Category Archives: Podcast

Ep. 117 – Mental Recovery with Dr. Ari Graff

By Noah Graff

On today’s podcast we are continuing our season about mental health.

Our guest is Dr. Ari Graff, a psychologist at the Shirley Ryan AbilityLab, a nationally ranked rehabilitation research hospital based in Chicago. Patients come to Shirley Ryan to recover from severe illnesses and injuries. Dr. Graff’s job is to help patients mentally heal from the emotional trauma that comes along with being damaged physically.

The opinions in this podcast episode are solely those of Dr. Graff. They are not on behalf of the Shirley Ryan AbilityLab.

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

 

 

 

Main Points

Noah introduces Dr. Ari Graff, who happens to be his older brother. Ari has been a practicing psychologist for the last 14 years. He has a private practice doing therapy mainly with adults, and he also has been working at the Shirley Ryan AbilityLab for 11 years. The Shirley Ryan AbilityLab is a rehabilitation center for people who have suffered severe illnesses and injuries such as strokes, brain injuries, spinal cord injuries, and amputees. (2:30)

Ari is the psychologist of Shirley Ryan AbilityLab’s outpatient clinic. Patients there are in the process of intense rehabilitation, often doing physical therapy, occupational therapy, and speech therapy. (4:00)

Ari says he sees around half of the roughly 150 patients who attend the clinic throughout the week, usually seeing patients only once for an hour. Sometimes patients request to a see a psychologist, but often they are referred to him by their rehab team or a physician. He says often he is the first mental health specialist patients have ever worked with. Generally they are not expecting to speak with a psychologist because they have been focusing all of their energy on their physical recovery. (5:20) 

Ari says it surprised him at first how much impact just one hour-long session can have for patients. He says they get a chance to feel understood about what they are going through. They learn about what to expect from rehab. They also hopefully gain a better understanding of their own mental state. (6:40)

Ari says a common issue rehab patients have is that they don’t feel like they are in control. Becoming disabled is difficult for people to adjust to. One thing Ari tries to help them cope with is the uncertainty whether they will recover from their current disability.(9:00) 

Ari says he tries to make people focus on the things they have control over rather than what they can’t control. He encourages people focus on their diet, sleep, and ability to manage stress. He encourages people to try to understand their condition and limitations. He also suggests to patients to communicate with their doctors and health providers to understand the recovery process and to advocate for themselves. (10:00)

Ari says it’s important for him to educate patients about what to expect during the rehabilitation process. He says after a stroke or injury to the brain, the brain needs time to recover. Research says this recovery usually happens in six months to a year, so it’s important for patients not to feel frustrated when they are not back to normal quickly. He says it’s important to give people hope as well as realistic expectations. (12:00)

Ari talks about the mental recovery for people who have been injured on the job. He says those people might have anxiety about going back to work. It’s important for them to process their feelings about how they were injured and process feelings of blame for coworkers, as well as blame for themselves. (14:00)

Ari talks about people he works with who are recovering from severe cases of COVID-19. Some people suffer the effects of being on ventilator for a month or two. Some people are weak or immobile after being in bed for a long time. Others suffer brain injuries if not enough oxygen gets to their brain. People also suffer psychological trauma from the illness, particularly if they were not able to see their loved ones while in the hospital. (15:00)

Noah asks Ari if he has advice for people whose coworkers are exhibiting mental health problems. Ari says some companies have employee assistance programs that provide some limited mental health support. He says it’s probably tricky for a coworker or boss to help another worker seek mental health support. (18:00)

Dr. Ari Graff, Psychologist at Shirley Ryan AbilityLab

Ari compares talk therapy with prescribing medication to help people with their mental health. He believes both methods of therapy can be helpful if administered the right way. He says people should not assume that prescription medication is being abused. He says that sometimes for patients he sees at the rehab center, opioids can be very helpful for them during a physical therapy session when their pain would otherwise be so excruciating it could hinder doing their rehab exercises. (19:00)

Ari talks about helping his patients manage their pain. He says that pain is not just a physical experience. It’s a cognitive experience, an emotional experience, and even a spiritual experience. He says research has shown that negative thoughts and emotions have the power to increase pain while positive ones can alleviate it. He uses therapy methods such as mindfulness and meditation, which can help people observe their thought processes about pain and then start to make shifts from a negative to a more positive and realistic thought process. (22:00)

Noah asks Ari if everyone could benefit from therapy. Ari says he thinks most people could get something out of therapy, but there are a lot of different types of therapy available, so people need to find their right fit. He says it is important for people to attend to their mental health the same way they attend to their physical health. (24:00)

