Category Archives: Business

Best of Swarfcast: Ep. 46 – Building Bikes in Detroit, With Zak Pashak

By Noah and Lloyd Graff

The Today’s Machining World team is on vacation this week. We will be back next week with our regular blog and podcast. We hope you enjoy this edition of Swarfblog from August 7th, 2019!

Our guest on today’s podcast is Zak Pashak, founder of Detroit Bikes, the largest bike frame manufacturer in the United States. All bikes that the company sells are assembled in Detroit, and its high-end models have frames constructed of high quality American Chromoly steel.

Zak lamented to us that he couldn’t find many companies in the U.S. to supply parts for wheels and other bike components. We told him we would take on the mission personally to find him some.

Scroll down to listen to the podcast, or find us on Google Podcasts, iTunes, or Spotify.

Zak hales from Calgary, Canada, where he had success in the bar business and organizing one of Canada’s largest music festivals. He eventually developed an interest in politics and urban planning, which would inspire his next venture. In 2011, he sold all of his assets in Canada and moved to Detroit where he started Detroit Bikes in the building of an old sign company.

Zak said he chose Detroit because he saw the city as a place with rich history. He remarked that it was where cars were first mass produced, where great genres of music were invented, and a place with talent in the manufacturing field. He also said he wanted to go to a challenging place where he could be part of positive change.

Zak Pashak of Detroit Bikes

We could feel a real sense of purpose when Zak talked about his company. He takes pride in assembling bicycles in the U.S., a country where most of them are imported. He appreciates boosting the economy of a revitalizing city. But Zak said his primary mission is changing urban landscapes. He really wants to contribute to changing the paradigm of how people get around in cities, making them less congested and more environmentally friendly. He said this ultimately will be decided by governments who invest in new types of transportation infrastructure—including bike lanes.

Question: Does it make you want to buy a product more if it is made in the U.S.?

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Best of Swarfblog: Machining a Pancreas

By Lloyd Graff

The Today’s Machining World team is on vacation this week. We will be back next week with our regular blog and podcast. We hope you enjoy this edition of Swarfblog from August 7th, 2019!

The Futurism newsletter ran a piece about Liam Zebedee, a software engineer in Brooklyn who struggles with diabetes while trying to live the semblance of a normal life.

He built his own “artificial pancreas” because he was frustrated with the daily hassle of dealing with hospitals, doctors, insurance companies, and pharmacies.  He started with a good piece of hardware, an insulin pump.  He then developed his own software and purchased the necessary hardware for $979.  He pays $225 per month for off-the-shelf glucose sensors plus his monthly cost for a supply of insulin.

“I know that it’s pretty insane to run your basic metabolism on untyped JavaScript code,” Zebedee writes.  “But if you were in my shoes, you’d realize it was safer than going to the hospital, intentionally or not.”

The homemade “artificial pancreas” shows the hand of ingenuity that builds businesses out of ideas.  In a small way our machinery business has been grappling with a mechanical challenge which most of the “smart people” we consulted told us would likely end in failure.

We do not tackle a lot of setups on screw machines these days because if folks want us to do it, it usually means that they cannot do it themselves and don’t know anybody who can.  We took on this one for several good reasons that seemed to trump the obvious impediments.  It was a big opportunity to sell machines, but failure would be very expensive.

The job was to thread both sides of a 4-1/2” long, ¾”-diameter pipe.  The customer made a couple million of them a year, but their process either on CNC lathes or screw machines and threading machines was laborious and even dangerous.

On the face of it, at least to me, who did know enough to understand why they had done it the old-school laborious way for 50 years, it was quite doable on a Wickman.  Thread chasing on one end, die head threading on the other, a piece of cake.

What I did not know was that steel pipe, 4-1/2” long, presents nasty problems for threading.  Pipe is not uniform in surface quality, wall thickness, and machinability.  There are significant differences in the products of each manufacturer.  It is not perfectly straight, it will wobble—more the longer you attempt to machine.  Cutting tools usually are not durable enough to compensate for the roughness and wobble of pipe.

