Category Archives: Business

Apple Embraces Precision Machining

Apple recently released their new MacBook notebook computers. The company put out an excellent video which spends a great deal of time discussing the machining of the computer’s unique one piece design composed of aluminum. Apple set out to create the lightest, thinnest, most robust and sexy notebook of its kind. Aluminum was chosen as the material because it has a great strength to weight ratio and potential for a high quality finish. The video shows the extensive precision machining involved in the computer’s production, from the extrusion process to produce single blocks of aluminum through the 13 separate milling operations to create the its main body.

Question: Does this video below make you want to buy an Apple computer or Apple stock?

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To Film or not to Film employees

By Noah Graff

A recent article in Modern Machine Shop discussed the dilemma of using video cameras to monitor the daily activities of employees. In their research they found that managers and employees are divided on whether cameras are necessary in a plant. Some people felt that managers shouldn’t need cameras if the employees are valued and trusted, other people argued that employees shouldn’t mind the cameras if they are working as they should.

I’d be very interested to see a study on whether the introduction of cameras in plants boosts productivity or hurts it. Monitoring with cameras could be a brilliant method for quality control, however, would the introduction of cameras send a message that there is a lack of trust or respect from management, creating poor morale and decreasing productivity?

Question: Does your shop use cameras to monitor employees? Has it made an impact on productivity?

And, how would you feel as an employee if your boss installed cameras to monitor your work?

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New Credit Game for Industrial Equipment

By Lloyd Graff

I think we got an important signal Tuesday when Bank of America decided not to raise credit lines for McDonalds franchisees to buy new equipment such as coffee machines. They’re keeping credit lines as they are – that doesn’t mean they’re cutting them, it just means they’re not raising them as a general policy. This is important because it shows that the Wall Street mess is starting to filter down to the lending habits of major banks.

I think this is going to affect industrial equipment purchases because it affects the money available to borrow. It’s going to mean that distributors and machine tool builders are going to have to become more resourceful in enabling their customers to buy new and used equipment. A Haas or an Okuma is going to have to be more involved in the financing issues of their customers, using their clout with lenders to find money for them. They will probably be paying more for the money than in the past, but I think this is part of what the FED is all about in providing ample liquidity in the system. The sources for the money may not be the traditional ones that people have used in the past. There will be leasing money, off-shore money and bank money available, but the banks will probably be lenders who fall to the sidelines, because the more resourceful and nimble lenders will probably be the ones to step in.

Question: Have you had a problem in buying equipment recently?

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People Just Don't Get Manufacturing

August 21, Chicago’s NPR station ran a short blurb about how manufacturing’s seemingly continuous slowdown has caused many shops to let go of workers in recent months. Hearing stories like this over and over supports the notion that one of the difficulties in urging a young generation workforce to enter the manufacturing industry is not only caused by manufacturing’s image as dirty, monotonous and underpaid, but also by the general news being presented to the public everyday. Who would want to commit one’s life to jobs that are portrayed as traditionally difficult and also declining? Most people make little effort to learn the greater truth behind the stories they hear. And all that’s heard about manufacturing these days is how it’s flailing.

Question: Do you think there is a chance your children will be interested in a carear as a machinist?

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Creating a Head on a CNC

At Hurco’s open house July 25, 2008, the Today’s Machining World staff interviewed Hurco technical supervisor Paul Gray, who demonstrated how to a use a VMX42SR vertical machining center to create this bust of a head.

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Self-reliant Retirement Philosophy

A recent survey from Charles Schwab, showed that a growing number of young American workers believe that the government is not going to take care of them in retirement. According to Liz Ann Sonders, chief investment Strategist at Charles Schwab, resources that people have historically counted on for retirement such as employers, inheritance and the government, are less reliable in today’s economy. This has caused more people to pay close attention to their personal money management and educate themselves about investment strategies.

Source: TheStreet.com

Question of the day: Are you scared about your quality of life after you retire?