Ari says to him the word “happiness” means contentment, fulfillment, and purpose. He says that most people desire a sense of meaning in their lives, not just joy. (26:00)

Ari says people in recovery need to know that they can find value in themselves, even if they have limitations. He says our culture emphasizes measuring people by how much they can produce and achieve, but people need to know that we all have intrinsic value. (26:30)

Ari explains mindfulness, which is an important method he uses in his therapy. He explains it as non-judgmental attention to our present experience. It’s a way to be, without trying to fix or do something in the moment. He says it is important for people to be aware that they can still find value in life—take some downtime for pleasure, interact with family members, etc., while still working toward their big goals. (27:00)

Ari concludes by saying that people should not see their medical problems only as a setback. He says the people who cope the best with their problems are those who look at their situation as an opportunity to learn or grow from. Instead of only seeing their injury in a negative light, its helpful for people to try to find the positives they can get out of it. (28:45)

Question: When has therapy helped you or your loved one?

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Best of Swarfcast – John Habe IV on Valuing a Machining Business, Parts I & II

By Noah Graff

Today’s podcast is a “Best of Swarfcast” from Summer of 2019, a two-part interview we did with John Habe IV, President of Metal Seal Precision, a machining company based in Mentor, Ohio.

Over the last several years, John has grown Metal Seal Precision both organically and through major acquisitions. According to John, growing through acquisitions can be financially rewarding but does not come easily. John discussed the difficulty in buying companies, which often have emotionally attached owners. He also talked about how he calculates the buy price of a company. He looks at cashflow, often called EBITDA in the acquisitions business, as well as criteria such as product sector, customer diversity, and management style of the current ownership.

Listen to Part 2 on your favorite podcast players, or follow the links below to listen to both parts! listen with Google Podcasts, Apple Podcasts or your favorite app.


 

 

CLICK HERE to listen to PART 1: Ep. 41 – John Habe IV on Growing a Machining Business through Acquisitions

CLICK HERE to listen to PART 2: Ep. 42 – John Habe IV on Valuing a Machining Business

Question: Is this a good time to go into the machining business? If so, what sector?

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Ep. 116 – Mental Health in the Machining Business with Jackie, owner of PXR Machining

By Noah Graff

Today’s podcast is the first episode of a new season about mental health. Our guest on the show is Jackie, owner of PXR Machining. Jackie spent the majority of her life trying to mask a significant part of herself from others and deny her own feelings about who she always knew she was. Through therapy she finally gained the courage to transition from a man to woman in her late 40s.

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

 

Main Points

Jackie talks about her CNC machining company, PXR. She started her first plastics machining company back in 1992. Over the years she has designed and machined a variety products in the plastics sector from tabletops, to signs, to gun smithing tools, one of her most steady products these days. Her shop features CNC routers and CNC mills such as the Fanuc Robodrill (pictured). (3:00) 

Jackie talks about a brutal motorcycle accident she had 15 years ago at age 35. She spent three years in a wheelchair, yet continued to run her business. Then a friend of hers was going to get married, and she decided she was not going to go to the wedding in a wheelchair. Her right leg was mostly paralyzed, so she needed an orthotic foot device in that shoe to keep her foot from flopping around. She fabricated one for herself in her shop in one day. (6:00)

Jackie talks about first realizing she was a female trapped in a male’s body at four years old. Her grandmother asked her what she wanted to be and she said she wanted to look pretty like mom. Jackie’s parents then had a serious talk with her to clarify that she was not a girl. (9:30)

Jackie said she first thought about undergoing a sex change when she was 17, while working at Radio Shack alongside a trans woman, but she was too scared to do it. Instead, she got married the next year, with the hope that if she built a family and a successful business she could bury her feelings of being a woman stuck in a man’s body. Sometimes that worked, but she says after the motorcycle accident the walls came down around her and it was very visible to her that she had “hid herself from reality.” (11:00)

Jackie, Owner of PXR Machining

But somehow Jackie then managed to bury her painful feelings once again. She had just gotten remarried a year before and was planning to have another child. She also wanted to get her shop going strong. Jackie says she wishes during those three years in a wheelchair she had gotten a therapist, but she had been turned off by the stigma of getting one and instead tried to “DIY” her mental health. She says she finds it interesting how most people will take care of their physical health when they get hurt, like getting a cast after breaking a leg, but when they get a mental injury they to try “walk it off.” (13:31)

Jackie talks about constantly trying to overcompensate for her knowledge that she was a woman on the inside. She owned a restored Dodge Charger that was a replica of the General Lee from Dukes of Hazard. She owned 10 motorcycles and the biggest pickup truck you could buy. But later on, after she came out as transgender, friends told her they had sensed her secret for a long time—she could never actually have hid what was going on inside. (15:30)

