Category Archives: Podcast

Ep. 110 – Citizen Mad Scientist, Chris Armstrong

By Noah Graff

Today’s show is the second episode in our season about Swiss machining.

I interviewed Chris Armstrong last week while he was parked at a rest stop somewhere in Texas. He was en route on an all day trip to service a customer’s Citizens. I met Chris and his partner, Ryan Madsen, owners of Texas Swiss, a few years ago, trying to sell them some Citizen L20s from Asia.

Texas Swiss, formerly named Mad Science, is a CNC Swiss job shop not far from Houston that focuses primarily on Oil & Gas and Defense, along with some medical and other work thrown in. Chris told me that some of the medical parts the company produces actually have similarities with gun parts because of their size and various other features and shapes.

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

 

 

In the past, I’ve usually talked to Ryan when peddling machines because Chris always seemed to be on the road, servicing the machines of other shops. That puzzled me, but eventually it became clear that servicing machines is truly a second business for their company. Just cranking out parts isn’t enough for Chris because his true passion is wrenching on machines. 

Chris’s Citizen odyssey began 15 years ago. He was 21 years old and had just gotten laid off of his job as a welder at a fab shop. The night he lost his job and the following day he let off steam by blaring Metallica and starting a rehab on his condo’s bathroom. His neighbors in the building complained about the noise. When Chris explained to them that he was pissed off about losing his job one of the neighbors suggested he visit her son’s machine shop the next day. 

Chris Armstrong of Texas Swiss

When Chris came to the shop he laid eyes on a 1993 Citizen L316, and it was love at first sight. The machine was a new addition to the shop because the company was bringing new work in-house, so nobody there knew how to run it yet. Chris seized the unclaimed position of operating the shop’s lone Swiss machine. He taught himself to run it, taking books home at night and memorizing them. He was the beginning of the company’s Swiss department. The company, which was a medical shop, grew exponentially the next few years, but Chris eventually left to work for Citizen. He traveled around doing applications, sales, and support for awhile before finally deciding to start his own Swiss shop. Eventually he teamed up with Ryan Madsen, a high school friend to start their company Mad Science (later renamed Texas Swiss). The company’s original name came from Chris’s nickname, “Mad Scientist,” which he was given when he learned to operate a Matsuura MX-520 in one legendary morning on his own.

Chris says he enjoys the “crime scene forensics” element of troubleshooting machines. Yet, he says the root of most problems he encounters in shops comes from simplest of culprits. He says a lot of problems occur just because machines are not kept clean. Stray swarf and chips can easily cause a chain reaction of production mishaps.

He also says machines often don’t work correctly because they were poorly set up. He says setup people are sometimes in such a hurry to get a job up and running they use the wrong tooling, which is the cause of a lot of machining issues. He told me he likes to say “slow is smooth, smooth is fast.” His philosophy is that the machines are already plenty fast, so taking a little more time for a setup will make production a lot more efficient in the end. He adds, its always important check machines’ sleeves because they’re always suspect. 

Just talking to Chris a few minutes you know he can’t be content with staying home running a production shop, never venturing out into the field. He told me it would be a waste of a God given gift for him not to service machine tools, and that helping people overcome their machining heartaches and bring their projects to life gives him purpose. 

Question: What was the most difficult problem on a machine that you overcame?

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Ep. 109 – Citizen CNC Swiss Lathes with Marc Klecka

By Noah Graff

Today’s show is the first episode of our new season about Swiss-Type CNC machining. Our guest is Marc Klecka, founder and president of Concentric Corporation, a prominent distributor of Citizen-Cincom CNC Swiss lathes in Cleveland, Ohio.

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

 

Main Points

Marc talks about his company, Concentric, which has been distributing Citizen Swiss machines for 31 years and Miyano for 10 years (after Citizen acquired the company). (2:20)

Marc gives his “5-year-old explanation” of Swiss CNC Machining (sliding headstock machining). He says the original technology of “Swiss style machining” was developed in Switzerland over a hundred years ago for producing high precision watch components. He says what differentiates CNC Swiss machining from conventional CNC turning is that a CNC Swiss machine grips the part with a collet and also supports the part with a guide bushing. This eliminates the vibration that normally occurs when machining bar on a a conventional CNC lathe. (3:00)

Marc says a traditional Swiss part has a length to diameter ratio of 3 to 1 or more because that is the point where you start sacrificing the rigidity and accuracy on a conventional CNC lathe. He tells a story about a Citizen customer who produced a 10-foot part out of aluminum tubing. (4:40)

