The MIL_blog: News and Stories from Magnetic Inspection Laboratory

Testing is on a Pass/Fail Basis at MIL

From Elk Grove Business Journal, May 2018. To download a PDF of this article, please click here.

Colin Schiewe and a portrait of his grandfather, Robert Schiewe, who started Magnetic Inspection Laboratory.

Colin Schiewe and a portrait of his grandfather, Robert Schiewe, who started Magnetic Inspection Laboratory.

Whenever Colin Schiewe walks down a jet bridge, he points out parts on the plane to his wife, the frame around the cockpit windows, the housing for the jet engines that were processed by Magnetic Inspection Laboratory, Inc. An aerospace special processor, MIL has been in his family for three generations. The company primarily focuses on non-destructive testing of parts, metal finishing and coatings, welding and brazing from its headquarters at 1401 Greenleaf in Elk Grove Village.

“A lot of what we do — help improve the durability, heat tolerance, corrosion and chemical resistance of parts that are part of people’s everyday lives — likely goes unnoticed,” Schiewe said. “We’re usually the last stop before a part goes into application or final assembly.”

Putting together an airplane requires everything to work in harmony, Schiewe said. Parts must perfectly fit together. “A big part of our job is following very rigid schematic specs given to us from our customers, a Boeing or Lockheed. These parts are very critical in terms of where they are going. If certain parts that MIL works on were to fail, it could threaten the health and safety of those on board or whoever is using the equip- ment.” Safety is top priority.

Global, local and national customers range from small machine shops to leaders in aerospace. Recently, MIL be- came a preferred Midwest supplier for SpaceX, Elon Musk’s company. Though heavily involved in commercial and military aviation, MIL also does work for the medical and power generation industries.

MIL has in-house environmental test- ing capabilities, a new department for shot peening — a process that improves surface strength of high stress areas on a part — and is skilled at masking, a method much like taping off a room before painting that allows multiple coatings and finishes to be applied to some sections of a part and not others.

The family-owned business has 310 employees and just acquired 25,000 square-feet of space next door to its headquarters on Greenleaf, bringing the total square footage of its three locations on the same street to 120,000 square-feet. Impressive for a business started by one man, Colin’s grandfather Robert Schiewe, from a garage on the north side of Chicago. His wife, Betty, handled the billing until they had children.

Robert Schiewe started MIL in 1942 by doing magnetic particle inspection, non-destructive testing of parts, for the military during World War II. Primarily focused on parts for tanks, war planes and weapons systems, Robert added processes over the decades that supported one another, allowing the business to become more integrated in the supply chain and ultimately, a one-stop shop. When Robert became sick in the 1970s, he pulled Bob, Jr. out of college for an aggressive succession plan. A year after Bob, Jr. joined MIL, his father passed away. Betty returned as chairwoman and eventually their other son Tim, now CEO, worked in sales.

An aerospace processor, Magnetic Inspection Laboratories, Inc. is a third generation, family-owned business in Elk Grove Village that primarily focuses on non-destructive testing of parts, metal finishing and coatings, welding and brazing.

An aerospace processor, Magnetic Inspection Laboratories, Inc. is a third generation, family-owned business in Elk Grove Village that primarily focuses on non-destructive testing of parts, metal finishing and coatings, welding and brazing.

One employee, Jay Gandhi, was instrumental in mentoring Bob, Jr. Gandhi himself learned on the job. Looking to earn bus fare home to Chicago, he walked into MIL off the street one day and asked Robert if he could work for a few hours. The senior Schiewe hired him and today, more than 46 years later, he is VP of Operations.

“Jay and my dad taught me to have a long-term vision, to be creative and think outside the box,” said Colin, the only third generation Schiewe on board now. From watching his late father, Colin learned to keep a sense of humor and remember how important it is, working in a technical field, to relate to customers on a human level.


MIL Featured in Design2Part Magazine


Human Driven Special Processes Are a Vital Link in the Aerospace Supply Chain

The following is a reprint article from the February 2018 Design-2-Part Magazine. To download a copy of this article as a PDF, click here.

