Category Archive: Uncategorized

How Peerless Precision Selects the Right Finishing Operation for The Tightest Tolerances

 

Did you know that even the most modern CNC machines can’t achieve the extremely tight tolerances needed for certain parts?

In actuality, a wide range of machines and operations, both new and old, are necessary to finish parts and produce tolerances as tight as one millionth of an inch.

At Peerless Precision, we’re experts at achieving the tightest tolerances. Better yet, we reduce risk, cost, and lead time by performing many finishing operations in-house. We don’t need to outsource and forfeit control of our parts like many other machine shops.

So if you need ridiculously tight tolerances on your next project, come to the experts. Then sit back and relax while we take care of the entire process.

How Peerless Precision Produces the Tightest Tolerances

Today, we’re pulling back the curtain on how our team chooses the best finishing operations for super tight tolerances.

We’ll select one of these finishing options based on the needs of your design:

Surface grinding

We use surface grinding when we need to create and maintain a flat surface on your part. The part’s material and your requirements for the desired finish help us determine the amount of material we will need to remove and the correct grinding wheel we will need to use to achieve the desired flatness. Grinding wheels come in various materials and grades, like sandpaper. The grinding wheels (abrasives) we use are selected based on the material we are performing the operation on and the surface flatness/finish we are aiming to achieve.

We also use surface grinding to precision cut pins that can’t be cut with a saw. Saws produce sharp edges and leave lines in the part that make the surface rough and abrasive, which makes it tough to maintain tight tolerances consistently across the part’s surface. For even the tiniest parts, we depend on the surface grinder to smooth things out, finishing edges and removing unwanted rough lines.

Cylindrical and jig grinding

We use these two grinding techniques on the inner or outer diameter of curved, circular parts. Inner diameter grinding is known as ID grinding, while outer diameter grinding is known as—you guessed it—OD grinding. ID/OD grinding options are ideal for completely round shapes.

Jig grinding, on the other hand, can be used on both the inner and outer diameters. It’s perfect for imperfectly round parts. This finishing operation is great for lopsided curves because the machine can hold the part with special fixturing to grind geometrically complex shapes. For example, we recently used a jig grinder on a set of crankcase housings, L-shaped parts with a hole in the middle. Our cylindrical grinder would not have been able to work on this part at all!

Honing

Honing is the next rung on the ladder of finishing operations. More precise than grinding, it allows us to achieve exceptionally tight tolerances of ±.00002” 8 Ra Finish.

Honing is always used on the inner diameter of a part. During this process, a special honing stone is used to maintain concentricity and achieve the desired tolerance.

We know we’ve produced a perfectly honed part when it passes our “drop test.” We drop a pin down the hollowed, honed section to ensure it falls at a certain rate and in precise alignment. If the pin fails the drop test, we hone the part again!

At Peerless Precision, we work with two different technologies for honing. One of our machines is new, but we love our older machine as well—because these machines just aren’t made like they used to be! While the newer NC Hone does the majority of the hard work for the machinist, honing is still very much an art. It requires the ability to “feel” when the parts are getting to the required tolerance. When we are working toward achieving ±.00002”, we might start it out on the NC Hone, but will finish it off on our oldie but goodie. 🙂

Lapping

When you need tolerances as tight as a millionth of an inch, lapping will always be our go-to process (often in combination with honing and grinding).

There are two types of lapping that we perform at Peerless Precision: match lapping and roll lapping. Both use round parts, like roller ball bearings, pins, and pistons. Roll lapping is used when we need to remove millionths of an inch at a time on the outer diameter of round parts. We use various lapping compounds depending on the material. The most commonly used compound is a diamond compound paste, in various grades, dependent upon rough lapping or finish lapping.

Lapping is a technique that’s no longer taught in schools. Most shops won’t even touch parts that require tolerances tight enough to need lapping, and there’s no new technology to replace these older machines.

At Peerless Precision, we’ve put the work in to master this technique. Our experts have years of experience learning on the job and familiarizing themselves with the feel of a properly lapped part. We’re your one-stop lapping shop!

