Monthly Archives: October 2021

I Want to Give More

By Noah Graff

Sometimes in the machinery business I fall into the habit of thinking only about transactions and only about how I can make more money. I’m thinking about finding some machines that nobody else knows about that we can buy for a great deal and then sell to someone else for a nice profit. Maybe we’re trying to pull off a brilliant complicated scheme, like buying three machines, then trading two of them for a totally different kind of machine that we hope is worth a lot more. Or, maybe we’re combing the Web for some overlooked treasure in a poorly promoted auction sale. Those are the ways used machinery dealers like myself pay the mortgage. 

What I’ve learned over time though, is that while you’re trying to make a living you have choice. You get to choose whether to only be a taker or to also be a generous giver. When I make a deal, or even just almost make a deal, I want both parties to feel good afterward, so a great relationship can grow. I want to play the long game. I want to do more deals down the road, and perhaps more importantly, find new resources for information and maybe even a new friend. Our business is so much easier and more fun when we get to work with friends.

Noah Graff with Tornos DECO10s

This week, I talked to a friend in Chicago (past podcast guest) who always gives us invaluable knowledge about Tornos machines. We had bought some Tornos DECO10s in Israel a few months ago. When they arrived, we needed help to decipher if they were 7-axis or 9-axis—we had been promised they were 9-axis when we bought them. He got on FaceTime with me while I went into our warehouse to look inside the machines, and he taught me how to identify them. Unfortunately for us, none of them were 9-axis, but as a used machinery dealer you have to expect mistakes like this to happen. We’ll make it work. If my friend buys a machine from us in the future, we’ll make sure to give him a special deal. If he calls us for advice on something, we’ll do our best to help him.

We also bid on some used Citizen machines this week. We had never even heard of the model before because there are so few in the US. I consulted a good customer in Texas who is a Citizen authority, and I spoke to the head of a Citizen distributor who we’ve known for years. Both are great people, and I’ve interviewed them on Swarfcast. In case people reading this want to know the exact model of the Citizen, I can’t tell you yet because for all I know, the seller is reading this blog. But, I learned from my expert contacts that the machines are small, fast, inexpensive, and great for making ammo. They sound wonderful.

I also have a good relationship with robot expert in Michigan, a Haas guy in LA, a Tornos multi-spindle guy in France, an INDEX guy in Germany, and a Hanwha guy in Korea. I enjoy working with all of them, and it makes my day if I can be helpful to them, probably by using advice from someone else in our network.

Every workday, in the morning I write in my diary that I aspire learn something, meet someone, create something, and help someone. I fear that the helping someone goal is often the one that falls short, which is a pity because it is probably the most important to find success and happiness in my life.

Question: When did fellow companies in your field help you in the past? When did you help them?

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For the Love of Refereeing

By Lloyd Graff

I have always been baffled why anyone becomes a referee or an umpire. Is it a passion for power or authority? Is it a love of the game and a desire to be around it when you are not talented enough to play it?

I heard some of the answers while listening to People I (Mostly) Admire, a podcast hosted by University of Chicago economics professor Steven Levitt who co-wrote Freakonomics. In a recent episode, Levitt interviewed Marc Davis, one of the most respected NBA referees. 

Davis, now 53 years old, played college basketball at the Naval Academy and Howard University. He was trying to find his way after leaving College, realizing he wasn’t good enough to play pro ball. He was substitute teaching at a Catholic high school in Chicago and heard about a grade school league needing a substitute ref for a game. The pay sounded fair, $35 for a 45-minute kids game. He loved basketball and figured his playing skills would make reffing an easy gig. He collected his pea whistle and striped shirt and absolutely loved it.

Grammar school games led to high school games and summer leagues, as well as a desire to be a respected ref who is constantly improving. Mastering the rule book, understanding the proper positioning necessary for accurate calls, and making the contacts that made him the official who coaches wanted in their league, gave him the confidence to believe he could be an NBA referee after just three years of blowing the whistle.

Davis had the temerity to pick up the phone in his mid-twenties and fax and call David Stern, head of the NBA, as well as Matt Winick, who managed NBA officials. With such little experience, they didn’t hire him, but his chutzpah and unbridled passion won him an introduction to the head of referee training for the CBA, the NBA’s minor league at the time. Eventually, he worked enough games to become a CBA ref and earn his chance at the NBA.

