Monthly Archives: November 2018

Swarfcast Ep. 19 – Rick Rickerson on Educating Engineers to Understand Machining

By Noah and Lloyd Graff

Scroll down to listen to the podcast with Rick Rickerson.

Rick Rickerson is in charge of the machining lab at Purdue’s Northwest Indiana campus in Hammond.  In today’s podcast he talks about why he loves his job. “It’s all about students” he says.  His passion for teaching beams throughout the interview.

Rick has been doing this job for 14 years.  His department has a half-dozen South Bend lathes (now made in Utah), but the students gravitate to the Haas VF-2 vertical machining centers.

The part of his duties that really gets the students’ juices going is the Purdue Northwest racing team.  Every year students all over the country build a Baja-type racing buggy with the same Briggs and Stratton engine.  They build it from scratch and are responsible for every nut, bolt and weld.  Thousands of hours go into the preparation for two races in the spring presided over by SME judges.  The preparation is strenuous, and the races are exhausting for the students and Rick, but he loves it.  The judges grill the student builders and racers about the vehicles.  Once they get on a track the buggies invariably break down, and the kids have to rebuild them on the spot.  It’s a fantastic learning experience.

Question: Is building a Baja-type racing buggy from scratch a good way to learn machining?

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Buying and Selling Machining Businesses

By Lloyd Graff

I’m writing this blog to announce a slight shift in my business career, which has been evolving this year.

Several longtime clients of Graff-Pinkert have asked me to help them find machining businesses to acquire and other owners have requested I find them a buyer for their businesses because they felt that I had the right network and skill set to do it. My initial inclination was that I’m purely a machinery dealer, not a business broker. But then I thought, why not try this. Perhaps I can add value for some people who I really care about. If I hit a dead end I’ll know soon enough. Currently I have four deal deals in process and have completed two.

Lloyd Graff, Owner of Graff-Pinkert and Today’s Machining World.

I have not approached this task like a traditional business broker who would contact private equity groups because my clients have preferred that I not publicize their decision to the world, thus jeopardizing their long-term relationships with customers and employees. Such a broad gage approach can also be toxic as far as tipping off the seller’s competitors who are good at sniffing out situations and taking advantage of them. Despite nondisclosure arrangements that supposedly insure anonymity in the market, a business broker soliciting offers is going to inadvertently leak a potential seller or elicit rumors.

I have been able to keep a lid on leaks and rumors by connecting with prospects directly, because I have stuck primarily within my extensive network of relationships within the precision machining industry rather than try to cover the gamut of businesses in the marketplace. I also have focused on companies doing $20-million-in-sales or less, because I do not feel comfortable right now with bigger transactions.

One trend which has surprised me is how many foreign firms are highly motivated now to enter the American market in this field and are looking for businesses in our sweet spot. Our extensive network of users, suppliers and other dealers worldwide has served us well in this search. To Europeans, South Americans and Asians America truly looks like the land of opportunity, and in many cases their existing customers are asking them to do business here.

I don’t want to take on a lot of projects, because they are quite time consuming and I want to be able to give them the attention they deserve. I would like to work on 6 or 8 a year that I think I can shepherd to conclusion.

I may not be long on mergers and acquisitions experience but I know the people in the machining business. It appears that my ability to “talk the talk” and really listen to people explain their needs resonates today in this field.

This is a fascinating new gig for me, and I have Noah and Rex Magagnotti adding their knowledge and networking to help make it work.

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Swarfcast Ep. 18 – Jerry Levine on Why Global Warming is Not a Problem

By Noah and Lloyd Graff

Scroll down to listen to the podcast with Jerry Levine.

In today’s podcast we interviewed Jerry Levine. A chemical engineer, Jerry Levine’s working career stretched from polyester to politics. He led the team at Amoco Chemicals that conquered the production problems in making polyester in the 1960s.

Jerry then learned what it was like to live under Communism when he helped set up a polyester plant in East Germany well before the Berlin Wall came down.

