3 generations work together at Jackson machine shop
JACKSON, Mich. -- The apple couldn't get much closer to the Bigford family tree without remaining attached at the stem.
On a typical day, three generations of Bigfords can be found working in the same department at Jackson-based Orbitform - Tyler, 20, running a milling machine, Dick, 49, creating a program for that milling machine and Richard, 69, working a manual drill press.
The Bigfords combine for 85 years of machining knowledge between them, with Richard punching his first time card in 1963 - a year before ZIP codes were introduced or the Beatles released their first single in the U.S.
"He's old school," Dick joked about his father to the Jackson Citizen Patriot ( http://bit.ly/1CgRdwU ).
Dick has worked as a machinist for three decades, while his son Tyler has been in the business for four years.
"It's safe to say machining runs in our blood," Dick said. "We have a lot of years of experience between the three of us."
Dick supervises both his father and son at Jackson-based Orbitform, a shop that specializes in engineering and building assembly machines. All three live in Jackson.
The trio - who make up one-third of the milling department at Orbitform - have all worked together under one roof since Tyler began as an apprentice there in 2010.
Orbitform is owned by state Sen. Mike Shirkey, R-Clarklake.
"It's awesome," Shirkey said of having three generations all working at his company. "We're privileged and proud to have the Bigfords there. They have a great work ethic and are always looking to learn more."
Tyler Bigford earned his journeyman certification from the Jackson Area Manufacturers Association this month, and won the apprentice of the year in 2014 after logging 8,000 work hours at Orbitform, two years of which he worked while getting his diploma from Vandercook Lake High School.
All three Bigfords have their journeyman certification - Dick and Richard from Jackson Community College - and graduated from Vandercook Lake High School.
"My dad and I even have the same birthday," Dick Bigford said. "We were both born July 29."
Richard Bigford worked at Jackson-based Miller Tool & Die from 1945 to 2008 as a tool and die maker and group leader before going into "semi-retirement." He's worked part-time at Orbitform since.
"There isn't a whole lot we can't accomplish with all three of us working together," Richard said. "There aren't many places that can say they have three generations in the same place."
Dick, who has worked at LuPaul Industries, Miller Tool & Die and Orbitform, said he even went through his apprenticeship using his father Richard's math book from the 1940s.
Both Tyler and Dick volunteer as firefighters and EMTs in Liberty Township.
All three Bigfords say they were spurred into working in the tooling industry, to some extent, by their fathers before them.
Richard Bigford said his father Roy Bigford - who somewhat surprisingly does not share a name, birthday or math book with any of his offspring - worked at Miller Tool & Die and helped his son get into the business. From there, a long line of Bigfords, down to Roy's great-grandson Tyler, have continued the family tradition.
"I really wanted to do something with my hands and it's rewarding to see what I've produced when I'm finished," Tyler said.
In an industry where good employees are becoming harder and harder to find, management at Orbitform is excited to have a pipeline of employees in the Bigfords.
"It's pretty exciting to have all three Bigfords working with us," Orbitform President Phil Sponsler said. "A lot of businesses like ours struggle to find good people, and we have a group of people that not only find good people, but breed them."
Information from: Jackson Citizen Patriot, http://www.mlive.com/jackson