Magnetic Inspection Laboratory (MIL), a company that provides special process services like anodizing and cadmium plating to aerospace prime contractors, has been an approved supplier to Lockheed Martin for more than three decades. The company began in 1942 as a one-man operation that examined parts for the U.S. Government. Today, Magnetic Inspection Laboratory provides five broad categories of services, including chemical processing (CP), coatings (CTG), nondestructive testing (NDT), shot peening, and welding and brazing, at its 120,000-square-foot facility in Elk Grove Village, Illinois, about a 15-minute drive from Chicago O’Hare International Airport.

Mike Noettl, a special process engineer at Magnetic Inspection Laboratory (MIL), said that the company’s special processes are a vital link in the aerospace manufacturing supply chain.

“Whether they’re for helicopters, airplanes, missiles, or spacecraft, the types of processes that we perform here are used in every one of those markets,” Noettl said in a phone interview. “It’s at the absolute tail end of the entire manufacturing process, and it’s really the validation. We’re working on individual pieces; we’re not working on an entire wheel assembly, or an engine. We’re inspecting, testing, finishing, and improving the individual parts before they’re assembled into a higher assembly.”

Noettl said that its people, combined with 76 years of aerospace experience, are by far the company’s greatest strengths. That’s important because the special processes that the company uses require a high degree of skill on the part of human operators. Noettl contrasted the equipment used by Magnetic Inspection Laboratory’s technicians with machinery such as a boring machine or a horizontal milling machine.


An aircraft fuel pump, cast in A356 aluminum, that has been penetrant inspected, chromate conversion coated, masked, and ready for anodize.

“It’s a spray gun in the hands of a technician that can hold tolerances, by hand, that are a hundred (100) times thinner than a human hair,” he said. “And these are targets that we just have to hit. These special processes are really humanly driven, and, obviously, there’s some variation and fluctuation in what we do, but you still have to control them within certain aerospace specification requirements. And so it’s really a unique industry. If it was easy, I’d have competition next door, or down the street, but the fact of the matter is that our nearest competition is in Wichita [a good distance from Chicago]. People from custom machine shops and the aerospace primes walk into our facility, and their jaws hit the oor. They go ‘How do you guys do this stuff?’”

The special processes that MIL provides to its aerospace customers rely heavily on the experience and knowledge—both tacit and explicit—of its engineers and technicians. With this in mind, MIL maintains a strong base of veteran process personnel while focusing on knowledge sharing and management within its organization.

That bench strength enables MIL Inc. to be agile in responding to customers’ needs by quickly adding new processes and capital equipment to its plant. Last year, the company invested about $3 million to upgrade its equipment and infrastructure. Besides adding a pair of 6-axis robotic shot peening systems, MIL brought in an overhead conveyor paint line with proprietary cure capabilities. It also added 25,000 square feet of space to accommodate growth in its nondestructive testing (NDT) and welding and brazing segments.

“Our constant addition of special process capabilities enables MIL Inc. to quickly expand and service multiple product and market sectors,” Noettl wrote in an emailed response.

D2P-ad Examples of the aircraft components and systems that MIL is able to service are engine components, landing gear systems, ancillary support systems (such as oxygen delivery systems, auxiliary power units, and avionics), airframe components, and components for rotary winged aircraft/helicopters. The company can also process parts used in electronic intelligence gathering equipment and missile defense systems, he said.

In one example, Magnetic Inspection Laboratory received a job from a prime contractor that required it to anodize, prime, and paint a high volume of aircraft wheels per day. The company had to design and construct a coatings line specifically for the application of wet prime and paint on aircraft wheels that ranged from the iconic B-52 Stratofortress to business jets, Noettl said.

Over the years, Magnetic Inspection Laboratory had processed small quantities of aircraft wheels, but this job was different. The sheer volume and cycle time were well beyond its current capacity and capability. Cure time for the coatings accounted for nearly 60 percent of total production time, and the specification allowed no wiggle room.

