We don't make chips like we used to
Carr Machine & Tool, Inc. has been machining parts since 1973, when its founder, Richard Carr, opened his doors for business on the very east side of Elk Grove Village. To say manufacturing has changed dramatically since then is an understatement.
Of course, one of the biggest changes has been the onset of the internet, but more importantly, the multi-axis high-tech CNC machines integrated with CAD/CAM software to cut the metal has been a profound change.
It does blow my mind to see some of these components come out of these machines. I think of the days I spent on the shop floor in the late 1970s and '80s alongside my dad. We thought that technology was incredible then. Today, it's a whole new world. It truly has accelerated the making chips era.
Making chips refers to the chip formation process where a fresh metal interface is continually produced between the tool material and the workpiece at varying cutting forces, angles and temperatures.
Not only has chip making evolved to new levels, but the way we inspect parts has also matured at a hypersonic speed.
At Carr we are utilizing inspection equipment that can measure an entire part and produce inspection data at the push of a button. In addition, we recently added a portable coordinate measurement machines (CMM) that we take right on the shop floor and laser scan the surface of the part to measure .0005. That's like taking a human hair and slicing it eight ways.
We've recently received AS9100D accreditation, which says we have the processes, procedures and protocols in place to do work for the aerospace industry. Clients like Virgin Galactic, Jacobs, Tesla and Moog rely on us to give them professional documentation that traces inspection, tolerance, GD+T, material origin and composition, and relies on our experience and credibility.
To keep our certification in force, we are mandated to keep copious records and have a third-party registrar audit us once a year. Some of our purchase orders give flow-down information with verbiage like this product is for use in manned space flight; materials, manufacturing and workmanship of highest quality standards are essential to astronaut safety. This is serious as there is no substitution for human life.
Our growth in recent years has been deliberate. We knew we had to pivot away from our current customer base, notably, commercial printing. Although the foundation of the company was built on newspaper printing press parts, the advent of digital media has been ever apparent. We witnessed decreased sales year over year and knew that something had to change.
We studied what other successful companies were doing and found nearly all had implemented a healthy corporate culture so we started with a serious commitment to our people.
Our core values: flex, fly, play and energize, define who we are as a company, and are words we live by. We hire, fire, rate and review our team based on alignment with them. If a new prospect has the skill set but doesn't fit within our values, we simply don't hire them. We can train nearly anyone, but values are often impossible to append.
We instituted weekly production and strategy meetings where, for 90 minutes, the entire team comes together at our conference room table to review that week's agenda that is timely and relevant. We have collaborative discussions that include but certainly are not limited to: the state of the economy, our new facility, production, hot jobs and even COVID mitigation.
We upgraded our ERP system. With fresh, young talent driving operations, it was evident that we needed a system that could seamlessly run all aspects of the business. We moved to ProShop ERP and never looked back. It handles all the business estimating, operations, finance, credentialing, training, and more.
With computer stations at every machine in our shop, all team members can log in to the system and easily track their time, see the flow of their job and access CNC programs and files.
Through our network of peers, we learned of an impactful systematized way to run our business. We all read a book called "Traction" by Gino Wickman. His philosophy on a methodized way to run your business is powerful and profound. Through weekly and quarterly meetings, we have established accountability for leaders that identify, discuss, and solve the big issues and set "rocks" or goals on a 12-week cycle.
The last big change was the decision to move our business into a new facility. We needed the space, realized our brand had to align with our clients which required a more state-of-the-art facility.
Adamant on staying in Elk Grove Village, we brought in a team of professionals: architects, designers, engineers and planners, to rebuild an older building. The result is a polished, industrial-modern facility that really dovetails our brand. We have buried the stigma of a dirty machine shop and now believe we look and act like the aerospace company that the headliners want to work with.
• Jim Carr is president and CEO of Carr Machine & Tool, Inc. in Elk Grove Village.