Monthly Archives: September 2018

Swarfcast Ep. 12 – Logan McGhan on Reinventing a Career in the Machining World

By Noah and Lloyd Graff

Scroll down to listen to the podcast with Logan McGhan.

In today’s podcast we interviewed Logan McGhan, a used machine tool dealer at the firm KD Capital.

Logan’s journey to selling used equipment spanned numerous stages. At around age 7, his father, who also worked in machining, brought home a complex part from a trade show that had been made on a CNC, and Logan knew that the machining industry was his calling. At 17 he built an entire rifle (aside from the scope) using manual equipment.

In his 20s he and his brother started a machining business making after-market accessories for UTVs and ATVs. After the economic disaster hit in 2008 Logan got out of running his own shop and excelled as a CNC programer in the aerospace and medical fields. During this time Logan sometimes bought and sold used machine tools on the side to get a little supplemental income, but he hadn’t considered it as a primary career.

Then a few years ago, Logan was in a car accident and suffered a concussion leaving his brain in a condition that made CNC programming difficult to do as a full-time job (though he still enjoys doing it). Today he has once again reinvented himself and become a machine tool dealer. At Graff-Pinkert, we have had fun working with Logan on several deals in the last year. He’s an excellent treasure hunter, which I believe has a lot to do with the variety of experiences that have led him to this point in time.

Question: If you had the opportunity to have any career, what would you do?

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Unforgettable?

By Lloyd Graff

I’ve really been trying to stay away from political stuff in this blog, but the Kavanaugh sex allegations are just so juicy I feel compelled to comment.

I was aghast when I first heard that Senator Dianne Feinstein was pulling a “Hail Mary” with the Christine Blasey Ford letter, but the more I read about it and her, the more I felt she really does believe that Brett Kavanaugh, as a 17-year-old prep school basketball player and self-proclaimed virgin, assaulted her, groped her and left her indelibly scarred. Did he really do it while “stumbling drunk”? I doubt we will ever know. But if I were Kavanaugh testifying to the Senate Judiciary Committee, as well as to his wife and children, and Christine Blasey Ford, I would say, “I do not remember ever doing what you accuse me of, but if I did do it when I was drunk at a party as a teenager, I am horrified and appalled, and I ask forgiveness for being such a stupid awful lout.

I think about myself. I am a person who does not drink alcohol but certainly does not have a perfect memory of events 35 minutes ago, much less 35 years ago, and that is without being impaired by drinking. Could a selective fallible memory cleanse an unpleasant event 35 years ago at a noisy party? Absolutely.

Georgetown Prep School Football Team. (Kavanaugh on far left)

So Brett Kavanaugh, you’ve spent three decades trying so hard to be the guy worthy of the Supreme Court, why not step forward and set an example for the country, but even more so for your wife and daughters, by apologizing for something you can’t remember doing but Christine believes you did do. Be a Mensch (Yiddish for “man in the best sense”) Kavanaugh. It may get you your seat, or it may cost you, but you won’t be left with scars like those of Clarence Thomas after Anita Hill testified in his confirmation hearing in 1991.

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I have very positive memories of this year’s International Machine Tool Show.

I felt grateful just to attend IMTS. Ten years, exactly, since leaving St. Francis Hospital after almost dying of a heart attack and undergoing quadruple bypass surgery, I walked McCormick’s halls for hours with a purpose.

At 73, with the experienced eyes of a writer and used machinery dealer, my goals were different than those of a person trying to decide between buying an Okuma or Mazak. Spindle rpm and software were of little interest to me. I was interested in the people, the captains and lieutenants of manufacturing who managed the exhibits, and the foot soldiers like myself who schlepped around the endless corridors.

I talked to Bruno Schmitter of Hydromat about his son who is finally working full time with the company. I connected with Mindy Mikami of Okuma, who sets up the company’s spectacular exhibit every two years and then hauls it back to Charlotte, North Carolina. The Okuma folks were all worrying about how hard Hurricane Florence would affect their homes and travel plans.

I talked to Mette McCall, who has worked so hard to put Universal Robots on the map. She told me about how Odense, Denmark, has become the robot capital of the world. She’s Danish but now lives in Mobile, Alabama. Before robots Odense was known primarily as the home of Hans Christian Andersen.

I was very happy to catch up with Michi Tajariol, whose family owns TAJMAC-ZPS, which builds its machines in Zlin, Czech Republic. Michi lived with our family and worked at Graff-Pinkert when he was 23 years old for three months. He has a close relationship with my son Noah, and he and I also have much more than a business relationship. I caught up with Michi at the ZPS booth the day before he was leaving to return to Europe. We embraced, talked about some business, but mostly talked about the important family stuff that we could access without preliminaries. Life and death, marriage and divorce, cancer, birthdays of kids, the stuff that counts. This is business too, because relationships give you access.

