Capacity Podcast Ep. 1: Jeff Murphy of Reformed MFG

Sunny Han and Jeff Murphy talk shop, digging into the origin story of Reformed MFG and the learnings along the way

Reformed Manufacturing is a manufacturer located north of Boston in Salisbury, Massachusetts, and specializes in superalloys. Reformed does precision manufacturing, CNC machining and turning, as well as rapid prototyping for energy, aerospace, and electronics customers.

Jeff Murphy leads Reformed MFG's operations and is passionate about making high-quality parts while pouring into people with difficult backgrounds. Jeff tells Sunny about the rewards of being a Second Chance Employer and recalls many of his challenges along the way to being a thriving business. Listen in to hear everything from what it's like to use a CNC machine for the first time to how Juul crushed their first business and Reform's superpowers that helped them survive and become the successful company they are today.

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— Transcription — 

Heads up, this transcription is ai-generated so it may have some minor errors.

Sunny: [00:00:00] Today we're gonna have a conversation with Jeff Murphy from Reform Manufacturing. Jeff discovered his love for manufacturing organically out of necessity, and with no formal training and no background in manufacturing has led Reformed to be able to tackle the most challenging of projects that other shops can't handle.

Sunny: Jeff's secrets and his discovery of manufacturing from a very different light allow him to help propel this industry forward. Not only has he been able to do these projects, he's willing to do them. He's willing to innovate and solve these problems. And knowing the history of manufacturing, we know that people like Jeff are the secret to better products and better manufacturing in general.

Sunny: Reformed is located outside of Boston, north of Boston in Salisbury, Massachusetts employs non-traditional folks and is able to do really great work for a lot of different industries, including energy Aerospace. Electronics. [00:01:00] Jeff, welcome to the Fulcrum Podcast. Thanks for having me sunny. So Jeff, you are able to achieve a lot more than people that have had that formal background.

Sunny: What personal philosophies do you think you have that have allowed you to do that? I

Jeff: think that not having a formal background in machining and manufacturing has allowed me to really just think outside the box a bit more. Uh, I know just from previous life experience, it's very easy to get corralled into one mindset, one way of doing things.

Jeff: Um, and I come at it from, as an outsider, From someone that maybe doesn't know how to tackle a particular project, and I have to put thought into it, and I have to think, how can I do this with the resources available to me, with the personnel available to me, [00:02:00] with the tooling available to me, and do it for a good price and deliver an exceptional product?

Jeff: And that's how I look at everything that I do. Uh, I, I'm very customer focused, so I want to know what my customer wants, how they want it, and then delivered that to them. Um, For a good price, right? That's, that's, that's what at the end of the day, that's what everybody wants, is they want exactly what they want for a, for a good price.

Jeff: And so I, but I always thought with what they want and, and work it back to the price, right? Uh, it's very easy to look at it, look at a part that's complicated, that's, that's, uh, difficult to manufacture and overprocess it, overanalyze it, overin, inspect it, do [00:03:00] all of these things that maybe aren't necessary.

Jeff: So the first thing that, that we ought start with is a conversation with our customer around what exactly they're expecting from us. And, um, and so to just look at things, that's kind of the background I come from is, is a customer focused business. Um, . And so I, I, I always approach things that way from, from the customer standpoint.

Sunny: In my experience, what holds people back is they don't have a belief that it can be done. So they say it can't be. What, how do you, where do you draw your motivation? How do you, how do you get that belief that it can be done so you can motivate yourself to do that type of work?

Jeff: Anything can be done . Uh, I, and I believe that, you know what I mean?

Jeff: I look back at all of the amazing innovations that we've accomplished in this country over the last a hundred years, and the fact that, you know, we've put people in a space, we've put people on the [00:04:00] moon. We're 3D printing rocket engines right now. I mean, it's exciting, it's amazing, and into. Think that something can't be done is just a, a huge handicap.

Jeff: So I, I don't, I never think something can't be done.

Sunny: Is it important to you to feel connected to the end product that you're building components to? Like, are you curious about that? You ask about that. Is it something that your team is, uh, is, is, uh, motivated by? I think historically of the shops that I've toured and the people that I've met, there used to be a lot more connection with that end product.

