Mild Metalworking Index Contracts, Led By Drop in Backlogs

Posted by: Michael Guckes 12. December 2019
GBI Metalworking

The Metalworking Index reported contracting activity among all components. Backlog activity contracted faster than all other components.


The Gardner Business Index (GBI): Metalworking data indicated an accelerating contraction in November as the Index moved lower to 47.0. Index readings above 50 indicate expanding activity while values below 50 indicate contracting activity. The further away a reading is from 50, the greater the magnitude of change in business activity. Gardner Intelligence’s review of the underlying index components observed that the Index, which is calculated as an average of its components, was supported by supplier deliveries, production, new orders, exports and employment. Only an accelerating contraction in backlogs pulled the Index lower.

November 2019 supplier deliveries (3MMA)

Supplier Deliveries (3MMA). In its history, the Metalworking Index has rarely experienced simultaneously contracting activity among all its components. In the history of the GBI, which dates back to late-2011, supplier deliveries has only contracted during seven of those months.

All components registered contractionary readings in November — an occurrence last experienced in the third quarter of 2015. At that time, the Metalworking Index was in the midst of a 21-month contractionary period that did not end until January 2017, marking the beginning of the most recent (and longest) manufacturing expansion since Gardner first began collecting data in late 2011.

During the third quarter of 2019, total new orders readings hovered around 50, indicating no change in total new orders activity while export readings reported contracting activity. The difference between the readings implied a potential mild expansion in domestic new orders. November’s near same readings for both measures suggest both are now contracting.


New Machining Technology at Mazak Discover 2019

Posted by: Derek Korn 11. December 2019

EDITOR’S NOTE: This post originally appeared on MMS Online.

For me, it’s nice that Mazak’s North America Manufacturing headquarters is just south of Cincinnati in Florence, Kentucky. It’s a short drive. Last month, 2,000 others, many of whom hail from cities farther way, joined me in attending the company’s Discover 2019 event, which took place in part to celebrate the company’s 100th anniversary.

The five-day event spread over the first two weeks of November and featured more than 30 live machine tool demonstrations. Equipment included the company’s lines of VMCs, HMCs, five-axis machines, turning centers and turn-mills, and hybrid machines that combine machining capability with processes such as additive manufacturing and friction stir welding.

The event also offered presentations from the likes of Oak Ridge National Laboratory, University of Cincinnati, Lockheed Martin, GE Aviation, Cisco Systems and FANUC America, and enabled attendees to tour the manufacturing and machine tool assembly areas. Dan Janka, president of Mazak Corp., says the Discover event is the largest privately held manufacturing technology and education event in North America.

Attendees could also see Mazak’s iSmart Factory concept in use in its manufacturing areas. A key component of this is its SmartBox, which is said to enable complete digital integration of Mazak’s manufacturing cells and systems to facilitate data sharing for process control and analytics. In fact, the company says the iSmart Factory concept has increased utilization for monitored machines in its Florence manufacturing operations by double-digit percentages. This has reduced operator overtime by 100 hours per month and brought 400 hours per month of previously outsourced work back in house. The company manufactures more than 100 machine models in nine product lines at this facility.Mazak also introduced its new Mixed Reality Training concept at the event, which combines virtual reality (VR) and augmented reality (AR) to reduce the risks associated with training new operators on actual machines and streamline service and maintenance.

Mazak also announced a few additions to its Florence campus during the event. One is a new Mazatec Smart Manufacturing System that will include five of the company’s HCN-model HMCs and one Integrex turn-mill. The 235-pallet cell with raw material and finished parts stackers and loading stations is designed to accommodate a range of part and pallet sizes. It features the company’s iSmart factory concept employing the MTConnect interoperability protocol and its SmartBox IIoT machine-monitoring technology to track utilization and overall equipment effectiveness. Two people will tend the six-machine cell, which replaces an eight-machine cell and is said to offer 20% faster cycle times. It is scheduled for completion in March 2020.

mazak discover

Scheduled for completion in 2020, the Mazatec Smart Manufacturing System will include five of the company’s HCN-model HMCs and one Integrex turn-mill. The 235-pallet cell with raw material and finished parts stackers and loading stations is designed to accommodate a range of part and pallet sizes.

Mazak is also expanding its spindle rebuild center with a $3.5 million, 26,000-square-foot addition to its south building. The company says it will stock 2,000 rebuilt spindles there for immediate delivery and offer OEM spindle rebuild services with a three- to five-day turnaround time. It also has added a new fiber laser welder to its fabrication area that performs oscillating “wobble” welding, in which no filler material is added. This minimizes or, in some cases, eliminates manual weld grinding.