Wickman has a husky and generally quite useful thread chasing attachment for the end of the pipe closest to the spindle.  Unfortunately, it was really not expected to cut steel pipe to connect a hot water heater.  It normally rests on an aluminum base on top of the cross slide, but to our own dismay, we consistently got unacceptable chatter using the attachment.  After tearing our hair out in frustration, Javier, our engineer, mentioned that at his previous job they had occasionally used a steel base when chasing difficult stainless steel components.  Luck had it that we had a scruffy old steel base on our parts shelf.  To our shock the chasing worked.

We ran into similar issues trying to do die head threading on the other end.  The cutting tools broke, the die heads fell apart, chatter was a constant companion.  We put a Logan air threading attachment on to replace the mechanical one.  Better, but still not good enough.  Then we slowed down the clutch by changing gears.  Still no good.  Finally, we put it on the slowest possible threading speed, and we got a good thread, but the cutters had a maddeningly short life.  It required a different coating to finally make it work.

Through all of the experimenting we labored with four different varieties of seamless pipe.  Only one worked reasonably well.  We asked our customer for more pipe.  They could not seem to provide it for us.  “Purchasing” and “Politics” continually got in the way of providing us more raw material to perfect the process.  We offered to buy it ourselves, pick it up ourselves at another plant, do anything to move the process, but the pipe did not come.  Finally ten 10-foot lengths arrived.  Not enough for a full run off, but enough for samples and a good tryout of the process.

“We did it.”  At least we think so for now.  Not a homemade, artificial pancreas, but a satisfying, improvised solution to the problem for Graff-Pinkert.

Question: Tell us about an “impossible” job that you solved.

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Ep. 129 – Recruiting Long Term Shop Employees, with Bill Cox (Part 2)

By Noah Graff

In part 1 of my interview with Bill Cox, owner of Cox Manufacturing in San Antonio, Texas, Bill talked about the power of his company’s robust apprenticeship program.

But how does Cox Manufacturing get so many employee candidates, while most machining companies are dying to get any job applicants? Answer—the company has built a strategic recruiting program.

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

Some of the company’s strategies for finding new employees are simple common sense, such as keeping good records of everyone who has applied to the company, which Bill says some companies actually fail to do. Cox Manufacturing also posts a large company sign advertising jobs available, which is visible from the highway to grab the attention of potential employees.

The company also likes to find new employees via referrals from current employees who often bring in job candidates who fit the company’s culture. It offers bonuses to employees when their referrals remain at the company for one month, six months, and a year.

Several years ago, Bill became the founding chair of an organization of manufacturers in his area, called the Alliance for Technology Education in Applied Math and Science (ATEAMS). Initially, the organization sponsored tours for students to visit the area’s manufacturing companies with the hope it would attract them to working in the manufacturing industry. After a short time, the organization realized that instead of giving tours to students, it was more effective to give tours to local high school teachers who could then promote careers in manufacturing to the students. Prior to COVID-19, the program had become so popular it had a waiting list. Bill says most of the teachers have never been inside a manufacturing facility before, so they often are amazed when they get tours of state of the art shops like his. I asked Bill if guidance counselors also come on the tours. He said unfortunately most of them have not been receptive to promoting careers in manufacturing but he hopes that will change one day.

Bill said one of his employees who surprised him the most was a middle-aged woman who prior to working at Cox Manufacturing had spent many years in the health care field. She started at the company deburring and inspecting parts but then applied to its apprenticeship program. He said the company was hesitant to hire her because in the past they have not had the most success hiring people trained in other fields, but she persisted, so the company gave her a shot. As an apprentice she excelled and progressed much faster than a lot of her younger male peers. In 90 days she was setting up CNC machines. 

Bill remains wary of people already making good money in other careers who apply to work at his company. In the past, the company invested in several employees who stayed there a little while, but left when more lucrative opportunities became available.

Cox Manufacturing has a policy of not admitting candidates to its apprenticeship program if they are fully trained in a field where they can make more money and jobs are available. The aerospace industry often has a lot of layoffs, so in the past, aircraft mechanics came to work at Cox Manufacturing but then left when their more lucrative previous jobs again became available. The company has had similar experiences with employees who previously worked in the oil industry. 

Bill’s advice for manufacturing companies who want to build their workforce is to think about their long term future. He says companies should develop in-house training programs and start recruiting young people even when they don’t need new employees. They should not hire employees out of desperation who are not compatible with a long term success strategy.