Marc talks about the importance of running ground bar stock on Swiss machines, particularly for running lights-out. However, he says that says in the 31-year history of Concentric, he estimates that only 30% of the material run (in Swiss mode) on the machines he has sold has been ground bar stock. He says it is a misconception that Swiss Style CNC machines are only good for running ground stock. (7:25)

Marc says that during 2020 Concentric’s business did ok, but the pandemic made it more difficult to sell machines because it was harder to have in person contact with customers. (11:00)


Marc says that there are lots of good brands of machine tools on the market, but he sees the support and service of local distributors as something that sets Citizen apart. He says that many years ago Marubeni Citizen made a point of having all of its local distributors become self-sufficient for servicing customers. He says that all the Citizen sales engineers also are applications engineers. He says it is important to have sales people who can get in the trenches with customers to solve their problems. (12:00)

Marc talks about Citizen’s proprietary LFV (low frequency vibration) technology, which is featured in many of the latest models. It enables operators to control the geometry of the chip coming off the machine using the machine’s CNC control. He says this capability is significant for manufacturers who want to do lightly attended or unattended machining. (17:20)

Marc talks about the significance of the medical sector for Citizen machines. He explains thread whirling for making long bone screws. He discusses a bone screw that was made on a Citizen featuring a laser that performed a cut on that part while still inside the machine (see video). (21:45)

Marc talks about diverse markets where he sees Citizens being used. He says during COVID-19 woodworking has become more popular and Citizen machines are making tools used for the art. Also, he says tattoos have become more popular during the pandemic and Citizen machines are making parts that go into the tattoo gun pens. He says demand continues to grow for parts for the electric car markets. (26:00)

Noah asks Marc tell him something he learned the week before. Marc jokes hat he learned it probably was not a great thing to break into the Capital building. He also said that he learned about the new LNS chip conveyors that are being put on some of the newest Citizen machines equipped with LFV technology. (31:00)

Question: Which Swiss machine do you prefer to use and why?

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Ep. 108 – Tool Life Optimization with Benjamin York

By Noah Graff

Our guest on today’s show is Benjamin York. Benjamin’s company, Theory 168, makes a product called Tool Life that collects and analyzes data on machine tools to optimize efficiency in machine shops.

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

 

Main Points

Benjamin talks about his company, Theory 168. He says the company focuses on optimizing machining processes, particularly in Swiss machining. He says his constant mission has been to “take the art out of machining.” He wants to approach machining from a scientific standpoint rather than believing there are “ghosts in some machines,” as he was originally taught when coming up in the industry. When machine glitches seem mysterious and won’t go away, Benjamin’s attitude is to keep digging deeper, rather than using hacky short-term solutions. (2:45)

Benjamin talks about his background. His father operated machine tools, and Benjamin started spending time with him at the shop when he was 4 or 5 years old. As an adult Benjamin worked in machine shops, and he has been a consultant for machining companies since 2009. (6:15)

Benjamin says that most shops don’t reach their potential for productivity. He says many companies continue to purchase equipment and hire employees while they could get a lot more out of the capacity they already have. (7:30)

Benjamin’s company, Theory 168, builds a product called Tool Life for the purpose of helping companies boost their productivity and utilize the capacity they already have. It uses Web-based software that collects data about machining processes and then analyzes the data so shops know how they can improve their productivity. One of the most significant processes the software is intended to optimize is tool life on a machine, hence the product’s name. (8:20)

Benjamin says he wants to make technology work for the people using it. He wants to make jobs easier. He says one of the potential benefits of making processes less complicated is that companies can hire workers who have less experience. They can hire people based on their potential to grow and create a good company culture. (9:20)

Benjamin explains how Tool Life works. The product measures a myriad of factors such as quality, tool changes, and offsets. (14:00)

Benjamin discusses Tool Life’s physical hardware, which the company calls a “machine weather station.” It’s a 4 x 4 box that connects to machine tools via magnets. It collects data with various sensors, which it transmits to a Web-based cloud via WIFI. Each machine requires its own localized box because of the specific data unique to a machine. For instance, Tool Life collects vibration data relating to a bar feed, various inputs of temperature, and cycle time. After all the data is analyzed the user knows the options available to optimize a process. Perhaps the machine is being operated poorly, the company needs to buy higher quality tools, or change the tools more frequently. (15:00)

Benjamin talks about an add-on product to Tool Life called Shop Map 168 that tracks the location of people in a shop and prescribes how to make the shop more efficient. (25:00)

