Sko-Die E-Newsletter - July 2016

Patrick Steininger

In this edition of the Sko-Die e-newsletter, we'll address the important topic of steel pricing, and the supply side factors driving pricing upwards.

In addition, we will introduce you to a vital member of the Sko-Die team, our Maintenance Manager Ken Evans, and provide you with a look at the vital work he does on a daily basis to keep Sko-Die running at peak efficiency. 

Sko-Die has been committed to supporting careers in manufacturing through a variety of initiatives, including our own internship program. Ricardo Alvarez is Sko-Die’s current summer intern, and in this edition of the newsletter we will provide you with a look at his work and ongoing learning as a member of the Sko-Die team.

Thank you, and enjoy the summer,

Patrick Steininger

Industry News

Steel Pricing – Supply side factors driving pricing upwards.

Looking at the trends in steel pricing for the 1st six months of 2016, it is hard to miss the direction and magnitude of the price increases that the market is seeing. The generally referenced pricing indices that many in the manufacturing sector follow have trended upwards in the arena of 60% since January 1. This observation is specific to the flat rolled sheet steel products that are the primary raw materials for the products that we provide to our valued customers. Looking specifically at the Cold Rolled CRU index, published pricing is now at its highest point since early 2012.

If we harken back to our economics 101 classes, it would be logical to conclude that overall demand must be strong to drive this upward pricing trend. As we all look at the makeup of our customers and the industries that we support, we do not see that the demand side of the equation is showing this same trajectory. While we have seen certain sectors showing healthy demand thus far in 2016, we are also seeing sluggish demand for many markets that we serve, particularly the Oil & Gas and Mining sectors. A broader look at the overall domestic manufacturing sector does not tend to support demand based pressure pushing steel pricing up. So why the upward trend?? In simple terms, if it is not demand, then it must be supply, and there is certainly evidence pointing in this direction.

At the producing mill level, U.S. raw steel production trended downward throughout 2015. In that same time frame we have also seen a lower mill capacity utilization rate than what has been typical over the past 5 years. And while those figures have trended back up in the 1st half of 2016, they remain at overall levels lower than the typical levels seen over the last 5 years. At the same time, the total service center inventory trend is down as well, suggesting a leaner overall steel pipeline. It seems clear that at the domestic steel producer level, there is a commitment to balance supply with demand. And while this can certainly be seen as a sound overall strategy, it must be balanced with a commitment to supporting and promoting a strong and growing domestic manufacturing sector.

Expanding the supply discussion beyond domestic production, we have seen an array of trade cases brought against global steel suppliers that have served to limit the current level of steel import activity into the US by global producers in certain grades of steel. This is certainly a contributing factor to the supply / demand / price balance that we are seeing.

So the net effect that we are seeing is undeniable in rising steel prices over the last 6 months. The cause can be debated, but it certainly stands to reason that the overall steel supply strategies at the producing mill level are contributing to elevated pricing thus far in 2016. Sko-Die remains committed to a strong and growing domestic manufacturing sector. We remain confident that our steel producing partners continue to share that vision and that their ongoing supply strategies will be balanced with maintaining competitive domestic pricing that will serve to strengthen the entire domestic manufacturing sector.

Enjoy your summer and remember, at Sko-Die, we are --

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Ken Evans
Ken Evans

Meet Sko-Die’s Maintenance Manager

When you walk through the Sko-Die manufacturing areas and see the presses in operation, you know that Ken Evans had a big part in that. Ken is Sko-Die’s Maintenance Manager and it is his responsibility to make sure that every piece of equipment is up and operating to our high safety and efficiency standards. This is no small task considering that Sko-Die has 20 punch, 8 notching and 4 Fineblanking presses. Then there is all of the press auxiliary equipment and Value Added Service equipment supporting welding, laser cutting, and CNC machining. The list goes on, but to Ken it is all in a day’s work. He states that it is his job “to make sure everyone else can do their job!”

Ken came to Sko-Die after 33 years in the automotive industry where he learned his skills that make him such a huge asset today. When Patrick Steininger first interviewed Ken he immediately recognized how mechanically inclined he was, and that his talents would fit what was needed in the Maintenance Manager position. The most important traits that Patrick saw were Ken’s positive attitude, enthusiasm and his desire to join a manufacturing team that believed in working together to achieve our company goals.