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Auction Blog: Hardinge Cleaning House

Go Industry is handling an online sale expiring July 24, for Hardinge Corporation.

Hardinge appears to be cleaning house up in Canada at the site of their former distributor in Ontario, Darbert Machinery of Mississauga. Hardinge has opted to handle the distribution of its products in Canada themselves.

In Elmira the company is selling three CNC Swiss type lathes, a 25mm and two 16mm new in the mid 1990s. Hardinge brought in a private label Tsugami Swiss type for a few years but never made the commitment to go into the sliding headstocks in a big way. Had they made the push at that time, with their broad distribution, Hardinge might be a player today in an active part of the CNC world. One of many blown opportunities of the Pat Ervin regime in Elmira.

Rick Simons has recently taken the reins at Hardinge. This auction is a small reminder to the machining community in North America that the game is changing for the old builder.

Question: Do you think it’s too late for Hardinge to develope its own CNC Swiss?

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Potential of a new machine — A coffeemaker

As Starbucks scrambles to regain footing in today’s cut-throat coffee war by refocusing on its roots – its coffee – it will soon be wheeling out a secret weapon. A new coffee maker called the Clover has been invented, which supposedly puts all other coffee makers to shame. The $11,000 machine allows the user to program three key brewing variables: dose, water temperature, and brew time. After the coffee steeps, a piston mechanism extracts the liquid from spent beans, resulting in a fresh cup in less than a minute.

Starbucks CEO, Howard Schultz fell in love with the machine, and in March 2008, Starbucks announced the acquisition of the Coffee Equipment Company — the Seattle-based startup that manufactures Clovers in a converted trolley shed. By the end of 2008, there will be 80 machines installed in upscale urban markets thoughout the U.S. The 250 machines already at independent cafés can still remain in use but the Buck refuses to sell anymore Clovers to anyone outside of its own chain.

Sadly, when Wired Magazine writer Mathew Honan sampled a cup of the Clover’s coffee at a Starbucks store in Seattle, made with a normal Starbucks blend, served in a paper cup, he couldn’t tell the difference from the regular cup.

I guess a great machine can only do so much with mediocre material.

Source: Wired.com.

Question of the day: Do you drink Starbucks coffee? Why or why not?

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Rick Simons Back at Hardinge

Hardinge Inc. has made a significant change in management bringing in Rick Simons as CEO, a veteran of the company who had left to go to Carpenter Technology
Corporation
for three years before coming back ultimately to replace Pat Ervin.

Hardinge stock has been on a long plunge over the last year. Simons appears to be a popular change from the old regime. Under Ervin, Hardinge focused on developing its worldwide business and had acquired prestigious Swiss brands like Kellenberger and Tschudin, but the North American machine tool business had decayed from the Haas onslaught on the less expensive end of the market and Japanese and Korean builders on the upscale side.

The Hardinge machine tool brand has been lost in the blizzard of brands and marketing. Simons has the advantage of knowing the cast of players in Elmira N.Y. and the insight from spending three years in Hardinge exile.

Since Simons has taken the reins, the stock has bounced like a yoyo, hitting a low of $11 and then quickly jumping up to $17. Could this indicate interest by an acquirer? With the cheap dollar, you never know.

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Stimulus Plan for Manufacturing

The stimulus package for business will be kicking in this fall in a big way as companies and individuals figure out if they are making money for the year, and make the calculation that if Uncle Sam is giving money away they might as well catch it in their basket. The doubling of the expensing provision to $250,000 means that a small business could buy a couple of A-20 Citizens and get a fat $75,000 discount thanks to Uncle.

This could be a rollicking fourth quarter for machine tool builders if they position themselves with appropriate financing packages for buyers who know a good thing when they see it.

Permac (video below), a PMPA member from Burnsville, Minnesota, is one firm that is taking advantage of the Bush Stimulus.

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