CNC Training - For Real! (I hope)

Yes, this is actually ON topic, and doesn't contain a single word about JB's mental state or Sarah Palin's meltdown. (Well, a few words,
obviously, but none below, I promise.) It's also long; but you knew that when you saw who posted it.
The company I work for, like most machine shops I'm sure, is just not able to find the skilled people it needs. I've ranted about this before, so I won't elaborate. But we need skilled people - desperately. So, I've decided to take a shot at fixing this by proposing to the company that we grow our own skill in-house. And, to my horror, the company owner has approved my proposal.
In fact, this isn't anything new for me. I've done a lot of teaching and training in the past, and I enjoy it immensely. But this will be the first time I've actually had the chance (maybe) to try growing whole machinists from scratch. I think I know what to do; and my plan includes a lot of details about how to do it. But, seeing as how I really care about this, and would sorta like to make it work, I thought I'd toss it at the group and ask for thoughts, suggestions, or maybe even some warnings about how/where I'm liable stumble.
The plan goes like this:
I've contacted counselors and industrial arts teachers at several local high schools, and a community college with a decent "manufacturing technologies" program. I've asked for their help in putting me in touch with kids that fit the following profile:
1. Recent high school graduate - just graduated a month ago would be fine. A little bit of tech-school training, but not too much, would also be good. 2. Not likely to be attending college full time in the fall. This could mean someone who's not able to afford college, who has to work while attending, or who just wants to get to work, rather than spending more time in classrooms right now. 3. Someone smart enough to be looking for a career, not just a job.
My plan is to find kids with good work ethics, character, and energy, and offer them a tangible, detailed path to a real career if they're willing to pay some dues and earn their way. I'm also, necessarily, looking for people who haven't been working very long (if at all, beyond just summer jobs), and who haven't yet put themselves in the position of being unable to start at the bottom rung of the earnings ladder.
I'm going to hire these kids in small groups - two to four at a time - and they're all going to start out working for me as janitors. There are good (I think) reasons for that.
First, I manage the company's maintenance department. My primary responsibility is the equipment, of course - installations, repair, PM, upgrades, etc. But, by extension, and because we haven't found any one else to do the job, I'm also responsible for managing and maintaining the air conditioners on the roof, and the septic system under the parking lot, and pretty much everything else in between. I have a small team of people who work for me; but they're not very good. I won't waste words explaining why, except to say that when someone intentionally applies for a job mopping floors or packaging parts, they're probably not going to be all that wonderful.
So I'm going to fill (overfill actually) my team with people that I think are the skilled machinists, cell leaders, plant managers, and shop owners of the future; but who need someplace to start out. Starting out in the maintenance crew, I reason, will offer people a chance to learn their way around the shop, and get acclimated to what we do and how we do it, before they're ready to start doing it themselves. And, there isn't any part of the shop that my team doesn't see and touch and deal with, from the air conditioners on the roof to... Well, you get it.
The first phase will be boot camp - cleaning restrooms, mopping floors, pulling chips, and proving a willingness to work hard, follow instructions, and do a good job even when the job isn't much fun. That will last a month. Anybody who can't do a sinlge month of grunt work in order to earn their way into the program will be dropped.
Why would anybody take a job like this? Well, I figure that someone who ISN'T interested in being a janitor (or a stock clerk in a shoe store, or a counter tender at McDonalds), but doesn't yet have the skills to be anything more, might be willing to earn what they really want. People stand in line by the millions to be embarrassed and then dumped by Simon Cowell on American Idol. And they fall all over themselves to maybe (or probably not) have a chance of getting voted off whatever dirty, ugly, smelly island is the setting for this year's edition of Survivor. And folks join the army to get things like job training, and health benefits, and college tuition, even though they know they might get their asses shot off in some third world hell-hole, 10,000 miles from home and friends and family. So maybe this will look good, by comparison.
Those who make the cut after 30 days with me will get a pay raise, and will then spend five MORE months working for me in maintenance. This will still be the daily routine of floors and toilets and chips; but will also include some training and some variety. When I need to run a cable through a conduit, the youngsters will push at one end while I'm pulling at the other. When I take a machine apart for service, they'll help me move the cover panels, and will clean the machine parts, and dig the chips and crud out of the dark corners that don't normally get enough attention. They'll become responsible for mixing coolants, checking and topping off way oil and hydraulic oil tanks, and like that. They'll also do things like changing the media in the vibratory tumbler, changing the filters in air conditioners and mist eaters, transferring coolants and lubricants from drums we receive into our dispensing system, and marking bars of raw materials as those are received and placed on racks.