Benjamin York of Theory 168

Benjamin York of Theory 168

Benjamin says that after the data is collected and the root cause of the untapped productivity is revealed, most machinists are able to come up with solutions on their own to improve their productivity. Benjamin says he believes that most machinists see themselves as race car drivers who are constantly wanting to get the most out of their equipment. He thinks they will naturally be motivated to make necessary changes in how they operate machines to reach their potential. (28:30)

Noah asks Benjamin how he approaches his own work as far as optimizing productivity when coming up with ideas for products or for his business. He says sometimes it is best to come up with creative ideas with very little structure, however Theory 168 has also implemented various software programs that help its team come up with ideas to fit into specific parameters as well. (32:00)

Benjamin says one interesting thing he learned last week is that people have to “trust that things are going to be ok.” He says that over the last year it has been necessary for people to learn this principle. He says that in the end everyone is going to have to work together to get through the difficult times. (33:15)

Benjamin says he thinks that 2021 will be a big year for having gratitude. He says he is looking forward to life being more fun than it has been lately. (34:35)  

Benjamin ends the interview by saying he hopes that improvements in technology will allow more time for people to do the things they want and spend more time with their friends and family. (36:00)

Question: How would you like to become more efficient in 2021?

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Ep. 107 – Reshaping the Supply Chain After COVID-19, with Professor Yossi Sheffi

By Noah Graff

Our guest on today’s show is Professor Yossi Sheffi, author of the new book, The New (AB)NORMAL: Reshaping Business and Supply Chain Strategy Beyond Covid-19.

In the interview, Sheffi explains how companies and governments around the world have dealt with the supply chain disruption over the past year’s pandemic. He also gives insight on how people can prepare for the next time the world’s supply chain is turned on its head

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

 

 

Main Points

Yossi defines supply chain as the series of activities that take a product from the raw material stage to a finished product through a series of transportation, shipping, and creation until it finally reaches the consumer. He says the final stop of the supply chain is the responsible disposal of the product after it has been used. (3:15)

Yossi gives his background. He studied civil engineering in Israel and then came to the United States to conduct operational research at MIT, where he studied network theory. Originally he wanted to utilize his education in the urban planning and transportation sector, but he became frustrated because nobody was applying what he thought were brilliant ideas. Eventually he found an opportunity working with trucking companies, using the same mathematical principles he had researched, in the end saving these businesses a lot of money. From there, he branched out into working with the customers of the trucking firms such as manufacturers, retailers, and distributors to optimize their operations. In the process, he started five companies, which he says were all successful and sold out to larger companies. Yossi said he always returned to MIT because he is passionate about teaching and research. (4:35)

Yossi says the secret to being able to do so many projects is to have a very understanding wife. He credits her with keeping their relationship strong and helping him maintain a good relationship with his kids, despite working more or less 24/7. (6:10)

Yossi discusses some of his past books which cover different aspects of the supply chain. In March of 2020, while he was working on a book about new supply chain innovations, the world was struck by the COVID-19 pandemic. He saw this as one of the most significant historical events in the history of the world’s supply chain, so he stopped working on the book he was writing and wrote the New (AB)Normal from March until August of 2020. He says it was essential to get the book out quickly before COVID-19 became tired, old news. (8:30)


Yossi talks about how the US is still slow in fighting COVID-19. He compares vaccination rates in the US to those in Israel. He says Israel plans to have its entire population vaccinated in two and a half months. At the time of this interview (Dec. 2020) Israel was vaccinating upwards of 150,000 people a day, while his home state of Massachusetts was only vaccinating 30,000 people daily. (9:50)

Yossi says one distinct thing about Israel’s approach to the coronavirus is that its government did not hedge its bets of the efficacy of the vaccines. It assumed the two vaccines based on the mRNA from Moderna and Pfizer were effective and ordered them before they were approved by the FDA. Ironically the country was currently in lockdown at the time of the interview, while health professionals were administering the vaccine from 5AM until 10PM (soon to be 24/7). He says the Israeli government even got some of the ultra orthodox authorities on board with administering vaccines on the sabbath by invoking a rabbinical rule that states life is more sacred than anything else. (11:45)

Yossi compares the supply chain challenges for distributing the COVID-19 vaccine to those in the automotive supply chain. He says that in some ways distributing the vaccine is easier because no one is concerned about minimizing costs. (14:15)

