The process of melting metal, pouring it into a mold, and casting it into a specific shape (metal casting) is centuries old. In fact, scientists and archeologists have found relics all over the world. The oldest relic dates back to anywhere from 300 BC to 645 BC (2300 – 2600 years old), depending upon whom you ask. A large majority of relics are found in Mesopotamia. It’s in this area that clay castings and hot fire pits were used to shape copper, gold, and silver. The first alloy (bronze) was made here, when copper was combined with tin.  

Over the years, metal casting has changed due to a wide variety of reasons. The two largest factors include increased mining abilities and less nomadic lifestyles.  

Historical Moments for Foundries 

19th Century: During this time, developments include the open-hearth furnace, sandblasting for casting cleaning, and gear-tilted ladles. This greatly improved the safety of foundry workers. 

It was this during time that foundries really helped the US economy become industrialized, as well, with metal casters and foundries at the forefront for railroad tracks and iron-clad warships, as well as the first Naval submarine in 1881! 

Timeline of Historical Moments for Foundries

20th Century: This century brought the invention of the first coreless electric induction furnace in addition to new molding and casting processes, new metal composites and compounds including low carbon stainless steel.  

Additionally, metal casting was key to US manufacturing. It was introduced to a wide variety of industries including air conditioning, modern defense-related products, and even space exploration. Foundries sprang up everywhere in North America during the 20th century.  

Fun fact: the first American Foundry Society (AFS) meeting was held in 1896, but the first student chapter didn’t come until 1907, and was started in Minnesota. This was the same year that a patent was issued for high-pressure die casting machinery. 

Foundries Now  

Today, metal castings are a $33 billion dollar industry in the United States. There are nearly 1,900 foundries in the US with close to 200,000 employees. It’s the source of many things we use on a daily basis. Some say castings are found in 90% of durable manufactured goods, and yet they often take the background for popularity. However, castings hold a major role in so many things including clean water technologies, farm equipment, energy systems and components, and so much more. Foundries aren’t like they used to be, either. If you step into a foundry now, you’ll see many new adaptations and technology to make them not only safer but also efficient. These technologies include CAD design, casting analyses, 3D printing, and robots. It’s very expansive and very important.  

If you’re interested in hearing more, you can check out our article on how steel is made in addition to this great factory tour of the St. Paul Factory here in Minnesota. You’ll not only see molten metal, but you’ll see some of the up-to-date technology used to make castings. After that, take a moment to look around you. You’ll find castings everywhere!

General PPE Made Easy

The National Institute for Occupational Safety & Health (NIOSH) recommends Personal Protective Equipment (PPE) as the last line of defense to prevent workplace injuries, illnesses, and fatalities. This means that other controls, like elimination or substitution, may do more to ensure the safety of the overall organization. But nothing does more than PPE to protect the individual worker in the event of a hazard.

We’ve created this PPE checklist to help you cover all your safety equipment bases at work.

The Basics

There are many kinds of equipment intended for specific kinds of protection. A hazard assessment can help identify which specific PPE is most needed at a particular site or facility. They all generally fall under one of four basic types:

  • Face and Eye Protection
  • Respiratory Protection
  • Skin and Body Protection
  • Hearing Protection

All these types of PPE have their own sub-categories that can vary greatly. Let’s examine each in a little more detail.

Face and Eye Protection

safety glasses ppe checklist

PPE intended to guard your face and eyes from damage due to sprays, splashes, projectiles, or burns. Some types of PPE in this category include:

  • Goggles
  • Safety Glasses
  • Face shields
  • Welding Visors

*Pro-Tip: Always check that glasses and lenses conform to ANSI Z87.1 standard and are free of cracks or other deformities.

Respiratory Protection

respiratory ppe mask

PPE intended to protect your lungs and internal organs during any task that can cause inhalation of harmful materials. Some types of PPE in this category include:

  • Full-face respirators
  • Self-contained breathing apparatus
  • Gas masks
  • Partial face coverings like N95 respirators or surgical masks

*Pro-Tip: Always ensure that equipment is fit-tested prior to use and change filters frequently.

Skin and Body Protection

safety clothes ppe

PPE intended to prevent physical damage to different parts of your body. This category is broken down into areas of protection that include:

  • Head Protection – Helmets and hard hats
  • Body Protection – Safety vests and/or suits
  • Hands Protection – Gloves and guards
  • Foot Protection – Knee pads, boots, and gaiters
  • Fall Protection – Safety harnesses and lanyards

*Pro-Tip: Always repair or replace equipment that has suffered damage or contamination.