In her latter 40s Jackie hit a wall. She says she had lost all the fire in her belly that tells a person to do things. Her shop was suffering, her home life was suffering, her mental health was suffering and she knew she needed help. She joined an online forum for trans-support and the members told her to get a therapist. (16:30)

Jackie says getting a therapist was the most important pivot point for making improvements in her life—it finally got her to start the transition process. (17:30)

Jackie talks about her current relationships with family members. She works alongside her father in her shop. She does not talk to her sister often. Her 30-year-old daughter is starting her own machine shop right now, and they share a bond with that. She has a teenage daughter who lives with her mother (Jackie’s ex-wife) who understandably has had difficulty with the transition. (18:30)

Jackie says the first step in a transition process is to get a therapist. Her therapist eventually told her to go to a medical doctor to start hormone replacement. She decided in therapy she was interested in getting a lot of surgical procedures to make her look more feminine. She says everyone has different preferences of what they want to get augmented or reconstructed. Jackie has had her breasts enlarged, facial reconstruction, vocal reconstruction, and “downstairs surgery.” I asked her if it was traumatic to look at herself after her organs were swapped out. She says she was finally able to look at herself in the mirror and say, “that’s actually me.” (21:30)

Jackie says the transition took her about three years and that hers was a relatively quick process. She says some people can do it faster, but other transitions can take over 15 years. She says she continually saw her therapist during the process, which she likens to going through puberty rapidly. She says getting rid of facial hair is one of the most difficult parts of the transition process. It can take years of electrolysis. Another change she has had to get used to is having less lean muscle mass because she has less testosterone. Now she can’t lift things around her shop like she used to. (23:30)

Jackie says despite transitioning to become a woman, she still is attracted to women rather than men. (29:30)

Jackie says she feels people have core personalities that are just us, but we all also have masks. She says she pulled her mask over herself so people would see only what she wanted them to see. But now that she has let the mask go she finally gets to see who she really is, along with everyone else. (30:15)

Jackie says her advice for people who need to alter their life or deal with things that require a lot of thought is to see a therapist—they should ignore the negative stigma and stop trying to DIY their mental health.

Question: What was one of the most difficult changes you had to make in your life?

 

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Ep. 115 – Treasure Hunting, Swarf, and Sliders with Noah Graff

By Noah Graff

Back in February I had the pleasure of being interviewed on the MTD Podcast, an excellent podcast about machining in the UK. Hosts Joe Reynolds and Giovanni Albanese grilled me about a lot of our favorite topics featured on Swarfcast, like treasure hunting, reshoring, Trump, and Swiss CNCs, which my British counterparts often call “sliders.” 

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

 

Main Points

I explain the origin of “Pinkert” in “Graff-Pinkert,” our used machine tool company’s name. It comes from Aaron Pinkert, my grandfather Leonard Graff’s cousin and business partner. (2:10)

I explain to my hosts how I got into the machine tool business and journalism. Back in 2005, my dad, Lloyd, lured me to work at Today’s Machining World with the idea of making streaming videos to accompany the magazine’s print content. It was a good idea, but it was one or two years before Internet broadband was good enough for it to be practical. Meanwhile, I honed my writing and editing skills working on the print magazine. In 2011, when Today’s Machining World became an all online publication I joined Graff-Pinkert, becoming a machine tool dealer (AKA treasure hunter). We continued to develope todaysmachiningworld.com and created Swarfcast in 2018. (3:00)

I elaborate more on my chosen occupation title of “Treasure Hunter.” I explain that my job as a used machinery dealer consists of combing the earth for valuable assets. “Treasure hunting” seems more romantic than “buying and selling dirty, oily, old machine tools that people don’t want anymore.” Giving myself the title reframes the essence of the occupation, making it more fun and interesting. “Treasure hunting” also relates to the serendipity factor of my job. Often I go into a shop to look for one thing but find something entirely different that is more valuable than what I came for originally. (7:20)

We talk about the CNC Swiss market in the United States. I tell my hosts that if you can find a good used sliding headstock machine from the last 15 years you’ve found treasure. It’s the number one item Graff-Pinkert’s customers are asking for these days. (10:50)

Noah Graff, Host of Swarfcast

I explain that none of the experts we have interviewed on Swarfcast have given us an actual example of reshoring in the United States—only anecdotes of people quoting work and theories saying that the stars are aligned for work to come back to the US. I mention a podcast in which we interviewed Yossi Sheffi, a supply chain professor at MIT, who told me it is impossible for a lot of manufacturing work to leave China because companies there already have a vast ecosystem of intertwined suppliers and vendors. (12:00)