Regardless of the finishing operation we choose, we only quote the processes that are absolutely necessary to achieve the requirements on your drawing. That means if your project doesn’t need lapping, you’re not going to pay for it.Trust the experts at Peerless Precision to determine the proper finishes for your part’s tolerances at the best price. We have the machining know-how to get the job done right using the most cost-effective process. Request a quote today!

Peerless Precision Specializes in Invar Parts for Optical Machining

 

Are you tired of job shops no-quoting you on Invar projects? It’s hard finding a shop willing to machine Invar—let alone one that specializes in this notoriously challenging material.

The nickel-based non-magnetic alloy has many useful properties: it’s resistant to temperature fluctuations, weather patterns, and rust, making it ideal for commercial optics and optical machining applications.

But despite its practical characteristics, there’s no getting around the fact that Invar is difficult to machine. It’s dense, heavy, and extremely receptive to discoloration and fingerprinting, so machinists must take extreme measures to ensure a good cosmetic appearance.

While other job shops balk at Invar, the team at Peerless Precision is prepared to conquer this challenging material! We’re perfectly equipped to handle all of your Invar 36 machining needs, from our machining process to the investments we’ve made to protect Invar parts.

Common Applications for Invar

The commercial optics and optical machining industries regularly use Invar parts inside microscopes due to the material’s non-magnetic properties and resistance to temperature changes. Invar parts are consistently the same size and configuration no matter the weather, which is imperative in optical applications.

Here’s a look at a couple of Invar parts our team made for a commercial optics customer:

Commercial Optics Invar X-Y Modified Retro Holder

Commercial Optics Invar Base Plate X-Y Axis

As you might be able to see in the image, the X-Y Modified Retro Holder has extremely thin walls

measuring only .0500” x .032” thick. Our precision machining capabilities were key to creating tight tolerances for these Invar parts. And the parts are cosmetically flawless, with no visible dents, scratches, or discoloration.

Invar Machining at Peerless Precision

The most common grade of Invar we work with at Peerless Precision is Invar 36. Our machinists describe it as “chewy,” which is their shorthand for “difficult to machine.” Materials that are considered easy to machine usually generate nice, consistent chips during milling or turning. Invar, on the other hand, casts off tiny, inconsistently shaped pellets during machining processes. That makes it unpredictable and harder to achieve that flawless finish optical applications require.

We typically run our Invar 36 parts through several processes to ensure they meet our high quality standards:

  • Milling on our 4-axis or 5-axis CNC mills, depending on the configuration of the part
  • Burring to clean up edges and holes
  • Grinding when we need to smooth out surfaces and finishes
  • Finishing to blast the parts with a glass bead machine for a smooth, satiny finish
  • Nickel-plating to harden the outside of the part and protect it from damage

How Peerless Precision Protects Invar Parts

Since the Invar parts used in commercial optics and optical machining have to be pristine, our team takes extra precautions to ensure your parts are flawless when they leave our shop and when you receive them. Whether it’s additional QA measures or special shipping materials, we do whatever it takes to deliver perfect parts every time:

  • Inspection. During inspection we check for dents, fingerprints, scratches, discolorations, and other imperfections.
  • Packing. Our team wears two sets of gloves and handles Invar parts with the utmost care to avoid adding fingerprints and scratches.
  • Packaging. We package each Invar part in its own individual packing paper, bubble wrap, and box to prevent damage during transit.

Don’t be discouraged by other job shops no-quoting you on Invar parts. Take your next Invar project to a team of experts that specializes in machining this challenging material. Request a quote today to get started!

How Peerless Precision Solves the Problem of Legacy Parts in Aerospace Manufacturing

When planes or helicopters are no longer actively in production, buyers face a unique challenge: when they need replacement parts, the OEMs and general contractors that initially made those parts aren’t available to provide prototypes aftermarket.

Aircraft such as the Bell UH-1 helicopter, Gulfstream IV Business Jet, Piper PA-42 Cheyenne, Saab 340 Twin-Engine Turboprop and Rolls Royce RB211 engine may still be in use, and in some cases sold commercially, despite being out of production. Depending on their condition, buyers may require replacement parts to restore these vessels—and the replacements must be comparable in quality to the original market components.