Yossi discusses the bullwhip effect on the world’s supply chain, which was significantly apparent in 2020. He says when estimates for supply and demand become distorted because of a disrupted supply chain, the solution for manufactures to not overreact in their inventory buying is to listen to the final consumer. Thus, even Tier 2 or Tier 3 automotive suppliers should be monitoring car sales to predict upcoming production demand, rather than only listening to what the Tier 1 companies tell them. (16:05)

Yossi talks about China. He says country’s autocratic measures enabled it to quarantine successfully and get the pandemic under control. He says that early on during the pandemic, the Chinese government asked banks to give significant loans to medium and small sized companies. He says the Chinese government preferred to keep companies running rather than give money to individual citizens, while in the US the government preferred to support individuals rather than protect businesses. He says that European countries also preferred to support companies rather than individual citizens during the pandemic. He adds that it’s unclear which approach was the best choice. (19:50)

Yossi shares what he found the most shocking about how the supply chain malfunctioned during the pandemic. He says medical supplies in the United States were terribly low, leaving many hospital workers unprotected. He says the US used to have a strategic reserve of PPEs and other medical equipment, but it withered away during the Obama administration. In his new book, Yossi gives suggestions on how the United States should prepare for a future pandemic, including rebuilding a strategic inventory. He also says hospitals need to be stress tested for crises events, and a medical personnel reserve, much like the Army Reserves should be created. The medical personnel reserve would be comprised of people trained to do basic care. It would free up nurses and doctors to do more difficult work. (24:45) 

Yossi gives advice to Tier 2 and Tier 3 manufacturers on how to survive a pandemic. He says they need to ensure they are not too leveraged. He also encourages membership in larger manufacturing associations so they have a voice that represents their types of businesses in Washington. (28:45)

Yossi says he is skeptical that significant manufacturing work in China will return to the US or move elsewhere because it is extremely difficult to replicate the extensive supply chain infrastructure that already exists in China. He says some final assembly of products may leave China, but the parts will continue to be made there. He says this is why it is vital to keep the manufacturing and proprietary knowledge that is already in the United States from leaving. (31:50)

Yossi says that one of the most interesting things he has learned about recently is the COVID-19 vaccine distribution in Israel. He says one key difference between the vaccination process in Israel verses in the US is that in the US patients are required to sign legal wavers to protect against lawsuits, while in Israel just getting in line is considered legally signing off on the procedure. This enables much greater efficiency in the vaccination process. (32:55)

Question: What would you have done differently in 2020?

 

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Ep. 106 – The Machining World of 2020, with Noah and Lloyd Graff

By Noah and Lloyd Graff

On today’s show we’re looking back on the year 2020.

Obviously, it was a tough year for the majority of people around the world. Loved ones were taken away, and many businesses couldn’t stay afloat. There were a lot of things that sucked. But there were a few pleasant surprises along the way as well. People adapted, they embraced limitations, and even found new opportunities for success.

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

 

 

Main Points

Lloyd says that one of the first things that comes to mind when he thinks of 2020 is his fear of getting COVID-19. He says his brain is constantly occupied by considering all of the safety precautions he has to take. (1:55)

Noah says he is tired of everyone talking about COVID-19 almost as much as he is tired of the actual presence of the virus. (2:30)

Lloyd says one interesting trend he has noticed in 2020 is that despite Tesla’s stock quadrupling and the media’s dire predictions about man made climate change, Americans are buying a lot of SUVs and trucks, rather than electric cars. He says this should be a positive signal for the precision machining industry that the internal combustion engine is going to stay relevant for a while. (3:13)

Noah and Lloyd comment about a weak cam multi-spindle market in 2020 and remark that CNC multi-spindles are too expensive for a lot of endusers. (5:10)

Lloyd talks about how the PPP was a successful governmental program despite the fact that some fraudsters took advantage of it. He says the PPP was essential for medium and small companies when business fell apart in April. He says if it had not been for the PPP small businesses would have been decimated and the supply chain would have been in disarray. However, it was not as successful for various small businesses who didn’t have relationships with good bankers. The big question now is if the PPP money will be taxed. This will affect a lot of businesses, including Graff-Pinkert. (5:30)

Noah says used CNC Swiss machines were a very hot item in 2020.  Lloyd says companies had great years if they were in the firearms business or doing medical work related to fighting COVID-19. However, medical work for applications other than fighting the pandemic was soft because many medical procedures were postponed while hospitals focused on fighting COVID-19. Also the commercial aerospace business was soft because of Boeing’s internal problems and less people flying. (7:30)