Joe Reynolds asks me how I think Joe Biden’s presidency will effect US manufacturing. He asks if I think he will be an advocate for manufacturing like Trump. I admit to my hosts that though I loath Trump, when he was elected, Graff-Pinkert’s business got an immediate boost. I explain that it’s pretty typical for American business owners to feel happy and confident when a Republican is elected President. I explain that Trump made manufacturers’ lives easier with his tax bill and relaxed environmental regulations. Many manufacturing company owners felt confident in his policies and energized because they felt they had a president on their side. (15:30)

We talk about why a lot of Graff-Pinkert’s customers, many in the Swiss machining business, had their best years ever in 2020. This was partly do to opportunities in the medical field relating to COVID-19. Though we also know of many thriving Swiss shops, making products unrelated to COVID-19 such as dental implants or components for eye surgery. (20:00)

We talk about social media’s significance in the manufacturing business. I tell my hosts about one of Graff-Pinkert’s clients who says they have gotten business from posting instagram blooper videos of parts they had to scrap. (24:20) 

I brag to Joe Reynolds that Today’s Machining World has been referring to its editorial content as “Swarf” since its inception in 2000, which was prior to the creation of MTD CNC’s YouTube channel “Swarf and Chips.” (30:20) 

Question: What events led to your current career?

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Best of Swarfcast – Ep. 25 – Brett May on Keeping Screw Machines Relevant

By Noah Graff and Rex Magagnotti

We interviewed Brett May of BME Inc. Screw Machine Attachments for today’s podcast. Brett’s mission in business is to make old cam multi-spindle screw machines like National Acmes, Wickmans, and New Britains into productive money makers in today’s competitive machining environment.

Scroll down to listen to the podcast with Brett May.

Brett builds unique attachments which eliminate secondary operations that many people would put on a mill-turn CNC to finish, or run on an accurate but achingly slow Swiss-type machine. When he does his magic he turns supposed clunkers into enormously valuable machine tools.

Brett sees an old Acme and visualizes value, where others see a candidate for the scrap heap. As part of the BME value proposition, he also rebuilds multi-spindle machines, particularly National Acmes.

Question: Have you given up on non-CNC equipment? Why?

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Ep. 114 – Live Tooling and Accessories for CNC Swiss with Jim Gosselin

By Noah Graff

Our guest on the podcast today is Jim Gosselin, owner and President of Genevieve Swiss Industries. Genevieve Swiss sells innovative accessories specifically for Swiss CNC lathes, such as live tooling and cutting tools, to combat the problems small parts manufacturers constantly deal with.

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

 

Main Points

Jim gives an overview of Genevieve Swiss. He says the company’s mission is to make the job of the machinists easier. If machinists have the right tools to get better efficiency and quicker setups then machining companies will be more profitable. (2:30)

Jim says he was always interested in mechanical stuff from a young age. He liked to take apart his toys as a kid to try to understand how things worked. He dropped out of high school in his Junior year and went into the military where he became a combat engineer. He summarized that job as “building things and blowing things up.” (3:00) 

After getting out of the military, Jim got a GED and took college courses at night. He worked at a machining company called Savage Arms in Westfield, Massachusetts, that made shotguns and other hunting equipment. In 1983 he became a programer and ran the new Citizen CNC machines that the company purchased. The machines had 2 turrets with 5 stations each, with cross drilling and milling capability. He says those machines were not actually sliding headstock. Rather, they were sliding guide bushing machines. The turret and the guide bushing slid together on the machines. (4:00)

In 1987 Jim became an applications engineer and salesperson at Brookdale Associates, a Citizen distributor in New England. In the late 1980s Brookdale Associates began building high pressure coolant systems for Swiss machines. He says before then, high pressure pumps were not used for Swiss turning. The company also sold a line of accessories, including tool holders for Swiss machines. In 2002, he and his colleagues traveled to Switzerland where they began a relationship with PCM, a company that sold high quality live tools. Jim thought that Brookdale would distribute PCM’s tooling, but it was a difficult year for the machining industry, so his boss didn’t want the risk of taking on a new product line. He told Jim if he wanted to start his own company he supported the idea and would be his best customer. That was the start of Genevieve Swiss. (5:45)

Jim says that when he started Genevieve Swiss he realized at the time that many Swiss operators were getting older and they were burning out because the Swiss machining process caused too many headaches. He decided his company’s mission would be to make Swiss machinists’ lives easier by supplying them with products that enable faster setups and better cycle times. (8:00)

