Quality management in the manufacturing industry should be high on your list of priorities. Carr Machine & Tool is going through the auditing process with ProShop ERP to prepare for the AS9100 certification they’d like to obtain. In this episode of MakingChips, the guys will talk with Paul Van Metre and Michael Collins about ProShop ERP, AS9100, and everything you need to know to prepare for getting your shop certified.
Paul is the president of ProShop USA, and founder of Adion Systems, which develops ProShop, a web-based and paperless ERP, MES, QMS system specifically designed for elite companies in the metalworking industry. They partner with shops that seek to be elite and deliver cutting edge quality.
Michael is an implementation specialist at ProShop USA, who trains clients on how to effectively use and implement ProShop in their shops. In addition, Michael provides QMS consulting in the areas of compliance, documentation, auditing and achieving management system certification such as AS 9100. Michael is also an ASQ certified quality auditor.
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ProShop describes itself as a Digital Manufacturing Ecosystem (DME) that combines quality management system (QMS), enterprise resource planning (ERP), Computerized Maintenance Management System, and manufacturing execution system (MES) all in one.
Not only is ProShop ERP an all-encompassing system you need for your manufacturing business, but they are also completely paperless. The system takes you into the 21st century and helps you manage everything in one system.
This episode IS a shameless plug for ProShop because we 100% believe everyone needs to integrate it into their business—and we aren’t afraid to say it.
AS9100 is the international Quality Management System standard for the Aviation, Space and Defense (AS&D) industry (Rev D (2016) is the most recent version). If you want to work with the AS&D you must get your shop certified.
So what does the AS9100 certification process look like? According to Michael, you simply start with a gap assessment. He’ll come in and ask questions, look at records and evaluate where your business is currently at as far as conforming to the AS9100 requirements.
The gap assessment will help you narrow down where you need to focus and implement changes to become compliant with your quality management. According to Michael: “The whole idea of quality is continuous improvement”.
It won’t be achieved in a day, but you can take ongoing steps. There is always something to be improved upon. Be sure to listen as Michael goes into detail.
All of the records that Michael needs to audit can be found within ProShop. There is no navigating through different programs or—heaven forbid—paper files. He can follow the audit trail from one thing to the next in one seamless platform.
ProShop cuts down the time it takes to do an audit to a third.
Jim points out that as a business owner, this is a weight off your shoulders. There are so many other areas where your time is better spent and if you’re decreasing the time spent on an audit bt 66% it decreases anxiety. It also allows you to get back to what you need to do much faster.
Doing things paperless will become the new standard. An auditor can’t tell you that you have to use binders. Even if they aren’t familiar with ProShop, you can walk them through where to find any and all of the info they need.
ProShop integrated quality management into their system to benefit you. Here are just a few of the functionalities and updates they make that raise the bar:
We rely on ProShop ERP to automate our systems and help us go above and beyond expectations with the quality we deliver.
Listen to the whole episode for valuable information on quality management, ProShop ERP, ASQ9100 certification and much more.
Is it possible to recession-proof a business? With all the chatter in the economic world about the potential of a recession, how do you mitigate your losses? Are their things that you can do up-front that would help you survive a recession? Jim and Jason discuss the ‘dirty word’ in the industry and some steps you can consider implementing before—or when—a recession hits.
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Many young people in the industry who dove into the workforce after 2008 don’t understand what it means to be in a recession. They haven’t lived through one. Those who remember what it felt like hate to talk or think about it. Jim points out that despite the emotion surrounding the word, it needs to be brought back into the vocabulary. Just because you avoid something doesn’t mean it won’t still happen. Jason and Jim emphasize that if you are educated and prepared a recession won’t impact you as much as it could. So what do you do?
Jim notes that every recession he’s lived through “looks and feels a little bit different than the one before.'' The unfortunate reality is that we don’t know when a recession will come, how bad it will be, or how long it will last. When Jason’s Dad, Steve, led his business through a recession—he stopped taking a paycheck for a chunk of time.
If you’re a business owner, you will have to take some hits. It’s inevitable.
Jason’s dad knew he had to protect his business and employees, so he stopped paying himself to get them through the economic downturn. One way to mitigate the harshness of this reality in your own life is to build up a nest-egg. Create a savings account in case of a recession that can see you, your family, and your business through to the other side.
If cutting your pay isn’t enough to mitigate the financial losses, you have to address the elephant in the room: you might have to let someone go. It’s not easy to do, but sometimes it has to be done. It comes with the territory of being a business owner. It may come down to, “Who can we afford to lose?”.
Sometimes, there is a clear path. Steve Zenger had to ‘trim the fat’ in the last recession and fire a few people who were under-performing or unwilling to help them make it through the recession. If you’re not at the point where you need to make some layoffs, a tip to save some money is to reduce overtime. If you can’t afford to pay your team, you certainly can’t afford to pay time-and-a-half.
Jason currently pays rent on three different locations for his business. He questions if a recession hits, could he consolidate locations to reduce overhead? Another option the guys point out is relocating the business somewhere with lower rent.
During the last recession, Jason’s Dad took him out for lunch, and point-blank asked: “What are you going to do about this?”. Jason wasn’t going to sit back and cry. Instead, he developed a passion for sales. If business wasn’t finding him, he was going to do everything possible to bring it in.
A recession is difficult to talk about, but Jim and Jason agree it’s stuff you need to know. A business owner must do everything they can to prepare. To hear the rest of their suggestions regarding surviving a recession, listen to the whole episode of MakingChips!
Today’s guest on the MakingChips podcast is passionate about job creation in the manufacturing industry. Today’s youth are being pushed towards college degree—while racking up debt—which has led to $1.6 trillion in student loan debt in the country. It is staggering. Unfortunately, many students spend the majority of their working life paying off that debt.
Jon Klinepeter left a career as a Pastor to start Forrest Bradshaw Industries and the Better Good Group. His goal is to offer underprivileged youth a shot in an industry that is screaming for more labor. To hear more about his heart and mission in manufacturing, listen to the whole episode of MakingChips now!
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Jon Klinepeter spent 22 years as a Pastor in Chicago (and Minneapolis, MN). He had a passion and love for the people he worked with. He was an advocate in his community. His faith has always been very important to him—but he didn’t love the church organizational structure. So he completed an MBA in Strategy and Innovation.
Then, he bought a 38-year-old CNC Machining company from a Polish Immigrant.
But why machining? Jon’s grandfather was his hero growing up, and had spent his life as a machinist. According to Jon, what drew him in was “The intellect being expressed through your hands rather than through an education system that rewards a certain type of thinking”. He wanted to build a business with that thought in mind.
Jon’s passion is job creation, and he knows the manufacturing industry is constantly growing. Not only is it growing, but being a CNC machinist is the highest paying career you can have without a college degree. Jon wanted to take that knowledge and start creating generational opportunities for underprivileged youth.
Nothing brings him greater joy than seeing the look of hope on someone’s face when they’ve been offered a job they never thought remotely possible. The purpose of Forrest Bradshaw is to inspire hope for a better future through living wage job opportunities in precision metal manufacturing.
With his purpose and vision for Forrest Bradshaw, he launched an initiative to create 100,000 jobs for at-risk youth across the country. He wanted to inspire hope for a better future through living wage job opportunities in precision metal manufacturing. He’s watched thousands of kids walking into job fairs scared and hopeless, but leaving full of hope.
What is being offered is more than just a job, but a future.
Many kids don’t have the right guidance or mentors available to them. Those of us fortunate enough to have parents that were available had a safety net. Parents are ongoing mentors throughout our lives—but many underprivileged youths don’t get that. Providing jobs gives them hope for the next generation.
With his core vision in mind, Jon knew he had to build a business with his values at the center of everything he did. The foundational value he chose to build Forrest Bradshaw on was integrity. At times, practicing integrity can seem counter-cultural. Jon reminisced about getting some machinery fixed:
The company giving him a quote for the job (that the insurance was going to cover) asked him what cut that he wanted from the quote.
With his team waiting to see what his response would be, he responded “Just whatever it costs, bill us for that”. Your integrity will cost you something. That would’ve been easy money in his pocket. Instead, he chose to honor his core values and lead with integrity.
To hear the rest of Jon’s mission, vision, core values, and advice for leaders in manufacturing, listen to the whole episode!
Employee onboarding can be stressful and it’s hard to know what you should or shouldn’t be doing. What do you tell a new hire on day one? Do you start the process before their first day? When do you do performance reviews? The list of questions goes on! Today, Jim and Jason are going to walk you through the Carr Machine & Tool onboarding experience.
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The overarching number of people applying to machinist jobs are millennials. For those of us in a different generation, do we need to change the way we onboard? According to Jungohr, there are some tips to make the process more successful.
Many of these points apply to every generation, but it’s been found to be especially impactful to Millennials. Let us know what YOU think!
At Carr Machine & Tool, Jim has several ways to see if a potential hire is a fit for their culture. If he has a good feeling about a candidate, he will bring them into his weekly production meeting to see how they interact with the team.
