch is ample, but quick, followed by another chapel service. We return to the shop and work until 6 p.m., when the bells call us back to chapel for hymns and a silent period of scripture study. Dinner is light. I take the hiking trail during my hour of free time as the sun goes down. We sleep on cots in small rooms, hardly more than cubicles, with the windows open and the whippoorwills calling from the woods nearby.

At the end of the stay, I vow to return next summer, but in the meantime, I will often think of those who have vowed never to leave.


Posted by: Peter Zelinski 31. July 2014

Numbers Describe Additive Manufacturing’s Advantage

Airbus says it is expanding its use of additive manufacturing in aircraft part production. The reasons why are the ones typically cited: less lead time, less material, less environmental impact. However, a statement from the company gives numbers for some of the savings its expects to see. The company says parts produced additively (such as the bracket in the photo) will be 30 to 55 percent lighter than the parts they replace, will use 90 percent less raw material, and will decrease energy used in production by as much as 90 percent. Read more here.


Posted by: Derek Korn 30. July 2014

Chat with the Young People at IMTS

The organizers of IMTS have traditionally offered “student summits” to enable students, parents, educators and the like to be introduced to advanced manufacturing technology. Beyond that, students can also benefit from tapping the knowledge of seasoned IMTS attendees. If that group includes you, consider engaging students when the opportunities arise as I suggest here.


Posted by: Peter Zelinski 29. July 2014

Speakers at the Upcoming Additive Manufacturing Workshop

The Additive Manufacturing Workshop is a new event debuting at IMTS this year. The half-day workshop to be held September 9 will focus on the use of 3D printing technologies to make functional components and end-use parts. Speakers scheduled to appear include various people and companies we’ve covered in the Additive Manufacturing supplement to Modern Machine Shop. They include:

  • Craig Blue of Oak Ridge National Laboratory, speaking on the latest developments in additive at Oak Ridge. (It was Ryan Dehoff, who works with him at Oak Ridge, who was quoted in this article.)
  • Jon Baklund of Baklund R&D, speaking on additive manufacturing in the job shop.
  • Lou Young of Linear Mold, speaking on additive manufacturing for mold making.
  • Michael Hayes of Boeing, speaking on polymeric additive manufacturing in aerospace.
  • Greg Morris (pictured), formerly an additive manufacturing business owner and now Additive Technologies Leader with GE. He will answer questions about the promise and practicality of additive manufacturing.

For more about the Additive Manufacturing Workshop—and to register—go here.


Posted by: Russ Willcutt 28. July 2014

Dollars and Sense

One way to save money on the shop floor is simply to use common sense. You may not realize it, but all the tiny delays add up to a ton of lost time, as do habits formed over the years that have gone unquestioned.    

Allan Arch, president of Southern Gear & Machine in Miami, Florida, began looking more closely at his own operations recently. Here are just a few of the changes he’s made:

  • After cutting his own barstock for years, Mr. Arch mentioned to his supplier what a time-consuming process it was. “Even though we had two saws running, it was basically a non-stop operation to get all of the barstock cut,” he says. His supplier offered to deliver the materials pre-cut. “They have saws that can handle a job that would take us all day in a matter of minutes. We’d just gotten used to the way things were and had never thought to ask if there were a better way.”

Southern Gear’s supplier can pre-cut barstock for a fraction of the cost, and in minutes rather than the hours required by the company’s own saws. 

  • Despite efforts to keep it orderly, the company’s tool crib had gotten messy over the years, so Mr. Arch and his colleagues developed an assignment for two of their summer interns. “As soon as they arrived they had a project to tackle,” he explains. “We showed them what we had, told them what we wanted and gave them all the resources they needed.” The result is a neat, color-coded storage area where it’s not only easy for workers to find the supplies they need, but it doesn’t take a lot of effort to keep straight. “We literally saved months of lost time in the first few weeks that we had this new system in place,” Mr. Arch says.

Assigning interns to tackle revamping the company’s tool crib resulted in great experience for the students and an orderly system for the company.

  • Even better than an organized tool crib is a management system that makes tooling available to machine operators on the shop floor. New models do not require access cards, instead allowing users to obtain the tools they need by entering a password on a removable touchscreen. Southern Gear chose two Matrix Series 5 units—a “mini” and a “maxi”—from Ingersoll Cutting Tools for different areas of operation. “These devices bring the tools to the manufacturing area where workers can get to them easily while at the same time helping us monitor our stock levels, calculate CPU and estimate tool life.”

Tool management systems such as this provide much more than storage and convenience, also tracking stock levels and even tool wear. 

Read more about Southern Gear’s approach to streamlining operations in the August issue of Gear Production, a supplement to Modern Machine Shop magazine. 


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