Jim talks about developing gear-driven head live tools for Swiss machines with PCM. He says that prior to gear-driven live tools, typically live tools on CNC Swiss machines turned at 4000-5000 RPM for cross drilling or cross milling. He says this wasn’t efficient for end-mills that could be as small as a diameter of .020” or .030”. The slower turning speeds caused burrs and slower cycle times. The new gear-driven heads produced 3 times the output as the older technology. (9:25)

Jim talks about the products Genevieve Swiss sells. The company sells accessories specifically for Swiss machines such as live tools and cutting tools. It sells arbors for slitting as well as coolant that is specifically designed for high pressure delivery. He talks about a thread whirling head for a Citizen L20 that is designed to have coolant flow right through the head and then delivered to the cutters. (see video above) (10:30)

Jim says that chip control problems are one of the most significant hurdles for Swiss operators. He says often in medical work that uses difficult metals like 465 stainless, chips can come off the machine like ribbons. Genevieve Swiss is working with its insert tooling supplier UTILIS to sell laser ground chip breakers. (see demonstration video below) (12:40)

Jim talks about insert tooling developed by UTILIS in which coolant flows through the tool and is focused on the tool tip. (17:00)

Jim says most of the Genevieve Swiss’ innovations come from listening to customers on the shop floor. He says the company talks to customers and distributors to find out what machining problems operators are complaining about. (20:00)

Jim compares the construction of older Swiss CNC machines to those of today. He says that Swiss machines used to have heavier castings to achieve rigidity. While today’s Swiss machines are built with lighter castings, Jim says they are designed more intelligently based on factors such as stress analysis, which enables them to stay ridged. (21:30)

Jim says the incorporation of lasers is one of the most interesting recent innovations on Swiss machines. Lasers can do cutting, milling, cross drilling, and knurling. They also enable welding two parts together while still on the machine. He says though 3D printing is slow right now, it could be a disruptor in small parts manufacturing one day. He brings up a scenario of a Swiss machine that also incorporates 3D printing. (22:30)

Learn more about Genevieve Swiss at Genswiss.com.

Question: What are the biggest challenges you run into running CNC Swiss machines?

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Ep. 113 – A MultiSwiss Screw Machine to Maximize Production, with John Belmonte

By Noah Graff

On today’s podcast we continue our series about Swiss machining. Our guest is John Belmonte, owner and President of Mitotec, a precision turning company in Necedah, Wisconsin.

Recently Mitotec purchased a Tornos MultiSwiss 8X26 multi-spindle screw machine. The unique design of the MultiSwiss enables such quick changeovers the machine is running many of the same jobs the company has on its single spindle Swiss machines, but in a fraction of the cycle time.

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

 

Main Points

John gives an overview of Mitotec Precision. The company is located in Necedah, Wisconsin. It features Tsugami Swiss machines, Miyano CNC lathes, cam multi-spindle Tornos SAS16s, Tornos DECOs, and recently purchased a Tornos MultiSwiss 8X26, a 26mm 8-spindle CNC multi-spindle. (3:00)

John tells the story of Mitotec Precision. The company was started by John’s grandfather in 1963 in Necedah, Wisconsin, and originally was called Necedah Screw Machine Products. John says the company changed the name in 2018 because it was using newer technology than just cam screw machines. It wanted customers to understand that it had become a CNC Swiss shop. Also, the company changed the name to help recruit young talent—people interested in working with sophisticated technology, rather than only cam screw machines. (4:10)

John Belamonte with the Tornos MultiSwiss 8×26

Mike says while growing up he worked at his family’s shop in the summers but didn’t always think he would go into the business later in life. He was interested in studying to be a lawyer but eventually realized that he didn’t have the grades to go in that direction, so he returned to Necedah to work in the business. Over the years he has had lots of jobs at the company. He started on the shop floor, which at the time mainly featured Brown & Sharpe screw machines. His learned estimating from his grandfather, and then he gravitated toward screw machine engineering. (5:50)

John says the first CNC machines the company bought were CNC Brown & Sharpes. Then it bought Miyano CNC lathes, and then Swiss machines starting with Tornos DECOs. (7:20)

John says the company produces a lot of parts for the medical industry, as well as electrical components and firearm components. He tells Noah about a medical part made on Miyanos that goes into a system to inoculate people in Africa without using a needle. (8:50)

John says the company tries to “make parts that matter.” He says it’s good for his team to feel they are making parts that make life better for people. He says if employees know how important the company’s parts are they will make sure they are high quality. (9:45) 

John says that making medical parts is a good place to be in manufacturing. He says Mitotec Precision is constantly trying to use its expertise in machining to improve the parts for its customers. (11:00)