He also enjoys walking a candidate through the shop to see how they interact and engage with people. This could be labeled as “pre-boarding”—he’s involving the potential hire in his company culture before officially hiring.
If they’re not interested in engaging and don’t make an effort, you can end the process before it’s even started. It may seem time-consuming on the front-end but can save a lot of pain and problems throughout the next 30, 60, or 90 days.
On a new hire’s first day, Jim lays out what the process looks like, and schedules a 30-day performance review. The first 30 days is a sort of trial period to see how they acclimate. There is no goal-setting or anything that would place pressure on the candidate. You want them to spend time shadowing (and there’s a lot of hand-holding) and learning new processes.
Jim makes sure to ask 6 different questions in the first performance review. He wants to let them know if they are on-par with expectations and see how they think they’re doing. Jim will even let them know if they are performing below expectations. The goal isn’t to be critical, but to let them know that you are going to take an active role in their success.
When should you do a compensation review? Listen to find out!
Within the first year an employee is hired, Jim does performance reviews at 30 days, 90 days, 6 months, and at the one-year mark. These reviews are based on goals they’ve set, improvements that were recommended, and so forth. If the employee has proven themselves exceptional, they reward the employee with a pay increase.
It allows the employee to learn new skills and be goal-driven.
The goal is to help your team members feel more connected and that they have a safe environment to grow in—you want to help them reach the next level of expertise. When you schedule reviews in a formulaic manner, it’s a structured way for both you and the employee to constantly move forward.
To hear some mistakes to avoid, be sure to listen to the rest of the episode!
This re-release of one of our most popular episodes includes never released bonus content about development, retention strategies, compensation techniques and much more. Our returning guest, Jess Giudici, packs a punch with her on-point advice and skillful mastery of employee development. If you’re ready to grow and retain a team of motivated and fulfilled employees, don’t miss this special episode!
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Human Resources (HR) is a faction of every company and the roles within HR can vary. On one hand, they must be focused on protecting the business. But new-school HR is about recruitment, development, training, and retention. As an employer, it is your job to make sure that the employees you’ve recruited feel understood and fulfilled in their role.
One means of doing that is crafting different development paths that allow team members to grow—that aren’t necessarily leadership. Not everyone wants to climb the career ladder with the end goal of being in leadership. How can you help individuals grow in their roles, take on more responsibility, or become more technically proficient?
To hear some of the questions that Jess recommends asking to gauge what an employee desires for their career path, keep listening!
Jess recommends having “touch-point” conversations with employees throughout the year where you gauge their engagement level and offer support. Sometimes, they may feel content with the role that they’re playing and aren’t looking to take on increased responsibility. Jess points out that this is great if they’re consistently achieving what is expected of them.
But the guys ask—what if they want more money with no added responsibility?
Jess takes the challenging question head-on, recommending that you be ready and equipped to answer. She points out that it’s okay to implement salary caps for positions and clearly define up-front that you understand the desire for a raise, but they are at the high end of the payscale for their position. If they would like more compensation you can start the conversation but be sure they’re aware that includes increasing responsibilities.
Jason, Jim, and Jess continue to talk about fair market value, offers from competition, and employee engagement. Don’t miss it!
Many businesses tend to do an “annual review” to assess employee performance and converse about the “expected” raise. Jess believes these conversations need to be split up. The annual review should only be about performance. It should be tying up loose ends regarding the conversations you’ve had throughout the year. Center the review around development and engagement. Be sure the employee knows that compensation is not part of this conversation, and they will be more engaged and open.
Compensation needs to be addressed separately, even perhaps as the employee is exceeding what is expected of them. Often, there is an expectation that an employee will get a “cost-of-living” raise, but this isn’t always the case. Your team needs to know that if they are exhibiting behaviors that detract from their productivity and performance, they may not get the expected raise. Jess points out that the team members should know that their performance has been lacking—it shouldn’t come as a surprise—and that you will work with them to further develop. Perhaps they’ll see that raise at a later date as they improve.
The guys open up a tough conversation about some of their pet peeves about expected yearly raises. Be sure to listen!
In most cases, Jim and Jason aren’t surprised when an employee announces they’re leaving, but sometimes it comes as a surprise. If an employee decides to leave unexpectedly, it’s important to know why. Were they engaged? Did they receive sufficient training? Did their pay scale not match the market? All of these questions can be incorporated into an exit interview. It allows you to reflect on your processes and making changes where necessary.
But how do you avoid employee turnover?
Jess advocates for giving your employees a voice. When someone is employed in a culture where they feel validated and understood, they are likely to feel fulfilled in their role. You can cultivate a culture that gives everyone a voice while aligning with your core values. Hold round-table discussions, ask for feedback or have employees complete surveys—then be prepared to implement changes. This helps your team feel heard and respected.
Jess, Jason, and Jim talk in detail about developing a culture of engagement in this episode. If you’re ready to create a company culture where no one wants to leave, this is the episode for you!
Is social media marketing for manufacturers really worth the effort? How should you market your brand in general? It may be hard to figure out where you fit in the social media world and what content to put out. In this episode of Making Chips, Jim and Jason talk about why social media marketing can make a positive impact on your business. Their answers aren’t what you expect!
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Jim and Jason had a scary Halloween—but not for the reason you'd expect. They were preparing to record a couple of episodes for the podcast. Instead, Jim was rushed to the ER with a case of Gastritis. Among other factors, severe stress is one of the things that contributed to his illness. Running multiple businesses and caring for unhealthy parents took a toll on him. The moral of the story? Know what’s going on with your body, and take care of yourself.
As a business owner, you have an obligation to care for your company. However, it is impossible to do so if you aren’t healthy. Proper self-care should be the entrepreneur’s #1 priority. Jim is already active and watches his diet, but wasn’t limiting his stress. It was a wake-up call for him and he hopes that it’s a wake-up call for listeners as well.
A listener pointed out that he doesn’t believe a machine shop must do any social media marketing. He doesn’t buy it. He believes that it’s a total waste of time for an industrial company. After all, what aerospace engineer goes on Facebook to look for a manufacturer? While Jim and Jason point out and understand that social media isn’t for everyone, there are some important reasons to utilize Social media.
Firstly, you’re not creating posts on Facebook to attract buyers. You are doing it to promote your company culture. You can promote new talent or offer a behind the scenes take of what your company does. Social media allows a business to share their values with the world. It is THE most effective way to do so—and costs you nothing but time.
As much as you may not want to give credence to the importance of the social space, they point out that people build careers in social media. Instagram influencers make thousands of dollars promoting services or products in posts. Instagram is a great model for the manufacturing space because it allows you to share visuals in a meaningful way.
You can share photos of parts, people in your business, or of projects you’re working on. Or perhaps a short video of work in progress or a how-to piece. Whatever it is, it allows you to build an authentic connection with your audience. If you’re providing valuable information, social media marketing for your brand can certainly be worth the time and effort.
LinkedIn can also be a useful tool to attract new talent. A new hire came across some of the content Jim had shared on LinkedIn. He saw that Jim was hiring a C & C Machinist, and messaged him about the opportunity. He already knew—based on their social media presence—that the company would be a good fit. And he was!
Marketing doesn’t necessarily reap immediate rewards as far as attracting new clients. However, the immediate reward is how it impacts your company. As you build a website or define a marketing strategy, you are defining how you want your business presented to the world. What are your values? What are your specialties? What is the #1 thing you want the general public to know about your company?
As you’re building a vision for your brand it helps lay out the vision for how you operate your business. You differentiate yourself in the industry by being different, and marketing helps you portray what makes you special. If you stand out and exploit what makes your business different, you attract the type of customers that are the right fit. They emphasize the importance of finding a good marketing agency to guide you through the process. It can make a world of difference.
Making the decision to employ veterans may seem like a shot in the dark, but it could actually be the best hiring decision you will ever make as a manufacturing leader. Military veterans not only have the tangible leadership skills you need to grow and succeed in your business, but they also bring a rich set of attributes and experiences to the table.
Making the transition from military life to a new, civilian career can be intimidating, however! Helping veterans thrive in their post-military chapters is what brought Andrea Biwer (Executive Director of the Des Plaines Chamber of Commerce) and Marne Deithorn (Director of Human Resources at the Des Plaines Rivers Casino) together to form the Veteran Boot Camp.
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Andrea knew there was a shortage in the manufacturing workforce, but she didn’t see it as an opportunity for veterans until she watched her son and his friends come back from their service in the marines and have trouble finding work. Joining with Marne (a veteran herself!) at the Rivers Casino, the two women helped lead the charge in founding the Veterans Back to Work Boot Camp. The ten-week program is built to help and empower veterans who have given so much to our country and to fill job opportunities within various industries - including manufacturing!
Over 250 veterans have applied to the boot camp since it began. 20 were chosen out of 85 applications for this past year’s program. While there are no set criteria for being accepted, Andrea and Marne explain that they painstakingly go through each application, looking for those they believe will most benefit from the experience and be committed to the learning opportunity. Those that aren’t accepted are still given access to the job fair put on by the Des Plaines Chamber of Commerce.
