I Meet The Nicest People

I Meet The Nicest People

GUEST BLOG: This blog was originally published on the Turning Point column of Production Machining by Chris Koepfer.

As most of you who follow PM know, I get to visit many people and places as part of my editorial job. Hopefully, it’s one reason you “tune in” each month. With many miles and too many years under my belt, it is still a thrill to get into the field to meet and learn from America’s “makers” and pass some of that on to you.

Sometimes even a grizzled old veteran like me gets a surprise from one of these remarkable people that I’ve had the pleasure to meet and report on. This month’s cover story is about one such shop. 

Having spent my career in metalworking manufacturing, I can’t speak with any authority about the folks in other lines of work, but I’m quite sure none can beat the quality of individuals it continues to be my pleasure to interact with. My box of business cards runneth over with these simple mementoes of my visits, encounters and meetings with people of all stripes from the many places I have traveled. Occasionally, I flip through them and reminisce—kind of like looking at a yearbook.

One stand out business card is from Jeremy Hamilton, president of Advance CNC Machining, the subject of this month’s cover story. The story is about how this machining center-focused shop discovered Swiss-type machining. I think it’s a good example of a company moving forward beyond its comfort zone, and succeeding at it.

Earlier this year, Jeremy did something unique and memorable after Pete Zelinski, my colleague at Modern Machine Shop, wrote a story about Advance migrating its prismatic part production from VMCs to HMCs. Pleased with Pete’s efforts, Jeremy took it upon himself to drive from Columbus to Cincinnati and buy local favorite, Graeter’s ice cream, for all of our employees.

Needless to say, Jeremy won over the hearts, and especially the stomachs, of our employees. Such a gesture speaks to why I so enjoy the people I meet in this business. My shop visit was scheduled after the ice cream. I sure hope Jeremy is as pleased with my efforts.

Our industry resembles a closed loop. We tend to talk about what we do amongst ourselves. When a visitor like Pete or me comes in, not selling something, and takes interest in what’s being done, it’s rare.

However, Jeremy and most others we meet understand that we appreciate why being able to take something of lesser value and apply skills, knowledge and innovation to fashion an end product of higher value is important. That’s an extremely cool and satisfying talent that’s pervasive within the industry in which we all work. It’s why, after all the years and miles, I still get such a kick out of this job. Ice cream is optional, but appreciated.

Few, if any, “civilians” have a clue as to how the stuff of their lives becomes the stuff of their life. We do. It’s not a secret, but it’s not known by many because of a lack of interest, in most cases. Like a kid at Christmas, things simply appear as if by magic. That magic, my friends, is manufacturing, and it’s not centralized at the North Pole. Increasingly, it’s right here in the U.S. as we morph into the world’s workshop.

Happily, it seems that manufacturing is getting a new lease on the consciousness of some. It’s not so much that people in general, politicians in particular and the mainstream media most certainly, understand how things are manufactured, however, there does seem to be a new found appreciation of the role manufacturing plays in the economy and our standard of living.

My hope is this attitudinal renaissance takes root and grows. Understanding the need for sustainability, stability and wealth production are critical, and I get the feeling we may be on the cusp of all three. While it’s never pretty or easy, it’s a positive change that I haven’t seen for a long time. Lessons learned from the “service economy,” I hope.

Hopefully, from this promising springboard of realization, educators too will come along and help produce the next generation of manufacturers who are so desperately needed. If indeed the middle class has gone missing, it may be that they are simply unidentified and underappreciated. We have the so-called good jobs, and we need the people to fill them.

As this is our last issue for 2014, it’s my pleasure to use this space to thank you readers and our advertisers for a great year. We are only possible because of you, and our challenge is to never lose sight of that. From the PM staff, Happy Holidays, and we wish you a safe and prosperous 2015. Let’s keep the momentum going.