Category Archives: Podcast

Swarfcast Ep. 60 – Alec Mandis, Machining in New Zealand Part 2

By Lloyd and Noah Graff

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Today’s podcast is part 2 of an interview we did with Alec Mandis, Chief Executive of Accord Precision, the largest machined component manufacturer in New Zealand. Over the years Accord has strived to set itself apart by developing a diverse group of niche products. One example is a stainless steel diving helmet made from an investment casting which took the company three years of R&D to produce successfully.

Main Points of the Interview

(2:30) Alec talks about the process to produce Accord’s stainless steel diving helmet from an investment casting. He says that five years ago the commercial diving industry needed a more durable helmet than the standard light weight fiberglass ones at the time. Accord spent three years of R&D to bring its helmet to market.

(7:15) Alec talks about why Accord spent so much time and money to develop its stainless steel diving helmet despite it being a low volume product. He says that creating a difficult product like the helmet elevated the company’s capabilities for process controls. Accord became better prepared to produce other difficult or high risk products such as those for the medical device industry. It also demonstrated the company’s abilities to potential customers.

Alec Mandis with diving helmet made by Accord Precision

(11:30) Alec says that Accord has put great emphasis on statistical process control and ISO registration for decades. The company has ISO 13485 medical device accreditation which enabled it to get FDA registration in the United States in six months, which Alec says normally takes companies four or five years to obtain.

(12:50) Alec says his best trait for running his business is his ability to manage people. He says it is essential to communicate with employees and create strong relationships with them. He says it is important to help them when they need it but push them when possible.

(13:50) Alec says the thing he would most like improve upon is a work-life balance in his personal life. He is trying to spend more personal time with family but says it is difficult while running a business. He thinks New Zealand has a pretty balanced work schedule. Accord’s employees work 40 hours a week over a four day work week, but Alec still works five days a week.

(16:55) Alec says that New Zealand’s geographically remote location has spurred the country’s innovation and self-sufficiency. He says the country has the best magnet manufacturer in the world and is a world leader in the production of MRI machines. The country also shines in the agricultural and dairy sectors.

(18:40) Alec explains that the nickname “Kiwi” for a New Zealander comes from the kiwi bird, which is native to the country.

Question: Can a small machining company afford to do extensive R&D?

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Swarfcast Ep. 59 – Alec Mandis on Machining in New Zealand

By Lloyd and Noah Graff

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Today’s podcast is part 1 of a two part interview with Alec Mandis, Chief Executive of Accord Precision, the largest machined component manufacturer in New Zealand. Accord exports precision products around the world, with 30% going to the United States. Alec described to us what it’s like to run a machine shop in a country of 5 million people, more associated with rugby and sheep than manufacturing. After the interview we started scheming how we could get down there for a sales call.

Main Points

(3:40) Alec gives the history of Accord Precision. The company has around 50 employees. It is based in Auckland, New Zealand, and was started 45 years ago. It is one of the largest machine shops in the country.

(4:10) Alec estimates there are 30 to 40 machine shops in New Zealand, which he says is quite a lot when you consider the country has a population around 5 million people.

(4:45) Alec describes types of products Accord Precision makes. The company produces a wide range of part sizes from a variety of materials including various steels, aluminum, bronze, stainless steel, brass, composites, and plastics. The company has been transitioning over time from automatic screw machines to 4-axis and 5-axis CNC lathes.

(6:35) Alec gives an overview of New Zealand. He says that in recent years New Zealand has become more known around the world. The country’s landscape varies throughout the island. He says a person could ski in the mountains and surf on the ocean in the same day. The country receives 20 million tourists per year.

Alec Mandis

(8:45) Alec discusses New Zealand’s indigenous Māori population and the diverse immigrants in the country from all over the world. He says his shop’s workforce reflects this, with people from South Africa, Europe and Pacific Islands.

(15:45) Alec talks about the Accord’s progression to CNC machining.

(17:15) Alec says that the cost of skilled labor in New Zealand is similar to that in the U.S.

(18:10) Alec says that Accord is able to export to the United States because of its various ISO certifications and it is FDA registered in the U.S. so it can make compliant products for medical companies.