Mentors come alongside the veterans, sharing their own mistakes and experiences. Topics such as Who are You?, Persona, and Introversion vs. Extroversion are covered, as well as interviewing skills and resume building. Marne explains that in the military, everyone is told exactly what to do - all the time. Veterans are used to a life where they are told what to wear, where to move, and what they should do in their job. Suddenly living in a world without constant direction can be daunting. The Boot Camp endeavors to help veterans find themselves again after identifying themselves as “the military” for so long.
Andrea and Marne share that the veterans who leave the program are filled with newfound confidence and strength in their personal capabilities. The practical experiences they gain from the program, such as participation in networking events and community service projects, help give them a sense of purpose outside of the military. One of the greatest strengths of veterans is their desire for purpose - to give to something bigger than themselves. Veterans have so much to offer, and their military training and experiences have proven them to be men and women of integrity, loyalty, character, and principle. They know how to lead under pressure and how to build up those around them to greater achievements. They know how to make decisions. When you employ veterans, you aren’t just utilizing their skill-set, you are investing in the future.
Unfortunately, there are many misconceived misgivings surrounding employing veterans. Firstly, veterans aren’t just line employees. Because of their military experience, they are ready for leadership positions at the get-go. While they may need to learn the details of a specific job, they already have the tangible leadership skills needed to succeed (know yourself, know your troops, and know your mission).
Secondly, not every veteran has PTSD. Andrea and Marne warn against placing veterans inside a box of mental disorders. “That negative stigma is absolutely ridiculous,” they say. Everyone has something they struggle with, and not only military members have PTSD. If you find that one of your employed veterans has some type of disorder, help them find the encouragement and aid they need.
Thirdly, not all homeless veterans have a debilitating habit that brought them to that condition. Again, everyone has struggles. Veterans are human too, and they deserve a chance. To learn more about the ways you can help give back to military veterans while also growing your business, listen to the episode!
Training to achieve top credentials has long been a goal of many in the Metal Working Nation, but what about training for performance? Montez King, Executive Director of NIMS, unpacks the power of training machinists to perform at their ultimate best. How do you measure performance? Listen to the episode to find out!
Montez grew up on the rough side of the tracks in Baltimore - eager to pursue something bigger than himself when he grew up. Encouraged by a high school instructor to pursue machining, Montez found himself learning the tricks of the trade in his high school machine shop. Over the years in various manufacturing jobs, Montez endeavored to find solutions to the issues he found riddling the manufacturing industry - namely, the habit of companies to reward their employees for hoarding their expertise. As he climbed the industry ladder, Montez encouraged a paradigm shift towards a community rich in growth, teaching, and learning.
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When Montez became the executive director at NIMS, he laid out a new mission for the organization - to train from the end. Manufacturers are always learning. Technology continues to grow at a rate that demands elite performance and an insatiable desire to learn. Montez explains that simply having a list of credentials doesn’t cut it anymore in an industry where performance equals compensation. Employers are coming up against unique problems every day that require quick and expert solutions. Performance has become the new measuring stick.
NIMS helps companies train for performance with specific goals and standards in mind. When measuring performance, they determine whether or not an individual can operate within the responsibilities of their job description while drawing upon the competencies associated with that job. The training isn’t just for the sake of training. It’s training with a specific performance goal in mind.
Manufacturing leaders know that they can’t wander aimlessly when trying to improve their teams. There needs to be a goal - a standard of achievement. NIMS takes this need for standards and applies it to their performance measurement, creating training methods that enable the trainee to meet the performance goals of the employer. Trainees leave with the ability to make an analysis of the task at hand and to apply their expertise based upon their best judgment of the tools, time, and needs within their environment.
Montez makes it clear that standards should not be held above performance. The answer to the employer’s needs is the competent and consistent performance of the trained individual. Credentials are awarded to individuals who complete the training and meet the performance standards so that the trainee is recognized for their hard work, while also meeting the needs of the employer. It’s a win-win for everyone involved.
In order to make the performance training at NIMS a true win-win, Montez has helped create a stakeholder environment in his company’s training methods. Using the image of three bars, each one stands for a stakeholder in the training: the employer, the trainer, and the trainee. Everyone is reaching for the same goal, and each one is held accountable for their part in the deal. Validation is achieved when the trainee can draw upon the competencies they have learned and can successfully apply them to the environment that their employer has defined for them. The employer is responsible for establishing the standards, the trainer is responsible for creating a training method that builds performance and skill, and the trainee is responsible for mastering the craft and competence in applying knowledge to real-life situations. All three bars have to measure up. When one falls short - they all fall short.
To Montez, performance measurement is preventative maintenance! In order to push the Metal Working Nation to the next level, NIMS will be hosting a one-of-a-kind challenge at the IMTS 2020 trade show. The goal will be to measure the performance of a team, since teamwork is such a vital part of the manufacturing industry. This PM will require multiple skill-sets to come together to design, create, and produce a task that will then be voted upon by the IMTS crowd. In accordance with the NIMS training methodology, the competition will include standards, inspections, and requirements modeled after real-life challenges. What’s the reward? You’ll have to find out at IMTS 2020!
Content marketing provides an opportunity to expand your business and to offer something of value to the manufacturing community around the world. Chris Fox, the creative director at MakingChips, shares why every manufacturing leader should be investing in the development of a strong and value-driven content marketing strategy. It’s all about building your online presence as a company and growing your audience.
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Content marketing has grown from only a couple of usable platforms to several powerful mediums for sharing what your business offers - from products to educational knowledge. Blogging, social media, and YouTube are all avenues for content marketing. The goal is to establish the presence of your business and brand, while also meeting the needs of the Metal Working Nation. Chris explains that learning and teaching are things that every machinist and manufacturing leader can benefit from. Every manufacturing business has expertise and wisdom to share with the manufacturing community. Don’t be afraid to begin documenting the story of your company as you create, make mistakes, and overcome obstacles. Your knowledge can easily become rich building material for content marketing!
Your audience craves and needs original, authentic content to help them accomplish their work at their very best. Being natural in your content marketing is vital. People easily see through facades and glossy content. Be honest and provide real solutions to real problems through your content marketing. If you want your audience to invest their time in watching your videos, reading your blog, or re-tweeting your twitter post, then you need to provide a valuable ROI.
Chris encourages listeners to put aside the notion of proprietary secrets. The goal is to grow as a manufacturing community - while also building your reputation as a brand. Value-driven content marketing can help establish your reputation as a trustworthy source for knowledge and product.
Vlogging is blogging in a video format - most often through YouTube. The true value in a blog comes from the individuals in your business. Content marketing doesn’t have to be formal or impressively polished. Being real is vital, and showcasing the talent and knowledge of individual team members can help establish credibility with your audience.
Chris explains how to navigate the nuances of vlogging as a manufacturing company. Being honest with the titles of your videos is key. If your title claims to answer a question, make sure that the video actually answers it. Google is now smart enough to read the transcript of your video and match it with the title. If those two factors don’t match up, Google is less likely to promote your video.
The length of your videos should be tailored to the needs of your audience. If it takes an hour to demonstrate the solution to a real problem, then your video should be an hour long. If it only takes three minutes, then only create three minutes. Lots of ads and fluff in your videos will turn your audience away and detract from your credibility. Above all, be honest and be concise.
The value in content marketing is derived from the desire to give without thought of receiving anything in return. Take the time to understand what your customers, partners, and team members need. Know what platforms they use and what types of mediums they are most likely to engage with. While you may not be able to kick off a content marketing strategy that utilizes YouTube, LinkedIn, TikTok, and Facebook all at once, you can certainly start with one. Don’t have expensive camera equipment to film? Use your phone! Bring in the team and refer to their feedback when developing material. Companies aren’t people, but they are made up of people. Make sure that you are providing excellent content by ensuring that you are not only promoting your brand but also equipping and inspiring.
Choosing a new career path or education route can be intimidating, but a manufacturing career may just provide the perfect solution! Sarah Wierman shares her inspiring story and helpful insights into joining the manufacturing industry and how being willing to learn and ask questions can open up new and exciting opportunities. Be sure to listen to the episode for a unique look into changing career paths and learning the ropes of manufacturing from a beginner’s perspective.
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Working on obtaining her bachelor’s degree in deaf studies, Sarah tried a job in sign language and teaching but found that she hated it. She decided to take a break from her education and took a job in sales at Raptor Workholding on the recommendation of a friend. Little did she know that she would soon fall in love with the manufacturing industry and find her new passion and calling.
The initial appeal in a sales job was the travel opportunities. Sarah soon discovered that manufacturing was more than producing and delivering products. It was creativity and masterful workmanship created to meet an incredibly wide spectrum of needs - from replacing knees to providing building supplies. Inspired, Sarah took it upon herself to learn as much as she could about the industry and asked questions of everyone she met. “I never stopped talking to people,” she shares. Vendor shows and visiting other shops to sell live tooling afforded her plenty of opportunities to deepen her knowledge of machining.