By the end of the first six months, my recruits will have put their eyes, their fingers, and hopefully their brains, into every corner of every part of the shop. They'll know where to find everything, they'll understand the need and the reasons for cleanliness, organization, teamwork, and more. They'll know the name and number designation of evey piece of equipment. When a belt breaks, or a limit switch gets eaten by chips, they'll know what those things are. They'll have seen them, and touched them, and they'll have worked with me to understand that an alarm indicator on the machine's control isn't a mystery, but a problem to be reported accurately, and solved methodically, by means that are real and learnable. The kids will have proven that they can learn and perform basic tasks of many kinds. And they'll have started learning some vocabulary. They'll also have been plugged into the shop's e-mail system, and will start to see the traffic there - what goes wrong, who's involved in what projects, how we set priorities, etc.
THEN (I hope), they'll be ready to start learning real stuff. At the end of six months, the kids will get another pay raise, and will become what I'm calling Class 2 manufacturing assistants. In this position, they'll still report to me; but will be farmed out to the various cells in the company for things like deburring and cleaning parts, loading stock into bar-feeders, fetching collets and tool holders for the machinists, or cleaning and putting away the stuff that comes out of a machine at the end of a job. They'll be required to work in every cell, with every different kind of equipment and job, during the next six months. I want them exposed at this level to as much variety as possible, and I want all the cell leaders to test drive each of the kids for two reasons. First, I need good feedback about how they're doing, from viewpoints other than my own. Second, I want each of the kids to have a chance to find something they like best, or that interests them most, to start thinking about directions for the long term.
Those who do well as C2 Mfg. Assistants will get another raise, and will move up to Class 1. That will include the same stuff as Class 2, plus learning to read micrometers and calipers and prints, and don't drop the gauge blocks on the floor, and "tending" machines that would otherwise run unmanned. Check every third or fifth part in a specified way. Enter the data into the computer tracking system at the bench. Learn what's a problem, and report it to the cell leader, etc. And, of course, learn and learn and learn, and do every job well enough to keep paying our way while we teach you.
At the end of approximately 18 months (6 in maintenance, 6 each at the two levels of Mfg. Assistant), my young charges will have gone from mopping floors to (almost) operating machines in production, and from $9.00 an hour to $12.00. And, they'll have survived their time with me. They'll know the company, the people, the rules, the expectations, and they'll have proved that they can live with all of those.
And each time a group moves on, I'm going to fill in behind them with another class of janitors and toilet cleaners, so the pipeline is always full of new recruits.
After performing well as Mfg. Assistants, the kids will graduate to bigger and better kinds of learning and performance. They'll have three options. They can train to be either CNC machinists, quality control technicians, or building maintenance specialists. All of the previous training was preamble, and should prepare the kids for any of the three main areas. They can lean to cut metal, or learn QC, or stay with me and learn plumbing, electrican's stuff, network cables and air handling systems and what's behind the walls that needs fixing or improving. Or maybe they even graduate from that to learning gears and bearings and electronics and PLC's, and to fixing and maintaining machine tools. If needed or appropriate, some will be sent back to the community college to learn more math than they got in high school. Or they'll attend a machine builder's programming school, to put some more formal and structured knowledge with the day-to-day things they're learning at work. Or they'll get tuition reimbursement in lieu of pay raises, coupled with flexible work hours, so they can go back to college and learn metrology, or engineering, or whatever makes sense for them and has future value to the company. For the right people, properly screened and qualified and tested, investments like that will make sense, and be easy to justify.
In a continuing series of steps, under the care of skilled people who've agreed to help, the kids will keep learning, and growing, and earning pay raises, and eventually filling the positions in the company that we can't fill off the street. They'll learn tooling, and setups, and programming, and inspection, and processing, and more and more and more, over the course, of course, of a serious number of years.
There will be problems, naturally. But all the ones I've thought of can be solved, as far as I know. I've already had good response to the basic idea, and have candidates calling for interviews. Obviously, this isn't really a great innovation or anything. It's just an apprenticeship, pretty much like what's been done in skilled trades for a thousand years, at least. The trouble is, nobody does apprenticeships anymore. It's a lost part of our business, and probably something that looks new and strange to somebody just starting out in the world. So I'm recycling an old idea, and hopefully implementing it in ways that are appropriate for the 21st century, rather than the 19th.
But I'd really like some thoughts, cautions, or other perspectives from the group members. Where will I screw up? What things should I teach early, or save for later, or whatever? How would you do this, if it were your project? What would you want or expect, if you were 18 years old again, and looking for an entry point into a career?
Think. Share. Please! I'll sincerely appreciate any comments or suggestions.
Thanks!
KG
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Are you going to teach them how to fail at business ventures like you have with your drill sharpening machine?
Are you going to teach them to wrap themselves in the flag like you do?
Are you going to teach them to use AutoCAD rather than SolidWorks to design with because after all these years you still can't grasp the benefits of top down design?