(19:40) Alec talks about the Accord’s origins. Its original business was supplying components to the appliance industry. Later the company diversified, making faucets, and products for the electrical, marine, and medical sectors.

(20:00) Alec talks about growing up in Rhodesia (Zimbabwe). He started a family in South Africa and eventually emmigrated to New Zealand.

(21:30) Alec talks about New Zealand’s rugby team’s custom of doing a traditional Māori dance before games.

(24:25) Alec talks about Accord Precision’s preference for Haas equipment. He said that Haas is the only major CNC machine tool builder that has opened a spares and service center in New Zealand, and it is only a 10 hour flight from New Zealand to Los Angeles. He says that Haas machines may be slightly lesser in quality than DMG or Mazak, but Accord has been able to machine excellent complex components using them.

Question: Are you a fan of Haas machines?

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Swarfcast Ep. 58 – Romas Juodvalkis, Centered on Centerless Grinding

By Noah Graff

On today’s podcast we delve into the world of centerless grinding, a vital process in precision machining that some less informed folks label as a dirty, dark art. Our guest is Romas Juodvalkis, founder of Allways Precision, one of the largest Cincinnati centerless grinder rebuilders in the United States. 

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Main points of the interview

(3:00) Romas discusses founding Allways Precision 27 years ago as a repairer and rebuilder of Cincinnati centerless grinders. He says the company over the years has grown its capabilities and now provides automation devices, both for the grinders it sells as well as other types of machines. The company now builds grinders with CNC capability that have as many as 11 axes for doing complex features on parts.  

(5:00) Romas discusses more about the advantages of his CNC retrofitted centerless grinders. For example, instead of doing four passes on a part to get all the dimensions a machinist can do the job in one pass.

(6:30) Romas discusses various uses of centerless grinders such as grinding bar stock so it can be run in the collets of a CNC Swiss machine or finishing off parts that have already been machined to obtain better tolerances. 

(7:25) Romas discusses the advantages of using centerless grinders over cylindrical grinders. 

(9:20) Romas discusses the lack of proficiency of most machine shops at operating centerless grinders. He says people are a little scared of centerless grinders because they don’t understand the process. He talks about which machining companies can justify having centerless grinders. He says they are only worth owning if a company has a high enough volume of parts and skills to run the machines efficiently. 

(12:30) Romas says that centerless grinding is not difficult to learn. His company is usually able to train people to use his machines in three days. 

(13:30) Romas says that all types of metals can be centerless ground. He also has customers who centerless grind plastics, glass, ceramics, carbide and diamond. He says anything that needs to be round with precision can be ground.

(14:55) Romas says Allways has been growing constantly and estimates he only has around 10 competitors, and they all vary in their specialties and work standards.

(16:44) Romas says that most of the best centerless grinders available are rebuilt Cincinnati grinders since Landis bought out Cincinnati in the ‘90s. He says Landis built only eight centerless grinders last year while he sold 25 rebuilt ones. He says some centerless grinders are built overseas but most of them are poor quality and will last only a few years before they should be thrown out. Allways Precision uses Cincinnati centerless grinder castings from all the back to the 1940s because they were built so well. Allways stabilizes the castings, rescraping, refitting, and realigning everything.

(19:45) Romas talks about the B&R CNC control Allways puts on its machines, which he says can be continuously updated. He says it is a big improvement from controls such as Allen Bradley or Windows, which become obsolete after a few years.

(22:45) Romas says Allways rebuilds one machine every two weeks and has 350 machines in its inventory available for rebuild. 

(23:00) Romas says prices for machines from Allways range from $50,000 for used machines in good working condition to $350,000 for full rebuilds with CNC controls. 

(23:45) Romas talks about Allways’ business as a robot integrator for CNC machines and centerless grinders.

(25:20) Romas talks about the safety features on his rebuilt machines. 

(26:20-31:50) Romas talks about his company’s emphasis on educating customers and potential customers on how to get the most out of Cincinnati centerless grinders. He says that with a few days of proper training he can dramatically improve a shop’s output.

Question: Do you have a desire to learn to centerless grind?