When Sarah first began her job as a sales rep at Raptor, she didn’t even know what a CNC machine was. After a year of intense learning and diving into the new world of manufacturing, she realized that she wanted to stay in the industry long-term. Her eagerness to learn opened new doors, and she took a job as the regional manager at MD Tooling. “Your lack of experience in the industry doesn’t make you ignorant,” she says. “It makes you eager.” If you find that you truly want to be a part of the manufacturing industry, then you need to be willing to take on the responsibility of learning - and learning well. Listen to the episode to learn more about why Sarah fell in love with machining and why she decided to pursue a manufacturing career.
Even though there are many women in the manufacturing industry, it still isn’t common. Sarah shares her experiences entering into and growing in an industry that is still considered a man’s world. “It is what you make of it,” she says. Even though some of the people she worked with initially found her presence odd, there was never any hostility or opposition. Once her fellow workers discovered that Sarah was willing to learn and put her best foot forward in every job and customer encounter, they embraced her unique perspectives and place within the team.
Sarah shares that while it can be intimidating entering a workforce made up almost entirely of men as a young woman, the important thing to focus on is the experience that you are offering customers and your teammates. View obstacles as challenges and find ways to overcome them. It’s about being collaborative and willing to find the solution and solve the problems that arise. Everyone has something unique to offer, and being confident in one’s perspective - while also acting and speaking in humility - will take you farther than you ever thought possible.
Learning about a new career opportunity can be daunting. Sarah shares some tips for exploring the manufacturing industry as a new career. Mentors can be invaluable in helping you navigate how to get started, who to talk to, and how to put your best foot forward. Investing in relationships should be a key component of your entire career, but especially when starting out. You will always need others to help you and provide a place for you to seek advice. Never stop asking questions and making room for edifying voices in your life.
Social media isn’t just a business marketing tool. It can be a learning tool for exploring new career paths as well! Sarah explains how she began an Instagram page for Raptor Workholding and soon discovered other manufacturing-related pages from which she learned an invaluable amount of insight and skill. Don’t be intimidated by having to learn a new industry. Put yourself out there. Use social media to learn more about the culture and the skills required. Ask questions and make it fun! Manufacturing isn’t just about the products. It’s about the people, meeting the needs of those across the nation and the world, and creating something beautiful out of ordinary hunks of metal.
HAAS Automation is leading the way in how-to manufacturing videos as an education tool for manufacturing leaders around the globe - as well as a content marketing tool to demonstrate how to use the newest HAAS equipment. Guest speakers Mark Terryberry, Bryan O’Fallon, and Scott Gasich share their video-making and content marketing expertise in this fascinating episode of MakingChips! Want to learn what makes a great how-to video and how sharing your knowledge can help boost your business? Listen to the episode to find out!
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After a couple of hit how-to YouTube videos demonstrating how to solve simple manufacturing issues, the HAAS Automation marketing team realized that there was no place for manufacturers to go to learn how to do new things or fix things outside of paper manuals. Jumping on the “video craze” bandwagon, they set out to fill the void of immediately available machining instruction by offering quality how-to and product video content.
Quickly finding that people prefer short, to-the-point videos, the HAAS team created short video series on different topics. They now average 4-5 videos per week with several series from “Tip of the Day” to “Don’t Fear 5-Axis” and the “Machine Tool Coolant Series.” Manufacturers today need quickly available and accurate demonstrations to help them master their art and easily find solutions. YouTube offers the medium that HAAS needs to accomplish its goal of meeting the needs of the manufacturing community while also marketing their latest products.
It can be overwhelming when trying to decide how much production value to put into video content creation. How polished do you make how-to manufacturing videos? Mark, Bryon, and Scott all share the need to be authentic with your audience. Just because you make a video doesn’t mean that people will watch it. Know who you are as a company and know who your customers and potential viewers are. What do they need and want to learn?
How-to manufacturing videos are a way to build trust with current and potential customers. If you are providing real solutions to real problems, then you will earn the trust of your viewers. Mark, Bryon, and Scott encourage listeners to use real-life machinists in their video production. The authentic empathy that machinists will have with viewer issues will come through in the videos and provide an added layer of reality and authenticity.
Listening to your viewers is key! While the manufacturing community may still be pretty old-school, everyone consumes online material, and everyone is looking for answers through mediums such as YouTube. Be sure to read the comments people are leaving in your channel. Provide a phone number and email address so that viewers and customers have a way of reaching out with questions. Use your own company’s mistakes as opportunities for creating new content that demonstrates how to solve the problems you come up against.
Scott says that with digital marketing, you have to jump right in and get at it. While print marketing may still claim a slice of your resources, put most of your resources in digital marketing. With $3,000 of Facebook marketing, you can reach a million people. With $3,000 invested in print marketing, you may reach a few thousand. Invest in what works.
Don’t know where to start? “Follow your gut,” says Scott. Think about how you would want the material presented to you. “Bet on yourself,” he says. Don’t go spend a fortune on production value right away. Use your phone and some good lighting tools and go from there. Build a script or storyboard to help guide the way. Speaking with passion and truth will win the trust of your viewers and help you build your business.
How can the Metal Working Nation close the manufacturing skills gap? As the manufacturing industry continues to grow with the demand for fast and excellent production, it is imperative that the proper skills be found, fostered, and taught. Even with the desirable technological sophistication of the modern manufacturing world, young talent isn’t being found quickly enough to fill the gap left by the retirement of the Baby Boomer generation.
Jim and Jason brainstorm with guest speakers Hernan Ricaurte (Owner of Ricaurte Precision), Brian Grigson (General Manager of Axxis Corporation), and Brain Pendarvis (Owner of Pendarvis Manufacturing) about how manufacturing leaders can take action to influence the next generation of machinists. Be sure to listen to the entire episode to catch the best insights into the real and persisting problem of the manufacturing skills gap!
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Ricaurte, Grigson, and Pendarvis all agree that the skills gap is certainly a major issue of the modern manufacturing world. The “great wave” is here; the older are retiring and the younger aren’t qualified or aren’t interested. Pendarvis shares the struggle of finding talent skilled in the newest manufacturing technology. Leaders know that you can’t just stick anyone on your CNC machines. While the skills gap is a real and present problem, it doesn’t have to remain that way.
Changing the perception of manufacturing is the first step. Most high schoolers don’t even know that trade school for CNC machining or similar work is an option. Many still think that they have to go to college to have a meaningful career. Manufacturing, however, offers so much at such little training cost. Building bridges with your community is the first step to closing the skills gap. Give presentations at the local middle and high schools, invite schools to tour your facilities and show them that what they need - and want - in a career can be found in manufacturing. “It’s not always money that people want,” says Grigson. A clean environment, security, incentives, and evident room for company growth are all attributes that can help your business attract young talent.
Who are you as a company? What is your niche? While there is a skills issue, it is important to only hire the skills that you need. What is your company culture? The culture that you want to foster within your business begins with you as the leader. One challenge created by the skills gap is finding someone who is not only talented but also a good fit within your company. Having more experienced employees shadow and oversee the work of new hires or interns provides the opportunity for not only the skills - but for the culture - to be taught.
Ricaurte shares the lessons he learned from studying the manufacturing culture of Japanese machinists. Fostering a culture of accountability and excellence if key. Attention to detail, respect for one another, and the willingness to learn are all necessary to an effective workplace Training the younger generation within that culture will help produce the future talent that you need. Don’t forget to listen to the rest of the episode for more insight into fostering effective culture!
It actually depends on the work and skill-set required! With the advancement of technology, the skill sets needed by manufacturers grows more diverse. While not everyone will be adept in all areas of machining, they always need to be willing to learn and grow. Curiosity is a sign of a great future machinist. While genuine curiosity, humility, excellent work ethic, and personal drive are all hard to detect in an interview, they should be attributes that you are striving to discover.
Running an apprenticeship or internship program at your shop is also a highly effective way to discover and nurture new talent. Involve high schoolers in your company’s growth and demonstrate to them the future possibilities within manufacturing. Hiring part-time can also be a good tactic to see if you and your new employee are a good long-term fit.
Your local high school isn’t the only place to find potential future talent to invest in. Underprivileged communities are gold when it comes to finding young people with the passion and drive to try something unconventional - such as attending trade school to learn CNC machining. There are bright, curious minds everywhere! Many kids don’t know that manufacturing is even an option among today’s career paths. Manufacturing leaders need to begin investing in and inspiring the talent and ability of young people.
Yes, the manufacturing skills gap is a problem, but it’s not insurmountable. Listen to the full episode to learn more about how you can make a difference in inspiring the next generation of manufacturers!
Being a manufacturing leader is difficult, especially if you are a manufacturing entrepreneur! With so many possible opportunities and pitfalls, it can be hard to know how to navigate the small-business world of an entrepreneur. Guest speaker, John Saunders, shares his insight and experience as a leading manufacturing entrepreneur and the ways he has successfully set his business apart and thrived through slow growth.