As I do with many guests, I asked Bill what he thinks of when hears the word “happiness.” He told me happiness means fulfilling one’s God given purpose, which is why when his company hires a person it tries to make sure the job is aligned with who they are and who they are designed to be.

Question: How do you make sure employees stay long term?

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Ep. 128 – Building a Great Apprenticeship Program, with Bill Cox

By Noah Graff

Unlike the majority of machining companies right now, struggling to find enough skilled people to fulfill demand, Cox Manufacturing in San Antonio, Texas, boasts a continuous pipeline of new talent. In fact, Bill Cox, the company’s owner, says right now the company has a stack of applications for shop apprenticeships, of which he will pick an average of one for every 50 candidates.

Cox Manufacturing specializes in producing high volumes of turned parts. I’ve been to his facility several times and can vouch that it’s a treasure trove of some of the best European multi-spindle screw machines, CNC Swiss, and CNC turning centers. The company churns out 1.5 million parts every week, supplying sectors such as aerospace, firearms, defense, automotive and trucking, medical devices, and electronics.

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

Bill’s father, William Cox Sr., started Cox Manufacturing 65 years ago. When he suffered a fatal heart attack when Bill was 12 years old, Bill’s mother took the lead of the company. After Bill attended college for a few years he came back to run the company with his mother. At that time the company had 18 employees, today, 45 years later, it has 185. 

Twelve years ago, Cox Manufacturing put together an apprenticeship program that it registered with the Department of Labor. The program is made up of an education curriculum, much of it taken from the online platform Tooling U-SME, along with some proprietary content created by Cox Manufacturing.

The other component of the apprenticeship program is “on the job training,” which today people prefer to call “on the job learning” or OJL. Cox Manufacturing’s apprenticeship program spans over three years. Each year the company maps out requirements for the OJL and academic components it chooses from courses offered by Tooling U-SME. The company has implemented software to closely track the apprentices’ skillset progress. Training coordinators and supervisors facilitate the training.

Bill Cox, Owner of Cox Manufacturing

Every time employees graduate from a year in the apprenticeship program they get a pay bump and a bonus week of vacation. Apprentices training to run CNC machines start at a wage of $15 per hour, while those training on cam multi-spindles start at $16 an hour. Bill says the company pays apprentices more money to learn cam multi-spindles because the machines are more complicated and less “sexy” than CNC machines. Even with the higher starting wage, it is a challenge for Cox Manufacturing to get people to choose the path of training on the cam machines. Bill says some people try to learn the cam machines but can’t get get the hang of them, yet then they try to work on CNC machines and excel. I asked Bill if the company likes to cross train people to run both cam and CNC machines. He said it is not the company’s normal policy. He likens running different types of machines to playing both the violin and the saxophone. But, he admits, anybody who can run a cam multi-spindle can run a CNC, just not always the opposite.  

Apprentice candidates visit Cox Manufacturing three times before they are chosen for the apprenticeship program. They have to take a math test, which many people fail. It consists of 12 questions, including 2-place decimal addition and subtraction, along with three word problems. Candidates are also given an AcuMax Index personality profile to predict if they will work well in the company’s environment.

Bill says in as few as 90 days apprentices can do basic setups on a 5-axis Swiss machine. They will know metrology, how to read blue prints, change tools, make offsets, and install tooling. However, 90 days is not enough time for apprentices to learn to set up cam multi-spindles because the machines have no computers to make automatic adjustments and have so many more moving parts. 

Bill says that low wages is one contributing factor in young people not choosing manufacturing as a career, but the greatest reason for the shortage of skilled workers in manufacturing is that businesses haven’t invested enough in the development of their workforces.

Question: Are cam screw machines sexy or ugly?

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Hindsight is 2020

By Lloyd Graff

From a business standpoint these last 16 months have been one of the most fascinating and turbulent periods I have ever observed and dealt with. 

Last March we were entering the COVID-19 pandemic. It was a period of fear, doubt, and paralysis. Selling used machinery was almost impossible because the industrial economy was a mess. Business virtually shut down in April, employees were laid off or furloughed, and everybody wore a mask and watched TV. Making ventilators and gun parts was about all that was cooking, except cooking, which was hot because almost all restaurants were closed. 