Peerless Precision is an AS9100/ISO9001 certified aerospace manufacturer. Our quality certifications allow us to approach challenging parts with the utmost confidence, including making legacy parts for aerospace manufacturing.

The Challenges of Manufacturing Aerospace Replacement Parts

The aerospace industry enforces stringent standards for the manufacture of parts and components. Parts must be able to withstand extreme temperatures and pressures while maintaining exceptionally low failure rates. Even the slightest miscalculation can have devastating consequences.

When an aircraft or its systems go out of production, it becomes a legacy product, along with its specific build information. The precise materials, specifications, and design elements can be lost in time. At Peerless Precision, we have extensive experience working with aftermarket reverse engineering firms that seek out these legacy products and work with the FAA to obtain the necessary Parts Manufacturer Approvals (PMAs). Through these types of partnerships, PPI has the ability to manufacture these legacy components.

Working with Peerless Precision for Aerospace Replacement Parts

Peerless Precision is perfectly suited for legacy part production for aerospace machining, promising our customers:

  • Quality parts. We produce parts with extremely tight tolerances ranging from .0001”- 000005″ and have the right certifications to ensure the highest quality standards.
  • Low volumes. Whether you need one part or a small inventory for customers to get spares as required, you’ll benefit from working with a job shop that specializes in low-volume production.
  • Competitive prices. Our experienced team and highly efficient processes allow us to optimize jobs for cost. We’re always willing to work with customers to meet pricing demands.
  • Supply chain consolidation. We work with a local reverse engineering firm for aftermarket prototyping. Through this process, we can determine how to precisely replicate a part, managing the modeling and FAA approval process for you.

When you need a trusted job shop to meet stringent industry requirements for flight-ready replacement parts, our team of experts is at your service. Request a quote, and we’ll get back to you within 24 hours.

Benefits of In-House Mechanical Subassembly

 

One of the best ways to consolidate your supply chain is to find a precision machine shop that can also do assembly work. At Peerless Precision, not only do we make your parts, we can put together various components in even the most complex mechanical subassemblies.

We often see our customers relying on their in-house engineers for subassembly or hardware installation after parts have been machined. Although engineers understand what components are needed for form, fit, and function, there’s only so much that they can accomplish without specialized equipment, working at their desks.

While early prototypes might be assembled by our customers, assembly is not the best use of an engineer’s time, energy, and skills as a part moves into later prototyping and production. When subassembly is removed from the engineer’s workload, it allows them to focus on design and functionality—or to move on to the next big project!

Peerless Precision is an Expert in Mechanical Subassembly

Our team specializes in mechanical subassembly; this process is not the assembly of a finished product, but involves putting together several mechanical components that go into a larger system. When you choose a machine shop with expertise in mechanical subassembly, you consolidate your supply chain. That often leads to reduced lead time and lower costs—without any compromise on quality.

Our capabilities in medical machining landed us a subassembly project for a mechanical prosthetic shoulder. We machined every single part for this prototype and delivered it to our customer fully assembled.

For aerospace machining, optical machining, and the defense industry, we offer matched valve and sleeve (or piston sleeve) subassembly. Both industries require extremely tight tolerances and often involve very tiny components. This type of subassembly is nearly impossible to do without the highly specialized tooling and equipment we have in our MA machine shop.

Subassembly Hardware Options

At Peerless Precision, we can assemble components by buying standard hardware, modifying existing hardware, or custom-making unique hardware for your project.

Whether the assembly requires tight tolerances, tiny components, or both, we’ve invested in the tooling and equipment to get the job done right. We source and/or manufacture all kinds of hardware components for subassembly:

  • Helicoils
  • Screws
  • Nuts
  • Bolts
  • Pins (including, but not limited to Headed Pin, Modified Diamond Pin, Headless Straight Pin, Spring Pin, Dowel Pin, Expansion Pin)
  • Threaded inserts
  • Plugs
  • Clamping plates
  • Locked-in studs

While our customers are welcome to choose their own supplier for standard hardware, whenever we have a choice, we go with Atlantic Fasteners. This company has a great variety of high-quality hardware, ships fast, and is local to our Massachusetts machine shop. (We can literally drive there and pick up the order if needed!)