Founder and owner of Saunders Machine Works, John is a serial entrepreneur with his hands in multiple jobs, including running the NYC CNC YouTube channel and overseeing the training and manufacturing sides of his small business. His YouTube channel has become a medium to influence, inspire, and encourage aspiring and seasoned machinists in their careers.
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Although he attended college to learn entrepreneurship, John found that his key takeaways came from practical experience in selling and machining. Originally wanting to create a business in order to provide a specific product, he quickly realized that creating an excellent product isn’t the same as creating an excellent business. In order to generate a successful business, you have to know the “why” behind the work and the products created.
Entrepreneurship isn’t for the faint of heart. John advises that if you are having doubts as to whether or not you really want to work for yourself and jump into the world of paperwork, legality issues, building, training, hiring, producing, and customer service, then you may want to work for someone else for a couple of years. Study how your boss leads and drives their business forward - and then go try it for yourself.
John’s business - Saunders Machine Works - grew out of his love for CNC machining and sharing its workhorse capability with viewers on YouTube via his NYC CNC channel. Continuing with the YouTube channel, he wanted a business that could also train individuals in machining and sell manufacturing tools and products. The three-part business has kept up steady - yet slow growth - just as John wants it.
Keeping a focus on who you are and why you do what you do helps you to navigate the way forward. Instead of chasing every glittering opportunity, consider whether or not it will help fulfill the goals of your business or help create a better experience for your customers. What you are selling isn’t just the object in the box - it’s the atmosphere, relationship, and experience that you are offering your customers.
For John, this means finding the best ways to share the modern world of manufacturing with others. His YouTube channel provides a place for machinists of all experience levels to ask questions, easily view videos that demonstrate solutions to popular machining problems, and be a part of the manufacturing community. The training classes that Saunders Machine Works offers provide practical experience in a variety of machining skills and open the door to both young and old to explore manufacturing as a hobby or career. John’s business also values offering internship and apprenticeship-modeled jobs to those who need practical experience through their product manufacturing side of Saunders Machine Works.
The goal in sorting through opportunities is to make continuous improvements in your processes - to make them as efficient and streamlined as possible - all without wasting resources. Bootstrapping is the ability of your business to leverage your equity for the greatest return on investment. Money and time are ever manufacturing entrepreneur’s most limited resources. In some phases of your business, you may find that you are lower in one of those resources than another. If you have the opportunity to grow in your knowledge and skills as a master of your trade, take them! Don’t be wasteful. Invest with results.
“Growth eats cash for breakfast,” John warns. We are trained to think that any growth opportunity is a good opportunity, but it’s wiser and more profitable to consider each one through the lens of your “why.” With such a large following, John often gets calls offering partnerships with other businesses. Due to a poor partnership experience in his early entrepreneurial days, John has decided to never partner with another business. The true 50/50 partnership is rare and often difficult to maintain. That doesn’t mean you should never try it, but know where you want your business to go and maintain integrity with those goals through your growth tactics. Be sure to listen to the entire episode for more insight into making the best growth decisions possible.
It can be easy for entrepreneurs to become overwhelmed by all the marketing and advertising mediums available. John stresses the importance of only utilizing what you need, what you can afford, and what will speak most authentically to your potential customers. John aligns his content creation with his goal to help others help themselves in their manufacturing stories. Be honest about what you are portraying through social media. Authenticity is a huge factor; make it a point to share the stories that surround the challenges that your business has faced and the solutions that you found. Make note of what you are personally drawn to on social media and study why you like it. At the end of the day, it’s not about you. It’s about your current and potential customers and the quality of what you are offering them.
With college skyrocketing in price every year, machining trade schools offer an affordable and promising solution to those looking for a meaningful - and even lucrative - career path. Kurt Preisendanz is the Director of Training at the NTMA Training Centers in Southern California. Passionate about sharing the opportunities that machining has to offer the next generation, Kurt explains the challenges that trade schools face and ways that manufacturing leaders can help lead the charge in alternative higher education. Lee Norton is a board member of the California Manufacturing Workforce Foundation, a 501c3 charity that uses their donations to provide tuition and funding to currently enrolled students who are pursuing technical careers. Be sure to listen to this inspiring and insightful episode to learn more about the amazing option of machining trade schools and how you can make a difference.
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Kurt shares the struggles that he faces when representing the NTMA Training Centers at job fairs and high schools. Many parents and teachers push their children towards universities and traditional college paths because they believe those are the best options available. Trade schools are often looked down upon as not good enough for promising students or as a legitimate gateway into a successful career. Kurt explains that this is mostly an American view, as Europe has long viewed learning and mastering a trade as a proper way to begin a career and life as an adult.
Lee shares that while his children are attending university, they have a clear goal in mind. The problem isn’t that the traditional college route is wrong - it’s that it is often wasted and is perceived as the only path to success. That simply isn’t the case. Both Lee and Kurt believe that low trade school attendance and acceptance has to do with the fact that people simply don’t understand the value of what is being taught. The manufacturing world, especially, is still viewed as the dirty factory work that we all want to avoid and escape. Manufacturing, however, has become one of the most modernized and technological industries in the world. The robotics, engineering, building, and software developed and utilized within the manufacturing industry is extremely cutting-edge. The challenge is to overcome the misperceptions surrounding trade schools and machining and to effectively share the opportunity of a machining certification.
Forget the old days of dirty shop floors and being “doomed” to dangerous factory work. The modern world of machining and manufacturing is filled with incredible technology. Kurt explains that while students in machining trade schools are required to learn all the basics of machining, they are exposed to the many specializations that are available, including robotics, CNC machining, inspection, Master CAM, and CMM. Every one of NTMA’s students learns turning and milling and the fundamentals of machining so that they understand how everything is made. The program can be completed in as little as seven months, with daily hands-on instruction. Students graduate with a certification and are guided and encouraged in their job-finding journey. Many leave with job offers and the promise of an exciting and lucrative future.
Both Kurt and Lee believe that there is light at the end of the tunnel concerning the skills gap in the manufacturing industry. Many are beginning to understand and view a machining career as a valid and exciting opportunity. Kurt ensures that his presentations at job fairs and high schools accurately depict the advanced technological atmosphere that is machining. He shares the diverse culture of the manufacturing world as well. It’s not just men, but women as well, who are finding meaningful work in an industry where their talents are valued. Both young and old are finding new purpose and life in manufacturing.
Lee knows that the manufacturing industry is all about giving back. Many who are in the industry grew up in it and have been a part of the Metal Working Nation for generations. Lee and Kurt believe that investing in the next generation of machinists is vital to the health of the industry. Being able to provide scholarships to currently enrolled students in technical fields of study is a huge part of keeping the manufacturing future strong. Be sure to listen to the whole episode for ideas on how you - as a manufacturing leader - can get involved!
Kurt explains that many of the students who go to the NTMA training centers are excited about the opportunities ahead. Kurt makes sure, however, that they understand the level of hard work required. No, they aren’t going to make 100k in their first couple of years as machinists, but what they do have to look forward to is a lifelong career built on engaging and purposeful work. They can grow as fast as they want in the industry - there’s no limit to what they can learn and accomplish. They are investing in a career that can offer them a sense of pride in their labor and skillset, opportunities in aerospace and government - all while supplying them with a stable career that will enhance their marriage and family life. It takes work. But what an incredible opportunity!
Another amazing form of automation is here - the industrial vending machine! Guest speaker Steve Pixley - Founder & CEO of AutoCrib - dives into why vending machines are the Metal Working Nation’s new best friend on the shop floor. From solving the issue of lost tools and parts to supplying a charging station for electronics, industrial vending machines will help manufacturing leaders take their businesses to the next level of efficiency and safety.
Data collection has taken many forms in the history of manufacturing, and now is the time to embrace the most efficient form yet - artificial intelligence. Guest speaker, Akshat Thirani, shares how he solved the software disparity between computer engineers and manufacturers and created a tool to enable manufacturing leaders to meet their goals as efficiently as possible. AI isn’t something to fear. Without change - nothing will happen in your business!
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Growing up in India, Akshat’s childhood was saturated in the manufacturing industry. All of his family and friends had some part in the local manufacturing and production business, and his father raised his children with a manufacturer's mindset. With manufacturing in his blood, Akshat set off for college at the age of 17, studying design engineering and computer software. It was at school that he first noticed the gaping disparity between what computer software engineers were utilizing and what leading manufacturing engineers were using - even though the manufacturers were handling some of the most complex and technical work in the world. Akshat knew he needed to create a tool that would enable manufacturers to work and live to their full potential - a tool that would help them track production time, maintenance, and the data produced by their machines.
Akshat understood that it was no trivial thing to join an AI tool to a machine and start collecting data. Many shops utilize both old and new machinery - making the job of AI more difficult. Akshat knew that the tool he was creating needed to be simple and able to read the “heartbeat” of each machine and distinguish what job was being completed.