I asked myself, Risa, and Noah how we would cope. 

My answer was to quickly let go of two employees who were obviously not needed. Neither were really bad employees, but one guy was unreliable as far as attendance was concerned, and the other was a perfectionist, which made him too slow when speed was needed. Letting them go would save over $100,000 a year, so it was not a hard decision when business was so awful.

A harder call was deciding whether I wanted to stay in business when I was losing money. I was 75 years old, my wife was recovering from heart surgery, and I had money in retirement savings to draw upon. Yet, I decided to stay in business because I liked the people I work with, I enjoyed the trading part of the business, and I could work from home quite effectively. I thought the pandemic would run its course and the Pfizer and Moderna vaccines would be successful.

The COVID cases kept rising, deaths were becoming scary, but at least in the machining world people were working in factories, and our primary customers were staying alive. It appeared highly likely the Pfizer and Moderna vaccines would be successful and approved by the end of 2020.

Business woke up after the election. I closed the deal I had been working on for three years in the last week of 2020, which made an awful year look tolerable in the light of a miserable 10 months.

But for the first time in my business career, Graff Pinkert had no end of the year cash for employees. I regarded the 2020 losses as a personal and team defeat, despite people hanging together and working hard. 

The stock market’s stunning gains in 2020 were a bright signal that the absurdly low interest rates and the huge amount of money being pumped into the economy were indications of an impending turnaround if COVID-19 would cooperate.

Lloyd Graff at Graff Pinkert

I scrapped several machines in January that looked like they would never sell. My bank lending line was trimmed, but I still had money to buy inventory. Machinery looked cheap. Competitors appeared afraid or unable to buy. 

In early 2021, despite the January 6th Washington debacle and Trump’s recalcitrance to vacate the presidency, business was budding. The vaccines were released remarkably quickly and the machining economy began to accelerate like a sprinter at the Olympics.

I expected business to improve, but I was shocked by the first quarter and amazed by the second quarter. Even old cam multi-spindle screw machines were selling. Dinosaurs were awakening from the dead. 

I added overtime, hired one new full-time person, a summer employee, and two gig workers to provide extremely valuable skills. One of the gig workers was an electrician I had let go in April of 2020. As a full-time employee he wasn’t always fully engaged, but as a part-timer he was a star. 

Gig work, unemployment checks, and wiring refurbished homes suited him more than a full-time factory job. I also traded him a 2002 Toyota Avalon for hours worked, which enabled him to get to Graff-Pinkert without Uber. 

I also decided to raise the hourly workers by $4 per hour. This was partially to offset a dismal 2020, but also to reward them for a resounding 2021. It was also partly the Amazon effect. If Amazon, which is building several enormous distribution facilities within a few miles of Graff-Pinkert, could start at $15 per hour plus health care and other benefits, I figured I had to pay more. I hired two beginning laborers for $18.50 per hour to outbid Amazon. 

Labor is really a small part of our expenses, but it is crucial. I paid significantly more in bonuses to Rex and Noah, who were assuming an ever greater role in Graff-Pinkert. I paid off all of the company’s bank loans for the first time in decades. 

***

I expect the rest of 2021 will be very strong economically. More workers will start to enter the precision machining world if wages look attractive compared to restaurants, hotels, and low paying service work. 

Next year is cloudy. The pace of growth cannot continue at 8%. The recouping for 2020 will run its course. Inflation will come down. But I see the machining world improving for several years after very choppy growth for the past 20 years.

The future of the automotive industry is quite fuzzy to me at this moment. The enormous announced investment for non-gasoline cars is a huge bet on the public actually buying electric, which I see as quite iffy. If the stupid leaders of Volkswagen in Germany really plan to throw $35 billion Euros at electric, it stands a strong chance of failing.

In my business, I have placed my bet on good people and aggressive buying of what we call “sexy ugly” machines. Time will tell if they remain sexy to customers.

Question: What is the one thing you won’t forget from the last 16 months?

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Ep.127 – Creating a Successful Diverse Workforce, with Aneesa Muthana (Part 2)

By Noah Graff

Pioneer Service employs a diverse group of people—varying age groups and genders, African Americans, Latinos, and a few old white guys, too. Twelve of its 31-person workforce are women. The diversity provides the company with a great pool of talent and creates a special work environment.

