Author: Lloyd Graff

The machine tool builders and distributors are hurting, but there is some business out there. In September the U.S. Army Rock Island, Ill. Arsenal made a major buy. They bought 15 Haas machines, two sophisticated super-high precision Hardinge lathes, six citizen Swiss CNC lathes and about a dozen assorted machining centers made by Mazak. The preference for American-built machinery strikes me as quite rational. For CNC Swiss there is no American alternative. The Mazak buy can be justified by the Japanese firm’s manufacturing presence in Florence, Kentucky. Military spending for equipment and ammunition is a significant boost for the well-pounded…

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Chad Arthur stood in his former office at Arthur Machinery Tuesday with his wife as the auction of the bankrupt machine tool distribution firm he had built into a $80 million dynamo droned on. Haas, Doosan and Star lathes and machining centers, which had been his premier lines, were selling to the highest bidder. Bob Arthur, who had started the business with the Miyano line after leaving Behr Machinery in Rockford, Ill., two decades ago, was attending the sale but keeping his distance from his son. The big ARTHUR MACHINERY sign lay upside down in front of the building entrance. A…

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Bob Atherton of RACO Industrial Corporation recently passed away at 82. In the rough world of used machinery dealers Bob always stood out as a gentle but indefatigable player. His company continues under the leadership of Jack Boescher who worked with Bob for many years before buying into the firm. **************** We hear that exhibitors are dropping like fall leaves from the upcoming EMO Milano show in Milan, Italy. EMO has always been a magnificent opportunity to display wares and meet and greet, but this year it is more a conclave of woe. Hard to imagine, but the European market may be more horrible than…

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By Lloyd Graff Two icons of American mechanical ingenuity I encounter every day are my Bridgeport Mill and KitchenAid mixer. It struck me that their fortunes are going in different directions. This last weekend, just a few days after the announcement arrived that Hardinge Corporation, which owns Bridgeport, is cutting back production at its flagship Elmira, New York, plant, the new movie about chef, Julia Child, Julie and Julia, made its debut. Julia Child loved her cobalt blue KitchenAid, and it now resides at the Smithsonian museum in Washington. More than any other personality, her warmth and unflappable style popularized…

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Hydromat of St. Louis is suffering through a soft spell and has let about 35 people go from its peak employment. But a sign of the times is a fresh notice on the company’s Web site looking for new people. They need a design engineer, a draftsman and an electrical control integrator. I also heard through the grapevine that Bruno Schmitter, the head of the company, would like to buy a couple of CNC lathes to make more components in-house. There is a strong rumor that Pfiffner in Switzerland has a severe cash flow problem and that company founder, Mr.…

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Have you ever lost out on a big contract when your price and service were clearly better than the competition, but the buyer had a grudge against your old management? Whether in the business world or a myriad of other venues, fairness and logic are often trumped by emotional bias. Milton Bradley is an outfielder for the Chicago Cubs, who signed a three year $30 million contract during the off-season. He is having an awful season, batting 80 points less than last year. I have watched a lot of Cub games this season and observed Bradley’s batting closely. One of…

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One of the great things about doing this magazine is finding out that people actually read it, and some even like it. I received a call from Paul Ikasalo, the manufacturing manager at F.H. Peterson of Stoughton, Massachusetts. Paul liked my Swarf piece in November when I declared my self-exile from the email world. He called me at 708-535-2200 and on my cell phone (708-380-8530) to say hello and endorse my email boycott. He hates the sterility and pollution of web messaging. We had a hearty conversation for twenty minutes discussing the business approach at his sixty-person job shop near…

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In the last few days, in New York and Chicago there have been killings of young African-American men by the police, inciting the black communities in those cities. Neither victim was a hardcore criminal. It is quite possible both young men were in the wrong place at the wrong time and were confronted by cops who were extremely scared. It is a lousy time to be a young black man in America. I write this from the vantage point of a well-off 61 year-old white guy who happens to live right next door to Black America. I get a pretty…

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A recent conversation has me thinking that the old screw machine world has been turned on its head and the change is falling out of its pockets. I was talking to an old machining client, and he mentioned that in the last quarter he derived more money from his scrap than from the components he had made. This fellow runs a sophisticated machining company—no dumb washers—so he adds a lot of value to his machined components. Still, this quarter his scrap brought in more dollars than his product. This is a testament to global sourcing and manufacturing efficiency, but it…

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