We regularly use the expertise of our distributors to make recommendations, choose the right hardware based on price, lead time, and specifications. We choose hardware that’s made in the USA whenever possible.

Obsession with Quality Control

At Peerless Precision, we go to great lengths to ensure quality for every part that is machined in our shop. We inspect every component in a subassembly multiple times to make sure we meet our own quality standards as well as those required by our AS9100 Rev. D and ISO 9001:2015 certifications.

When you have parts that need to be assembled, let us deliver them ready for installation. Get a quote for your mechanical subassembly today.

Peerless Precision Provides Unique Capabilities for Optical Machining

 

Optical measuring systems and 3D measuring systems are expected to consistently deliver extreme accuracy and precision. To do so, the internal parts and components in these devices must be reliably manufactured to extremely tight tolerances. Parts that aren’t made to the exact required specifications can result in tolerance stacking and lead to significant reading errors and improper function of the optical equipment.

When this kind of complexity is involved, you need a shop that has optical machining experience to make sure the job is done right.

At Peerless Precision, we have more than 40 years of experience in custom optical machining. Our technical experts can manufacture optical measuring equipment parts of any shape or complexity. We’re one of a handful of precision machine shops in the U.S. that is capable of creating the internal parts and components required for 3D measuring systems and larger-than-life microscopes.

Peerless Precision Knows Optical Machining

We work with tough materials. At Peerless Precision, we’re not afraid to work with tough materials—titanium, tungsten, and even invar—that are used in optical machining.

Many shops try to avoid using these materials, which can be difficult to work with and hard on tools and machines (earning their reputation as “chewy”). We’ve got both the tools and the expertise to offer these capabilities. We also rely on tooling suppliers’ advice on how to best machine unusual materials, maintain the long life of our tools, and run our machines with maximum efficiency. That’s how we keep our costs (and our quotes) down and our lead times as short as possible.

We’re experts in thin wall machining. Some of the components in optical equipment are as thin as tin foil. We’ve got the capabilities to create thin walls, even from challenging materials like titanium, that are just .003” thick.

We achieve extremely tight tolerances. Technically, a part is considered to have a tight tolerance if its permitted variance is +/- .002-.001 inches. Due to its precise measurement systems, optical machining requires much tighter tolerances than standard machined parts. . At Peerless Precision, we’re able to achieve extremely tight tolerances ranging from .0001”-000005”.

We know cosmetic appearance is crucial. We have an extremely high level of quality for the aesthetics of our customer-facing parts. We make sure there are no nicks, dings, scratches, fingerprints, or discolorations. During inspection, we hold the parts under a light that is as bright as the sun to ensure they are pretty, shiny, and perfect. If you line 10 components up on a shelf, all 10 will look identical.

Case Study: Coldfinger Weldments

Coldfinger (coldwell) weldments are a critical mechanical component for optical machining. We currently manufacture coldfinger weldments that are used in submicro cryogenic cooling systems for infrared, night vision, and thermal imaging equipment.

The weldments we make consist of two separate components, base and end cap, which are individually matched prior to welding. In order to match, there can’t be a gap between the two components: they must be able to come together with a light press fit so the end cap won’t fall off of the base if it’s inverted. Using a light press fit also keeps the components from fitting too tightly, which could cause a distortion of the internal diameter after the welding process.

(left to right): base and end cap, setup for laser welding, welded parts (Images:

Not only have we been making coldfinger weldments for more than 20 years, we even purchased a laser welder specifically to weld these components and further expand our capabilities for optical equipment.

When it comes to optical machining, there’s no substitute for quality and experience. Request a quote from us for your next commercial optics project.

Peerless Precision is a Top Supply Chain Manager for Tier 1 Suppliers

 

Tier 1 suppliers know the advantages of reducing their supply chains: a more streamlined process, time and cost savings, and less stress.

But not every machine shop in MA has the ability to successfully manage a supply chain, particularly for aerospace manufacturing, medical manufacturing, and defense manufacturing, which carry the highest quality standards. Some shops simply don’t want to be the middleman. Others don’t want the responsibility of managing the work of other vendors.