Today he is one of the NBA’s most respected referees. He is constantly on the road during the eight-month season and he has traveled the world doing clinics.

NBA Referee, Marc Davis

I was particularly interested in his story after the controversy with the recent American League Baseball Championship Series, when Laz Diaz, umpiring at home plate, missed 23 ball and strike calls, according to ESPN’s post-game analysis. He had to call 300 pitches in that long game, but he missed one against J.D. Martinez of Boston that Red Sox fans lamented cost the team the game. Immediately, fans started calling for robot umpires, particularly for balls and strikes.

I could see this coming in baseball. They are already experimenting with robots in the minor leagues. I think it is coming because 100 miles per hour fastballs, sweeping breaking pitches that brush a tiny fraction of an inch of the strike zone, and skilled catchers who “frame” the pitches, a technique of disguising the actual location of the pitches, make perfect umpiring virtually impossible. 

Referees and umpires know that no matter how skilled they are, how flawless their positioning, how impeccable their command of the rule book, they will be criticized. Yet they come back year after year. They deal with the endless travel, and they tolerate the heckling of the fans.

Marc Davis, the NBA ref, absolutely loves it. He is part of the sport he adores. He gets to be with LeBron James and Joel Embiid and the rest of the NBA stars each night and keep order. He kibbutzes with them and calls fouls they cannot believe. 

Davis learned from his father, a Chicago cop who spent his career patrolling the Robert Taylor homes, that when you have final say in a matter, always let the other person have the last word, even after calling a technical foul or a clear traveling violation. 

After listening to Davis, I could begin to understand why he runs three miles each night, keeping order among the giants. He just cannot watch enough basketball games.

Questions: Do you want robot referees in the future?

What’s the worst sports call you ever saw?

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Marketing by Sharing Your Expertise, with Joe Sullivan EP 137

By Noah Graff

Our guest on today’s podcast is Joe Sullivan, founder of Gorilla 76, a successful industrial marketing agency specializing in the manufacturing arena. My goal in this interview is to uncover the secrets behind effective B2B marketing. Today, anyone who owns a smartphone has the tools to tell the world about their company. But how do we use those tools to stand out from the competition and get new customers? 

Most of clients of Gorilla 76 are medium-sized manufacturers such as OEMS, capital equipment manufacturers, and software companies specializing in the manufacturing field. Generally these companies have marketing budgets ranging from $125,000 to $200,000 per year, but Joe says that smaller companies don’t need to hire an expensive marketing firm if they approach marketing in the right way. He breaks down a B2B marketing strategy into three principles.

Scroll down to read more and listen to the podcast. Or listen on your phone with Google Podcasts, Apple Podcasts, Spotify, or your favorite app.

 

Create Focus

No matter what size your company is, you need to narrow your marketing focus to a few specific areas. If your shop makes products for 10 different sectors, you should focus your marketing on one of them or a select few. 

After you decide which customers you are marketing to, you need to identify which individuals at the companies most influence the buying process. Often this group of people consists of engineers or people in a shop operating equipment. After identifying your target audience, you need to research what they are trying to accomplish and what problems they are trying to solve. Frequently, Joe’s company gathers information by interviewing people at targeted companies, often on video.

Joe Sullivan, Owner of Gorilla 76


Create Valuable Content Assets

Once you know what your buyers are trying accomplish, then you are ready to create content that appeals to them, often in the form of blogs, videos, and podcasts. Content creators can consult experts at a company about various topics and then communicate their knowledge via a targeted medium. The main purpose of the content should be to help customers solve problems.

Video or audio content can be very powerful because the expert’s knowledge comes straight from the mouth of the source, which gives it clarity and authenticity. Video demonstrations have the ability show processes, which makes them an effective teaching tool.

Joe says marketers need to remember to show, rather than tell. Don’t tell your audience you’re the best, of which most businesses’ websites are guilty. Instead, tell visitors the things you provide for your niche and demonstrate you’re the expert.