VIDEO: Data Analyst Gives Insight on Contraction in the Precision Machining Sector

20. November 2019

Chris Felix, Editor-in Chief of Production Machining: Hi, Chris Felix here, Production Machining editor-in-chief. I'm here with Michael Guckes, chief economist and director of analytics for Gardner Intelligence. We're going to talk about the current numbers for the Precision Machining Index. After the longest expansion in recorded history from November 2016 to June 2019. We've seen three consecutive months of contracting business conditions, with October's reading at 46.1. This month’s reading is actually higher than last month. Why do you call it a contractionary reading?

Michael Guckes, Chief Economist and Director of Analytics for Gardner Intelligence: That's a great question, Chris, and that's one of the things that we try to explain in the index. All values that are below 50 represent a contraction in business activity. Now, when we have a month like September, which was below the October reading, what it means is that business activity was contracting faster than it was in October. And so when the numbers are on an increasing trend, but still below 50, what it tells us is that conditions are still slowing, but not as quickly as they were in prior months.

Chris Felix: So I know the index is an average of six components. Tell me about what's happening with those six components.

Michael Guckes: That's a great question. So we have six components. The ones that are leading the index right now include production and especially supplier deliveries. Supplier deliveries has been really strong for the last 18 months. It's been one of the leading components of the index. Unfortunately, some of the components have really bifurcated from the others and really that includes backlogs and exports. What we've seen in the last several months is that in order to maintain production levels where they have been in the recent past, we're seeing a lot of precision machinists have to resort to dwindling down their backlogs in order to level set production. And part of the issue there is simply [that] new orders aren't as strong as they used to be. And so when you look at our index numbers, you'll see that there's a pretty reasonable gap between new orders and production results in the last several months. And so that's really been influencing backlogs.

Chris Felix: Michael, do the recent weak readings mean the entire PM world is contracting?

Michael Guckes: Not at all, Chris. What we're seeing is that, by end market, for example, we're seeing that aerospace continues to do very well. Aerospace has really been on a tear in the last 18 months or even longer. But we are seeing some weakness in other important industries. And automotive, unfortunately, is one of those where we've seen a strong contraction in automotive activity among precision machinists in the last, say, nine months.

Chris Felix: What else is your data telling you about business conditions for production machinists?

Michael Guckes: Not everybody knows that we track information about prices received — so, that's a function of your pricing power —  also, material prices, which we use as a proxy for input costs being experienced by production machinists. We also look at business sentiment and one of the things that we have found through talking to different production machinists over time is that they're very interested in pricing power, the ability to push through price, higher prices. So what our data has shown us in terms of pricing power through prices received is that in 2018 we had a very large increase in the ability of firms to pass through higher prices. And as you might expect, we've seen pricing power has come down a lot. It has not moved into contraction territory, but we have seen it fall substantially.

Chris Felix: Well, Michael, thanks for meeting with me today. For more information about business trends and activity, please visit, and of course for precision machining needs, visit


New Specs: Milling Machines from Starrag

19. November 2019
machining centers from Starrag

Techspex has added several updated machine specs to our database of machining centers from Starrag. The additions are from the company’s STC and LX series. 

According to the company, the STC series is designed for economic machining of structural parts, multi-blades and casings that require long cycle times. “These machining centers have excellent static and dynamic properties as well as a tried and tested rotatable head, making them the benchmark for heavy chip removal in titanium and Inconel parts for the aerospace and power generation industries,” the company says. The STC 1250 X is an example of the five- and six-axis machines in this series. 

The machines in the LX series are designed for turbine machining. The company says, “This ultra-modern machining platform is the result of decades of experience in the development of machine tools, CAM systems and special tools combined with our in-house expertise in the prototype and series production of turbine blades.” The LX 351 is an example of the five-axis machining centers in the series. 

You can see and compare among Starrag’s machines newly added machine specs by visiting its Techspex showroom, linked above. While you’re taking note, be sure to subscribe to our free email newsletter and follow us on Twitter @techspex to stay current on additions and updates to the Techspex database.


New Specs: Swiss-Type Lathes from KSI Swiss

13. November 2019
new specs from KSI Swiss

Techspex has added several updated machine specs to our database of machining centers from KSI Swiss. Specifically, we’ve added specs for several Swiss-type lathes in the company’s TCM S series: The TCM 20S, the TCM 32S and the TCM 38S. These seven-axis lathes feature large openings for easier access for setup. 

Among the other features in the series is what KSI calls Intelligent Chucking. This feture takes advantage of the 300-mm stroke to reduce the number of bar re-chucks during long production runs. “Instead of rechecking for each part, the spindle feeds 280 millimeters of material to make multiple parts in a single chucking operation and increments forward for each part. See how this can shave even more off your cycle time,” the company says.

You can see and compare KSI’s newly added machine specs by visiting its Techspex showroom, linked above. While you’re taking note, be sure to subscribe to our free email newsletter and follow us on Twitter @techspex to stay current on additions and updates to the Techspex database.

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