Peerless Precision is uniquely poised to be an excellent supply chain manager for Tier 1 suppliers. Our experience, organization, and fanatical commitment to quality set us apart from other shops.

What’s involved in supply chain management?

A finished part may look simple enough, but most machined parts go through multiple steps (and many more operations) before they’re complete.

A typical part might go through the following processes, all of which could be managed by the customer—or outsourced to a supply chain manager:

  • Material sourcing and purchasing
  • Heat treating
  • Machining (i.e., CNC milling and CNC turning)
  • Finishing
  • Laser engraving or marking
  • Mechanical assembly or hardware insertion
  • Quality inspection

There is often shipping, transport, and coordination between every single phase! That’s a lot of moving parts for an engineer or buyer to keep track of. And if there’s any lag time or lack of communication between vendors, it can cause major delays.

Benefits of Supply Chain Management

Working with a manufacturer who also manages the supply chain has significant advantages. You’ll reduce quality issues, decrease lead times and even cost, and save a whole lot of energy. Key benefits of supply chain management include:

Project Management. Instead of directly managing several different manufacturers and subcontractors, we can manage part or all of the process for you. Those services could include:

  • Maintaining and managing inventory
  • Coordinating shipping and tracking
  • Managing deadlines and providing just in time delivery

The administrative pieces of supply chain management add up quickly, and delegating your project management to Peerless Precision can save you valuable time and energy.

Quality Control. Supply chain management only works effectively if you trust that the end result will be perfect parts, delivered on time—every time. That’s why quality is so important to us. We perform all inspections (source inspection, first article inspection (FAI), final inspection) in house.

Everything that enters and exits our shop is personally inspected by our team, and nothing leaves our facility that isn’t 100% perfect. We also hold several quality certifications: AS9100D and ISO9001:2015 for aerospace machining and medical machining, as well as ITAR registration for defense machining.

Cost Reduction. At Peerless, we can save on cost in a few ways. First, we have the ability to do many operations in-house (ask us about the laser we invested in so that we could provide an in-house solution for customers and expand our capabilities). We may be able to negotiate better pricing with subcontractors based on the overall volume of work we send to them, where you may only have leverage based on your own order. And by working with local vendors, we can often cut down significantly on transportation and shipping costs.

Shorter Lead Times. Time is money. When we manage all or part of your supply chain for you, we’re always looking ahead to anticipate the next step in the process. We do all of our laser engraving in-house, so that cuts out the outside step and reduces lead times significantly (by as much as 50%!).

The bottom line: if you need supply chain management, contact our MA machine shop to see what we can do for you. Get a quote.

Peerless Precision Achieves Tight Tolerance Manufacturing for Top Quality Performance

What it Takes to Produce Extremely Tight Tolerances

What do landing gear for an airplane, an aerospace fuel engine, and a medical device have in common?

They’re all delicate pieces of equipment that perform vital functions—and they have no room for error.

From a manufacturing standpoint, no room for error means that these parts need extremely tight tolerances to function properly.

Technically, a part has a tight tolerance if its permitted variance is plus or minus .002-.001 inches. A variance of even .005 inches causes the part to fail, which can cause serious damage. At Peerless Precision, we’re able to achieve tolerances ranging from .0001”-000005,” which industries like aerospace, aeronautics, and medicine often require.

How to Achieve Extremely Tight Tolerances

When it comes to parts that require the utmost precision, here are some things you should consider in order to achieve the tolerance that works best for your machined parts.

  1. Request a tolerance analysis. Manufacturers love to say that adding another decimal point to your tolerance adds another zero to your cost. If you think there’s (literally) wiggle room, submit your design to your manufacturer for review. At Peerless Precision, we can work with your engineering and quality team members to analyze whether or not you can loosen your tolerances to create a more practical, replicable design at a lower cost.
  2. Check out the manufacturing environment. It’s natural for material to contract and expand with changes in temperature, but those changes can throw off tolerances in the millionths of an inch. In our MA machine shop, we thermally stabilize our workspace to prevent any issues.
  3. Look for a shop with manual machining experience. A CNC Machine can only go so far toward achieving high tolerances. Peerless Precision has 30+ years of manual machining experience with expert machinists who know what true precision means: how the material “feels” when the part is ready.