Finally, perhaps the most important of all my meetings at the show was spending good time with my brother Jim after a long cold period.

These are the things I’ll remember from IMTS 2018.

Question 1: What are your favorite and least favorite memories of high school?

Question 2: What left an impression on you at IMTS 2018?

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Swarfcast Ep. 11 – Mike Fair of Rethink Robotics on Friendly Cobots

By Noah Graff

Scroll down to listen to the podcast with Mike Fair.

At the 2018 International Machine Tool Show I recorded a podcast with Mike Fair, Product Manager of Rethink Robotics, a robotics company specializing in collaborative robots for use on the factory floor.

What sets Rethink Robots apart from several of the other collaborative robot companies I saw at IMTS is that their robot models have people’s names and they feature a display tablet placed in a position to resemble a head. The robot featured at the Rethink Robotics booth was called Sawyer. Rethink’s philosophy is to give collaborative robots, also known as cobots, a personality in order to make them more approachable to the people who work side by side with them. Fair said that industrial robots have always had the connotation of being dangerous. Making the robots more lifelike is the company’s attempt to create a more harmonious relationship between the robot and its coworker.

In the interview Fair described Sawyer’s roles on the shop floor, performing the tasks shop workers deem mundane, dirty, unpleasant and dangerous. He said that Sawyer is well suited for CNC machine tending, aiding in loading and unloading parts particularly during jobs with long cycle times. He said Sawyer is also useful for packaging and pick and place processes such as part inspection.

Question: Do robots scare you?

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Swarfcast Ep. 10 – John Griner, Twists and Turns of a Hydromat Shop

By Noah and Lloyd Graff

Scroll down to listen to the podcast with John Griner.

In today’s Podcast we interviewed John Griner, founder of Griner Engineering in Bloomington, Indiana.

John has been cranking out turned parts for the last 40 years, and since the ‘90s his bread and butter has been the legacy Hydromat business.

He’s a renaissance man. He studies philosophy, flies planes and has played the guitar for 50 years. He has had 34 different startup businesses as diverse as centerless bar stock grinding, cold forming, video production, and an exotic animal business called “wild things.” But in the end, the one that always stuck was the multi-spindle/Hydromat business.

John Griner in New Orleans

We talked to John about how his machining business has evolved over the years. He started running single spindle screw machines, graduated to cam multi-spindles, then added Hydromats and finally introduced modern CNC turning equipment into the mix.

John talked with us about how he copes when deals go bad, how he finds good employees and why he prefers not to drug test in his shop.

Question: Is a strict drug testing policy a necessity for a successful machine shop?

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Swarfcast Ep. 9 – Russell Ethridge Small Business Lawyer

By Lloyd Graff

Scroll down to listen to the podcast with Russell Ethridge.

Today Brett Kavanaugh is being interrogated in hearings of the Senate Judiciary Committee as he attempts to thread the political needle to become a U.S. Supreme Court Justice.

In today’s podcast I interviewed Russell Ethridge, a solo practitioner lawyer in Detroit, who also listens to cases as a judge two days a month for the humongous sum of $15,000 a year. He believes the legal system must work for the guy accused of drunk driving for the second time and the secretary in the local real estate firm accused of embezzling $65,000.

Russ has been Graff-Pinkert’s lawyer for 25 years. I got to know him when he was spending a stint in Jamestown, New York, representing a French multi-national called Valeo. He sold Graff-Pinkert 13 Wickman multi-spindle screw machines for more money than I wanted to pay. Good negotiator.

Russell Ethridge

Ethridge has a knack for quickly assessing the nub of the issue in a potential legal hassle and pointing to a way out with the least aggravation possible. Many lawyers like to milk a case for the billable hours. Russ thinks the opposite way, always looking for the smartest, most efficient resolution of the problem.

Russ’s Dad was the Editor of the Detroit Free Press in its heyday in the late 1960s and ’70s. In Russ’s younger days he worked as a reporter for a tiny paper in West Virginia close to where his grandfather practiced law for 60 years.

Russ’s grandfather had a one man retail legal practice, which to some degree was a model for Russ. In the podcast Russ discusses the impact his grandfather’s funeral had on him when he observed the huge cross section of people who talked about how his grandfather had helped them over the years. Russell Ethridge—lawyer, judge, one man band—continues his legacy.

Question 1: Is our legal system rigged against the little guy?

Question 2: Would you prefer to pay a lawyer by the hour or by the job?

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