The “heartbeat” of a machine is the signature electrical current that it produces. During his senior year in college, Akshat and some of his colleagues created the prototype AI tool he had dreamed of. It eventually became the answer to the machinist’s problems with efficient data collection. Instead of jotting down on pieces of paper or having to manually insert data about a machine or job into an Excel spreadsheet, AI can be hooked up to a machine and learn the heartbeat of specific jobs and functions. AI then transmits that data to a centralized, online platform through cellular data - allowing the manufacturing team to quickly read the pulse on their machinery and work.
Every individual on a manufacturing team has expertise that is wasted when they are required to spend time collecting, recording, and analyzing data from each machine. Instead of having the professionals do the busywork, AI can read, transmit, organize, and analyze the data outsourced by the machinery. Providing real-time data to team members, Akshat’s AI tools can record the speed of each machine being used, which machines need maintenance, the estimated timetable for a piece or job, and the reasons why a machine is not running at optimum capacity. Meeting the core manufacturing goals of simplicity and practicality, AI is something that the leaders of the Metal Working Nation need to be taking seriously and educating themselves on.
Every manufacturing business will have different long-term goals and immediate needs. Akshat encourages listeners to walk through their shops and talk with their team members to identify what needs to be accomplished through an AI tool such as Akshat’s. Calculating the cost of integrating AI into the system may be surprisingly less than what is being spent on manual data collection. Identify what you need to accomplish work more efficiently - and then make it happen. Because if you’re not making chips, you’re not making money!
With so many automation systems available, it can be hard to know which to use to meet your specific goals and needs as a manufacturing leader. Guest speakers Randy Jokerst and Brad Klippstein share how the THINC Developers Group enables the Metal Working Nation to perform at its best by solving manufacturing leaders’ problems through innovation.
Randy is the Director of Technical Services at Hartwig Inc. and one of the founding members of the THINC Development Group. Entering the manufacturing world by way of CNC engineering, he has used his gifting in engineering to amp up machinist’s efficiency by implementing automation systems into new machines. Also an engineer, Brad Klippstein is the Supervisor of the Okuma Product Specialist Group. His manufacturing journey began when he visited a machine tool fair fresh out of college and was asked if he wanted to program robots. Hooked, Brad dove into developing new technology and applications at the forefront of the programming world.
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Having trouble creating efficient processes or closing the skills gap of the next manufacturing generation? Founded in 2008, the THINC Developers Group was created to solve the issues of the Metal Working Nation and provide the cutting-edge applications needed to automate manufacturing systems. The THINC control for machining systems was originally PC-based, and while the developers understood how to navigate and decipher the data collected by the control, most users were unable to view what the control was collecting. The development group was created to enable customers to build their own control interface apps so that they could use the control system to meet their unique needs. The THINC group’s focus is on the communication between the machine tool side and the PC side - teaching people to write the apps to accomplish their machining goals.
Better efficiency is something manufacturing leaders are constantly working towards. One way to improve efficiency while also pouring into your team’s adaptability and performance is to automate the jobs that take away from time that your team can spend in their specific areas of expertise. Limiting distractions by utilizing automation systems to set and send reminders can also boost efficiency levels. Randy talks about how one of the U.S. mints had three separate operations that moved parts from one machine to the next to make the coin dies. Using an automation system developed by the THINC group, they were able to combine their operations into a three-machine/one robot cell that produced all the parts within hours instead of days.
Many of Okuma Inc.’s developments have come from the THINC Developers Group. Through the MyOkuma app, you can integrate the Okuma tools into your systems. Compatible with many different PC systems, the THINC Developers Group plays in the sandbox of the Application Program Interface (API), creating communication points between machines. The vision and goals of the customer are brought into being through the innovation of THINC and executed through their developments via the Okuma Sampling Path.
Brad explains that at Okuma, through the Okuma Sampling Path, they can read, write, and access thousands of data points within the controls of systems and machines. They can make the control do whatever the customer needs through the API. All of the solutions data can be viewed and interpreted by the customers so that they can make the best business decisions based upon the data provided.
MTConnect takes the guessing work out of machine data interpretation. Okuma machine tools and the Okuma control collect their machining data from MTConnect, which harvests data straight from the CNC machines, interprets it, and sends it to the Okuma control. Manufacturers have access to this data through their own Okuma controls because MTConnect is already attached to the control from the moment it hits the shop floor. MTConnect allows you to take all the information processed and pull it up via the data stream to your phone, tablet, or computer. With Okuma controls, there is no additional fee for MTConnect. Because it is sent via data stream to your devices, you can access necessary data even while offline.
Reading exuberant amounts of data can be overwhelming, which is why the THINC Developers Group created several unique dashboard bases to meet the different needs of manufacturing leaders and their teams. Streamlining your automation systems by utilizing a central dashboard for data collection and interpretation will enable you to view and make decisions more quickly. Instead of manually checking on the tools and machines being used and recording the health, run-time, and down-time of your tools, you can see all of that data displayed on a single dashboard. The idea is to create a condition-based, automated environment that allows you to be as hands-off as possible with the menial work required to run your business. Automation systems are all about keeping it simple and clarifying communication between your team and machines.
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Cobotics are a current hot topic in the Metal Working Nation. Innovation within the AI spectrum is opening new doors and possibilities for manufacturing leaders who are willing to embrace change. Guest speaker, Craig Zoberis, shares his “Aha!” moment when he realized cobots could help him create a more efficient and life-giving environment to his team. His passion for innovation and the power of the cobotic ecosystem led him to create his own cobotics production line - empowering the Metal Working Nation to perform at their absolute best.
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Growing up working at his father’s manufacturing business, Craig entered the industry as a college graduate with a wealth of knowledge and familiarity. Starting his own business focused on assembly, he eventually recognized the need for in-house machinery. Wanting maximum control of his own schedule as well as his team’s, Craig began researching the impact that cobots can have on improving efficiency and helping to close the skills gap. Encouraged by his team to pursue a future in cobotics, he began implementing them into his workforce. The impact was so powerful that Craig and his team at Fusion OEM were inspired to create their own line of cobotics.
Collaborative robots - cobots - are designed to operate around people and often with people. Not only can they help you eliminate the menial tasks that take up your team’s valuable and limited time, but they can also help keep integration and employee turnover costs low. Cobots are easily taught by those working in their space. There is no need for a cobotics consultant to train it in every new function. Using cobots to fulfill repetitive and menial work frees up your team to focus on areas of work that require their expertise - allowing them to grow in their knowledge and application instead of being bogged down by time-consuming tasks.
Craig explains that knowing where and how to utilize cobots can be overwhelming to those who are first installing them. He encourages listeners to focus on the jobs on the shop floor that are dull, dirty, or dangerous and to begin implementing cobots in those tasks. Cobots are especially helpful in highly repetitive work because they don’t slow down or speed up as a human would throughout the day. The consistent speed and functionality of the cobot allows for more predictable output timetables and eliminates the dull work that keeps your team tied. Deburring, polishing, sanding, quality inspection, sensing, and making/recording measurements are all tasks that a cobot can accomplish - freeing you and your machinists to focus on what really matters.
Training up the new generation of manufacturing leaders and machinists is incredibly important, especially when considering the huge portion of the current manufacturing labor force that is made up of baby boomers. Planning for the turnover that comes with retirements can be made smoother by implementing cobots into your workforce. While training new employees, cobots can cover tasks left by retired machinists and keep your output steady. Cobots also allow you to put more time and energy into training new employees and seasoned team members in new skills. The skills gap dilemma doesn’t have to slow your business. Using cobots can not only help you close that skills gap but make your production time more efficient while doing so.
Jumping into cobotics implementation and utilization can be intimidating. Craig encourages listeners to take small steps and to familiarize themselves with what the cobotic ecosystem is all about. Visiting manufacturing shops and production lines that use cobots will allow you to see for yourself what they can accomplish. Find easy wins for cobotics within your own workforce. Test out cobots on jobs that you know you could use them in. Cobotics is a paradigm shift, but it doesn’t have to be a difficult one. Chip away at the automation transition and watch your business grow!
Change in manufacturing is an inevitable and exciting necessity that Jim and Jason are ready for the Metal Working Nation to embrace and experience. Even though the industry has a history of sticking with what has worked for generations, it is now time to invest in the future by equipping and inspiring manufacturing leaders and teams to educate themselves on the progress of technology and process. Guest speaker, Drura Parrish, the president of Xometry Supplies, shares his manufacturing story and how leaders can take small steps towards big change for their businesses.
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Growing up in the manufacturing world, Drura noticed that his grandfather’s business philosophy was built more upon hope in the future than on making that future himself with the manufacturing tools he owned. The machines that spent their lives unused - waiting for the “big deal,” caused Drura to question the processes in place. However, when he came back after college, he went to work for his grandfather and learned the important lesson of knowing when to ask why you are doing something before you set out to do it. Accepting a process because it has “always” been used isn’t a good enough reason to keep on using it. Be sure to listen to the episode for Drura’s personal experience in learning to ask “Why?”