Today’s podcast is part two of my interview with Aneesa Muthana, co-owner and president of Pioneer Service Inc., a thriving Swiss machine shop in Addison, Illinois.

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

Aneesa says that even with such a unique, diverse workplace, her company still deals with the problem of its people forming cliques, which can hurt their ability to work together.

Like in every organization, cliques emerge based on variables such as cultural backgrounds, job types, and seniority. Aneesa copes with this problem by demonstrating to her employees that she has equal respect for everyone. 

Aneesa Muthana of Pioneer Service Inc.

She likes to spend time with employees on the shop floor, devoting the same amount of her time to everyone—people of all job types, seniority, etc. She passes out water bottles on a hot days. She learns about people’s lives. She wants to show them that she cares about them and they aren’t just a number. She even tries to reveal some of her own vulnerability.

Aneesa says she recognizes that people naturally gravitate to others with similar jobs or backgrounds. What she wants is for employees to listen to each other with respect and cooperate when they come together in the huddle.  

She says her best employees almost always come from referrals by current or past employees, because employees who have already been successful at the company usually bring in people whose personalities and abilities fit with the company’s culture. 

I asked Aneesa if she had any advice for a machining company that was having trouble finding good people—a company unlike hers that didn’t have a base of strong employees who could bring in others like themselves.

She chuckled and suggested the company should join the Precision Machined Products Association (PMPA), of which she soon will be president. She says that peers in the organization guided her to modernize her shop in 2012 when the company had lost 90 percent of its business. She marveled at the unique cooperation the organization fosters amongst its members, who sometimes are direct competitors. 

Companies are capable of great things when people respect each other in the huddle.

Question: Do you wish your workplace were more diverse?

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Ep. 126 – Creating a Successful Diverse Workforce, with Aneesa Muthana (Part 1)

By Noah Graff

Several months ago, I called Pioneer Service Inc. when I noticed online they had a used Doosan for sale. The woman who answered the phone beamed with enthusiasm. She told me that she couldn’t wait to come to work every day because of how much she loved her job and the company she worked for.

So, for our current season about how machining companies find good employees, I knew I needed to interview Aneesa Muthana, a favorite past guest on the podcast, and the co-owner and president of Pioneer Service Inc. What is Aneesa’s secret? What is in the Kool-Aid she is passing out to employees on the shop floor that gives them such passion for their jobs?

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

Pioneer Service is a Swiss machining company in Addison, Illinois, established in 1990 by Aneesa’s uncle. Aneesa joined her uncle as a partner in 1993, on the condition that she would assume full control of the operations of the company. When she came to the company it was an old school screw machine shop filled with Brown & Sharpes. In the last seven years the company has replaced its Brownies with a fleet of high-tech CNC turning equipment—mainly Star CNC Swiss lathes and a few turning centers. Aneesa says she particularly likes the output and reliability of the Stars. The company makes parts for many sectors such as medical, aerospace, biotech, and electric vehicles such as TESLA.

Aneesa grew up working at M & M Quality Grinding, a centerless grinding company her parents started. She says that at 11 years old, while cleaning tanks on the shop floor, she fell in love with the production business. Yet despite making a very good living at her family’s company, she left her job at age 23 when she felt she could could no longer progress in her career there. 

When the Covid-19 crises hit in 2020, Aneesa was faced with the dilemma of whether to furlough employees when parts orders were put on hold. Despite some questioning from her management team, she chose to keep producing parts at current quantities, rather than furlough employees or cut overtime. She didn’t want to create instability in her 30-person workforce, and she anticipated correctly that orders would eventually resume. 

Like many machining companies in 2021 Pioneer Service is having a great year, but despite having held onto her employees during the crises Aneesa says she is always searching for new good people and always has to try hard to keep the ones the company currently has.

She finds some new employees on LinkedIn but says the best ones usually are referrals from current or former employees. Pioneer Service pays competitive wages, starting at $17 per hour, and Aneesa says she is committed to creating a company culture where employees feel respected and valued, so it sometimes surprises her when employees are enticed to leave by competitors who offer very modest pay raises or perks. 

Aneesa says sometimes applicants with experience seem to check all the right boxes for a position, but if she senses they will not treat coworkers well she will not hire them. 