John explains how the Tornos MultiSwiss works. The machine has eight spindles that move in and out like a Swiss machine, however they don’t have guide bushings. The company decided it needed more capacity, but rather than buy a lot more Swiss machines, it decided to buy a CNC multi-spindle to cut cycle times. Even though there were only around 20 8X26 MultiSwiss machines in the United States, Mitotec chose that machine over an INDEX CNC multi-spindle because the MultiSwiss has a design that makes it quick and easy to change over. Unlike many companies that buy CNC multi-spindles for long runs, Mitotec wanted a machine to do a lot of short runs. The company’s goal is to be able to change over jobs on the MultiSwiss in the same amount of time it would take on a conventional Swiss machine. He says the company can make many parts on the MultiSwiss 3-5 times faster than on a traditional CNC Swiss lathe. For example, he says he can take a complex part that takes 90 seconds on one of his Tsugamis and produce it in 10-15 seconds on the MultiSwiss. This means he needs fewer machine operators because one machine could be running the same work as several machines. (13:00)

John talks about how the company has changed its organization in the last several years, implementing a management system called EOS. The company sets strategic 10-year goals, 3-year goals, and annual goals. In the new organization he has a senior leadership team that meets weekly, consisting of himself as the integrator, an engineering manager, an ops manager, sales manager, and HR. He says the new organization has had great results. (20:00)

John says another change the company has made in recent years is that it is not afraid to let go of certain customers if they they are not profitable or good to work with. (23:30)

John says when he hears the word “happiness” he thinks of being with family. He also says for him it means getting to do something every day that makes him want to get up in the morning. He says he likes being a good leader, getting to solve complex problems that matter, and having a great team around him. (24:20)

John says to create a good company culture, first a person has to define his core values. He says some of Mitotec’s core values are creativity, drive, adaptability, reliability, and thoroughness. (25:30)

John says it is usually necessary for Mitotec to train its own employees because it is hard to find good people already experienced in machining. He says people in his area of central Wisconsin generally have a good work ethic. Mitotec tries to get the interest of young people in the area by going into middle schools and high schools to expose them to oportunites to work in manufacturing that uses modern technology. He says there are some young people in the area who leave to see what life is like in big cities, but often they come back because they like life in smaller Wisconsin towns and feel it is a good place to raise a family. (26:15)

Noah asks John what he learned last week. John says he learned that the company had such a great year in 2020 it was now going to distribute a significant profit-sharing contribution to its employees. (29:30)

Question: What technology has made your shop more efficient?

 

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Best of Swarfcast Ep. 31 – Ken Mandile, Employees Are Buying His Business

By Noah and Lloyd Graff

We’re currently working on fresh new episodes of Swarfcast. In the meantime, we felt this “Best of” was fitting for the recent season on CNC Swiss machining. 

In March of 2019, we interviewed Ken Mandile, founder of Swissturn, a successful CNC Swiss machine shop in Oxford, Massachusetts. Ken’s children are not interested in taking over Swissturn when he eventually retires, so five years ago Ken began restructuring his company into an employee stock ownership plan or ESOP, in which he will gradually transfer ownership and management to his employees.

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

 

Main Points

Before going the ESOP route Ken turned down two lucrative buyout offers from private equity firms. Ken reported that after the first year of restructuring as an ESOP, the value of the company increased by 51%.

Question: Would you want to work at an employee-owned business?

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Ep. 112 Developing a World-Class CNC Turning Company with Mike Reader

By Noah Graff

Today’s podcast is the fourth episode of our season interviewing people involved in CNC Swiss machining.

Our guest is Mike Reader, owner and president of Precision Plus, a CNC turning company in Elkhorn, Wisconsin. Mike came into the machining business at 31 years old following a career in the fast paced finance industry. When he first arrived, the company was using old school Tornos cam Swiss machines and running a lot of commodity-type parts. Over the years Mike has built a world-class machining company, diversifying the company’s product lines with the help of newer technology. All the while, his original cam Swiss machines still keep spitting out parts.

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

 

Main Points

Mike gives an overview of Precision Plus. The company has 30 CNC Swiss machines, 40 older Tornos Cam Swiss machines, and some Miyano CNC lathes (single, double and triple turret). Mike says he has diversified the company’s clientele over the years. Precision Plus focuses on medical/dental, aerospace, and a variety of products in the industrial sectors. He says he has purposefully stayed away from doing automotive work because in his past experiences those clients were not looking for “a win for both sides.” (3:15)

Mike talks about being interested mechanical stuff when he was growing up in Delavan, Wisconsin. He says he was always the kid in the garage trying to make the go-cart go faster—the adrenaline guy. In high school he did well in technical classes as well as the standard curriculum. (4:45)

