Monthly Archives: January 2019

Swarfcast Ep. 25 – Brett May on Keeping Cam Screw Machines Relevant

By Noah Graff and Rex Magagnotti

We interviewed Brett May of BME Inc. Screw Machine Attachments for today’s podcast. Brett’s mission in business is to make old cam multi-spindle screw machines like National Acmes, Wickmans, and New Britains into productive money makers in today’s competitive machining environment.

Scroll down to listen to the podcast with Brett May.

Brett builds unique attachments which eliminate secondary operations that many people would put on a mill-turn CNC to finish, or run on an accurate but achingly slow Swiss-type machine. When he does his magic he turns supposed clunkers into enormously valuable machine tools.

Brett sees an old Acme and visualizes value, where others see a candidate for the scrap heap. As part of the BME value proposition, he also rebuilds multi-spindle machines, particularly National Acmes.

Question: Have you given up on non-CNC equipment? Why?

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Can a Machine Sniff the Market?

By Lloyd Graff

I am not a big stock trader, but I have a portfolio of stocks in my IRA, which is a backstop for the volatility of the used machinery business.

Or at least I used to think so.

I know stocks go up and down. I know that when stocks go up a lot, I break up my day to check them. It is usually a reliable sell signal. When they are trending down and I don’t want to look, it is a reliable buy signal. Of course, being a sheep like most people, I rarely do that. I am in the market for the long term (at 74?), so I generally follow the passive approach of buying a Vanguard Fund and sit and hold.

Lately, stocks have been a yo-yo on a long string — a thousand points up or a thousand down on the Dow almost every day. The trained seals on Bloomberg and CNBC and their lackeys from the big investment funds parade onto the sets to explain why the markets are headed up or down. It’s becoming ever clearer that they are even stupider than I am, or they are being paid to deliberately babble impenetrable nonsense.

The fact is that most hedge funds lost money in 2018. Some funds are shutting down. It is pretty simple to see what’s going on. Machines have taken over the stock market. Computerized trading now comprises 85% of the daily volume, and machines are ruthless, headless sheepherders. They sniff a trend (can a machine sniff?), and in a nanosecond they sell or buy a sheaf of stocks, at which point all the sheep follow them.

To push the metaphor to the ridiculous, the sheep are on a teeter-totter and Vanguard Funds are on a yo-yo. Algorithms rule and investors get more nauseous with each bounce.

The babblers try to rationalize the see-saw ride, but being rational about the irrational is folly. They cannot go on TV and admit that the great old game of investing has been usurped by algorithms and artificial intelligence which have institutionalized stupidity on Wall Street.

Folks, this is a bad trend, because rational human beings are going to sell their shares and put them into gold or Bitcoins or U.S. Treasuries, and a traditional trove of value, publicly held companies, will shrink in value. This would be a disaster for the economy because going public is a good way for small companies to attract capital for further growth.

However, there is a way out of this computerized trading mess — force the computers to wait. Let them trade every 15 minutes. If they violate the rules call a personal foul on them. Five fouls and they are out of the game for a week or a month. Hire some good referees and pay them a million bucks or two to make sure the game goes back to human beings. This is what the casinos in Vegas would do if machines were screwing up their businesses.

While we are at it we can straighten out the destruction of privacy by Facebook, and the obliteration of small retail stores by Amazon.

Let 2019 be the year people strike back at the tyranny of technology. The new password is HUMANSWINONE.

Question: Which investments do you put money in?

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Swarfcast Ep. 24 – Albert Lettman on Lean Manufacturing Around the Globe

By Noah Graff

On today’s podcast, I interviewed Albert Lettmen, a Lean Six Sigma and Quality Systems consultant and educator who has worked for decades with prominent manufacturing companies around the world. Albert grew up in Jamaica, studied business in Scotland, and then worked for companies in Europe, China, Canada and the United States. I was surprised when Albert explained to me that a company eliminating waste and boosting efficiency does not necessarily translate to firing a lot of workers. Over the years I have heard many people in the machining business talk about incorporating Lean Manufacturing into their organization, but I must confess that until this interview the concept of “Lean” remained a mystery to me.

Scroll down to listen to the podcast with Albert Lettman.

Question: What areas do you think a consultant could help in your business?

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The Elusive Quarterback

By Lloyd Graff

I’ve loved pro football since the days of Johnny Unitas. Dropback quarterbacks have dominated the game, but in recent years defense has become more prominent. Now the sport is swinging toward a more elusive running quarterback. With this swing, another interesting trend has been evolving. The quarterback position has become more “athletic,” and the players coming to dominate it are primarily young and African American.

