Derek Korn

Executive Editor Derek Korn joined Modern Machine Shop in 2004, but he has been writing about applied manufacturing technology since 1997. During those seven years prior to coming on board with Modern, he worked for a manufacturing-centric public relations firm creating technical articles and application stories about equipment including CNC machining centers, laser cutters, fabricating equipment, plastics injection and blow molding machines, industrial sensors, filtration equipment and so on. His ghost-written articles were picked up by numerous trade publications. A number of those were treated as cover stories for those magazines.

His Bachelor’s degree in mechanical engineering technology from the University of Cincinnati’s College of Applied Science provides a solid foundation for understanding and explaining how innovative machining businesses leverage advanced machining technologies, equipment and processes to their advantage. (You should know he still has the V-block he machined in a U.C. lab that now serves as a business card holder on his desk.) And he’d say the best part of his job with Modern is actually visiting with machine shop principals at their facilities to see their operations firsthand. He’ll tell you it’s not possible to truly appreciate what’s going on in a modern machine shop without seeing it (and asking a million questions about it) in person.

Derek has traveled all across the U.S. to gather article background info, take photos and video, and then write about how our country’s leading machine shops use new technology and innovative strategies to become more efficient and effective as they grow their businesses. He has also visited numerous countries in Europe, Asia and South America to learn about advanced machining technology introduced at international trade shows and created by various equipment manufacturers. (Ever traveled to Taiwan? Try this experience on for size).

This writing and traveling MMSer is also the technical director of the magazine's annual Top Shops benchmarking program since its inception in 2010, which enables U.S. machine shops to see how their technology- and business-related key performance indicators stack up against the country's leading machining businesses. He also is a key contributor in developing the presentation tracks for the annual Top Shops Conferences, which launched in 2017.

When Derek is not visiting machine shops or writing about them or researching them, he is often in his garage working on his 1955 Chevy Belair that he has owned since he was 18. And had hair. Or in his kitchen working with his hands to create food that his family might or might not appreciate. Or posting various work-related or more personal tweets on his twitter account relative to any or all of this. Follow him and enjoy the ride.


Posted by: Derek Korn 11. December 2019

New Machining Technology at Mazak Discover 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.

Posted by: Derek Korn 12. June 2019

A Virtual Visit to the TIMTOS Manufacturing Trade Show

This post originally appeared on the blog of MMS Online.

Before leaving for a Taiwanese machine tool trade show a few months ago, I forced my own @MMS_Derek Twitter hand(le).

Knowing many of my Twitter followers might never attend the Taipei International Machine Tool Show (TIMTOS) — or visit Taiwan for that matter — I tweeted prior to my trip that I would capture some of my experiences (silly or otherwise) from the time I left my house to when I returned home one week later. My goal was to offer a taste of what it is like to travel halfway around the world seeking insight into the latest machining and manufacturing technology. You can find all those tweets (and video) here. You’ll also find fun facts about traveling in Taiwan.

This exercise in social media helped shape this article. Here, I present five interesting booth demonstrations, including links to video, that I thought would draw your attention had you been walking TIMTOS with me, although there was plenty more to see. The addition of a fourth show hall enabled this year’s event to accommodate more than 7,000 booths, making biennial TIMTOS the world’s third-largest manufacturing trade show. So, at best, the following five demonstrations (video of each included in the link above) offer just a taste of what I saw there.

Facial recognition for CNCs

Artificial intelligence (AI) and data-driven manufacturing are common themes of manufacturing trade shows. TIMTOS 2019 was no different. For example, Hartford demonstrated facial-recognition technology that ensures only authorized operators can take control of a machine’s CNC. A manager would have the new operator stand in front of the CNC, select “operator” from an onscreen menu, and then click to take a photo for the facial-recognition app to process. From that point on, the operator can access the CNC by looking into the camera and pressing the “access” button. This is one example of more than 40 other apps the company offers for this control.

Unattended five-axis machining

Quaser manufactures automation-friendly five-axis machines as well as vertical machining centers, horizontal machining centers (all with hand-scraped ways) and flexible manufacturing systems (FMS). The company opened its U.S. location in Rock Hill, South Carolina, in late 2016 after using an importer for a number of years. One of its booth demonstrations showed technology to maximize the potential of unattended five-axis machining on the company’s UX500APC machine. For example, the machine’s tilting rotary table is not a trunnion design supporting the table on two sides, so it offers more open access for an integrated pallet changing system to swap pallets in 12 seconds. A laser probe on the side of the table helped track wear through automated measurement of the barrel cutters demonstrating how the part would be cut. These tools have a larger radius than ballnose end mills, which reduces the cycle time by reducing the number of step-down passes required down a part feature. Automatic tool measurement and breakage detection is performed using a laser probe mounted on the side of the tilting rotary table.

AIVs for part handling

Campro offered its spin on smart flexible manufacturing systems with a robotic cell incorporating the company’s U255C five-axis (4 + 1) machine and NT208 turning center. An Omron self-navigating autonomous intelligent vehicle (AIV) was topped with conveyor rollers to accept pallets of parts and part blanks. The AIV delivered fresh workpiece blanks to the five-axis machine, moved work in process from that machine to the turning center, and delivered completed parts to a storage rack. AIVs such as the Omron unit feature software and controls that enable intelligently navigating around people and unplanned obstacles. In fact, these types of robotic-loading/AIV demonstrations are becoming more commonplace at manufacturing trade shows such as TIMTOS.