Proactively Distribute Valuable Content to the Right People

After you produce great content, you have to find a way to reach enough of the right people. You have to proactively push your content in strategic ways so your target audience will find you. To do that, you have to first research where your customers often consume information online.

Joe says it’s important to remember that usually less than 5 percent of your customers are in a buy cycle at a specific moment in time. If your prospective customers are not in an active buy cycle and you are constantly shouting at them to buy your product, they will tune you out. Instead, focus on being helpful. Stop worrying about giving away your secret sauce to your competitors or being judged. Just help.

Question: Which blogs, videos or podcasts about the machining industry are your favorites? (Besides this one!)

You can find Joe Sullivan’s marketing firm at gorilla76.com and listen to his podcast, The Manufacturing Executive, on all the podcast platforms. 

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Starting a Machining Company is Hard, with Jon Perin

By Noah Graff

Today’s guest on the podcast is Jon Perin, owner and President of Perin Industries, a young CNC machining company in Webster City, Iowa. Jon, started Perin Industries in 2018, after a 12-year career as a hospital administrator. Like many entrepreneurs, Jon has had to face some daunting challenges. Starting out, he aggressively bought new state of the art CNC equipment to make parts for the medical sector. When he had trouble penetrating that market he successfully pivoted to fire arms work.

Scroll down to read more and listen to the podcast. Or listen on your phone with Google Podcasts, Apple Podcasts, Spotify, or your favorite app.

Main Points

When Jon Perin started Perin Industries in 2018, he planned on making parts for the medical industry. Early on, Perin Industries devoted a lot of resources to obtaining ISO 9001 and AS9100D certifications. Achieving those certifications was costly, so before the company could start the process of obtaining medical work certifications it had to start producing revenue. Also, Jon realized that medical customers prefer to work with companies who have established track records and experience, so he steered the company to work in more general industry. 

Jon grew up around his father’s screw machine shop and learned to run ACME multi-spindles in high school. His shop is right across the street from his father’s shop, which is now primarily managed by Jon’s sister. Jon attended college in Florida and after graduating went to work as a hospital administrator for 12 years. Working in the hospital environment played a part in Jon’s interest in making medical parts. Jon says he appreciates the manufacturing business’s simplicity compared to that of the health care field. He says it is easier to quantify success working in manufacturing because success can be measured by the quality of parts produced.

Perin Industries has eight full-time employees. In addition to managing the company, Jon does CNC programming and setups. He jokes that he is also the janitor. He says his employees are becoming more capable to perform setups, which will free him up to focus on more administrative tasks in the future. 

Jon Perin, Owner and President of Perin Industries

When Jon started his company, intending to do medical work, he purchased state of the art complex CNC equipment, including an INDEX C200 twin spindle/3-turret lathe he bought new for around a million dollars, and a Traub TNX65/42 twin spindle/4-turret lathe that he bought used for around $500,000. He says that after attending Design-2-Part trade shows around the US he concluded that the opportunities for Swiss work and traditional screw machine work were extremely competitive and dominated by established companies. This influenced him to invest in sophisticated turning centers.

After being unsuccessful in penetrating the medical sector, Perin Industries pivoted to the fire arms business, primarily making parts for Glock barrels and slides. Jon says that many companies produce the same parts using Haas machines. However, using his turning centers Jon can single-op the parts, making them in less than a third of the time as his competitors. Getting into medical work is still Jon’s longterm goal. He also aspires to one day buy his dad out, which would open his company up to many new types of customers.

Jon says he preferred to start his own company rather than go into business with his dad, but he says one of the main reasons he has been able to keep his startup company going is having good mentors such as him. Jon’s first year in business he made some costly mistakes, many of which experienced companies are also guilty of. Sometimes he took the wrong types of jobs, he bought equipment too early, and some jobs took him twice as long to set up than he had planned. Through it all, Jon’s father and another mentor have guided him to stay resilient. Jon says he’s grateful his company didn’t make enough bad decisions to fail. He plans to keep learning from the past and push forward.

Question: If you could go back in time and give yourself advice, what would you say?

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I See Opportunity

By Lloyd Graff

If you consume the newspapers and watch and listen to the daily media torrent, you would think Americans are living in bubbling misery. 