Hearing Protection

hearing ppe

PPE providing protection during tasks that can cause hearing problems or loss. Some types of PPE in this category include:

  • Earmuffs
  • Ear plugs
  • Ear caps

*Pro-Tip: Never use equipment that is unclean, in disrepair, or fits poorly.

Hopefully this list helps you break down the basics of PPE so you can confidently address the needs of your own job or facility. Ideally, this improved understanding will make it easier to use your hazard assessment to make improvements to all aspects of your safety culture. A simple checklist could really help you too.

If you’d like more info on Personal Protection Equipment, check out the PPE section of our previous Every Technician’s Toolbox blog article. If your safety knowledge already includes everything mentioned above, and you know how to use it, you’re probably ready for a career in the manufacturing industry. Send your resume to and we’ll get you started!

FlexTrades’ Monthly Manufacturing Calendar Highlight

FlexTrade supports the American manufacturing industry, directly and indirectly, in any way we can. That’s part of why we take advocacy for manufacturing, the skilled trades, and technical education so seriously. It’s also why we think you should too! But we know that life is busier, and noisier, than ever these days. We want to make it easy for you to advocate and grow by sharing something coming up on the calendar each month. With that in mind, we’d like to remind you that CTE Month® starts February 1, 2022!

What is CTE Month?

Career and Technical Education (CTE) directly prepares students (youth AND adult) for high-wage, high-demand careers. CTE Month is a campaign that occurs every February to raise awareness regarding the importance of career and technical education. This effort also celebrates the value of CTE, as well as the achievements and accomplishments of CTE programs across the USA. You may recall a Superbowl commercial for Oklahoma Career Tech that does just that!

How can you celebrate CTE Month?

There are many ways you can participate throughout the month of February.

  • If you’re an instructor or product of a good CTE program, consider hosting a school visit and inviting community members to learn about it firsthand.
  • Do you work for a business that benefits from the skilled trades? You don’t have to wait for a one pager like this from a local shop teacher. Instead, coordinate a local job fair or work with programs to help highlight alumni who you’ve successfully hired.
  • Are you a beneficiary of CTE yourself? Then tell your story. For too long, other people have been telling it for you and the Skills Gap is real because people are getting your story wrong. Engage your local policymakers and industry leaders personally and speak your truth!
  • If that all still sounds like too much work, there’s an option for you too! Whether you’re involved directly through a business or educational institution, or not, you can advocate for CTE without saying a word. Just download the CTE Month Zoom Background (works with your virtual meeting platform of choice) and make sure you turn on your camera the next time you log on!

What’s next?

We hope this motivates you to get involved with advocating for manufacturing. If it does, we also hope it helps you find out just how easy that can be. Why? Because October, and MFG Day, will be here before you know it!

Got other events you think we should know about? Send them to our Writing Team and we’ll be happy to highlight them in the months to come!

Day one seems like a distant memory,
A leaf swept away by the icy breeze,
—yet familiar.

A year ago, I was a leaf
Shaking in the cold air, pleading for the sun to rise;
Sweeping me up in its warm embrace.

Oh, the sweet wind carried me here.
Where pastel pink tulips dance under the breeze—
Blue jays warm the sun.

A year later I stay,
Within the comfort of my new home surrounded by light.
Each ray filled with adventure.

New leaves sprouting nearby,
Each whispering their own lovely tales
as I dance along the breeze
Eager to start again.

Inspired by the author’s first year working at PMG.

Jazmin Crittenden

Jazmin Crittenden

Technical Solutions Administrator

Manufacturing really is the culmination of science, technology, engineering, and mathematics (STEM). So, let’s go back to the classroom and talking science. More specifically, the science of static electricity.

What is an atom?

model of an atom

To understand static electricity, we need to understand atoms. Atoms are in everything around you; all physical items (except energy) are made of atoms. Particles make up atoms, the three largest particles being protons, electrons, and neutrons. Atoms also have a central core called a nucleus. We won’t go into all the details but if you’re interested, you can find out more information about atoms here.