It’s all about leadership. Drura explains that in many machine shops, the leader is often the one with the most expertise and experience in a specific field. But is that the way it should be? In today’s modern manufacturing world, everyone is an expert at something. People need leaders, but they don’t necessarily need a leader who is well-versed in every aspect of the manufacturing business. Instead, the leader needs to be the one asking questions - asking, “Why are we doing it this way?” Drura believes that it is the responsibility of the 21st-century manufacturing leader to instill in their team the mindset that the customer is always right and to provide the training their team needs to accomplish serving their customers well. Outdated software? Toss it out. Equip your people; instill in them a positive, service-minded attitude, and trust your people to produce a quality outcome.
Do your people know how to identify good technology? Drura explains that in a world that is saturated in options and new technology, it is vital that your team understand what makes good technology and what makes a good process. Jason and Jim both agree that while it is difficult to begin setting aside time in your business’s schedule for training and education of the team, it is essential to your company’s future success. Technology must be taken seriously in today’s manufacturing world.
What educating a manufacturing team looks like will depend on the individual business, the people, and the goals of the company. For smaller shops, it may be investing in one individual at a time instead of collectively training in new technology. For very large businesses, it could mean taking another, smaller shop under their wing and helping guide them in good business acumen. The idea is to promote in the Metal Working Nation an attitude of growth and effective change. When progressive change is made, take the time to celebrate!
Jim, Jason, and Drura all know that change in manufacturing can be a slow process. But small progress is better than no progress! Drura suggests setting aside 1% of your time as a leader and business to invest in education. As your team explores the latest innovations in their area of expertise, they will grow in their own skills - making your business more efficient. Spending time training actually saves you time as a business in the long run. Equip your people. Inspire them to always be asking “Why?” Start with 1%, and grow from there. Change is the pathway to future success.
Are cobots the future of your manufacturing business? Collaborative robots can share the same space with your employees and help you automate the processes and systems that keep tying up your team’s time and energy. Guest speaker, Elias Serruya shares his passion for innovative thinking and why a future of cobots may just be your manufacturing dream-come-true.
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Elias shares his story of pursuing the future in innovation and automation while climbing the ladder at his father-in-law’s manufacturing company, EJ Basler. Beginning as an engineering intern, he quickly learned the ins and outs of the trade and made note of where processes could be made more efficient. Always asking the question, “How could this be made better?” Elias found his passion realized in building and implementing cobots and robots.
Elias explains that the automation offered by robotics and cobotics is mechatronics - the combination of mechanical and electronic systems. Mechatronic automation covers all the bases for a machine shop by combining software, mechanics, mathematics, chemistry, the cloud, and electronics for a truly all-encompassing automated system. As manufacturing leaders understand, time is money - and the more time their employees can spend on the tasks that require their expertise and less on the menial busywork - the better.
Elias unpacks the differences between robots and cobots and why cobots are a financially savvy investment for your manufacturing business. Unlike robots, cobots don’t need their own designated space with safety lines and regulations. Cobots (collaborative robots) share the same workspace as your employees and interact directly in your employees’ environment. Because they don’t need their own floor or taped-off space, and because they can’t hurt humans in their operations, there is no need to spend money and resources on building a separate and safety-ensured space on your shop floor. Cobots are slower in their movements and don’t have the huge amount of velocity behind them that regular, mechanical robots possess. If you touch a cobot outside of the designated process, they turn off. They are built to work with you - not overpower you.
Are cobots for everybody? Elias explains that while the role of the cobots might change, they are useful in both low and high-production manufacturing businesses. A good strategy for both types would be to locate where you need to automate within the business. Where is time being wasted or being used inefficiently? What jobs - if freed up - could make room for greater growth and progress? Inspection and processing parts could be done by a cobot instead of your employees, allowing them to focus on work that requires their skill and expertise.
Elias shares the processes he uses to know where to implement automation within EJ Basler. Watching company costs is an extremely helpful way to see where your manufacturing team could benefit from the help of cobots. Taking a walk through your shop floor can also provide insight into identifying where processes could be made more efficient. If you are struggling with finding good hires, then using a cobot to make up the difference will save your team countless hours and headaches.
Cobots are trained by recording points in space - through logging specific conditions that build the logic of a certain job. Once all the steps have been taught to the cobot, it can carry out its task. For jobs that require unique grippers or handling parts, new grippers and tools can be 3D printed or made for the cobot. Even though cobots are serving in the role of automation, their workflow is in the hands of you and your team. Not comfortable with just one master controller? Use several for each part of the process so that you can have the flexibility of updating and controlling just one aspect of the job at hand.
Elias explains that automation is not only useful to your team - it’s attractive to your clients. When customers see that you are trying to keep up with the times, be progressive, and constantly improve, they will be more trusting and impressed by your diligence to keep on the cutting edge of manufacturing technology. The robotics industry is only growing, and those that want to keep up in the Metal Working Nation need to be thinking about how they can be progressive. Be sure to listen to the entire episode for examples of how Elias has used cobotics at EJ Basler and why cobots might need to be the next big step for your business.
Business automation can seem like an intimidating change, but the benefits are massive. Guest speaker, Paul Van Metre - president of Pro Shop ERP, shares how letting go of control can help grow your company and make it vastly more efficient. Automating your systems can help clear up communication, save you and your team energy and time, and help boost your profitability. Change can be daunting, but an automated system is definitely worth the cost.
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Some may think that there are too many barriers to push through to make business automation worth it. Paul explains that people fear what they don’t understand and what they don’t know. While such fear is normal, it shouldn’t keep manufacturing leaders from making the switch. The initial expense and time invested in uploading your company’s data may seem like a shock at first, but the efficiency that comes with automation is incredible. Letting go of control could be the best decision you’ve ever made.
The tools you use to automate your business are crucial to your success. Paul gives some examples of automation, including robots for the machine shop floor, apps, and entire manufacturing eco-systems - such as Pro Shop ERP. Paul shares that his company grew out of the need to solve the problems they faced as a start-up. No one offered the software they needed to automate their systems so that they could stay on top of their game and grow with their clients. Pro Shop ERP is the result of Paul’s team’s hard work and innovation. They wanted a way to tie all the details of their business together into one, centralized system. Paul encourages listeners to not be overwhelmed by the nuances of launching an automated system but to rather focus on the big picture: making chips so that you can make more money.
In every small business, there are going to be people who wear too many hats. Inefficiency isn’t something that growing manufacturing businesses can tolerate for long. Miscommunication, confusion, and extended lead time can all be results of outdated processes and the struggle of having to do everything manually - from customer onboarding to running machinery. It’s easy to get caught up in the everyday chaos and not realize what could be easily solved through automation. Excel isn’t always going to cut it for logging your processes and keeping track of customer information and accounting. Before Pro Shop ERP, there was automating software to help with the accounting side of business, but there wasn’t anything that was built from the shop floor perspective. Pro Shop ERP offers that perspective in an automated format so that you can focus on what’s important to the growth of your business.
There are so many details to consider when running a manufacturing business, and tools like Pro Shop ERP help take the busywork out of the picture. Jim shares the improvements made to his company through the implementation of automation.
You can automate your sales process as well as your manufacturing processes. Jim shares that he uses Pro Shop even in the initial “interview” with new customers. Since quality communication is one of the pillars of Carr Machine & Tool, Jim likes to show new customers how well Pro Shop allows them to communicate as a team - both internally as a company and externally with their customers. He can also establish trust and openness by showing new customers the automated breakdown of pricing with Pro Shop so that there is no guesswork when it comes to quoting a price.
While there is a good bit of front-end work with uploading and customizing all of the data for an automated system, the end-product is invaluable to the efficiency of your manufacturing business.
Is your tech stack doing its job? Jim and Jason know how hard it can be to keep all the balls in the air and not become overwhelmed. As the manufacturing industry continues to grow, it is vital that the Metal Working Nation become increasingly efficient - and smarter. Guest speaker, Kaleb Mertz - the integrator and marketing team lead of MakingChips - dives into why and how you need to integrate your tech stack to boost your company’s efficiency and ease the load on you and your employees. Making Chips and making money doesn’t solely rely on the mechanics of the shop floor.
Take further steps to build your techstack and read Kaleb's article at www.makingchips.com/techstack
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Just as software-as-a-service (SaaS) has been used to streamline the software needs of businesses and organizations around the world, Xometry has created the manufacturing-as-a-service (MaaS) platform to serve the pressing needs of the Metal Working Nation. Jim and Jason discuss the inner-workings of Xometry’s impressive success with the vice president of the company, Michael Dickson, in this week’s exciting episode of MakingChips.
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As the largest manufacturing-on-demand platform in the country, Xometry makes parts for over 16,000 customers - including clients such as NASA and BMW. Michael explains that their ability to meet such high demands is because of their instant quoting engine, partner network, and through their online e-commerce site - Xometry Supplies. Michael shares that the passion and drive behind the company is to help manufacturers grow in their own businesses as well as helping the manufacturing industry thrive as a whole.