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Swarfcast Ep. 57 – Jerry Gates on Running Well Oiled Machines

By Noah Graff

Today’s podcast is about reducing friction in our machining and our lives. Our guest is Jerry Gates, founder of Gates Engineered Lubricants, a company near Houston, Texas, which produces metal working fluids, industrial lubricants, and rust inhibitors for a variety of applications.

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Main points of the interview

(3:15) Jerry explains the metal working products his company sells such as forming fluids, cutting fluids, corrosion inhibitors, and cleaners. The company’s flagship product, Aladdin 334, is used for deep hole drilling applications such as ejector drilling, trepanning, and gun drilling.

(5:10) Jerry explains the ejector drilling jobs faced by TimkenSteel, one of his company’s significant clients. TimkenSteel drills holes from 2 inches up to 14 inches in diameter through bar stock as long as 60 feet. This requires a mineral oil based product with extreme pressure additives and anti-welding additives because of the long duration of the cut.

(6:15-10:30) Jerry talks about his background. He is the son of a carpenter. He worked in construction but changed his career to selling industrial supplies. He began his training in coolants and lubricants with Master Chemical. Later in his career, Jerry worked for Castrol’s marine division, where he learned more about industrial lubricants.

(10:40) Jerry talks about what led to him founding Gates Engineered Lubricants in 2005. After decades working in the industrial supplies business, he switched careers to sell insurance, but former clients still called him to consult them on their metal working needs. He helped a former Castrol client with its injector drilling problem, which led to him founding his company.

(15:25) Jerry says it is easier for his smaller company to solve customers’ problems because he can focus on executing their specific applications. He says his larger competitors are often set in their ways, using older methods that are less specifically tailored to clients.

(15:55) Jerry talks about improving TimkenSteel’s tool life for injector drilling from 40 feet to 450 feet since Gates took it on as a client 12 years ago. He says his company is usually able to increase clients’ tool life 30-40%.

(16:45) Jerry talks about how Gates’ oil differs from competitors in metal working fluids. His company’s oil based machining products contain no chlorine or animal fats, which he says are still used by 90% of shops. We joke that this makes his oil “kosher.” He says products with animal fats and chlorine are hard to dispose of, bad for the environment, and have been banned by the European Union.

(21:30) Jerry talks about vegetable oil products. Gates offers a few of them, but it focuses more on mineral oils because vegetable oils have the same disposal problems as other products.

(29:30) Jerry discusses the complications that resulted from the Trump administration’s roll backs on environmental regulations. He also talks about the negatives and positives of the Obama administration’s environmental policies.

Question: Are you happy with your tool life?

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Swarfcast Ep. 56 – The Screw Machine Guy, Part 2

By Noah Graff

Today’s podcast is part 2 of an interview we did with Wes Szpondowski, plant manager at Wyandotte industries, a 60-year old screw machine shop in Wyandotte Michigan founded by his grandfather.

Wes talks about his aspirations to keep Wyandotte relevant for the next forty years. He also discusses the fatal traps a machining company can fall into if it’s not careful.

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Main Points of the Interview

(3:18) Wes discusses Wyandotte’s preferred quantities for jobs. He says the company’s sweet spot is 15,000 to 20,000 pieces, as opposed to million piece orders.

(4:08) Wes talks about Wyandotte’s automotive work. He says the company is Tier 2 or Tier 3. He says that American car companies always try to take every cent they can from suppliers, while Japanese automakers are less greedy and gravitate toward forming longterm partnerships.

(7:20) Wes says the shop has no plans to buy million dollar machines. It doesn’t have the work to justify those machines or the stomach for the risk. He says that the company can’t survive running mostly Acmes, not because of the inferiority of the machines but because it will be too difficult to get the next generation to work on them.

(10:10) Wes says he plans to buy LICO machines for Wyandotte. He says they are like Brown & Sharps that can do more sophisticated parts with a quick setup time. He said LICOs are much faster than typical CNC lathe and he thinks it’s a machine that young people would enjoy running. He thinks that $250,000 to $350,000 is a price range that is sensible for his company.

(17:40) Wes says he likes to examine the course of events that led machining companies to go out of business. He calls it “auction forensics.” He says people often repeat the same story—the grandkids ran the company into the ground and the company bought expensive equipment that did not pay off.  As a grandson of Wyandotte’s founder, Wes says the story gives him extra impetus to work hard and make responsible equipment decisions.