Sunny: And somehow over the last 20 or 30 years we've gotten away from that. But I see a trend going back to, especially the new generation, people want to know what they're building and how it's gonna be used.

Jeff: Yeah. Uh, sometimes we know, sometimes we don't. Mm-hmm. it, it's, uh, it's always exciting when we do, we, we made a, uh, we made a particular part recently that, [00:05:00] uh, as far as we were told is, is going to be on the next Mars Rover mission, uh, which was.

Jeff: Super exciting. Like we were all excited about it. Everybody in the shop wanted to kind of get involved in it and mm-hmm. and, uh, it was a lot of fun. It was a very challenging, big part, and we were able to deliver it and uh, and get it done. But sometimes we don't, sometimes we have no clue. People, people will come and do a tour of the shop, say, well, what does that do?

Jeff: I have no idea. Mm-hmm. , in those cases, it's not as important. What's important to us is that the part is perfect, right? We, we, we get the satisfaction out of taking a print or a 3D model and turning it into something that we can hold in our hands and be proud of because we did it right. Uh, and it looks amazing.

Jeff: It functions amazing, and our customer is happy. Mm-hmm. , and that's where we [00:06:00] tend to, that's where I get excited, you know? ,

Sunny: tell me a bit about your shop. Um, what does it look like? Uh, what, what kind of capabilities and capacity and machines do you have? What are your, what are your people doing? Give us a sense of what it's like.

Jeff: Yeah, so we um, we moved into our current facility about, in 2019, middle of 2019, right before the, uh, pandemic hit. And we had, it's a 10,000 square feet and we had, um, about half of it full when we moved in. So we moved out of a much smaller space. And in the past three years, we've, we have, we now, A hundred percent.

Jeff: And in fact, we've, we've taken walls down to reclaim more floor space. Uh, as we add machines, we try to stay pretty up to date with technology. So most of our machines are newer. Uh, I think the oldest, uh, the oldest mill we have in the [00:07:00] shop is like a 2006. Um, but everything after that is 2012, 2018, 2021. Um, it's important to us to stay up on the technology.

Jeff: We have five, uh, vertical machining centers. Uh, we have three, two axis lays. Uh, we have one five axis mill turn center. We have a seven axis Swiss machine. We have wire edm, which is, um, probably my favorite machine in the shop. It's just, it's just so sexy. Yeah, it's super cool. Um, and not a lot of people have, uh, that type of capability in a, in a small job shop like us.

Jeff: So, we're able to really provide, uh, some value added services. And also, uh, we u we utilize that some of our machines in ways that other shops might not. You know, we'll run production jobs through our EDM machine in difficult machine materials. We'll do a lot of processing in there because we can set, [00:08:00] um, we can set pots up in multiples and we can press the button, walk out the door at night, come back and have, you know, 50 or a hundred blanks waiting for us.

Jeff: Uh, so we, we try and utilize all the technology available to manufacture out pods.

Sunny: So growing to the size that you have is challenging. You have to find the people, you have to find the, you have to find the money for the work centers. You have to find the space that's zoned for an industrial and fill it with those machines and gotta find the work and get repeat work and develop relationships.

Sunny: What, if you were to start all over again, where would you start? What would, what would be the, if you went back in time and could talk to yourself, what would be the most important thing? Looking backwards in time?

Jeff: I, I'm not sure I would change anything. And, and, and, and that sounds a little weird because, um, [00:09:00] would all like to go back and give ourselves some advice, but I value the, all of the experiences that I have learned along the way. So I think my advice to myself would just to, would just be to have faith and in yourself and have con have a little bit more confidence in what I was doing.

Jeff: Um, because I definitely psyched myself out a few times. , you know, I said, ah, should we do this? Should, you know, um, And, and that caused me to probably delay pulling the trigger on a big, big purchase or hiring a new person. Um, that would, that may be one, one thing would be to, to spend the money on talented people first.

Sunny: And was that your intuition already? You just weren't confident about it, but your intuition has mostly been right?