On-machine probing

A demonstration on Palmary ’s VIG-50 vertical cylindrical grinding machine demonstrated the value of in-process probing, in this case to check the inner diameter (ID) of a customer’s landing gear component after grinding. The machine also had a ground master artifact with known ID and made from the same material as the part. This artifact was mounted near the wheel dresser, where it would react in the same way as the part to any temperature or other environmental changes. The demonstration showed how periodically probing the artifact and comparing that measurement to the known ID value enables adjusting the grinding process to account for fluctuating environmental conditions. 

Automated tube bending and measurement

Soco is well known in the United States for its CNC tube sawing, bending and laser machining equipment. In fact, the United States was the company’s first export target. At TIMTOS, the company showed an automated cell to cut, bend and measure tubular frames for automotive headrests. The cell featured an all-electric, eight-axis SB-22x8A CNC tube bender that can perform both left- and right-side bends to produce U-shaped parts. Its Direct Gear Transmission (DGT) system, which features a gearbox with direct connection to the servomotor, offers angular tube bending accuracy ranging from ±0.05 to ±0.1 degree. The critical dimensions for the headrest frames in this demonstration are the diameters of the tube ends where they insert into the seat and distance between the two vertical tube sections at the top inverted “U”. After bending, the cell’s Yazkawa robot delivers each frame to a gaging station for automated measurement.


Posted by: Derek Korn 18. January 2019

Top 3 Questions about the Top Shops Benchmarking Program

Top Shops logo

This year marks the ninth edition of Modern Machine Shop’s annual Top Shops benchmarking program. Here are the top three questions I am asked about the program:

1. What is it?

Top Shops starts with a survey. The survey, which is now live at through the end of February, enables shops of all types and sizes to see how they compare against leading U.S. machining businesses in terms of machining technology, shopfloor practices, business strategies and human resources/workforce development.

The survey prompts for equipment, process and financial information, and includes a few open-ended questions. It does not ask for specific financial figures, such as gross sales or net income. Instead, it asks you to supply financial measures as percentages, including net income per gross sales, annual sales growth rate and capital equipment expenditure per gross sales. Our thought is that this will encourage greater participation from shops that are not inclined (or allowed) to provide financial data. Nonetheless, all survey responses will remain confidential.

2. What is a “Top Shop?”

Once we receive the survey responses and scrub the data to remove outlier responses, we establish a Top Shops benchmarking group. That group represents the top 20 percent of shops based on points assigned to select survey questions in each of the four survey categories (i.e. they are the “Top Shops”). That way, you can compare your key performance indicators with the nation’s most successful shops and see what equipment and strategies they are leveraging to their advantage on the shop floor and in the front office.

3. Why should I participate?

You will benefit in various ways. For example, you will receive a free custom report comparing your responses to quantitative questions to all other survey participants. A data plot for each question provides a general performance summary for your company. The report also includes your shop’s overall survey rank among the surveys received and lists key metrics for which your company is particularly strong, is on par with others, or perhaps should be targeted for improvement.

Top Shops includes an Honors Program, too. The Honors Program highlights successful participating companies in each of the survey’s four aforementioned sections, identified by responses to select questions and follow-up interviews by me. Those shops are profiled in Modern Machine Shop and on MMS Online. In addition, we offer a prize package that includes a large Top Shops banner that can be displayed in your shop, T-shirts, hats, toolbox magnets and so on. We also provide winners with a press release template that can be modified and sent to various press outlets to get the word out about winning the award.


This article was adapted from a piece first appearing on MMS Online.

Posted by: Derek Korn 8. January 2018

Top Shops Survey Now Live, Participate for Custom Report

This blog post originally appeared on MMS Online.

an example of a custom Top Shops Report

We’re on to the eighth edition of our annual Top Shops benchmarking survey. In fact, the online survey is now live and will remain open through the end of February. In short, the survey enables shops of all types and sizes to see how they compare against leading U.S. machining operations in terms of tactics and metrics in categories including machining technology, shopfloor practices, business strategies and human resources/workforce development. 

Last year was the first time we offered custom reports that rank a participant’s responses to the survey’s quantitative questions against other applicable participants. We’re doing that again this year. Learn more about the reports, and visit our Top Shops Zone to access information from past surveys.

Posted by: Derek Korn 7. September 2017

The Top Shops 2017 Benchmarking Survey Results Are Now Available

2017 Top Shops Executive Summary

This blog post is adapted from a post that originally appeared at MMS Online. 

It’s hard to believe we’re on our seventh edition of our Top Shops benchmarking survey. The results of that survey are available in the 2017 Executive Summary, which compares the top-tier benchmarking group’s data to the other shops that participated. Here are two interesting tidbits I gleaned about types of equipment used by a majority of the shops in this year’s benchmarking group:

  • 32 percent use Swiss-type lathes, which is up from 19 percent last survey. Although screw-machine shops were the first to adopt multifunction CNC Swiss-type lathes, an increasing number of “traditional” shops are considering this machining platform to, in some cases, produce complex parts complete, reducing setups, secondary operations and work-in-process.
  • 37 percent have additive manufacturing/3D-printing capability, which is up from 19 percent during the last survey. Virtually all of those shops use this capability for prototyping, but 74 percent of them also use it to 3D-print tooling and fixturing for their own use on the shop floor.

The Executive Summary includes much more about the types of machining and business strategies being applied by leading U.S. machining businesses as well as key performance metrics they’re attaining. Give it a read. It could be that information could help direct your own continuous improvement efforts.

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