The Magic Behind Peerless Precision’s Manual Machining

At Peerless Precision, our talented team has something they don’t teach at school: the craft and experience to learn tolerances by machine and by hand. Our customers call it “magic.” We call it expertise.

In addition to CNC machine services, we offer grinding, honing, and lapping. These capabilities have a slower rate of manual material removal, allowing us to shape a part up to the exact tolerance required. The expert hands of our machinists perfect what a machine can’t. You can’t automate artistry.

At Peerless Precision, we’re proud that we can achieve tolerances ranging from .0001”-000005,” while maintaining our top-notch quality standards.

Have a part that needs an extremely tight tolerance? Contact us for a quote!

P.S. We are ITAR-certified for defense machining in MA (and 49 other states too)!

The Importance of Training Your Workforce

 

The most important asset any organization has is its team, a team is a group of people that come together to achieve a common goal. We need our team to run machines, inspect parts, provide customer service, build quotes and programs, place orders, etc. More importantly, we need a well-trained team. Every single person that Peerless Precision employs requires some form of training; whether it be for our specific systems and procedures, or providing an entry-level individual with the skills they need to successfully enter the workforce and start their career.

In advanced manufacturing, we not only have an aging workforce but also a skills gap. We have been trying to solve the skills gap issue for a long time. More often than not, the preference is to find someone with experience that would require less training. Pulling from the same workforce pool will not solve any of the workforces issues our industry faces. While hiring an entry-level employee will cost more training dollars and will take longer to get them up-to-speed, we cannot let that deter us from hiring the right person. From personal experience, sometimes it just takes the right leader to see a spark in someone to know that they have great potential. With the labor market as tight as it is (or was before COVID-19), nine out of every 10 employees that Peerless Precision hires are entry-level. They are either coming in on a Co-Op from a local technical high school, as an intern from a local college, or from training programs that are facilitated by our Regional Employment Boards. An entry-level employee is more receptive and “moldable” to become the team member that is needed.

A team member that is provided not only with the tools to learn to do their job and develop their skills, but also a path to growth within our companies is more likely to stay as a result of that upfront and continuing investment. As an employer, when we invest time and money into training our team members, we are investing in both our workforce and our company.

Offering and investing in a training path for our workforce increases productivity and quality, provides growth paths/upskill opportunities, improves retention and engagement; and also empowers our team members. When our team members are empowered, we see increased problem solving, critical thinking, continuous improvement efforts, etc.

So if you don’t have a training process today, put one in place, the skills gap is a real problem and on the job training is a solution that can help your business grow!

The Value of Community Outreach from Manufacturers

 

I went to a 4-year college because that was what I was supposed to do, and guess what? I left after 2 1/2 years.

I am part of a generation that was told that vocational schools were not an option, or that they were for those who had no chance of ever going to college. I didn’t know what I wanted to do and preferred learning by doing vs. sitting in a lecture hall. Now, by no means is this meant to discourage anyone from going to college or to say that college is a bad thing, more to enforce that not everyone needs to go to be successful. In an era where student loans are through the roof and it can be difficult to get an entry-level position, our youth needs to be made aware of what other opportunities are out there; and that is up to us, the employers.

As President of Peerless Precision, my main focus over the past 8 years has been to show students how cool it is to work at a machine shop! Our doors are always open to schools for tours of our facility to show students first-hand what it means to be a manufacturer in America. Peerless makes small, critical mechanical components for the Aerospace, Defense, Medical Device and Commercial Industries, to extremely close tolerances (.001″ – .000005″). While looking at any of the parts that we manufacture, it is nearly impossible to know what they are for, it is important to speak to the larger picture and create a narrative around why what we make is so important and cool.