Noah and Lloyd remark that despite the CNC Swiss boom, Graff-Pinkert recently bought several cam multi-spindles including an ACME-GRIDLEY 1-1/4” RB-8 and 1-5/8” RBN-8. Lloyd says that it could be a good year in automotive because of a strong demand for SUVs. (11:15)

Lloyd says a surprising trend in 2020 was that the stock market thrived despite the pandemic. Not only are all the major stock indexes at all time highs, profits for major companies are also expected to be at all time highs. However, this does not include the oil companies, who had terrible years. (12:40)

Lloyd says that using Zoom to communicate with family was something significant for him in 2020. He has not seen has not seen his grandchildren in California for a year, but he feels like he has stayed close to them. (13:40)

Noah talks about he and his wife, Stephanie, moving in with his parents for the month of October while their condo was having work done. The ability for Stephanie to do her work via Zoom made it possible. While Noah went to the office at Graff-Pinkert, Lloyd, Risa, and Stephanie all enjoyed sharing a communal workspace at home. (14:30)

Lloyd says he personally knows many people leaving big cities like New York to move near their parents because the ability to work remotely has enabled them to go wherever they want. He says rent prices in New York are decreasing and real estate markets in places like Phoenix, Arizona, or Boise, Idaho, are booming. (16:00)

Noah says one thing he is looking forward to in 2020 is continuing to produce the Swarfcast podcast. He says it is fulfilling to him to provide listeners with helpful knowledge and entertainment. (18:40)

Lloyd and Noah reflect on whether more young people are going into manufacturing. Noah says he meets a lot of young people when selling machines. Still, he is not sure whether the owners of the companies he meets are indicative of the overall workforce in the machining industry. Lloyd ponders why more African Americans don’t go into the machining business. (19:20)

Lloyd says in 2021 he is looking forward to not talking about COVID-19, not fearing the pandemic, and being together with his family again. (21:30)

Noah says he appreciates that the pandemic has influenced he and his wife to spend more time with his brother and nephew because they have less choices of people to see and activities to do. He hopes they continue to do this after the pandemic ends. (22:00)

Noah and Lloyd discuss their favorite TV shows they binge watched in 2020. Lloyd says Outlander was his favorite show. He also liked The Right Stuff and Tehran. Noah also liked Outlander and Tehran, and lately he has gotten into watching The Mandalorian. (24:30)

Noah and Lloyd end the interview saying that one of the best parts of 2020 was getting to work together—usually. (27:30)

Questions: What are you looking forward to in 2021?

What favorite TV shows did you binge watch in 2020?

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Ep. 105 – Selling Cow Bone to Medical Manufacturers with Mary and Jim Rickert

By Noah Graff

Today’s podcast is the first episode of our new season about companies related to medical manufacturing.

Our guests are Jim and Mary Rickert, owners of Prather Ranch in Fall River Mills, California. Prather’s closed herd, in which no female cattle have been introduced since 1975, enables it to sell cow bone and other organic matter to medical manufacturing companies that require material from disease free animals.

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

 

 

Main Points

Jim and Mary Rickert talk about the history of Prather Ranch, which has been operated as an agribusiness since the 1860s. They bought the ranch in the ’80s. (3:30) 

Mary and Jim explain that Prather Ranch has a closed herd, which means that no new female cattle have been introduced for a significant period of time. It is a quite large ranch, with 2,600-2,800 cattle. The primary ranch hasn’t had any females introduced since 1975, and Prather’s backup closed herd has not had any female animals introduced since 1992. The animals are constantly tested for illnesses, and if they are infected they are removed from the herd. Also Prather Ranch only uses its own trucks to transport animals between ranges to further prevent infection coming in from the outside. They say their ranch is the truest example of “herd immunity.”   (4:10)

Jim and Mary talk about the Prather Ranch’s primary business, selling organic beef. The ranch even has its own slaughter house, which no other ranches have, to insure the meat undergoes the strictest health standards. (8:40)

Jim and Mary talk about their secondary business. In addition to selling beef to consumers, Prather Ranch supplies companies in the biomedical sector with raw biomaterials that come from its cattle. Biomedical companies want to buy organic materials from Prather Ranch because they can feel secure that the livestock don’t have diseases, such as Mad Cow Disease. (10:00) 

Prather Ranch first started selling organic material from its livestock in 1990 to the Collagen Corporation, which was manufacturing collagen for cosmetic procedures. (11:00)  

Jim and Mary talk about customers that took bone from cow femurs and machined into bone screws, pins, or plates. Then those parts were supposed to dissolve inside the recipient body. People at the time also were using bones from humans, but it was hard to get enough quality bones from dead people. Mary and Jim think that bovine raw materials are generally superior than that of humans because people can know about the animals it is coming from—the animals are in a controlled environment, unlike people. (13:00) 

Jim and Mary say that the bone screws and similar products made from cow bone unfortunately sometimes are rejected by recipients because their bodies recognize they are foreign materials. Human bone can also be rejected. These types of bone transplants are less popular now and have been supplanted by synthetic bones made in a lab. (15:15)

Jim and Mary talk about a startup company currently working on a new technology that overcomes the body rejection, which is in Stage 3 of testing. 