She says she is committed to having all her employees feel like their voices are being heard and that they belong. Half of Pioneer Service’s employees are women, and the company also employs some African Americans, a long underrepresented group in the machining industry. A workplace where people feel comfortable and accepted is vital to maintain such a diverse group.

Aneesa has recently become a payed professional speaker, and often she is asked to speak on behalf of women in manufacturing. I asked her if she gets tired playing the role of “the woman advocating for women in manufacturing.” 

She says she likes to talk about women in manufacturing to empower them. She wants to educate and inspire women leaders to participate in male dominated industries. Also, inspiring women does a service to society and the economy because it brings more quality people into the workforce. 

Aneesa also wants expose other groups besides women to opportunities in manufacturing such as young people or people in the inner-city. She says to be successful in a profession people need to feel like they belong, so it is up to business owners and leaders to make people feel that way.

She tells audiences that although machining is a male dominated industry, she hangs with the guys, and they’re not monsters. She says women can’t portray men as villains and then expect them to accept them. She says it’s good for people to talk about their pain, but everyone, no matter what background, has gone through pain, so it’s important not to feel like a victim and blame others.

Question: Did your company keep all its people during the pandemic? Why?

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Ep. 125 – Hiring Ex-Felons, with Kathryn Shibelski

By Noah Graff

On today’s podcast I interviewed Kathryn Shibelski. Kathryn is a second chance hiring advocate. Her firm, KES HR Consulting, works with companies who are considering hiring incarcerated or formerly incarcerated people. The job candidates have often been convicted for drug offenses, white collar crimes, sex crimes, and even murder. 

Obviously, the idea of hiring people with criminal records could seem quite risky for a number of reasons, but according to Kathryn, second chance hires can thrive in the right work environment and even surpass the performance of employees with no criminal background.

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


Main Points


Strengths of Formerly Incarcerated People

In various areas around the United States there are programs in prisons that train inmates in trades such as machining. 

Kathryn says formerly incarcerated people are often the most devoted, loyal employees. One reason for this is their gratitude for the opportunity just to have a job. Many ex-felons have few options for employment, so its extra important for them to hold onto their jobs, both for supporting themselves and to fulfill parole obligations. 

Also, formerly incarcerated people often come into jobs with a unique set of skills. In prison people are forced to be resourceful. They have to solve daily practical problems using limited resources that people on the outside take for granted.

 

Other Reasons for Second Chance Hiring

Companies who employ second chance hires can receive tax breaks through the work opportunity tax credit. Also, Federal bonding programs protect employers against losses caused by the fraudulent or dishonest acts of at-risk bonded employees.

Finally, Kathryn encourages companies to hire second chance employees because it helps communities end a cycle of repeat offenses that often occur when people are released from prison.

 

Second Chance Hiring Obstacles

One of Kathryn’s main services is helping companies with on-boarding second chance hires.

Often formerly incarcerated people lack resources that many of us take for granted, such as a bank account, transportation to get to work, and a decent place to live. Companies who hire them have to be ready to help their new employees cope with these challenges.

One of the greatest challenges for companies to successfully hire second chance employees is getting their current workforce to buy in. Kathryn is a proponent of employers keeping an open mind to people with all types of criminal backgrounds, but she says that every company needs to choose for themselves which candidates they feel comfortable working with. Everyone at a company has to be on board for second chance hiring, not just the top managers. Often at least one individual at a company has had a bad past experience with a certain type of offender, and this may cause it to rule out many candidates immediately.

Another criterion companies need to consider is how long a candidate was incarcerated. People incarcerated for a decade or more often become institutionalized, making them prone to emotional issues.

Kathryn admitted to me that even she has her own personal difficulties regarding certain types of offenders, but she still firmly believes that everyone deserves a second chance to turn their lives around. 

When reasoning with people who are resistant to second chance hiring, Kathryn suggests to them to think about their own friends or relatives who have made past mistakes or had poor luck navigating the U.S. criminal system. Have they made it back successfully?

To get in touch with Kathryn and learn more about her services, the best way is to go to her LinkedIn profile: https://www.linkedin.com/in/kathrynshibelski/.

Question: Would you consider hiring an ex-felon?