That is how we can get them interested:

While we have a healthy mix of both CNC, NC and Manual Machines, I always start our tours out in the CNC departments. Starting with the computerized, high-tech equipment and seeing the machines in action really gets their interest sparked. From there, we always go into our NC and manual departments, because that is where the close tolerance magic happens. While the machines may not be as “fancy,” they really get to see the skills and talent that our team has developed in order to achieve those close tolerances that we are known for. We then move into inspection, where we have been making significant investments over the past 5 years to improve our efficiencies and when the students get to see one of our younger Inspectors demo our Instant Measurement System, their eyes just pop out! Now we start with high tech and we want to end with high tech, so I save our newest “cool” piece of machinery for last, our laser welder because lasers are just cool! We always have demo parts ready to go and the students get to take turns walking up and watching it in action. I always start with the fact that the weld is so fast (1.5 sec) that if you blink, you will miss it! Throughout these tours, I bring in as many of my under 30 team members (and we have a lot) into the conversations so they can explain what they are doing and why they are doing it and why they made the decision to become a Machinist and the opportunities that have come with it.

It is important to be involved with schools (Traditional, Vocational and Technical Colleges). I sit on multiple advisory and steering committees, participate in open houses and have become one of the go-to companies in our region for schools to reach out to place Co-Op students and interns. There has been a dynamic shift in the State of Massachusetts where more support for vocational awareness and education are starting to take place and innovation pathways are being introduced into traditional high schools, which is helping to bring the trades back. I am proud to say that I have been a part of helping to bring manufacturing back to two of our local high schools, and expect to see that number grow.

If you have the opportunity to speak to an Advocacy Group, State Legislator, School Committee, etc. on the importance of career technical education, take it, and share your story. If a school reaches out to you for a tour, to speak or to do an open house, do it and change the narrative.

It is the stories that we and our employees share about what we do and the paths that have led us to where we are that really drive home the importance of manufacturing in America.

Kristin Carlson, President

Growth Manufacturers Case Study – MASSMEP

More than Following in Dad’s Footsteps: Growing & Transforming into a Next Generation Manufacturer

Company Profile
Peerless Precision, Inc. (PPI) is a small, 20 person, family-owned job shop that specializes in the manufacture of precision machined parts for the aerospace, defense, and medical devices industries. Their area of expertise is when tolerances of .0001″ or better are required and have delivered 1 helium light band in flatness, .000005″ in roundness, and .003″ wall thickness. Peerless Precision is certified under both AS9100:2009 and ISO 9001:2008.

Larry Maier purchased the company in 1997. Kristin Maier Carlson became president in 2012 when her father became ill, and has since guided the company through their next growth stage.

Situation
As the new president, daughter of the past president, and someone who had worked in the company on and off since she was 15, Kristin had to rise from being viewed as “Larry’s daughter” to being the visionary leader of the company’s future.

After having been away for a few years and to best understand the organization, Kristin had a transition period where she relearned the company. She knew that she needed to ease everyone’s fears of her selling, so her first mission as the president was to reinforce with the employees that she was there to grow the corporation and to be there for the future. She continually reinforced with the employees that she wanted them to build the company together. Layoffs and selling what her father had worked so hard to build was not an option for the future.

The talented Peerless Precision management team and its employees have helped it succeed and grow. The company is a key supplier for Tier 1 aerospace and defense manufacturers. As part of Kristin’s growth and strategic plan, she wanted the company to become more progressive in its product line, markets, and overall efficiency. The company also needed to increase sales as they had recently dropped off due to sequestration.

Increasing Revenue, Implementing Lean
In early 2014, building off an 8-week “The Stronger Business Program” completed at Springfield Technical Community College (STCC), Kristin developed a vision for the company’s future growth that included a strategic plan to increase revenue and a continuous improvement process using Lean principles.

Kristin had heard a lot about Lean and toured other companies in Western Massachusetts to see best practices that had been implemented. She knew that in order for the company to sustain any growth potential, they needed to become more efficient on the shop floor. Kristin’s initial goals were to improve the flow of the work, become more organized, and implement visual management techniques. While conducting her research on Lean practitioners, she kept hearing over and over that she needed to speak with MassMEP, so she contacted Susan Janus, Regional Manager for Western Massachusetts.