Jeff: Yeah. And [00:10:00] it's, it's difficult, you know, it's, it's really difficult when you get a, you know, this person is talented, but they want, they want more money than I'm taking home. Mm-hmm. , uh, on a weekly basis.

Jeff: And to, at the time and to to pull that trigger and say, yeah, I'm gonna hire that person. That's, that's a difficult one for sure. Um, at least the first time. Yeah. Right. But what, what ends up happening is, is that person does not, if they're the right person, if they're a superstar, um, , which is what the type of people I look for.

Jeff: I look for the superstars. If they're a superstar, they make me more money. They cost me money, but they make me more money than I expend, and they also take something off my plate.

Sunny: Did you get that lesson from somewhere else? Did you read it in a book or it's, it is a lesson that's very valuable, but.

Sunny: Estimate that a majority of people in [00:11:00] all sorts of businesses and services, businesses and manufacturing, construction, never make that leap into understanding that value is what you look for. Not cost. Like where, how did you come up? How did you come to that secret?

Jeff: It was through a lot of trial and error.

Jeff: and, uh, and then, and a couple of friends pushing me, uh, actually a friend of mine that's not even, he's not even in manufacturing, you know, he, he comes from a, uh, a sales background, uh, cons, sales construction, sales background. He sold construction products. And I was talking to him one day, but he is very successful.

Jeff: And, uh, he said, he said, dude, you just have, we were talking about this exact same thing. He goes, dude, you just have to do it. You need that person, you need that superstar. And I said, I know, I know you're right. And, uh, and then I wanna say about a week later, the opportunity came and I knew, I knew the person, I knew what they could do, uh, and.

Jeff: So I, I made the offer. I said, why don't you come work for me? And they said, okay. Why?

Sunny: Why [00:12:00] do they join your company? Because it's always hard to get that first superstar, right? Like superstars wanna work with other superstars, and you have to, you have to get a critical mass of them to continue the culture forward like that.

Sunny: But that first one is often really difficult to convince, to join your, you know, rickety little company that you just started. Uh, it seems like it was much easier for you than other people that I've talked to. Uh, why, why, why did he just

Jeff: join? Um, I'm not, I'm not exactly sure , but he did. Mm-hmm. , he said, he said, yeah, it took a little convincing and, and, uh, and I had to be flexible to, uh, had to be a bit flexible schedule wise, things like that, because he had other commitments that were going on.

Jeff: But he came on board and, um, you know, he is been with me since. Like beginning of the pandemic, like early 2020, uh, part-time, full-time. And, and that's fine. You know, I don't, I don't always need him there every day, but when I can, when he's [00:13:00] there and I have something that's complicated and difficult and I, I am not the one that has to deal with it, uh, it's really good.

Jeff: You know, the other thing too is, is um, is a commitment to training and mentoring my other employees. You know, I have, um, I have a. I call him a kid. He's not really a kid, but I have a kid, uh, Kyle, that works for me. And, uh, he, he was the very first employee that we hired, uh, when we moved to our new location.

Jeff: And he had very limited machining, uh, background. Uh, so this was about three years ago, and he came in and he wanted to learn and I wanted to teach him. And, and he would, he would stay late after work and we would, we would spend an hour, two hours, uh, working on, uh, learning how to set up [00:14:00] the mills, choosing materials, learn how to program stuff.

Jeff: And three years later, he's a, he's an excellent CNC programmer, you know, um, and he's one of my, he is, he is my best employee, you know, he is, uh, fantastic. So, and, and so, and then as I mentored him, uh, and now I've hired somebody, For him to mentor underneath him, you know, because that's, that's the only way we're going to keep people moving into this in industry and learning, right?

Jeff: We need to develop this mentorship mentality. I, I think that's my personal belief.

Sunny: How do you think that your experience learning, manufacturing from the outside gives you a higher degree of faith that new people can learn from scratch as well, that allows you to take better risks than other more established companies.