(21:52) Wes talks about his first job at Wyandotte. He had to work his way up from the bottom and was not even given a full-time shift to start. Some of his coworkers liked him, and others felt threatened by him.

(25:50) Wes gives his thoughts on whether or not he will have partial ownership of Wyandotte in the future. He says ownership is a possibility, but in any case, he is grateful for the privilege of working at the company for so long and being plant manager.

(27:00) Wes says he is able to relate to the company’s employees because he started from the bottom.

(28:10) Wes talks about his admiration for his uncle who owns Wyandotte. He respects that he is almost 80 years old and still comes to work everyday.

(30:30) Wes likes his role as plant as plant manager at the company. He sees himself working as plant manager for the foreseeable future because the company does not have a replacement with his skills both for working with the machines and with the employees.

Question: Do you think we’re headed for a recession?

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Swarfcast Ep. 55 – Wes Szpondowski, Screw Machine Guy

By Noah Graff

Today’s podcast is part 1 of a 2 part interview we did with Wes Szpondowski, plant manager at Wyandotte industries, a 60-year-old screw machine shop in Wyandotte, Michigan, founded by his grandfather.

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Wes gave me the inside scoop of what it takes to run a high production shop floor. We talked about getting the most out of employees, updating equipment, and his mission to NOT waste the company’s money.

Main Points of the Interview

(3:05) Wes gives history of Wyandotte industries. His grandfather made parts on Acme-Gridley screw machines for the custom fastener market—mainly various types of nuts. The company’s original machines were the Acme Model G machines that were taken from a junk yard.

(5:25) Wes talks about the evolution of Acme multi-spindles that Wyandotte used over the years. The company graduated from Model G to Model R and then to Models RA and RB, which people joked was the Cadillac of Acme.

(6:30) Wes talks about how Acmes were designed to run forever.

(10:50) Wes talks about taking over Davenport screw machine work from one of Wyandotte’s suppliers. He says it is his harder for him to find people with skills to run Davenports than to run Acmes, but he likes the speed of Davenports and likes that attachments for Davenports are more affordable than those for Acmes.

(13:35-20:45) Wes compares the challenges of making fasteners to those of more complex parts Wyandotte produces. He classifies the complex parts as “screw machine parts” such as pins, fittings and bushings. He talks about how Wyandotte’s employees have developed their skills over time, using more attachments and limiting the need for second ops.

(20:50-22:30) Wes talks about the company’s gravitation to using Mazak CNC lathes.

(22:35) Wes talks about when he bought Wyandotte’s first Mazak, fall of 2009.

(23:55) Wes talks about how he saved several hundred dollars on airfare when he traveled to New Jersey to buy the company’s first used Mazak. He says that no matter how rich a company may seem, being cost conscious with a company’s money is the only essential and ethical way to run a business.

Question: Do you think it is nuts to run 60-year-old Acmes?

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Swarfcast Ep. 54 – E.J. Daigle on Technical Education That Works

By Noah Graff

In today’s podcast we discuss what a person can get for $20,000 per year at a highly regarded technical college. Our guest is E.J. Daigle, Dean of Robotics and Manufacturing at Dunwoody College of Technology in Minneapolis, Minnesota. He is also lead faculty member of the school’s top ranked robotic snow plow team. Dunwoody College offers associate and bachelor degrees in a variety of fields, such as construction sciences, engineering, robotics, architecture, and machining.

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E.J. explicitly talks about how Dunwoody emphasizes hands-on learning. He says that Dunwoody students in the machining department receive 15 hours of lab time per week working on equipment.Main Points of the Interview

(2:55) E.J. gives the history of Dunwoody College, which was started in 1914 in Minnesota by William Hood Dunwoody, an entrepreneur who made his fortune as a silent partner in the Washburn Crosby company, which later became General Mills.

(5:45) E.J. describes Dunwoody as a polytechnic college that offers certificates, as well as associates and bachelors degrees. He says that the school believes in a “learn by doing approach,” and that it is not uncommon for Dunwoody students to be in lab (working on equipment) 8 to 15 hours per week.