The existential threat of climate change, the border crisis, the catastrophic shortage of workers. I’m sure you could add a few more. 

But for me, admittedly privileged by being white, affluent, educated, and a Cubs fan, the United States of America continues to be an amazing place to live that manages to shift and sway whatever comes its way, despite the politicians and charlatans who thrive on the perception of an engulfing tar pit.

What do I see that they do not, or do not want to admit? 

I see opportunity. Almost every day, I receive an email inquiry from someone who has a small business or an idea, a backer, or a partner who believes in her. They want to buy a machine, or convince someone to help them. They often speak with a foreign accent. They have watched somebody else do it, or they may have already failed but still believe in themselves. 

The people I see are not usually well educated in the way that is normally described in the media, but they do know how to make something that other people will buy. They watch Shark Tank on TV, or they have a friend who sells stuff on eBay or Etsy. They know how to use social media and think they can make it work for them. They do not think their planet is going to burn up or the air will poison them, at least for the next 100 years they will live. 

They don’t seem to be phased by the immigration crisis, often because they are immigrants or their parents were. They understand why folks are wading across the Rio Grande River or sending their children alone on buses and trucks and squalid containers through Mexico to cross into America to take their chances. These people pouring across the border have a dream that life will be somehow better because they know people in Miami or LA or Topeka who are putting together a life for themselves. Maybe they use forged papers and a new name, but at least it’s a chance. They know it is better than the squalor in Cuba or Pakistan or Afghanistan or Myanmar. Wouldn’t you do it if you had no future as a woman under the Taliban?

America is a huge country. People still help each other, and the government affords opportunities to get help. Still, America desperately needs workers. Or, have you missed all of the help wanted signs for Amazon offering $17 per hour, plus college tuition and health insurance thrown in?

Why do we have this labor shortage as the COVID epidemic is fading?

Baby Boomers are retiring. Women have dropped out of the workforce because they are doing childcare or parents care. Legal immigration is a trickle because of COVID restrictions on travel and a federal bureaucracy which isn’t functioning. Of the 55,000 FY-2021 Diversity Visas which are supposed to be issued every year to people around the globe (the US annual visa lottery), only 14,000 were processed at the end of September. Perhaps illegal immigrants coming north could help fill the worker shortage.

You would think America is a mess from reading the New York Times or listening to the Fox News nightly fear-mongers. I doubt it is. 

Topeka, Kansas, and the state of West Virginia are offering $10,000 bonuses for people to move there. Does that sound like a country falling apart?

Question: Should the US increase future immigration?

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Running a “First Class” Cold Heading Company, with Joe Bennett

By Noah Graff

Our guest on today’s podcast is Joe Bennett, Vice President of Sales at Seaway Bolt and Specials, a privately held cold heading company in Columbia Station, Ohio, founded in 1957.

In the cold heading process, coiled steel is cut into slugs, which are then hit multiple times, ultimately pounding them into a desired shape. The cold heading process is capable of producing several hundred pieces per minute. Some cold-headed products are net shaped blanks that are shipped to machining companies who then finish the parts.

Scroll down to read more and listen to the podcast. Or listen on your phone with Google Podcasts, Apple Podcasts, Spotify, or your favorite app.

Main Points

Seaway has historically focused on cold heading one product family, taper threaded pipe plugs ranging from 1/16” to 2” diameter. The pipe plugs are used in a wide variety of industries such as automotive, oil and gas, and agriculture, going into products like transmissions, pumps, compressors, and engines. Joe describes a threaded pipe plug as an inside out nut. It looks like a nut, but its threads are on the outside. They are produced by cold heading a blank followed by thread rolling. Seaway produces 100 million pipe plugs a year, exporting 30% of its production. A few years ago, the company decided it needed to make a new part family if it wanted to keep growing. Its team decided the logical course would be to cold head female tubular fittings to match its male pipe plugs.  

To cold head its pipe plugs, Seaway uses machines called nut formers. To make the new tubular parts the company purchased three machines called parts formers, which have the capability to make more highly engineered parts than nut formers. Joe says the new machines stand two stories high, have the footprint of three conference rooms and weigh 400,000 pounds each.