Sunny: Do you, do you think that's part of your superpower?[00:15:00]

Jeff: Yeah, I think it's, I think it's more convincing. It's, I find a lot of people are just blocked. I think, you know, they say, I can't learn that. Um, and so I, I find my job is more to, to when the new person starts working for me and they don't know anything, is to convince them that they can learn anything.

Jeff: How do you do that? I just, I do it by showing them, right? So when we take on a new job and they're like, whoa, how you do that? And I say, I don't know. I have no idea how we're gonna do this , but we're gonna learn, right? And we're gonna figure it out. We're gonna ask questions, we're gonna do research. And I show them that we can do things that we don't know how to do, or we're not exactly sure, um, can be done even, but we figure it out.

Jeff: And so if I can plant that [00:16:00] seed that, hey, if he can do it, if he can take this thing that he has no idea how to do, and he can in, in three or four days and, and he can do it and put it in it's concrete, right? That's the, that's the cool thing about what we do is, is everything we do is concrete. I take a piece of metal and I turn it into something and I go Look at that.

Jeff: And I go, that's crazy. And I say, I know. , you know, it is crazy. And, and that's what I'm challenging you to do, is to, is to say, I can learn it. I can do this too.

Sunny: Do you find that they get that initial burst of energy, they, they feed off of you, like the drafting off of your energy. Right? Um, after they learn to do that and they learn that learning is possible, where do they start plateauing?

Sunny: Because everybody plateaus after a while, right? Like, what is that first plateau that they hit coming from this, this method of, of education?

Jeff: The, there's a [00:17:00] few plateaus along the way, right? So it's, uh, it's, you're first just learning what's what in the shop, right? This is a, this is a lathe. This is a mill. This is aluminum. This is steel. That's a band saw. Okay. Uh, next thing is, uh, measurements. How do we. How do we measure things? How do we read a micrometer?

Jeff: How do we read a caliper? Right? How do we read a hike gauge? Um, and, and I think that certain people, um, if they're willing to keep pushing the envelope, they excel, they do very well. And, uh, and then some people don't, you know, some people kind of hit a plateau and that's this's as far as they can get. Hmm.

Jeff: You know, they'll get to the point where they can operate a machine and for whatever reason, they don't have the, uh, they don't have the drive, they don't have the motivation, [00:18:00] they don't have the mindset, and they, and they get stuck. Um,

Jeff: it's unfortunate. Um, Human nature. So, uh, one of the, one of the cool things though about what I really enjoy about this industry is all of those plateaus that you're talking about. Right? Because there is a never, I, I'm a type of person that gets, I get bored very easily. I lo I need to be learning new things all the time.

Jeff: I need new challenges in my existence. Uh, if I don't have them, I get, I'm like, all right, this next, you know, uh, in the manufacturing space allows me to constantly, every day that I walk in the door, there is a new challenge sitting on my desk waiting for me. Mm-hmm. , it's, uh, there's always something learned.

Jeff: It's, it's impossible. It's no one president can learn at

Sunny: all. And it feels like your belief is you could be a superstar at any one of those plateaus too, right? You can be really great at this [00:19:00] level and continue to hone your craft at that level of complexity. Correct. And there's room for you in the industry.

Sunny: Yes,

Jeff: of course. Absolutely. You know, but that. that still takes, um, dedication and the mindset that I want. I want to be the best. Sure. I wanna learn, right? I want to be the best at what I do. Uh, I want to come in and I wanna make great parts. I want to deliver to my customer, right? Um, and we're all customers, right?

Jeff: So if I'm, if I'm running the mill and it has to go over to the lay department, the guy in the lay department is my customer. Mm-hmm. , right? So if I don't do my job right, if I don't give him good parts to continue machining, I'm failing and I'm making his job harder, right? I need to, I, I'm always looking at it.

Jeff: Like I said, I'm from a customer-centric perspective. So it's, it's am, am who's my customer? [00:20:00] Is it, is it the actual customer or is it just the guy next to me that I have to pass this off to? . Right? What's he expecting? He's expecting a good part that he can load right in his machine and, and keep going on.