I’ve always regarded the National Football League as the most racist of the major sports. Yes, about 80% of the players are African American, but traditionally the quarterbacks have been White. The recent dust-up with Colin Kaepernick, an African American quarterback who ironically was raised by White parents, highlighted the deep-seated neanderthalism of the ownership, administration, and hardcore pro football fans.

Among this year’s playoff teams, five are led by young African American signal callers. Russell Wilson of Seattle, Lamar Jackson of Baltimore, Deshaun Watson of Houston, “Dak” Prescott of Dallas, and Pat Mahomes of Kansas City are all dynamic young stars. The myth in the bad old days was that Black quarterbacks didn’t have the savvy, intelligence, and leadership ability to be NFL quarterbacks. That has finally changed, as the ability to avoid 300-pound rushers has begun to replace the quick-release-but-immobile Tom Brady and Phillip Rivers style.

The Elusive Russell Wilson

Improvising and throwing on the run, epitomized by Russell Wilson when the Seahawks won the Super Bowl in 2015, has truly altered the quarterback position. Nevertheless, the stone-age thinking still dominant in the NFL pushed Lamar Jackson down to 32nd pick in the 2018 draft. Despite being probably the best player in college football during two seasons at Louisville, some pro football GMs were thinking he should switch to wide receiver or defensive back, reflecting the bias against “athletic” Black quarterbacks who could advance the ball in ways other than by throwing sideline routes.

The elusive quarterbacks have proven what should have been an obvious fact. If a quarterback has 5 or 6 seconds to enable 5 or 6 receivers to get open, he has a better chance for a completion than chucking the ball in 1.5 seconds like the incredibly accurate, but relatively immobile, Brady or Rivers style.

But if quarterbacks like Wilson or Mahomes win themselves five extra seconds, they will usually do it at the expense of the ideal throwing position. They will throw off their back foot or sidearm or even with two hands like I’ve seen Wilson do. Their style is not classic Johnny Unitas high-top-shoes football. But, wow, can they put up points and excite a fan like me!

Wild Card Weekend was an interesting test of the mobile athletic quarterback versus the classic old-school, accurate, “statue” style. The games were not high scoring at all. Defenses seemingly were primed to bottle up the shorter running QBs. Two of the all-time great pocket passers, Phillip Rivers of the L.A. Chargers and Andrew Luck of the Indianapolis Colts, demonstrated that if you have a great offensive line to block for you and you have incredible composure, courage, and vision, you do not have to be evasive to be successful. Nick Foles of the Eagles also held up well against a superb Chicago Bears defense, as he did last year when he led Philly to the Championship.

To me, the conflicting styles of quarterbacking only make the game more fascinating. I think we will now be seeing more offensive linemen becoming first-round draft picks. The effectiveness of the Indianapolis guards and tackles in keeping Andrew Luck’s uniform clean against a tremendous Baltimore Ravens defense enabled Luck to dominate their game in the first half. Fabulous offensive linemen, like Jason Peters of Philly and Quenton Nelson of Indy, are game changers if you have an old-school quarterback to protect.

This week’s games should be great. Will Tom Brady defy age and immobility to lead the Patriots? Will Pat Mahomes of Kansas City show how he threw for 50 touchdowns this season? The game is changing, but the remarkable standstill, old-school quarterbacks are still holding up well.

Question: Which type of quarterback do you prefer watching? Russell Wilson or Tom Brady?

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Swarfcast Ep. 23 – Reflections on the Machining Business 2018

By Noah and Lloyd Graff

In today’s podcast, we reflect on the machining world in 2018 through the lens of what went right and what went wrong for Graff-Pinkert’s used machine tool business and Today’s Machining World.

Scroll down to listen to the podcast.

One key observation from 2018 is that Graff-Pinkert is becoming more reliant on our extensive knowledge of the equipment market rather than the cam machine refurbishing business, which historically has been Graff-Pinkert’s base business. Brokering the sale of modern CNC multi-spindles and consulting with customers on buying and selling machining businesses have become vital revenue streams.

As for Today’s Machining World, Swarfcast is our most exciting addition. The podcast is growing, but we admit it has been more of a challenge than we expected to convert readers to listeners. Many people tell us that they don’t have time to listen to a podcast. To that I reply that the beauty of a podcast is that you don’t have to consume it all in one sitting and you have the opportunity to listen while driving or exercising or doing chores. Also, recorded interviews give us the ability to provide more in-depth stories than blogs.

Sit back enjoy today’s podcast as we reflect on these topics, as well as China, Trump, gratitude and marriage. Happy New Year!

Question: What was the best thing that happened to you in 2018?

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