With encouragement from his guidance counselors he went to University of Wisconsin, Madison, where he majored in Economics with an emphasis in finance. After graduating he went to Chicago to get into the commodity futures world, starting out as a runner at the Mercantile Exchange and Chicago Board of Trade. Eventually he moved up to working in clearing operations and then got a job at Bank of America running their clearing operations. He says that world was intense and competitive—a lot of “work hard play hard” 80-hour weeks. (6:00)

Mike talks about using the Predictive Index Personality Assessment to organize his workforce at Precision Plus. He gives the assessment to employees in order find the correct spot to put people in to be successful. He also talks about the importance of pushing his people on the shop floor to keep stretching themselves. He likes to make his people strive to figure out how to do things better, faster, and smarter. He says if he ever gets to a point when he is no longer doing that, it will mean the business is in decline. (8:00)

Mike says when he first started managing he wanted to hire people who reminded him of himself. He says we all think instinctively that others should think the same way we do, but he learned from the Predictive Index tool that people don’t all think the same and they don’t all hear the same. His says the first time he looked for employees his instinct was to look for the pedigree of the “best and the brightest,” but that was difficult because college graduates often don’t want to start their careers working in Elkhorn, Wisconsin. They want to go off and see the world like he did. Later, Mike changed his criteria for new employees. He started looking for smart, driven people who wanted to get to work right out of high school, in addition to graduates of technical colleges and 4-year universities. (9:50)

Mike says Precision Plus often likes employees who are trained in-house, so they learn to to things the way company prefers. It also helps create a good company culture. (11:15)

Mike tells the story of moving his family to London to work for Bank of America and then coming back home to Wisconsin only 10 months later when his mother was diagnosed with cancer. His father had bought Precision Plus only seven years before but had to go care for Mike’s mom. All of a sudden at 31 years old Mike was thrust into running a machine shop, which at the time was still pretty rough around the edges. It was a dark oily screw machine house in 1995—no CNC lathes, only Tornos mechanical Swiss machines and secondary equipment. (12:15)

Mike says when he first got started at Precision Plus he looked at the customer portfolio and could see that the company had a lot of opportunities to grow. At the time the company was doing a lot of brass connector pins on Tornos cam Swiss machines. (15:40)

Mike says that he really enjoyed working in the commodity futures arena in the first chapter of his life. He says the last 25 years in manufacturing have been meaningful for him. He talks about how in the early 2000s a lot of companies sold out American manufacturing to make greater margins by making parts overseas. At that point he realized that the had to move up market. He saw that the company needed to get into more highly engineered products than simple connector pins. He said it gave him purpose to keep manufacturing in the United States and create rewarding, good careers for Americans. (17:00)

Mike talks about the parts that go into musical instruments which Precision Plus produces. He says the company has been making parts for that customer since before he arrived at the company. They make screws and arbors that go into oboes, bassoons, and piccolos. (19:00)

Noah asks Mike what he thinks of when he hears the word “happiness.” Mike says it means being successful and being in control of your destiny. He says its important to him that Precision Plus is a private company where he has the freedom to make the decisions that are best for the company. (20:30)

Mike says the key to future growth for Precision Plus is continuing to increase the complexity of the parts it produces, setting it apart from other companies making more commodity-type parts. He says the way to accomplish this is by investing in better machines and pushing his people to keep upping their game. (21:20)

Mike talks about the roles of his various machines. He says there are no bad machine tools, just bad applications of machine tools. He says the Tornos cam Swiss machines are still a good solution for lower complexity parts with tight tolerances. For more complex parts Precision Plus uses Miyano CNC lathes. He holds up an aerospace parts the company makes complete on a triple turret machine, which he says had 98 different features on the print. (See video below). He says the shop also features many Tsugami and Star CNC Swiss machines that produce great parts and have great support. (22:15)

Mike says Precision Plus is interested in acquiring another machining company if he can find the right fit. He would prefer to buy a turning company not doing automotive work located in the Midwest because he likes the work ethic that the Midwest is known for. Also it would be best if the company can also add to Precision Plus’s current capabilities. (25:40)

Mike says the thing that bothers him the most running a machining company is that not everyone sees the world as he does, and he can’t stand missed opportunities. He says the most important thing is for people to work to the best their abilities, with a positive attitude, no matter what they are tasked with. (26:35)

Question: What do you think of when you hear the word “happiness?”

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Ep. 111 – Producing Tiny Parts on Swiss with Dan Rudolph

By Noah Graff

On today’s podcast we continue our season about Swiss machining. Our guest is Dan Rudolph, co-owner and founder of Rudolph LLC. Rudolph LLC produces medical parts as small as .1 millimeter on Citizen lathes. The company has only three staff members, Dan, his wife, and his father, but Dan says he has no plans to hire employees and the company continues to grow. 