Sunny: Speaking of that, how do you, what is your belief set on how to handle conflict? This guy at the mill not making good parts, this guy at the lay is pissed off. How do you resolve that? Is it just a good old Boston way of yelling at each other until you get all the feelings out, or, uh, do you have, do you have some tactics and philosophies on that?

Sunny: Yeah,

Jeff: I don't, uh, I'm not a yeller. I don't, I don't yell at my guys, and if I do yell, they know it's, it's bad. Um, no, I'm, uh, I,

Jeff: if you're a, if you're the type of person that's just always, uh, miserable, so for lack of a better word, you're not a good fit for our shop, and that's gonna be apparent pretty [00:21:00] quickly.

Sunny: Um, and you, you let those people go? Yeah. Soon. A hundred percent. You value. That environment, that culture more than any individual person can expand your capacity and help you do more throughput,

Jeff: et cetera, et cetera.

Jeff: Yeah. Because if they, if, if that person, they can be the greatest machinist in the world, and if they come in and they destroy the culture inside our, on our shop floor, it's, they're worthless. Right. Um, we need to work as a team. We're, we're a small, we're a small shop in manpower. We have good capacity. Um, but we run things pretty lean.

Jeff: Um, even right now we've, we're, we're in a spot where we've actually let a couple of people go. A couple of people moved on, which were happy for them. Um, so we're, we've shrunk. by up to about 60% of where we were a few months ago, but we're we're actually putting out more work, um, [00:22:00] because we were the people that we have left the core team, we work really, really well together.

Jeff: Um, and, and that's, that's why it's important because if we're a cohesive unit, if we can communicate well and we can work together day in, day out every day without major conflict, um, we can, we can accomplish a lot, uh, which we can't do if, if everybody's just pissed off at each other and backstabbing, which I have no patience

Sunny: for.

Sunny: What was the process of learning that secret, some juicy stories of backstabbing or ? Have you always known it?

Jeff: No. Um, that, so I, I, um,

Jeff: I got very interested in, in, uh, lean manufacturing early on. And it's not, that is definitely not the easiest thing to accomplish. Uh, it takes a lot of dedication. Sure. And we, we are [00:23:00] far from, uh, very far from perfect at it. But, but one of the biggest things is, is culture. Right? Is is having a good company culture be.

Jeff: And, and that is super, super important. And there was some experimentation there. You know, , I had to, I had to sit on, uh, a couple of employees that were toxic. You know, I sat on them for months. I didn't wanna fire them. They were putting all parts and everything, and then finally it, it got to the point where I said, all right, you gotta, you have to go.

Sunny: What did, what did that process feel like? The process of sitting on them knowing that you, it, it was unsettling is from what it sounds like. Yeah. What, what was that process of switching from that to making that decision? Like how did that feel to you? Psychologically amazing .

Jeff: Um, I didn't want, I didn't necessarily want to, I never want to fire anybody that's not in my nature.

Jeff: Um, my, my brother, he loves to fire people. It's like his favorite thing in the world. Uh, yeah, that's not [00:24:00] me, but it is necessary and I have to force myself to do it right? Because when I walk into my place of work every day and I get that like twang of slight dread that I'm gonna have to deal with all this crap, this irrelevant, extraneous crap that doesn't, benefit our company at all.

Jeff: Um, and I, and I do that day in and day out, and then I finally make that decision. I say, okay, this person needs to go. And the second I make that decision, I feel relief. Mm-hmm. And I go down and I do it, and I take care of it. And then they're gone. And then everything gets better. You know? It does, it gets better.

Jeff: It, it stinks that we are now a man short, but most of the time the other guys are pretty happy that they knew. Yeah. They're pretty happy that I made that decision. And they're more than [00:25:00] willing to pick up the slack.

Sunny: Because one analogy I was given is that if your culture is strong enough, people get vortex out of your company.

Sunny: If you do that over and over again, and you teach your team, that's what you expect when a new toxic person comes in. You might not even notice it before your team's. Like, this guy's

Jeff: gotta go. Yeah. See you later. Mm-hmm. ,


Sunny: know? Yeah. , do you think that, um, what you've created at the company is scalable? I do.

