For most of my life, when I’d mention that I was a machinist, the common response was, “So you work on cars?”
While other trades like plumbing or welding have captured public attention, machinists remain unseen—when was the last time you read a book about the life of a machinist? How often do you see our trade depicted in movies or TV shows? This lack of awareness often leads aspiring tradespeople to overlook machining as a perfect fit for their skills and aspirations.
But our work is extraordinary, ranging from rocket components that help us reach the stars to the intricate gears that power the machines of tomorrow. Other trades (and higher education, quite frankly) may have out-marketed us in the past, but I’m determined to elevate the hidden artistry of machining to its rightful place in the limelight. In other words, I’m on a mission to “make manufacturing sexy.”
Here’s how I’ve ingrained that mission into my shop, Machine Time, Inc.:
Securing Our Future
By the end of this year, I plan on transitioning from Chief Executive Officer to Chief Vision Officer. I plan to engage with middle schools, industry leaders, and anyone interested in the manufacturing movement. It’s not just about bringing more manufacturing back to the U.S.; it’s about ensuring that we have the skilled professionals to make things happen.
Building a Brand
Despite working with esteemed customers like NASA, Machine Time is far from a household name. However, we are gearing up for major growth through acquisitions, machinery procurement, infrastructure development, and nationwide expansion. By increasing our reach, we amplify our voice and spread awareness of our industry.
Throughout my career, I’ve witnessed the challenges many manufacturing business owners face in embracing technology. While part tolerances become smaller, machines grow costlier, and training extends to 6-8 years, numerous shops remain stuck in the outdated practices of the 1980s. At Machine Time, we have been early adopters of technological advancements since our establishment in 2016. We understand the importance of priming our shop for scalability by embracing innovation.
The arrival of our first 5-axis machine in 2019, followed by a fleet of Mori DMU 5-axis machines, has completely transformed our approach to manufacturing. Yet, our country as a whole has been slow to adopt these advancements. At Machine Time, we prioritize providing our team with everything they need, from machine accuracy to creative freedom. We empower our machinists to let their skills truly shine, free from limitations.
Standardized Processes for Scalability
To achieve sustainable growth, we have implemented standardized processes that enable us to scale efficiently. Consistency is crucial, particularly when it comes to estimating and quoting parts. These standardized processes also facilitate seamless onboarding for new hires, ensuring they quickly contribute to our growth. Additionally, our recent AS9100 certification has led us to rethink every aspect of our operations. Proactive problem-solving and a focus on quality have become our superpowers, propelling our work forward even before production begins.
Cultivating an Inspiring Culture
What sets Machine Time apart is our incredible company culture. Each member of our team considers this the best place they’ve ever worked, thanks to our unwavering commitment to valuing our employees. We provide them with the necessary tools, resources, and a collaborative environment where knowledge is shared freely. It’s about empowering everyone to reach their full potential, without rigid hierarchies.
Finding Our Competitive Edge
From manufacturing rocket parts for space exploration to crafting essential tools like hammers, our facility offers a diverse range of opportunities. Our precision-driven process involves measurements down to the thickness of a Sharpie mark and utilizes CNC programs with over 100,000 lines of code. We showcase our mastery of hand skills by transforming 600-pound blocks of aluminum into intricately shaped 18-pound components. With an unwavering pursuit of excellence, we make a significant impact on American manufacturing through our cool creations, utilization of advanced technology, and constant drive for growth and innovation.
By committing to building a “sexy” shop, we gain a competitive edge in two major ways: first, we ensure that parts are delivered on time and to specifications, eliminating the challenges faced when sourcing manufacturing to multiple shops. Second, our proactive approach fosters efficient teamwork, relieving the burden on our machinists and allowing them to focus on their expertise.
A Call to Action
Raising awareness about the importance of the precision manufacturing industry is crucial, particularly in our current landscape affected by COVID-19 and the need to bring manufacturing back to the United States. We must address the pressing question of who will be responsible for making essential goods. Neglecting the manufacturing industry poses risks to our ability to defend ourselves, maintain our freedom, and meet future demands.
Advocating for investment in technology, workforce development, and innovation is essential to secure our manufacturing capabilities, support the economy, protect intellectual property, and ensure a self-sufficient and resilient future. Let’s unite in recognizing the consequences of neglecting this crucial industry and actively work towards revitalizing and strengthening our reputation. Together, we can make manufacturing truly sexy.
Want expert tips and tricks for scaling your shop? Check out our comprehensive guide.
Craig Jackson started working in the family machine shop when he was 14 years old and has developed his skills as a machinist, a fabricator, and an engineer for over 4 decades. A lifelong entrepreneur, Craig’s first major success was in 2008 when he built a company called Easy Wood Tools. Within a few years, the Easy Wood Tools brand grew exponentially, showcasing Craig’s ability to invent novel technology and teach just about anyone the techniques of wood-turning. Craig founded Machine Time in 2016 to be the machining company he could never find. Connect with Craig on LinkedIn here.