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

 

Dan describes Rudolph LLC. The company produces medical device components particularly for eye surgery. It manufactures mainly stainless steel and titanium components on Citizen Swiss lathes. The company has eight machines and plans on adding several next year. It also has various secondary and finishing equipment, as well as Universal Robots. (3:00)

Dan says when the company started he and his father gravitated toward smaller parts that required smaller sized equipment. They had no employees, and the company started in a 900-square-foot shop. Now it has a second 900-square-foot room available for machinery, and a second floor for finishing equipment. (3:50)

Dan talks about his career path. Growing up, his father was a supervisor for a Swiss department at an eye surgery OEM. In the evenings he ran a small foundry that did brass castings. Dan often tagged along with his father to the foundry as a kid. He attended Penn State for industrial engineering and worked in foundries after college, but decided that career path wasn’t what he was looking for. He and his dad had been talking about starting a medical Swiss shop together for a while because his father had knowledge of the industry and good contacts from his former company. Dan says since he was young he had an affinity for the elements involved in running CNC Swiss machines—a lot of moving parts, math, and computer programming. (5:30)

Dan says his dad prefers a supervisory role as well as handling quality and secondary operations, while he loves running production and setting up machines. (9:45)

Dan says the smallest part Rudolph LLC runs is .1 millimeter. The company does a lot of work with thin-walled parts (.002” thick). They drill holes as small as .007” in diameter in stainless or titanium. (10:40)

Dan says often he sees working on small parts as “imagining a half inch part but in a smaller world.” Though, he says often with very small parts the bar stock can break off in production. He says when he is working on very small parts he breaks up the work. He will turn a few features and then stop the machine to see what’s going on. Sometimes he will program the sub-spindle to grab the part just to make sure he can find it. He says when the parts are in the sub-spindle you sometimes have to use a razor blade and fish them out. He says for a lot of the parts after the sub-spindle picks them off he opens the collet and then an air blower puts them into jars or tubes. Then he evaluates them using a vision system or other measuring system. (11:30)

Dan says Rudolph LLC’s shop is located on what used to be a farm. The barn has been replaced by two 900-square-foot garage-type buildings. The company started in one of the garages and then when it grew took over the second garage and connected the two. Then they built second a floor on top. His father’s house is located across the driveway from shop. (14:30)

Dan talks about his wife leaving her CPA job to join he and his dad at the company. She has been shadowing Dan’s father so she can eventually take over his role as he gets closer to retirement. (16:00)

Noah asks Dan, how he can “replace himself?” What happens if he needs to step away from the business for some reason, or go on vacation? (17:45) 

Dan says when he and his dad founded the company they decided they didn’t want to be “people managers.” He jokes that people at other shops warned them against the complications and headaches that come with hiring a lot of employees. He says that he and his dad prefer doing the actual production work. Automating with Universal Robots for secondary operations and Swiss machining that can finish an entire part enable the company to function and thrive without requiring extra manpower. He says in 2021 the company is not taking on new customers and instead trying to improve the work it does currently. (18:45)

Dan says one of the main things he wants to improve upon is reducing the rough edges on parts. He wants them cleaner with less burrs and loose material. Increasing his quality consistency will mean spending less time at the microscope troubleshooting. (22:15)

Dan Rudolph of Rudolph LLC

Noah asks how Dan how he is able to come up with new ideas and solutions if he is continuously busy producing parts. Dan says being spread thin is a constant obstacle, but even so, he and his father do not want to hire help. He says if they can perfect the work themselves they won’t need to hire anybody. He says his wife has been a huge addition to the company because she knows how he thinks, so she can help solve problems without creating a new problem of people management. She takes on some of the work, which has smoothed out the operations such as shipping and running the Universal Robots. (22:50)

Noah asks Dan if he has advice for someone else who wants to start small shop similar to his. Dan says he can’t fathom starting a shop without at least one other person because with two people you can divide the work between your strengths and weaknesses. (25:15)

Dan says he sees his company’s mindset as a game to see how much he and his dad can do within their constraints. He says having limited space is advantageous because walking around a big shop takes time. (26:00) 

Dan says something interesting he learned last week was his research on various ways he can renovate his home’s deck. He says he has spent time searching on Instagram for photos of work done by contractors. (28:00) 

Dan says social networking on Instagram has been beneficial for him. It has given him a peer group of other people in the machining world, which he lacks in his own 3-person company. He says his Rudolph LLC has even gotten some customers from Instagram. (29:30)

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