He later returned to Amoco’s corporate office in Chicago, finding his niche as a lobbyist for the company and “Big Oil.”

Jerry holds the view that Global Warming fears have been fueled by faulty and sometimes deliberately contrived data to protect scientific jobs and reputations, and to build political careers. He feels that ardent advocates of Global Warming theories often have “no growth” philosophies which mask hidden Socialist agendas.

Question: Do you believe global warming is mostly caused by human activity?

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Why I Didn’t Vote

By Lloyd Graff

It’s November 6, and I’m sitting at Starbucks writing this piece, across from the polling place I chose not to vote at in 2018.

For over 50 years I have voted at every opportunity. I’ve voted for Republicans, Democrats, Independents and Idiots. But this year I’m not going to be an idiot and participate in an exercise that does nothing positive for me or my community and wastes almost two hours of my precious day.

In my America of 2018 the political system has evolved into a fat duopoly (a dual monopoly) of parties that vie for the spoils from the willing masses who lemmingly abet them.

Maybe I would feel differently if I had just one actual race where I felt my vote would matter, but in my Chicago south suburb of Olympia Fields this year the political institutions, Democrats, Republications and a cynical press have totally turned me off. For Illinois Governor I have two centimillionaires who have been throwing dirt at each other for six months. Bruce Rauner, the Republican, has been an impotent failure trying to move an utterly recalcitrant legislature. J.B. Pritzker, the Democrat who inherited a real estate fortune, seemingly has done very little in his life except “live large”—in his case 300 pounds worth. For my choice for Congress I have none. Robin Kelly, a pleasant lady and Democrat who I wouldn’t recognize if she was standing in front of me at Starbucks, is unopposed. She is a professional unknown, perfect for my locale which elected Jesse Jackson Jr. for a decade before she inherited the job.

I have come to see our National and Illinois political scene as a well-orchestrated charade game played by the insiders of both political parties. It appears they do hate one another, and they fight hard for the right to collect the spoils of power.

Photo courtesy of fee.org

The lobbyists will pay greater tribute to the winners than the losers, but the sad fact is that neither party really cares about the poor and sick and dispossessed because they are regarded as just tools to be used to amass power and win the GAME.

Donald Trump is an interesting intruder into the political duopoly, but he has embraced the Republican Party and they have embraced him to stay in the game. Trump has done a lot of good things for the country in two years, but his narcissism and ego make him prone to major miscalculation in the world arena. If I could vote for Trump on today’s Illinois ballot I would vote, but on today’s ballot there is nothing for me to vote for. So here I am at Starbucks, bitter that America has a political system that rewards greed and voter laziness.

I will watch the returns come in tonight hoping for a stalemate in the Congress. Trump needs restraint, and a Democratic House will provide that. A Republican Senate will restrain the lefty loonies in Congress and hopefully keep the economy on track.

But until we break the grip of the haters in both parties and attract some people who actually care about doing good, not just keeping power and accumulating spoils, I think I’ll just boycott elections and drink my coffee.

Question: Does the state of American politics make you sick?

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Swarfcast Ep. 17 – Making it in America with Armand Barnils

By Noah and Lloyd Graff

Scroll down to listen to the podcast with Armand Barnils.

In today’s podcast we interviewed Armand Barnils, plant manager of the U.S. division of Ventura Precision Components, a multinational precision machining company headquartered in Barcelona, Spain.

Armand grew up on the outskirts of Barcelona and studied Industrial Engineering in Spain. Through a foreign exchange program he came to the United States and earned a Masters Degree in Industrial Technology and Operations at the Illinois Institute of Technology.

At age 23 he moved to Pasadena, Texas, just outside of Houston, to work at Ventura Precision Components. Two years later his boss left, and at just 25 years old he became the shop’s plant manager.

In the interview Armand recounted his life’s journey from Barcelona to Chicago to Pasadena, Texas, and opined on the career opportunities he believes are unique to the United States.

Question: Do you believe in the American Dream?

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