At the time the company was undergoing a Lean transformation, Kristin began her transformation into the President’s role. One of Kristin’s mentors had given her valuable advice, “watch the books – watch the guys.” In watching the books she started to manage by the numbers and implemented management controls to help the company become more efficient, which complemented the training provided by MassMEP. As for watching the guys, her goal was to create an environment where everyone’s voice is heard and their expertise is leveraged. There was a management shift at the company, a senior management team was developed and teams were formed on the shop floor. Everyone began having input into the direction and growth of the company.

In October 2014, every person at the company, including Kristin, participated in the Principles of Lean training. This training provided a common language for the company to work together towards becoming more efficient and opening the lines of communication. This helped bridge some of the potential barriers between management and the employees on the shop floor. They began moving away from, “We have always done it that way” and moving towards working together to grow and change the company. The future direction of the company was being formed.

Increasing Flow and Improving Productivity
After the Principles of Lean (Lean 101) training, MassMEP conducted a Value Stream Mapping (VSM) workshop for the fabrication of a key product for a critical customer. After clearly mapping out the current state, the VSM team members outlined key actions required to implement a future state vision that would increase flow and overall productivity. Their action plan included implementation of Pull / Kanban systems, continued implementation of Visual Systems, changes to lot size and machining location, additional machine programming, review of inspection requirements, and plans for future cross training. MassMEP provided them with the tools to implement these new practices. Now they are working together to expand the initial implementation of these best practices for other products and processes. As a result of these changes, production has significantly increased – everyone benefits as they are working smarter, not harder.

Creating Corporate Vision
To assist Kristin with developing a Strategic Growth plan, Peter Russo, MassMEP, Growth and Innovation Program Manager, provided consulting services focused on sales, operational goals and enhancements, management by numbers, leveraging capabilities, resources, and connections in the marketplace, and creating a company positioning statement (Why, How, What) for improved sales and marketing.

“Peerless Precision Inc. believes that you should design your products within 5 millionths without having to worry about manufacturability, consistency and accuracy; just send us the specs – we take care of the rest.”

To help plan for future growth and identify new markets, Susan Janus, MassMEP Regional Manager, leveraged a grant to provide Kristin and her team with a Technology-Driven Market Intelligence (TDMI) research project. TDMI identifies the benefits and market impacts related to a company’s technology-based asset (e.g. idea, product, process, capability) and provides customized actionable intelligence needed for the company to expand.

Kristin commented that one of the components of the TDMI process is to define precision. She learned that precision is more than keeping tolerance, but rather doing it consistently over time. That is the value she brings to her clients: fully understanding the value of her company’s services and providing a clearer direction for the future of her company and the value-add it can bring to its customers.

As a result of the TDMI, they realized they were able to assist in engineering the prints rather than just work from prints that were provided. This saves Peerless Precision and their client’s time in rework and developing the prints, quicker completion of the job.

The Management team has expanded its vision to looking beyond a sheet of paper and now evaluates the full process and value they can provide to a client. They have found a niche market of delivery by working together and understanding the future direction of the company.

Kristin’s father, Larry Maier, has always been admired and remembered for his relentless support of manufacturing, from dynamic activity with vocational-technical schools to advocacy for the Western MA Tooling and Machining Association. Larry would be proud to know that his daughter continues in both these areas while dramatically transforming and growing the family business into a next-generation manufacturer.

Areas of impact

  • Culture: Company growth through change. No longer “That is how we always did things.” Implemented the Management team on the shop-floor.
  • Jobs: Added 3 new full-time employees, plus co-op students.
  • Sales: Increased by $700,000 in one year.
  • New Markets: Megatrends identified — medical devices, commercial aerospace, unmanned vehicles, robotics, energy, and sensors.
  • Other: Installed scheduling system. Increased on-time delivery by 10%.

Testimonial
“MassMEP helped me to determine the best direction for the company, connections to outside sources, such as Greentown Labs, so that we can grow and be here for future generations.” – Kristin Maier Carlson

We Supply Parts To:

  • Curtis Wright
  • EATON
  • FLIR
  • Kaman
  • Curtis Wright
  • EATON
  • FLIR
  • Kaman