The following is a summary of the technology:

When a person’s bone is crushed, the company machines a slightly smaller replica out of cow bone using a 3-D scanner. Then undifferentiated T-cells are extracted from the patient’s body fat. Then they 3-D print new cells based on the extracted T-cells around the reconstructed bone. Through a series of other complex processes they join the new cells to the reconstructed bones. Afterward, the patient’s body hopefully will accept the new reconstructed bones. (16:50-21:30) 

Jim and Mary talk about other biomedical technology that companies are trying to develop using bovine products to improve the people’s quality of life. Jim and Mary say that it gives them purpose to be able to give animals a healthy comfortable life, produce healthy meat, and contribute to manufacturing products that can help people’s quality of life. They say they have been officially certified since 2003 that their animals are raised in a humane manner. (21:30)

Noah asks a few beef questions. Jim and Mary say that in their opinion male and female beef tastes the same. They say the taste of beef is dependent on how gently the animals are treated—less stress means better flavor. Mary’s favorite cut of beef is Filet Mignon, Jim likes New York Strip, Rib Steak, and some hamburger if it is dry aged with the proper type of added fat. (24:00)

Jim and Mary say they have recently learned about how to handle employees who have contracted Covid-19, as two of theirs just got the virus. (26:30) 

Mary says at restaurants she is hesitant to order beef because she knows too much about the typical beef producing process. Jim says he is a lot less picky. (27:00) 

Question: Carnivorous readers—What is your favorite type of meat or favorite cut of beef?

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Best of Swarfcast: Using Blockchain in Manufacturing with Jim Regenor

By Noah Graff

Today’s guest on the podcast is Jim Regenor, founder of Veritx, a company which helps clients dramatically reduce lead times and increases readiness for military and airline customers with blockchain technology.

Scroll down to listen to the podcast.

With today’s 3-D printing technology parts can be produced on site so clients don’t need to wait for products to be sent by land or sea. All that needs to be sent is the digital information for how to produce the parts on site. Blockchain insures the digital information is correct.

Main Points

(3:30) Jim gives background on his company Veritx which he established in August of 2019. He characterizes the company’s product as “a digital parts catalog for regulated industries that reduces long lead times and increases readiness for military and airline customers.”

(4:35) Jim talks about a proof of concept with the Department of Defense where blockchain could reduce the lead time for an F-15 part from 265 days down to 6 hours from order to delivery. He says that the United States military still uses some aircraft from as far back as the 1950s, so being able to deliver spare parts efficiently can be difficult when many of the original aerospace suppliers have gone out of business.

Jim Regenor, founder of Veritx

(8:00) Jim gives his background. He spent 31 years as a pilot in the U.S. Air Force. He was on the Security Council for the Bush and Obama Administrations, and he also ran a large logistics operation, with 15 locations in 11 countries across three continents—many of them war zones. He said he was moving roughly 570,000 tons of cargo and about 2 million people a year, and found himself constantly needing spare parts.

(9:25) After he got out of the Air Force, Jim ran the military aftermarket division at a Tier 1 aerospace company called Moog Aircraft Group. The company had acquired a 3-D Printing business in Michigan and realized that 3-D printing would become an enabler for digital 4.0 schema and how industries would interact. This led him to world of blockchain.

(11:00) Jim says that 3-D printing coupled with blockchain enables what he calls the fourth modality of logistics. Instead of transporting physical parts by land or sea, digital information to make the parts is sent on the cloud. Then parts are manufactured on site with 3-D printing. Blockchain enables the information to be sent properly.

(14:10) Jim characterizes blockchain as a distributed ledger. He gives an example of several people in a room in which one person owes another person 10 dollars. Every person records that 10 dollars is owed in their ledgers. If the person who owes money tries to lie and says he only owes 9 dollars, the people in the room have records to prove he lying. This concept means that information can be sent through a decentralized transparent system and cannot be corrupted. All records are transparent so that there is a consensus. For blockchain applications, sometimes hundreds or thousands of computers keep the ledger. This can be used to establish value for cryptocurrencies such as Bitcoin, but it can also work well for other applications such as logistics because it enables people to track the entire lineage of an asset.