If you have a part that your shop doesn’t have the capacity to create, what can you do? Michael explains how Xometry’s instant quoting engine works to provide manufacturers and customers with instantaneous answers on how their needs can be met. Uploading a 3D CAD file of the part or project you need manufactured into the system allows the quoting engine to determine when the part or project can be made and delivered and by whom. The system allows users to select the type of tools they want to be used, custom finishings, and what types of inspections they want the project or part verified through. The instant quoting engine then calculates lead time and the deadline for a need. Payment is simple and savable for future orders. When there are extremely specific details needed to complete a project, the system prompts the user to insert PDFs detailing other needs. Xometry sends the orders to the proper manufacturer for completion. Carr Machine & Tool, for instance, could use Xometry in a partnership as a way to extend the business by fulfilling orders offered through Xometry.
Just as Uber doesn’t actually own any cars, but they are still the largest taxiing company in the world, the goal of Xometry is to be the on-demand portal for manufacturing. Their success is derived through their leverage of the workforce capacity provided through their numerous partnerships. Xometry is the coordinating portal of the Metal Working Nation - not the workforce itself. Michael explains that one of the benefits of such a company is that the customer doesn’t have to send out quote requests or conduct research on which manufacturing business is the best for their specific need. Xometry simply takes the order and delivers it to the best partner for that specific job. Because Xometry has built such a solid reputation, people trust the process.
Xometry has about 3,000 partners - including those who make parts and fulfill orders for Xometry and those who order from Xometry. The process to become a partner is an easy one. Anyone can join - once approved - and there is no partnership fee. There is an on-boarding period and a trial period. Once Xometry is satisfied, they will open the business to work within the network. While certifications aren’t required, they are heartily welcomed.
Feedback is one of the main driving factors for improvement of Xometry’s systems. Jason compares the improvement process to that of the housing market. If your house doesn’t sell within a few weeks, perhaps it is priced too high. If it sells in a day, perhaps you could have raised the asking price. It is the same with manufacturing parts. Supply and demand, feedback from customers and partners help Xometry’s instant quoting system to work at optimum capacity.
Michael explains that Xometry is an excellent source of growth for new manufacturing businesses or start-ups. Partnership can help cover the costs of starting a business and help provide a more steady stream of work. The goal of Xometry, after all, is to leverage the manufacturing capabilities in the US and to help their partners make more chips - so that they can make more money and reach their goals. Be sure to listen to the entire episode for more about how manufacturing as a service can benefit you and your company!
Step up your machining game by utilizing tools such as trunnion tables and growing your manufacturing business through partnerships with other companies! Jason Zenger and Nick Goellner join Stan Martin - Kentucky entrepreneur and owner of Martin Manufacturing in this inspiring episode of MakingChips. Many call him “Stan the Trunnion Man,” and rightly so. Realizing how much time he and his team were spending handling projects and parts themselves inspired Stan to streamline the trunnion table for optimal performance - for his own shop and for the entire Metal Working Nation.
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Stan says that the reason he found himself and his team in the trunnion table business is because he is a lazy machinist. He knew that manually handling every part was wasting time and energy when it could all be done by a machine. Using CNC machines and trunnion tables, Stan began creating his own product line.
Stan explains that most companies still look at trunnion tables as only useful for certain jobs. While they are standardized to meet the specifications of certain projects and parts, it is rare that a manufacturing business will see a job only once or twice. More likely, they will need the same parts made over and over, increasing the practicality and efficiency of a tool like the trunnion table. Instead of having someone on the shop floor spending their time clamping, unclamping, reversing, and rotating every set of parts, you simply place the material onto the trunnion table and let it do the work for you. The result is a precise, consistent, and perfect job every time.
Stan understands the need to create an atmosphere of support, consistency, and ease for his customers. Instead of going straight to the larger work holding companies, he focused on meeting the needs of job shops first and coming alongside each and every customer. Stan and his team make it a priority to ensure that every customer understands how, when, and where to use their trunnion tables. Some are built to optimize vertical machinery, while others are built to compliment a rotary table. Stan explains that his team goes the extra mile to produce a ready-to-use trunnion table for their customers. If a customer sends them a rotary table, they will put work holding onto the trunnion, mount it, and hand it back to the customer - ready to make chips.
Partnerships not only supply you with the tools, resources, and skills that your own team doesn’t possess - they allows your business to grow. Partnerships can extend to supply chains, manufacturing partnerships, application engineering, sales, and so forth.
Stan believes that partnerships are vital. The only way to grow as a company is to not be selfish. Working with others creates a larger and more diverse pool of ideas and jobs. Collaborative efforts can be an excellent learning and growing experience for everyone involved. Obviously, you want to make sure that whoever you are partnering with is trustworthy and produces consistently excellent work. There should always be honest and open communication.
Stan discusses the need to continually evaluate the processes and tools you are using - and producing - within your business and partnerships. Customers want convenience and excellence, creating a full-time need for assessment and improvement. For Stan’s business, this meant creating standardized kits as well as offering custom lengths on their trunnion tables.
From a small manufacturing business to one of the leading manufacturing companies, Stan and the team at Martin Manufacturing understand the necessity for optimal machining performance, caring customer service, and allowing other companies to partner and spread the knowledge and resources they have to offer.
We often don’t think of a franchise and a manufacturing business as being an easy match, but systematizing your business according to the franchise model can vastly improve the functionality and profitability of your company. Tools such as an ERP system can help you boost efficiency and keep track of everything needed to streamline your business. In this episode, the co-founder and president of ProShop ERP, Paul Van Metre, shares the practical steps to take towards a more refined and systematized set of processes for optimal company performance.
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Paul explains that the goal of modeling your business after a franchise isn’t to become the next Subway or McDonald’s. Instead, the vision is to design a franchise prototype. Creating standardized systems for every process and goal within your company will help you create repeatability and redundancy for every task and will help you pinpoint problems - leading to continual refining. The goal is to have the same and reliable output as a franchise delivers - consistent value, low labor costs, impeccable organization, and documented workflow that produces predictable product.
Whether your company is growing by leaps and bounds or not - establishing systems that streamline your processes and help ground the expectations and values of your business will help take your customer experience and your efficiency to the next level. The goal isn’t to duplicate your business into a thousand perfect replicas. The goal is to run your company in the most efficient and proven method available - with a franchise mindset applied to the small business structure.
What processes do you apply to the franchise model? Paul says that the answer is all of them. Systems like ERP can help minimize the labor involved in documenting your processes for storing fixtures, programming, job descriptions, hiring, training, company expectations, and procedures for making each and every product. Paul explains that one huge step for his company was standardizing jobs. Making sure that every person in your company is following the same procedures creates reliability.
Jim uses the ERP system in his discussions with new clients, allowing them to view the numbers and procedures used to create the products they need. With a standardized system in place, every operation is itemized and trackable. All the details are available in one place - not scattered across different platforms and mediums. Documenting your systems in one location allows for a higher level of professionalism that makes everything black and white for your customers - and for your employees.
Paul explains that you don’t need to create brand new procedures in order to streamline your business. Begin by bringing your team onboard with the mission to document every process you already have in place. It’s a team effort - unless you are a one-man shop. Each individual is going to have specific knowledge that is vital to the tribe. So much more information can be documented with ease when it is all inserted into one place - such as an ERP system. While it may seem daunting at first, it becomes easier the more your team utilizes it. Be sure to listen to the entire episode for Jim’s story of how implementing an ERP system in Carr Machine & Tool helped him keep a clear and focused approach to company growth.
It’s surprising how many steps you can eliminate when you centralize all of your processes and procedures in one location. Eliminating needless or unprofitable steps creates greater efficiency, which leads to greater profitability. It also helps streamline your customer experience so that they know exactly what to expect and are met with quality time after time.
Paul shares the 80/20 rule of profitability. Once you have the systems in place to track the profitability of each product, order, and customer, then you can begin to see the 80/20 rule take place. 80% of profits are derived by 20% of your jobs, and 20% of your jobs cause 80% of your losses. With a systemized process, you can see which jobs are losers and which are profitable. Having a procedure for killing off the losers will help keep your company moving forward and allow for less wasted time and resources.
It’s important to analyze how you define job profitability and how you analyze the urgency of a request within your business. Streamlining your processes and procedures will lead to unearthed problems within your systems. Constant improvement needs to be an understood key-to-success by everyone on the team. Humility and honesty are vital to the improvement of a company, but leaders don’t need to be bogged down and notified of every problem that arises. Know, as a leader, how you will analyze and prioritize what needs to be addressed, when, and by whom. Jason shares his strategy of IDS (Identify, Discuss, and Solve). Encouraging your team to understand why a problem occurred and report it into a centralized system - like ERP - will help minimize the risk of the same problems occurring over and over again. Be sure to listen to the entire episode for more insight into why a franchise model may be the next step you should take with your manufacturing business.