Yet another thing you have failed miserably at, eh?

After 18 months a whole $12.00 an hour. I'm sure you will get lots of really smart and creative people jumping all over this "opportunity".
Jon Banquer San Diego, CA
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wrote:

before, if anyone is interested in background; http://tinyurl.com/nkyluz

LOL.......Every generation says the same thing. Environment & circumstances change, basic human nature doesn't.
-- Tom http://tinyurl.com/5okkgz
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snipped-for-privacy@aol.com wrote:

Damn! You either have an ecyclopedic memory, or a really good way to organize your e-mail history.
What it means is that two and half years ago, I thought maybe we could hire skill and trainees, too. I kept right on thinking that until I'd seen two and half years go buy without much success in the skill department. So I thought about it again, and realized that within driving distance of where I work, there are literally thousands of kids who have just hit the streets after finishing high school, and are looking for jobs in the middle of a recession. That, frankly, was my cue to write this plan.
If I can't find good kids NOW, I never will, and I'll just curl up and retire with a permananet disappointment on my resume.
KG
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wrote:

Not to hex you or anything, but what if you wound up with trainees like Jon Banquer? Well, if these trainees actually *gradurated* HS, that would be one-up on Jon Banquer...
Do you think piworldwide.com would turn up that Jon Banquer *almost* went to jail for check kiting, but instead let his wife do his bid?
Mebbe she's looking for him now, like Carrie Fisher with that bazooka/M16, going after John Belushi, in Blues Brothers....
--

Mr. PV'd

Mae West (yer fav CongressShill) to the Gangster (yer fav Lobbyist):
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wrote:

Kirk,
In a high production manufacturing environment I prefer to train. IMO and experience it is easier to teach good habits than trying to break someone of bad habits they picked up else ware.
What you are planing to do is building a nice foundation for the future sucess of the company.
One pitfall for OJT I often see is a company OVER values the "Cost of Training" and then tries to recoup the inflated cost by somehow charging it back to the trainee. Basically forcing the trainee to leave once they learn the position/trade if they want to make money.
-- Tom http://tinyurl.com/5okkgz
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snipped-for-privacy@aol.com wrote: > > One pitfall for OJT I often see is a company OVER values the "Cost of > Training" and then tries to recoup the inflated cost by somehow > charging it back to the trainee. Basically forcing the trainee to > leave once they learn the position/trade if they want to make money.
Agreed. During my lifetime, I've seen that very habit put an effective end to the training that was once very common - the kind that trained me, as a matter of fact.
Here's how I plan to deal with that. Please let me know what you think. My program already has wages written right into it, at every step up the ladder, from $9.00 and hour to $30.00. The owner of the company has approved this, and every serious candidate for my program gets a copy, right up front, before they're even hired. I want everyone involved to know the costs, and to know what has to be done, learned, or accomplished, in order to gain a very specific reward.
I'm hoping that if the owner sees the investment as predictable, rather than nebulous or open ended, and if he knows what he's supposed to get for his money, that'll be much easier to swallow, and the returns on investment will be much more likely to happen. And if the kids can keep their eyes on the prize, and know that the wages are already there, not needing to be begged for or fought over in the future, then they'll be more likely to look forward, rather than worrying about how hard they're working at any given moment.
What else can you think of that would make this part of the plan make sense?
KG
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Kirk Gordon wrote:

Kirk, I think moving them through the steps as quick as possible would help you to retain good apprentices. Having "hard" steps in responsibilities and duties is a turn off in my opinion. You have to spend 6 months doing janitor duty before you can catch parts coming off a machine discourages hard chargers. Keep the steps flexible so that they can move along as quickly as possible.
You may have mentioned it before, but how large is your company? Number of machinists or spindles is what I'm looking for. Approximations are OK.
Best, Steve
--


Regards,
Steve Saling
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Garlicdude wrote:

As I think I said earlier, you're right about moving the kids quickly. No doubt boredom will kill the deal. But I'm worried about moving too quick, and missing chances to teach the most basic stuff while I still can. I don't want trainees who spend three days on a machine adjusting the offsets to control a boring bar, and then asking "Which one's the boring bar?". I see that too often already.
The company has 23 front-line machines. 2 five-axis mills, 1 HMC, 2 Mazak Mulitplex's, 5 Integrex's, and 13 CNC swiss types of vaious sizes from 10mm up to 32. We'll have three more mills by the end of the year, and will be replacing the Multiplex's with new Integrex's by the end of this month. We're weak in "basic" equipment. Not a Bridgeport or an engine lathe in the whole shop. Floor space is used for production, and growing workloads make it hard to invest time, money, or anything else, on things that can't make shipable work right now. That will change, I hope, and we'll one day have space for a proper tool room, which can also serve as classroom. The owner is looking for land for a new building; but right now he's spending on production equipment and people. If we can get those right, then real estate would be easier.
Total people is around 50. It should be 75, given workloads and growth potential. But that only works if they're good people. Adding warm bodies at this point just gets in the way.
KG
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Kirk Gordon wrote:

Kirk, Sounds like a nice place to work with modern up to date equipment. Sounds like a decent toolroom would be an excellent addition when space and time permit. The idea of using the toolroom as a training ground is an excellent one in my opinion. They are generally somewhat less frantic than production and the machinists are in most cases have lots of years of experience with solving problems.
I feel very fortunate that I served my apprenticeship at a gov. research facility where money wasn't the prime concern. We were moved every 3-6 months to a new area. I spent 6 months at a smaller satellite shop while my Q clearance was being approved. Then on to the main machine shop, 3 months in machine repair, 3 months in drafting, 6 months in the precision machine shop.
Some of the best training that your tax dollars could provide! I feel fortunate to have had that kind of training as opposed to some of the apprentices who I meet at the mandatory night school who hung on a radial drill press for two years.
--


Regards,
Steve Saling
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This company in PA seems to have their act together. From what Kirk described of his employer they are a lot bigger.
http://www.bracalente.com/snapshot.php
I recently purchased a used Polychoke and so far they have been very nice and very helpful to deal with.
Jon Banqeur San Diego, CA
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wrote:

In the beginning when they are cleaning the plant, they should be going to school taking a course in machine shop. Because in the beginning they don't know any safety rules, so they can be a danger to themselves and others. I have seen this happen. School would give them time to learn the safety rules and give them the basics of the trade. Plus they can begin on school machines and get their feet wet in the idea of cutting metal. This lets them be more productive on the shop floor when they get to that point when they are asked to run machines.
Also we found that people who were mechanically inclined work out the best. Just have a high GPA in school doesn't mean to much, if you don't know which way to turn a bolt to loosen it. I seen them to and they didn't last long. If your state offers what they call a GAT B (not sure of spelling, been 38 years since I did it.) test through the employment office for free. Then you should require all perspective applicants to score well on the test. This test was used to begin the sorting process for apprenticeship when I was young. It measures everything including how fast you could stack and move parts to reading and math.
My thoughts
Richard W.
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Richard W. wrote:

Thanks, Richard. Good thoughts.
Teaching safety won't be a problem. I'm a fanatic about it. Anybody who gets hurt working for me had better be dead, 'cause I'm gonna kill 'em when I find out about it.
Using a school's machines to teach basics is a good idea. As I explained in another post, we don't have a toolroom or any basic, manual equipment. Maybe I can plan a co-op program with one of the local schools - something that would dovetail closely with what's happening on the job. An ideal version of that might be: "Take this turning tool to school with you tonight. Try it on the lathe there, and experiment with feeds and speeds, and how to break the chips and get a good finish. Then bring it back to work tomorrow and we'll put it in the Integrex and see/use what you've learned."
The more I think about it, the more I'm convinced that I need to find some way to do this. It's hard to learn metalcutting when everything happens behind the guards, obscured by the splashing coolant. And when modern machines deliver a finished part at the end of every cycle, how do you get the hang of drilling properly before reaming, or of rough and finish passes?
Once I have a decent group of kids to teach, some of the teaching will be harder than I like.
Additional thoughts or suggestions?
KG
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On Sun, 12 Jul 2009 14:22:01 -0400, Kirk Gordon
<snip>

========Lots of good intentions and extensive/intensive thought in both this and your original post.
Internally, both posts are congruent and logical.
The major problem is that the society/culture/economy for which your proposed program is ideal no longer exists in the US, and has been extinct for at least a generation. FWIW -- you are not unique here. Several years ago, Brasil attempted to import and implement the German trade education model. Because of the very different social/cultural conditions that didn't work either, although large sums of money were expended.
The current economic situation makes inhale-exhale staffing the new US business paradigm, thus rendering intensive long-term education/training cost ineffective for both the employer and employee in other than very select technical and professional specialties, e.g. neurosurgery (and even here this is generally an employee expense).
In this current atmosphere of increasingly rapid-fire job change and employment instability, long-term investment of time and money in a trade or profession, subject to overnight obsolescence, is not a viable option. To be sure there are still some areas such as medicine, engineering, IT and law that are legally protected by licensure and education requirements, but even here, many of the traditional entry level jobs in these fields are being exported by telecommunicating to India and other low wage [relative to the US] countries.
Rather than spending large amounts of your employer's money and your time/efforts on attempts to select and train "all-rounders," the more cost effective approach may well be "work simplification" to reduce the job content for a given position to the minimum required, and to intensively train for just those tasks.
As a technical educator, I don't like this suggestion any better than you do, but it fits the new socio-economic realities.
Unka' George [George McDuffee] ------------------------------------------- He that will not apply new remedies, must expect new evils: for Time is the greatest innovator: and if Time, of course, alter things to the worse, and wisdom and counsel shall not alter them to the better, what shall be the end?
Francis Bacon (1561-1626), English philosopher, essayist, statesman. Essays, "Of Innovations" (1597-1625).
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F. George McDuffee wrote:

Good thoughts, George. But I sincerely hope you're wrong.
We already do "work simplification"; but how simple can things get with precision CNC machining? "Take this single bar of titanium, and this single print, and that one CNC machine right there, and make me some bone screws" isn't really very simple. And even if we go as far as "push this button first, then that one, then apply the micrometer right here..." we still need somebody - more somebody's than we currently have - to give those instructions, and to know what instructions to give in the first place.
I'm not trying to change the world, or even the prevailing business paradigms. I just need a few good people for one modest size shop, and I'm hoping to succeed precisely because there are exceptions to the rules you cite.
And maybe, just maybe, I can find a small steady stream of people who don't want to spend their lives being inhaled and exhaled, and who'll believe that I can show them something more promising.
It may be totally Quixotic, but I'm committed to trying. Wish me luck, at least?
KG
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On Sun, 12 Jul 2009 15:58:50 -0400, Kirk Gordon
<snip>

=========I not only wish you luck, but applaud your efforts and cheer them [and you] on, but always remember "never teach a pig how to sing -- it wastes your time and it annoys the pig."
IMNSHO the inhale-exhale staffing paradigm shift in US employment has proven to be a sure recipe for disaster in anything but the shortest term. For one thing it means, as you have discovered, that the company is always on the leading edge [the expensive section] of the learning curve, not only in terms of instruction, but also spoiled materials and wrecked machines.
While one of the symptoms, albeit a major one, of the socio-economic changes of the last 20 years is the lack of adequate numbers of suitably trained and motivated personnel in increasing numbers of careers/occupations, it is just that, a symptom and not "the," or even "a," cause.
This extends to even the retail stores, for example try to find a clerk that knows anything about hardware or paint. This is generally not obstinacy or wilful ignorance on the clerk's part, but simply the realization that next week they will be selling shoes or garden supplies, possibly at another store, or even at another chain.
While training and apprentice type programs have been around forever, as indicated in my prior posts the socio-cultural conditions and candidates has changed. Thus, while an outline of your training program will be helpful, continuous modification will be necessary. An entire methodology called "participatory action research" has been developed to deal with this type of situation, where "something must be done," but large amounts of the required data/environmental information are not available at the start, but will have to be discovered/developed as work progresses. See http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Action_research http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Participatory_action_research http://www.web.net/~robrien/papers/arfinal.html
As to your observation:

Pretty simple when you consider that you don't really need a micrometer, but a digital drop indicator [Marposs?] with a suitable gage, and setting master. If you are not doing so, SPC/charting can be of help to detect out of control situations such as unexpected tool wear or material variations. http://news.thomasnet.com/companystory/493134
To be sure, when work simplification is pushed to this level, you don't really have CNC machinists, but rather bar pushers, set-up people, etc.
One approach you might consider is the formation of small teams [c. 5 people], with your trainees as junior members. Your suggestion to encourage the trainees to subscribe to the free machining magazines and web sites appears to be a good idea. Another helpful idea may be to provide tool boxes and tools at company cost, with X amount forgiven for every month with the company. The students won't need the full compliment of machinists tools to start, but can accumulate as needed. There are several other small items that can be helpful such as blue aprons for the appetencies, and white aprons for the master machinists in the groups.
Again, good luck and let the group know how you make out.
Unka' George [George McDuffee] ------------------------------------------- He that will not apply new remedies, must expect new evils: for Time is the greatest innovator: and if Time, of course, alter things to the worse, and wisdom and counsel shall not alter them to the better, what shall be the end?
Francis Bacon (1561-1626), English philosopher, essayist, statesman. Essays, "Of Innovations" (1597-1625).
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F. George McDuffee wrote:

I'll definitely do that. Thanks again for your thoughts and suggestions.
KG
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F. George McDuffee wrote:

Some additional thoughts, now that you've started me thinking.
The machining business is, by nature and necessity, built on a willingness and ability to make large-scale long term investments. Machine tools aren't cheap, and they take a long time to pay for themselves. Same with big assed buildings, with utility bills that most people wouldn't believe. And payrolls. And fixtures and tooling. And lines of credit to fund work that's in progress for substantial time periods, and outsource costs for heat-treating and plating and more.
If long-term investments aren't feasible, then machining itself can't happen. But if companies can and do make big investments in other things, then they MUST be able to find a way to invest in skilled labor, which is at least as important to success as any other investment.
I'm still hoping you're wrong of course. Please be wrong.
KG
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On Sun, 12 Jul 2009 16:07:32 -0400, Kirk Gordon

=========This is an increasingly serious problem in not only manufacturing, but most other areas. It is very difficult to even approach the paper ROI of a highly leveraged synthetic collateralized debt obligation or other derivative with any physical investment. The MBAs with their "portfolio analysis" and CAPM [Capital Asset Pricing Model] have hijacked all the money in the world.
Unka' George [George McDuffee] ------------------------------------------- He that will not apply new remedies, must expect new evils: for Time is the greatest innovator: and if Time, of course, alter things to the worse, and wisdom and counsel shall not alter them to the better, what shall be the end?
Francis Bacon (1561-1626), English philosopher, essayist, statesman. Essays, "Of Innovations" (1597-1625).
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On Jul 12, 12:36 pm, F. George McDuffee <gmcduf...@mcduffee- associates.us> wrote:> As a technical educator, I don't like this suggestion any better

No, it fits your narrow minded one sitting on your ass in Kansas rather than say you being active in a very, very successful engineering oriented high tech company in San Diego, CA.
There will always be a place for exceptional machinists who are very well rounded rather than the limited button pushing idiots you wish to produce. While a well rounded machinist may have to move around, his type of job cant be exported easily. The need for well rounded machinists like this will remain and the salaries for this type of machinist who can be flexible will continue to climb.... if the machinist is willing to keep moving if necessary rather than what a complete idiot like Bottlebob did which was to stay on one place for many years and work for "coolie wages" for someone with his type of experience.
Jon Banquer San Diego, CA
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