(17:20) Jim gives an example of Walmart using blockchain to track the supply chain of its lettuce from harvest to store shelves to combat the E. coli problem last year.

(19:00) Jim says that many companies are using blockchain right now and data can be tracked with user interfaces. He says for the supply chain for aerospace blockchain records the entire process, starting with the initial requirements being sent to a designer. Then each stage such as the design of a part, manufacturing, quality control, etc. is recorded individually. Everything is transparent and correct, insuring a good final product. If people realize there is a design flaw, it is easy to go back and find the mistake because each stage has been recorded with blockchain.

For more information about Veritx go to veritx.co or email Jim Regenor at jim@veritx.co.

Question: What’s your experience using blockchain?

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Ep. 104 – Machining the Perfect Pen with Ian Schon

By Noah Graff

Today’s podcast is the final segment of our season about companies who produce their own products.

Our guest is Ian Schon, founder of Schon DSGN, a company that makes high quality metallic pens machined on Citizen CNC Swiss lathes. One of Ian’s core philosophies for the production and marketing of his pens is to tell the story of their creation.

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

 

 

The summer after Ian’s Freshman year at Boston University, he and his brothers bought a 1940s Clausing lathe on Craigslist and started machining all kinds of things in their parents’ garage, including his first pen. After graduating with a degree in engineering, Ian got a job as a product designer. He started his own company on the side, creating pens and watches, back in 2012. Two years ago, Ian finally started manufacturing pens and watches full time. He distributes his pens in stores all over the world. He also sells at pen shows and on his website.

One of the defining aspects of Ian’s pens is that when you look at them you can see how they were made. The clothes are off. The full monty of the machining process is proudly on display for an onlooker to see. The pens are made of brass, copper, titanium, aluminum, and stainless steel, presented in a variety of bright colors and finishes. They have precise visible threads for fastening their components. They feature distinct exterior textures from processes like knurling or milling—outwardly telling the story of their creation. 

The moment I started talking to Ian, the word that came to my mind was “passion.” He is passionate about both designing and manufacturing his products—ballpoint pens, rollerball pens, and fountain pens (listen to the podcast for an explanation on their differences). He gushed about the setscrew design he came up with to secure the ink cartridges in his pens. He also loved talking about machining on his used Citizens, L20s and L16s from the mid ‘90s, which he holds in the highest regard. 

He says he sees himself as both a designer and a manufacturer, and says he could not create his products the way they are if he was not both. 

He markets his pens and other products by telling the story of their creation. He makes videos of himself designing the pens, as well as videos showing himself working on the Citizens—setting up tools, changing programs, or managing pesky swarf.

He says his loyal customers care that his products are made by a person who they can get to know, whether through social media or in person at pen shows. “The journey is as important as the destination,” he explained.

Question: What is your favorite type of pen?

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Ep. 103 – Listening to Customers and Selling Hammers with Joel Trusty

By Noah Graff

On today’s podcast we continue our season talking to successful companies who produce their own products.

Today’s guest is Joel Trusty, co-owner and President of Trusty-Cook, a company that manufactures a diverse group of industrial polyurethane products such as dead blow hammers and spindle liners for bar loaders. Joel says one of the keys to the company’s success has been talking to customers about what they need.

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

 

 

Main Points

Joel talks about the origins of Trusty-Cook. His father designed ship-to-shore missiles for the military. When he tired of that, he moved on and started a company making custom electronics. He hired a man named Cook, who went to Chrysler and came back with a purchase order for 3,000 polyurethane wear pads for an assembly line, something that the company did not make. In response, Joel’s father bought a used pizza oven, bought a book on polyurethane and figured out how to hand-batch the order. Two years later, he invented the dead blow hammer, one of the main products Trusty-Cook manufactures to this day. (2:55)

Joel explains the company’s polyurethane dead blow hammer. It is constructed to have good power when striking, but it avoids damaging the target or sending a lot of vibration through the user’s elbow. (3:40)