Protons have a positive charge; electrons have a negative charge; and as you could have guessed, neutrons have a neutral charge. This means that if all things are made of atoms, then all things have charges. Normally, these charges (the electrons and protons) which are on the surface of an object, balance each other out. This is why most objects are electrically neutral. However, an imbalance in the charges occurs when two surfaces rub against each other, causing friction. This friction energizes electrons causing them to leave the surface of one object and move to the surface of another. This causes in imbalance of negative of positive charges on the objects’ surfaces. This imbalance in charges is Static Electricity.

It’s important to note that not all materials, objects, or surfaces have similar electrons. For instance, water and metal are conductors. Conductors have loosely bound electrons, and these tend to transfer more easily. On the other hand, plastic, rubber, and glass are insulators. The electrons of insulators are more tightly bound, meaning they don’t jump to other surfaces easily.

The Balloon & Your Head Trick

Let’s look at an example to understand this a little bit more. We’ll use a well-known ploy used to produce static electricity – a balloon rubbed on your head.

A balloon is made of rubber and rubber is an insulator. Therefore, the balloon has tightly bound electrons. However, human hair is not an insulator; it’s a conductor. This means the electrons from hair easily move. Rubbing a balloon on your head excites the electrons in your hair and they transfer from your hair to the surface of the rubber balloon. However, once the electrons land on the surface of the balloon, they do not move across the surface. This creates an imbalance in charges on the balloon’s surface. The balloon now has more electrons than before and becomes negatively charged (remember electrons have a negative charge). On the other hand, the hair has fewer electrons than before and is therefore more positively charged than before. This imbalance between positive and negative on the two surfaces (balloon and head) creates static electricity.

Static Electricity in Manufacturing

static electricity in manufacturing

While the balloon example is a fun example of static electricity, it’s not always fun. Static electricity can also be dangerous. In fact, manufacturing facilities of all types are concerned with static electricity. Manufacturers work with a variety of materials – some conductors, and some insulators. Due to this, and the relative ease of electron transfer between surfaces, electrostatic discharge (ESD – the “shock” you feel when static electricity occurs between your fingertip and another surface) is of utmost consideration. ESD can ignite flammable mixtures, damage electronic components, attract contaminants to cleanroom environments, and cause products to stick together. To combat this, manufacturers take additional steps to ensure the safety of their workers and the quality of their product. This includes ESD clothing, antistatic wrist straps and ground bracelets, ESD mats, and even zero charge cleaners and hand lotions.

Interested in learning more? You can find more How It’s Made articles on PMG’s website.

What’s the craziest thing you’ve ever done? How about the most charitable? Here at PMG, we like to combine the two answers every year when we Polar Plunge! Don’t know what that is or what it supports? Well then, let me tell you a little bit about it.

The Polar Plunge is a series of events, in many states across the country, where otherwise right-thinking people jump into freezing water in support of Special Olympics. Since all 14,000+ lakes here in Minnesota (bet you thought we only had 10k, huh?) freeze over each winter, we plunge. What do we mean by plunge? We cut a hole in the ice and jump in – pretty straightforward. It’s every bit as cold as it sounds but also so much fun!

About the Special Olympics

The Special Olympics began in the backyard of a Kennedy when Eunice Kennedy Shriver started her annual, “Camp Shriver” on the grounds of her Maryland home in 1962. This camp was aimed at providing summer engagement and physical activity for those with intellectual impairment who were, at that time, still barred from participating in more mainstream programs. It would become an annual event that grew each year. Eventually, Camp Shriver morphed into the International Special Olympics Summer Games. The first event under that name occurred in Chicago on July 20, 1968. Over a thousand athletes from the USA and Canada participated. Today, the inclusive movement that began that day touches more than 5 million children and adults, spread across over 170 countries.

My Polar Plunge Inspiration

Joey and Josh FlexTrades

It’s an easy mission to support and my personal connection with Special Olympics began with a birth, but it wasn’t mine. My cousin Joey was born with Down’s Syndrome in 1960. This was a time in our history when special needs children were still regularly separated from their families and institutionalized. “Mainstreaming” was not a concept in American society yet but trailblazers like Joey’s parents and Eunice Kennedy Shriver were beginning the ground swell of change that would eventually lead to reforms and progress like the Special Olympics and the Americans with Disabilities Act. By the time I came along in the early 1980s, Joey was already a young adult with more than a decade of Special Olympics experience under his belt. He would go on to accumulate another decade more, eventually competing in over two dozen Minnesota state games and a handful of national competitions.