(7:53) E.J. tells his personal story of going into the U.S. Navy out of high school, where he worked on nuclear submarines for 10 years. Before his first submarine was commissioned, E.J. worked in the shipyards alongside the people constructing the vessel, which he says gave him a good view into a variety of manufacturing processes.

(9:50) E.J. draws parallels between the hands-on learning style he experienced in the Navy to that at Dunwoody College.

(13:50) E.J. talks about how Dunwoody approaches the diverse previous academic backgrounds of its students, particularly in math.

(16:05) E.J. talks about the success of a significant portion of older students at Dunwoody who are former laid off autoworkers

(16:55) E.J. says Dunwoody graduates around 20 students a year from its Machine Tool Program and the school generally receives 300 requests to hire them.

(20:10) E.J. cites studies which say in the next 10 years the manufacturing industry will be 2 million workers short.

(23:00) E.J. says that a 2-year associate degree costs $40,000 in tuition. He says that last year’s Machine Tool class had a 100 percent job placement. He also says it is not uncommon for a third of the students in the Machine Tool Program to quit after only one year because they find jobs they like before graduating.

(27:40) E.J. says that Dunwoody encourages its associate degree graduates to continue their education with the school’s programs for entrepreneurship, management, or engineering. Often students work and go to school part-time to further their education.

(32:00) E.J. says that too many kids pick colleges based on the wrong criteria, rather than choosing based on what they are interested in doing after graduation.

(35:35) E.J. talks enthusiastically about his experience as the lead faculty member of Dunwoody’s autonomous robotic snow plow team, which is ranked number one in the world.

(39:00) E.J. discusses some of the extraordinary projects that Dunwoody graduates have worked on, such as making components for the Mars Rover, and components that went into the drills that saved the Chilean miners.

Question: Is higher education worth the money?

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Swarfcast Ep. 53 – Chris Manning on the Beauty of Bar Loaders

By Noah Graff

On today’s podcast we’re talking about bar loaders for multi-spindle screw machines. Our guest is Chris Manning. Chris has been installing and repairing integrated bar loaders around the world for 20 years, primarily Cucchi bar loaders. Integrated loaders, usually those made by Cucchi or IEMCA, replace the traditional stock reels on multi-spindles.

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Bar loaders may sound like a boring topic, but they are actually quite expensive and complex equipment. One integrated loader can enable a single machinist to run three machines at a time.

Main Points of the Interview

(3:10-8:05) Chris talks about his career path. He started as a chipper at a machine shop in Ohio in the ‘80s. Eventually he graduated to running and setting up cam multi-spindles. In the late ’90s he went to work at Gosiger, a machine tool distributor in Dayton, Ohio, where he sold Euroturn multi-spindles and Cucchi bar loaders. Later, he worked with Luca Lanzetta who took over distributing Cucchi. Since then he has worked for various other machine tool firms and started his own company Bar Loader Services.

(10:10-10:45) Chris explains that integrated loaders are best suited for long parts such as shafts and typically cost around $125,000.

(11:42-13:50) Chris discusses the mechanical process of integrated bar loaders. He says that if they are properly implemented in a shop, a Cucchi or IEMCA bar loader can enable one person to run three multi-spindles at a time.

(15:20) Chris explains the differences between Cucchi loaders and IEMCA loaders. He says the fingers on Cucchi loaders enable it to absorb vibration well and that they are far superior at running hex stock. He says he prefers IEMCA loaders for running very small diameters, 1/8” or smaller.

(20:10-21:30) Chris talks about the main technical problems he encounters in the field when bar loaders are poorly maintained.

(21:30-22:25) Chris speaks highly about the new MBL bar loaders produced by INDEX. He says they seem like a cross breed between IEMCA and Cucchi, taking the best characteristics of each.

(22:34) Chris says he is seeing more and more shops in the United States replacing multi-spindles with single spindle CNCs and CNC turning centers.

(26:45-29:05) Chris discusses the process of replacing a stock reel on a multi-spindle with an integrated loader. He says it is harder to replace a bar loader with a stock reel than to replace a stock reel with a bar loader.