Joel says it was difficult to get into the market at first. The products were expensive to make, but the company landed deals with Matco Tools, Cornwell Tools, and Snap-On. Originally Stanley Tools wanted a private label as well but instead decided to buy out the company in 1982. In the mid-1980s a recession hit, and Stanley wanted to move the company under the same roof as a screwdriver plant in South Carolina. Joel’s father and brother agreed to assist the move in return for commercial ground and two product lines Stanley Tools was no longer interested in. They moved the plant and founded Trusty-Cook. The non-compete for the hammer ran out in the mid-1990s, so they created the Trusty-Cook brand. They also landed a private brand called Estwing out of Rockford, IL. Matco and Cornwell came back on board, and Trusty-Cook continues to make sledgehammers for Snap-on. The company also makes a line for NAPA. (4:00)  

Joel explains that Trusty-Cook’s polyurethane hammer is made to replace hammers made of lead or brass. It is constructed so that it will not spark and not damage the material it is hitting. The durability of polyurethane is what inspired Joel’s father to create the hammer. Joel also talks about his father’s other inventions, including a machine to cook hamburgers in 6 seconds and the first blood machine to analyze kidneys, which is still in use today. The hamburgers tasted terrible, so that invention was not taken to market. He says inventing new products comes naturally to him and other members of his family. (6:30)

Joel says Trusty-Cook now makes 29 different hammers, which Joel calls a “rock on a stick.” The price to make them has not changed much since the ‘70s. Joel says the average retail price of a Trusty-Cook hammer is in the $50 range. The hammers are made in Indianapolis in-house. The company produces the steel components and the polyurethane for the hammers’ exterior. Each hammer is handmade using no automation. (listen for more a detailed description) (9:55)

Joel discusses other Trusty-Cook products, including polyurathane spindle liners for bar loaders for CNC machines. He talks about how the company got the idea for the product when a customer called up wanting to reduce a diameter in his bar loader he was using with a Mazak CNC lathe. Now the company makes spindle liners for running bar stock with irregular shapes such as hex and rectangle. It also makes spindle liners to enable running bars less than a millimeter in diameter. The OEMs selling machine tools refer customers to Trusty-Cook, rather than bundling them in a sale. (11:30)

Joel says that listening to customers is the number one reason why his company is successful. He describes feedback he received on forum for garage mechanics. The mechanic wanted a ball peen hammer for use in tight work spaces. In response, Trusty-Cook developed a large-headed ball peen hammer with a short handle. On the same forum, another mechanic asked if a similar product could be built with a flat end on both sides, so Trusty-Cook started making this design of hammer as well. (19:10)

Joel talks about why the company was monitoring the forums. At the time there appeared to be a lot of confusion about who was making various products because of all of the different brands distributing for Trusty-Cook. Joel says Trusty-Cook doesn’t participate often on online forums, but the company does post when it develops something new and asks for feedback. It has developed relationships over time with some of the users on the forum. Joel says Trusty-Cook will sell limited editions of various products at a low price to some users to get them to try them. (23:00)

Joel talks about building relationships with customers like custom bike builder Eddie Trotta star of the TV show Thunder Cycle. Joel says Trotta was having difficulty holding tolerances on his Mazak and put in an order to Trusty-Cook for spindle liners for his machines. Eddie was so happy with the results he gave a free testimonial. Eddie later called and asked if the company could make a dead blow bossing mallet to shape metal. Joel says he didn’t know what one was at the time. With Eddie’s feedback Trusty-Cook created three different polyurethane bossing mallets for him free of charge. Eddie said the hammers cut the work time in half. Today Trusty-Cook ships them all over the world. (25:55)

Joel describes the company’s relationship with bar feeder companies, LNS and IEMCA. He told the companies that if they came to him with an idea for a polyurethane product, he would work with them free of charge. He describes a split block Trusty-Cook designed for Edge bar feeders. (see video) He says LNS also called them with a predicament, in which some bar feeder channels were filling with lubricant and swelling over time. Trusty-Cook now makes all the channel sets for LNS. (28:10)

 


Joel says feedback from both endusers and OEMs is Trusty-Cook’s lifeblood.(29:40)

Joel shares advice for new companies who want to bring a product to market. He says that too many creators spend time perfecting something because they are afraid to test their product on the market. He says a company needs to test the sales end of things so it knows if a product has the potential to be successful. He suggests sending new products at no charge to friends or trusted contacts in an industry and letting them try it out to get feedback. It might cost money to produce the product, but so does doing nothing while you perfect it. (30:05)

Joel reflects on something new he has learned recently. He says the week before was the first time he could recall that he started feeling stressed about all of the negative stuff going around the world—the election, the pandemic etc. He says he had to take a step back to reexamine what he does, stay focused, make sure he is doing what he likes, and make sure he his doing things for the right reasons. (31:45)

Question: What is the most important tool you have in your shop?

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