Category Archive: Uncategorized
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:
- Pins (including, but not limited to Headed Pin, Modified Diamond Pin, Headless Straight Pin, Spring Pin, Dowel Pin, Expansion Pin)
- Threaded inserts
- 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.
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.
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)
- 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.
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.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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 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!
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
More than Following in Dad’s Footsteps: Growing & Transforming into a Next Generation Manufacturer
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.
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%.
“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
WMNTMA and local precision machine shops, Precise Turning & Manufacturing and Peerless Precision Inc., carry on their annual Pig Roast launched by the late president of PPI, Larry A. Maier.
The fun-filled roast’s primary mission is to build funding dollars for the Larry A. Maier Memorial Fund through the generous sponsors of the event. All proceeds help develop hands-on programs associated with the world of precision manufacturing for middle school students in the Western Mass area.