The used machines cost several million dollars to purchase and will take millions more to rebuild. Joe says National produced around 18 of the type of 1.5” cold heading machines Seaway purchased. GM was their original owner, buying them new in the 1970s. 

Prior to working at Seaway, Joe worked in sales for 10 years at a large cold headed parts distributor in the Columbus, Ohio, area. Six years ago, he took a job at Seaway because he preferred to work for a privately held, smaller company with around 70 employees, where he felt he could make a significant impact. 

Joe beams about Seaway’s philosophy of running the company with a “first class” management style. He and the company’s owner, Ray Gurnick, offered to cover a roundtrip plane fare for me to come to the company and interview them in person. I unfortunately had to take a raincheck.

Seaway pays 100 percent of higher eduction costs for its employees. The company has three holiday parties a year and regularly brings in food trucks to celebrate company achievements. It offers profit-sharing and gives regular bonuses. Its shop bathroom has been redone in marble. 

Seaway uses open book management, showing its employees the company’s financials on a quarterly basis. The purpose of open book management is to keep employees invested in the company’s success and guide them how do their jobs in the best way to maximize productivity. Also, including employees in the management process makes them feel valued, which can boost performance and satisfaction.

Every Friday, production at Seaway stops for the last half hour of the day so employees can clean the shop–cold heading shops happen to be notoriously filthy. Afterward, the quality department takes photos around the shop and reports to the various departments how well they cleaned up. Joe says that when visitors come to Seaway they are wowed by the shop’s cleanliness, but more importantly, the cleanliness creates a pleasant working environment for Seaway’s people.

Though Seaway is ambitiously expanding its product lines, the company does not aspire to be like its larger competitors. Joe says the company’s strategy is to do all the little things better than its competition. This will attract the best talent to work there, which in the end will lead to success.

Question: If you could buy any new equipment for your shop, what would you buy?

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Play It Again, Tom

By Lloyd Graff

Tom Brady and I share something more important than being University of Michigan grads. We both want to keep doing what we do for as long as we believe we are good at it. 

I watched Brady Sunday night, playing his former team, the New England Patriots. I was mesmerized by him. I wasn’t betting on either team, but I watched every play as it drizzled on the players’ helmets at Gillette Stadium in Foxboro, Massachusetts.

The game was as even as it could be, with Tampa Bay losing by two points, then taking the lead on a field goal by a point, and winning when the last second New England field goal doinked helplessly on the right upright, on the last play of the game.

At 44 years old, Brady came back to New England for the first time since leaving. He played well, not like he did a decade ago, but he won like he almost always does. 

I thought of Brady Monday afternoon as I pulled out a couple of perfectly preserved Screw Machine World and Today’s Machining World magazines from our archives. I found a Graff-Pinkert Times too, while I was poking around. 

I read a little of the Swarf in each publication. Damn, it was really good stuff, despite being 15 to 20 years old. There was joy in those pages, and knowledge, too. I know I’m bragging, of course. 

Am I a Tom Brady? Of course not. But as I read, I saw a creativity, a uniqueness, and a passion to connect with the readers. 

I don’t have a big audience, but I know people do read my stuff. Some have been reading it for 25 years and still seem to care, even when they think I’m an idiot. 

Tom Brady

Tom Brady

I share that with Brady, too. He doesn’t always win. He throws interceptions and occasionally gets smeared by a 280-pound lineman, but he sucks it up and comes back the next week, ready to throw the 50-yard pass. 

If I’m lucky, two out of three of my columns resonate with readers. I like most of what I write because I love language and I cherish ideas that are often a little unconventional. But I especially love personal stories that have that little something that punctures the shield of boredom or indifference that we have all developed as aging humans. If I can relate a good story, I have won. If I bounce off the shield of indifference–well, I get to come back next week.

Tom Brady, keep bending over center and hitting the receiver who is open for a half second, 12 yards down the field. I love your passion for the game at 44, Brady. It’s a message to me, a word warrior with a similar love for my game. Tom, I’m going to just keep getting up every time I take a hit and come out for the next game.

Keep winning the close ones.

Question: Is Tom Brady the greatest of all time?

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