MMS Blog

Although the American machine tool industry is not what it used to be, American engineers continue to design and American workers continued to build metal-cutting equipment. At the Fives Giddings & Lewis plant in Fond Du Lac, Wisconsin, they’ve been doing so for more than a century — a storied history the company celebrated June 20-22 with an 160th anniversary open house event.

Although the machine tools retain the Giddings & Lewis (G&L) brand, the company has passed through a series of owners over the years. Given its age, and the fact that French fur trappers were the first Europeans to explore the area in the 17th century, it is somehow fitting that the plant’s current owner is Fives (pronounced “feeve”), a 200-plus-year-old, Paris-based industrial conglomerate. Beginning in 1859 as a machine shop serving the increasingly industrialized agricultural sector, G&L began producing engine lathes at its current facility in the late 1890s. Today, this plant occupies 145,000 square feet and specializes in the manufacture of large vertical turning lathes (VTLs) and horizontal boring mills.

Additive Manufacturing Conference + Expo Announces Complete Program

The complete agenda for the 2019 Additive Manufacturing Conference + Expo (AMC) has been announced. The three day event will take place in Austin, Texas, on August 27-29 and will offer attendees ways to connect with leading suppliers, end-users and researchers of industrial applications for additive manufacturing (AM) technologies.The interactive event includes demonstrations, technical tours, networking and presentations, all held against the backdrop of one of the nation’s most tech forward cities.

“Expanding the show for Austin allows us to dig deeper into all aspects of 3D printing technology for production,” says Dave Necessary, event manager. “Attendees will get to see equipment on the show floor, hear presentations on the latest in industrial 3D printing technology, visit two top notch facilities and experience everything Austin has to offer.”

By: Thomas G. Marini 7/15/2019

Stay Positive Regarding Our Future Workforce

Stay Positive Regarding Our Future Workforce

I’m quite certain everyone reading these words is well aware of the lack of qualified, skilled and productive employees in the workplace. You are dealing with that reality every day. The reasons are myriad. Blame the skills gap, the global economy, our school system or even millennials (I don’t blame them) if you wish. We all have a great many stories involving new hires who can’t seem to come to work every day or can’t seem to run at rate. When they actually do make parts, they don’t meet tolerance. We label these individuals with various negative descriptors. Some we call untrainable, others non-caring, and then there are the ones we simply call lazy. While it’s obvious that these workers have a negative impact on productivity and quality, I’m seeing a more worrisome problem developing in machine shops. It’s that owners like myself, general managers, lead people and frontline supervisors are becoming more jaded, cynical and skeptical toward potential job candidates and new hires. 

Trust me, I get it. The frustration has been building for some time now. Over the last two years, I’ve interviewed and hired more than 30 employees, many of whom showed hope and promise early on, but ultimately didn’t work out. Shop leadership and long-term employees ask me why I don’t just find “better workers,” as though I am somehow avoiding good workers on purpose! I reply with, “We are hiring from the same talent pool as every other shop and doing the best we can.” But are we? So while everyday experiences seem to validate our frustration, our conversations now seem to reinforce it. Talks with our cutting tool salesperson, steel supplier and local machine tool dealer all revolve around the fact that it’s impossible to find “good employees,” and after we share our tales of woe, they relay how they hear the same thing over and over at every shop they visit.

Nobody likes a dusty tabletop. Ideally, there is no dust on the table at all. At some point, however, the table cannot get any cleaner. Considering the dusting anything but a job well done would be neurotic. And yet, if this dusting were subject to the same quality control standards as many manufacturers’ CNC machining processes, even the most thorough cleaning might be deemed insufficient.

This is largely due to the limitations of statistical process control (SPC) rules, says Tom Stewart, president at data analysis software developer Q-DAS. Despite these limitations, nearly all major OEMs employ SPC to determine what quality reports from parts suppliers should look like, and they do so for good reason. Evolving from Walter Shewhart’s first control charts in the early 1920s, SPC has long been the most effective means of ensuring mass produced parts are worthy of the automobiles and aircraft that we routinely and unthinkingly trust with our lives. Nonetheless, quality requirements for machined parts often amount to the equivalent of expecting there to be less than zero dust on the table — an impossible condition. As a result, suppliers must expend time and resources not making parts, but massaging numbers to the point that the data no longer represents the reality of the process. Meanwhile, both suppliers and their customers miss opportunities to improve and reduce the overall cost of bringing products to market. 

I’m excited about our third annual Top Shops Conference for a few reasons. First, the event, which runs September 9-11, will take place in my hometown of Cincinnati, Ohio, where I’ve lived my whole life. Second, I’m stoked that the speaker lineup will cover a range of timely and helpful topics. Third, I’m able to extend a $100 discount to each additional person from your shop who plans to attend the event with you.

The conference is a natural offshoot of our annual Top Shops benchmarking program. Its goal is to present practical yet advanced shopfloor and front-office ideas that shops can apply at their facilities soon after returning to help grow their businesses.

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