The skills, confidence, and joy Joey gained from this career were a source of pride for the rest of his life and he applied lessons he learned from competition to his “regular” life daily. Multiple generations of our family gladly provided financial support to Special Olympics and shared in Joey’s experiences.

When I was looking for a more hands-on way to get involved with my support of the mission, I found it right around the time I started my career with PMG in early 2017. This was when I participated in my first Polar Plunge with friends.

PMG Supports Special Olympics

Everything about the experience was positive, exhilarating, inspiring, and uplifting. I couldn’t stop talking about it when I returned to work the following Monday – or for months to come! By the time 2018 was knocking on our door, several of my coworkers had agreed to participate with me and our first PMG Team was ready to take the plunge! Since then, we’ve raised over $14,000 to support Special Olympics programs across our home state. To put that amount in perspective, every $500 raised can provide the funding to start a new Special Olympics of Minnesota (SOMN) delegation. This organization can make a little go a long way!

Support a 2022 Polar Plunge

Today, as we prepare for our 5th Annual Polar Plunge, we’d like to share the fun with you too! You don’t need to be in Minnesota, or even willing to jump into a lake, to participate with us. Thanks to the internet and COVID, there are now a lot of ways you can partake or support us.

Our event takes place on February 19, 2022, in Prior Lake, Minnesota. You can participate with us by doing any of the following:

  • Plunge virtually (or throwing a rubber chicken into the lake rather than yourself). I’m also offering to personally create a corresponding “Freeze Your Beard” video for every virtual plunger we get registered with our PMG Team!
  • Donate to support our team. If you’re not interested in getting cold and wet. Register or donate to our team with this link.
  • Come out and support the team in person on the ice. Spectators are welcome and encouraged!
  • Cheer on our team on social media – some of us will need the extra boost to take the plunge!

More Information

Don’t forget, you can find a plunge event anywhere in the world and create your own team too! As much as we’d love your support, we want you to support Special Olympics even more. If you have questions about the plunge, Special Olympics, donating/participating, or PMG’s involvement please send them to our Writing Team to get answers! And never forget the creed all Special Olympic Athletes live and compete by, “Let me win. But if I cannot win, let me be brave in the attempt.”


New Traditions at PMG

The Backstory

Years ago, my sister started a tradition for my nieces and nephews, as well as my kids, where she sent a box of goodies and a list of activities for each child to do every day in December. Besides being super fun and allowing me to relax my own creative mind during an already chaotic time of the year, the greatest part of this gift was that each kid got to do this one activity every day of the month, knowing that all the cousins were doing it together, no matter how far apart our families were physically.

Today, my sister has her own seven kids to care for, but she graciously gave me permission to keep the traditions alive in my own family, and we continue to do fun activities throughout the month of December, inspired by the traditions that my sister helped us create.

The December Daily Fun Calendar

When I decided I wanted to do something fun for PMG employees around the holidays, I quickly turned to my own family traditions and created what became the December Daily Fun Calendar. Each day, employees were assigned a different activity, and if they performed that activity, a specific amount of money would be donated, evenly split between three local charities.

December calendar 2

For the month of December, our employees

  • cut paper snowflakes
  • wore ugly sweaters
  • decorated their home office
  • dropped a few bucks into a red kettle
  • drank hot chocolate
  • decorated holiday goodies
  • donated used items or food to local charities
  • left a special note of gratitude in their mailbox for their mail delivery person

The feedback from our employees who participated in the December Daily Fun Calendar was inspiring and the pictures were even more fun. This simple calendar created new traditions amongst families, gave those who were grieving something positive to focus on each day of the month – even for just a few minutes –  and it brought families and friends together to share in the spirit of the season.

Along with all of that, everyone’s participation raised $798 for local charities. While we initially intended to split the $798 three ways, PMG leadership quickly approved a donation of $798 to each of the three charities, allowing us to:

  • Provide diapers to families struggling to purchase this essential item for their young families through the Diaper Bank of Minnesota.
  • Offer companionship between a local pet rescue and assisted living communities, providing aging adults and animals comfort and socialization through Secondhand Hope.
  • Help bake bright futures by teaching life, leadership, and employment skills to teens of color through on-the-job and classroom experience in a nonprofit bakery called the Cookie Cart.

While 2021 was another crazy year (courtesy of a worldwide pandemic) we sought out reasons to share joy and love in 2021 and PMG looks forward to continuing that tradition into the New Year.

Beth Bangtson

Beth Bangtson

Director of HR

Posted in CSR