By Lloyd Graff
I just spent a week doing the most inefficient, labor-intensive, stupidly expensive, appallingly large carbon footprint use of my time I can think of. I schlepped to California and knocked on doors. It was one of the most satisfying weeks I’ve spent in 10 years. Every face-to-face call I made was productive. Each client and potential client I met with spent more time with me and was more open than I could’ve anticipated. I realized that old school active listening face-to-face was still magical.
Two of the clients I visited were Tony Maglica and Ray Fish, who continue to defy the odds and conventional business wisdom as they build their companies in ridiculously expensive Los Angeles. Tony is 80 years old and runs Mag Instrument. Inc., the manufacturer of the Maglite® Flashlight,out of an immaculate million square foot complex in Ontario, 30 miles southeast of L.A. Ray is 76 and runs Electro-Adapter, making aircraft wiring hardware out of a functional 100,000 square foot plant in Chatsworth in the San Fernando Valley.
Both men work a dozen hours a day turning aluminum and other metals into countless perfect assemblies and finished products. Are they doing it for the money? Of course there are. And of course they aren’t. Tony could’ve sold out for centimillions I’m sure, and Ray hardly needs a tag day, but the daily challenges continue to light their fires.
Both guys still love to buy machinery. They live for the bargains on cam equipment that their peers would call obsolete. Tony recently bought a batch of Davenport screw machines and Ray picked up ten B60 single spindle turret automatics and made five good ones out of them. He still has the extra carcasses laying around for useful scavenging. Tony Maglica’s passion for unloved machinery brought him to the bankrupt assets of German Rotary transfer machine maker, Eubama, which he picked up from the ash heap. Tony has long admired the small Eubama trunnion, and he’s relishing the challenge of tweaking the design and making the key components in California and then shipping them to Germany for assembly.
Ray Fish was crowing to me about getting a steal on a Haas SL-20 lathe in a San Diego machine shop auction. The machine had 300 hours on the spindle. He had also just lowballed a dealer on a GT 75 Omniturn, even though he needs three of them right now. Ray knows what he wants, but the fun for him is buying it at garage sale prices.
When I spend time with manufacturing lifers like Tony Maglica and Ray Fish, I think of the aphorism, “Nobody says on their deathbed ‘I wish I’d spent more time at the office.'” I think these guys would laugh out loud at that common wisdom.
Question: On your deathbed do you think you will wish you had spent less time at the office?