Question: Do businesses need fewer people today?

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Swarfcast Ep. 52 – Harry Eighmy of ATP on Running High Volume Work Successfully

By Noah Graff

On today’s podcast we discuss how to run a profitable high volume machining business. Our guest is Harry Eighmy, co-owner and C.O.O. of American Turned Products (ATP) in Erie, Pennsylvania.

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Harry and his brother Scott believe it is important to invest heavily in high-end turning equipment such as INDEX multi-spindles and Hydromat rotary transfer machines for large volumes. They also make sure to balance their high volume work with smaller run jobs using CNC Swiss and turning centers, such as Tornos DECOs and INDEX C200s.

Main points of the interview

(3:03) Harry discusses American Turned Products’ focus on high volume machining, but also the company’s ability to machine smaller run prototype parts in order to win high volume jobs.

(5:05) Harry talks about the history of his family’s machining businesses, starting with a Brown & Sharp shop started by his grandfather around 1955. The family’s business evolved into a higher volume model using ACME-GRIDLEYs in 1970s.

(6:40) Harry says that the company doesn’t have a huge amount of customers, but it tries to do a variety of jobs for those it has. The company has no customer with more than 25% of its business.

(8:00-14:40) Harry talks about the Davenport shop in El Paso, Texas, his family started in 1990, which he ran for five years starting at age 26.

(16:30) Harry talks about his father, Jerry Eighmy, who had the foresight in the late ‘90s to sell off all of the company’s ACMEs. The company upgraded to all European multi-spindles, particularly Index CNC multi-spindles.

(23:00-26:00) Harry talks about ATP’s reliance on INDEX CNC multi-spindles and turning centers, Hydromat rotary transfer machines, and Tornos CNC Swiss. He says that to justify buying a $500,000 to $2 million machine a company has to run it at least 100 hours per week.

(31:00) Harry talks about the importance of having a vision for the company going forward. He says that the quality of people a company does business for is one of the most important factors for success.

Question: Is high volume production too risky these days?

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Swarfcast Ep. 51 – Physical Therapist Doug Conroy on Protecting Your Body at Work

By Noah Graff

On today’s podcast I interview Dr. Doug Conroy of Conroy Orthopedic & Sports Physical Therapy. Doug has been treating injured folks for decades, including me as I rehab my left Achilles tendon. Our interview focuses on the negative effects a workplace environment can have on the human body.

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Doug told me that in the past, workplace health risks were mostly associated with accidents in industrial settings. However, he says that many of today’s experts consider office jobs with constant sitting as possibly more dangerous to workers’ health, going as far as to characterize sitting as “the new smoking.”

Main points of the interview 

(2:55) Doug explains his expertise in the field of orthopedic physical therapy.

(5:18) Doug explains that the association of workplace health risks with an industrial setting is changing. Arguably, the largest threat to the health of the working population is prolonged sitting, which he characterizes as “the new smoking.”

(11:00 – 16:00) Doug recommends workers change position after 20 to 30 minutes, regardless of their posture. He says that it is generally healthier to be a mechanic who moves around than to work at a desk.

(16:00) Doug explains how many people do not seek medical advice or physical therapy soon enough. As a result, it can take twice as long to reverse the bad habits their bodies have become accustomed to.

(17:00) Doug describes various scenarios where surgery should be performed or abstained from. He cites medical studies which show that many doctors recommend unnecessary surgeries.

(20:10) Doug talks about the use of prescription pain killers during recovery. He says they were overprescribed in the past, but the trend is changing.

(24:10) Doug talks about the improvements in knee, hip, and other joint replacement surgeries. In the past, joint replacements made sense only for older people because of the need to replace them every 10 to 15 years. With new advancements, the components that go into joint replacements are significantly improved so that more young people are receiving replacements.

(30:50) Doug discusses various sports injuries, such as damaged Achilles tendons, ACLs, ulnar collateral ligaments and thumb injuries. He compares the severity of those injuries and examines new developments in treatment.

(35:25) Doug reminds listeners to pay attention to what their bodies are telling them. He also says people need to share more information with doctors and physical therapists, in order to better their chance for recovery.

Question: Would you rather work in the shop or in the office?

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