“We had to employ an exhaustive amount of engineering and testing in developing a solution,” Noettl said. “We were tenacious in our efforts and relied heavily on production and manufacturing input to tweak the processes.”
Noettl said that it’s always a challenge to identify materials having the required conformability characteristics, chemical resistance, and high heat tolerance, as well as abrasion resistance and removability, all wrapped up into one solution. But an even bigger engineering challenge was the wide variety of sizes, weights, and masking variation. Noettl said that Magnetic Inspection Laboratory drew heavily on technology resources, breaking the standard tried, true, and tested methods that had served them well in the past.

“We established new benchmarks and methodologies that will serve us well on future projects,” he said.

Because aircraft parts and assemblies typically require several different special processes, many of them log frequent flyer miles traveling between multiple suppliers before being installed on an aircraft. For customers, this adds shipping time and cost, plus the likelihood of finger pointing if anything goes wrong. Magnetic Inspection Laboratory’s ability to perform multiple and diverse processes in a single location relieves customers of these concerns.

Magnetic Inspection Laboratory used several manufacturing processes on the project, including nondestructive testing, masking, anodizing, and shot peening. The company also provided priming and painting, part marking, and custom packaging.

“By adding a couple of key special processes to our arsenal, we significantly decreased the number of supply chain stops,” Noettl said.


News at 1225 – Continuous Improvement

2013 is off to great start with the implementation of a number of continuous process improvements affecting quality, capacity, and cycle times at our coating division facility on 1225 Greenleaf Avenue in Elk Grove Village, Illinois.

  • Installation of vent-less powder coating booth specifically designed for Bell Helicopter bluecoat and prime aerospace applications. MIL Inc. applies a broad spectrum of epoxy, polyurethane, polyester, nylon and various proprietary powder coating materials meeting most industry and aerospace specifications.
  • In addition to our enhanced powder coating capabilities, a February installation is planned for our new 3,900 cubic foot F.O.D. controlled down draft spray booth and 80,000 CFM air management system setting new standards for high purity coating applications.
  • Concurrently, masking capacity and capabilities have been generously increased with the addition of eight (8) custom designed masking work cells. Masking is a production bottleneck with a very human element. These task specific and flexible work cells allow MIL Inc. to reconfigure operations and adapt to rapid changing delivery commitments.
  • masking before and after

    Masked part before and after processing

  • MIL Inc. has integrated various technologies and masking mediums capable of producing CAD generated masking templates with tolerances of +/- 0.002”. This new generation of Aerospace production masking yields highly repeatable, reliable, and time saving opportunities.

Our customers are challenging every facet of our business including delivering the highest quality product in the shortest time possible.


News at 1401 – Chem Mill, Boeing, Metal Finishing

Good things are happening at MIL Inc’s primary facility at 1401 Greenleaf…

Boeing recently approved MIL Inc. for chemical milling of titanium sheet in accordance with PS20022. There are only a handful of Boeing approved suppliers worldwide capable of this unique process. Check out our comprehensive growing list of Boeing approvals at the following link:

Thank you for your patience in December and January as we made significant enhancements and performed preventive maintenance on our passivation, electropolish, and hard anodize process lines. These improvements will yield higher quality, reduced lead times and double our hard anodize capacity.

Chem Mill

Chemical milling of titanium sheet – before and after processing


MIL to Exhibit at 2012 EAA AirVenture Show in Oshkosh

For the first time, Magnetic Inspection Laboratory, Inc., will be exhibiting at the immensely popular and entertaining EAA AirVenture show in Oshkosh, WI. “The World’s Greatest Aviation Celebration” will take place July 23-29, 2012.

EAA AirVenture Photo

The event draws more than 500,000 aviation enthusiasts and 10,000 aircraft from over 60 countries on an annual basis. Since the 1950’s, spectators have marveled at the overwhelmingly expansive collection of all things aviation: Warbirds, vintage, homebuilts, ultralights, etc. fill the skies with aerobatics and pyrotechnics. Meanwhile, a fly-in theater, opening day concert, forums, and workshops take place at ground level.

EAA logo - MIL booth

Visitors can find MIL at booth #3160 in the Rockwell Collins Hangar C.

Planning to see the show? Leave a reply in the comments area…

Source: EAA AirVenture Website