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Best of Swarfcast: Ep. 75 – 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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Best of Swarfcast – Ep. 85 – Kaizen Principles for Personal Growth with Darrell Sutherland

By Noah Graff

Note: The Swarfcast team is enjoying a short summer break this weekend. We’ll be back next week with a fresh blog. In the meantime, enjoy this great episode from 2020 on incorporating Kaizen principals into your daily life, with guest Darrell Sutherland. 

Today’s guest on the podcast is Darrell Sutherland, founder and owner of Dylan Aerospace in Auburn, Washington, a Tier 1 supplier for Boeing.

Scroll down to listen to the podcast. Or listen on your phone on Apple Podcasts and Google Podcasts.

Darrell is also a professional mentor. He believes in using the Kaizen manufacturing principles for personal development as well as to improve a business. He believes in the power of mentorship so fervently that he spends over $100,000 a year on his own education.

Main Points

(3:40) Darrell talks about his personal transformation in the last decade or so. He says that for many years it was hard for him to just get out of bed because he wasn’t happy with his life, despite his success and running a business he loved.

(4:15) Darrell says growing up he looked awkward and was bullied a lot but thinks his difficult childhood prepared him for adversity later in life. He says when he was young he got into martial arts, which made him realize his passion for learning and more importantly teaching. He says he has a talent for deconstructing ideas and concepts and synthesizing them into individuals’ unique abilities. 

(5:40) Darrell grew up in Washington state. His grandfather and father worked for Boeing. His father told him to never be a “number” working for Boeing.

(8:00) Darrell says his manufacturing business had been very successful and made a lot of money for a long time before he underwent his personal transformation. He was even able to take more than 10 years off from day to day operations so he would have a lot of time to raise his kids. Yet he still wasn’t content with his life as he was addicted to food and alcohol, gaining over 100 pounds. He says November of 2009 he realized that he needed to change direction, starting with his health. Darrell says it took him many years and thousands of dollars to get the guidance he needed to fix his life. 

(11:00) Darrell in the end realized that the Kaizen principles he had embraced in his manufacturing business could be applied to his own personal life. Darrell summarizes the Kaizen principles as deciding what one wants to accomplish and then analyzing and breaking it down to its root. Then a person starts making small incremental changes at the lowest level he can, and then analyzes the result at that low level. The process makes a person more aware of certain facts about his own life that he hadn’t looked at before. Then when a person can understand the roots of what the real issues are, he can understand the challenges he needs to overcome. Darrell calls his philosophy “living Kaizen,” and in his new book he writes about its parallels with the Toyota Kaizen model. 

(14:30) Darrell says that reshoring of manufacturing is happening quickly and we as a country need to be prepared for it. He says despite Covid-19 this is probably one of the greatest times to be in manufacturing. He says that the pandemic demonstrated to everyone that the offshoring of U.S. manufacturing during the last few decades put the United States in a terrible position in the areas of infrastructure and national security. 

(15:40) Darrell says before Covid-19 he was already planning for 2020 to be a big year for his company. He says that several years ago his company started an initiative called I Love MFG. MFG stands for “Moving, Feeding, and Guarding” America and the world. 

(16:55) Darrell says that young people have no connection to manufacturing. He says they don’t think about their consumer items or modes transportation that are created through manufacturing. He says with reshoring upon us he is going to devote himself to opening young people’s minds to manufacturing.

(19:30) Darrell says that people often “stumble” into the world of manufacturing rather than set out to make it their trade. He says the question we need to ask is, how do we turn people into professional manufacturing people? He says we need to analyze how people are hardwired from birth and softwired by their community and then find the lane for them in the manufacturing space. He says he interviews his employees of all levels to help them figure out their talents and find the best way they can excel at his company.

(24:30) Darrell talks about how to find mentors and why they are so important. He says mentors are important to help us to find our weaknesses so we can fix them but to find the right mentor a person has to figure out what he wants. Darrell says to look on social media for mastermind groups to locate mentors, but he warns to watch out for life coaches who haven’t already achieved anything in their lives. 

Darrell says for more information about Living Kaizen people can go to his Website, darrellasutherland.com and lifeapprentaceship.com where he will be giving away a free PDF with an introduction to his program.

Question: Which self-help books have benefited you in the past?

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