Ken’s success starts with his administration of the Preventative Maintenance Program for all equipment throughout the plant. The program schedules a thorough check of components and performance of standard maintenance procedures. For a press, that covers changing the oil and filters, cleaning and greasing, ram leveling and an electronics check. This process can take a half day for a single press and auxiliary components, but is invaluable in heading off any problems that could arise in the future. Ken also recognizes that his best source of information about equipment performance is directly from the operators. Everyone knows if they think something doesn’t seem to be operating correctly they can count on Ken to look into it immediately.  Ken enjoys this part of his job as he loves dealing with people. 

Recognizing that Lean Manufacturing is a very large part of Sko-Die’s operational goals, Ken is continually looking to improve equipment performance and maintenance efficiency. His latest achievement addressed the installation of press add-ons. For each press there is a Smart Pak that controls the performance of the press add-ons. These add-ons were hard wired to the Smart Pak and if a change was needed, the new add-on needed to be rewired. Ken switched the wiring to plugs on all the press Smart Paks and add-ons, and now a change out that used to take 20 minutes can now be done in 20 seconds.

With a work schedule that is more than full, Ken also makes the time to attend training that keeps him up-to-date on new equipment and procedures. He has attended Smart Pak classes and through his continual Lean Manufacturing training he sharpens his abilities to recognize areas of equipment and process improvement. When any new piece of equipment is purchased, he will attend the supplier training to make sure the he knows the machine inside and out.  It also allows him to develop the Preventative Maintenance procedures and schedule to keep the new piece running up to our quality operating standards.

Personally, Ken has been married to his wife Jill for 38 years. They have a son Jesse, a daughter Shane and two grandchildren, Avery and Owen. Ken closely follows Motocross, which for 20 years he competitively raced, as his son does currently. He also has to keep in top shape physically, for in 2016 he will race in his 14th full marathon, 26.2 miles.   

Ricardo Alvarez
Ricardo Alvarez

Sko-Die Internship Program

Patrick Steininger, Sko-Die President, believes that internship programs provide a great opportunity for a young person to gain experience in a real world manufacturing environment which will help them with their education and career decisions. For the summer 2016, Sko-Die has hired its latest intern, Ricardo Alvarez.

During Ricardo’s junior year at the University of Illinois – Chicago, he was looking for a summer internship program with a manufacturing company offering a variety of learning opportunities. He is majoring in Mechanical Engineering, and his course studies included Engineering Design (including CAD), Mechanics and Dynamics of Machinery, Strengths of Material, Thermodynamics and Heat Transfer and Electrical Engineering – Circuits. Through a friend, he received a reference to Sko-Die and interviewed with Patrick Steininger. Patrick recognized Ricardo’s knowledge, talent and enthusiasm, and offered the internship position that would provide him with the opportunity to be involved with many projects in various areas of Sko-Die’s manufacturing processes.

Ricardo is working closely with Matt Rychtanek (Engineering and Tooling Manager), Chris Wheeler (Design Engineering) and Bogdan Niculescu (Manufacturing Engineering). He has helped develop a Driver Identification System that allows notching press operators to easily locate the appropriate drive tool to match the job they are working on. His research and analytical skills were integral in the implementation of a process to identify the ideal part/media mass versus deburring time in the Fineblanking area. Also in this area, he worked on part hopper improvements to better material flow. All of these projects contributed to the Lean Manufacturing goals of Sko-Die.

To further enhance Ricardo’s program experience, he spent time in the Engineering office. Here he learned CAD and SolidWorks design programming by working on part dimensional drawings. The drawings he created helped in the areas of new item quoting and laser and wire EDM cutting. He also attended Lean and Production meetings where he learned teamwork and team building, and even presented projects he was working on.

From Sko-Die’s view, it was great to find someone as talented and enthusiastic as Ricardo for its Summer Internship Program. For Ricardo, whose program goal was to have the freedom to work on numerous programs, in his words, “the amount I’m learning is insane!”   

For any questions or inquiries, please contact:

Bob Blecha, Marketing Manager, 800-486-4756 X 106,


Michael McGuire, Director of Sales, 800-486-4756 X120,

For more information visit


Sko-Die Inc.| 8050 Austin Ave. - Morton Grove, IL 60053
Phone: 800-486-4756 | Fax: 847-966-0322

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