Jeff: Very much so. It's, it's difficult as a small company, it's difficult to,

Sunny: well, you're not that small anymore. We're still

Jeff: a small company, , we're still small. Um, I'm not, uh, you know, we're not the size of a Parker Hannah fan or GE or any of these huge companies, or even some of the really large machine shops around us.

Jeff: And it's the [00:26:00] biggest challenge we face at the moment is employees. It's very difficult to find, um, qualified people, and it's very hard to match the level of pay and benefits that some of the bigger companies can offer with. Mm-hmm. in, in. , they can just throw money at the problem, which we can't necessarily afford to do.

Jeff: And so we have to get creative, you know, we have the culture becomes even more important. Yeah. There's a value to that. Right. And, and we, you know, so we need to find the person that doesn't wanna just be a number at a company and be bossed around all day. You can come here and you can work in a great shop.

Jeff: Our shop's a hundred percent climate controlled, it's air conditioned all summer. Um, you know, we try and make it really nice. Um, we do four day workweek, we do four 10. So you have three day weekend. Uh, there's, there's [00:27:00] all these things that we do that are, that's we try and set ourselves apart from maybe another shop.

Jeff: Right.

Sunny: You, you're not tar and feathering your employees.

Jeff: Right. Exactly. Exactly. And, um, . And so we do those things and you also get to come and be part of a, a small team and an up and coming company, right? Where, where the ceiling isn't stuck here, you know, you could come in with us and, and move up, you know, what does, what does reform manufacturing look like in five years?

Jeff: Can you envision that? You know, you're one of the, the, the six of us. Okay. You'd be, you'd be number seven in, in five years when there's a hundred of us , you'd be top of the totem pole, you know, so there's a lot of room for growth in our company as well. Those are the things that we, we look at. Um, if you're willing to learn, you know, if you're willing to put the [00:28:00] time in the effort in and learn and, and believe that it's possible to get there.

Jeff: Mm-hmm. .

Sunny: Alright, well, let's rewind the clock a little bit. Bring us back to when you first did anything on any manufacturing machine. I know the story cause I've heard it, but set the scene. What does it look like? I know that you're in your, your dad's garage at first, but put us there. Describe what that looked like.

Dylan: [00:28:33] *Sales Account Executive ruins the shot by walking in the background, automatically turning on the lights.*

Jeff: Um, the very first machine that I touched was a 19 45 9 inch South Bend lathe manual lathe that my dad had gotten for free. Somebody had given it to him and he painstakingly had taken it all apart and restored it and put it all back together and got it running. And I had had an idea for a product. I, [00:29:00] I went over to his house one day.

Jeff: I said, Hey, I just wanted to make one for myself. I said, you think we could make this? He said, yeah, I think I think we could do that. I said, all right, let's, you know, let's kind of do a little engineering, some shop drawings, just, you know, back of a piece of paper. And we ordered the material and we ordered some tooling and we started going and what was, what was the product?

Jeff: So it was a, and why ? So I, um, this is about, this is 2013, so about almost 10 years ago now. And, uh, I had been a, uh, a two pack a day smoker. I, I dipped. I just, I loved my nicotine. And, uh, a friend of mine had gotten cancer and he, you know, he was doing the chemo thing, doing treatment. And he, he looked at me one day and he just said, Hey, Murf.

Jeff: I said, you gotta, you gotta quit. He goes, you're like the, you're the walking poster [00:30:00] child for cancer, you know? And, uh, he unfortunately, uh, did not win his battle with cancer. But I did listen to him and I tried to quit smoking. I could not, I could not quit. I tried patch. I tried the gum. Did you tried before he

Sunny: passed

Jeff: or, yeah, this was before.

Jeff: And um, and I tried everything. And a few of the guys I knew that had started vaping, like the electronic cigarettes. And, and

Sunny: back in those days, vaping was not as big as it is now. No, there was, the kids hadn't

Jeff: gotten their hands on it yet. No, there was, it was almost non-existent. Very few people even knew what they were.

Jeff: Like, what is that? Mm-hmm. , you know? And so, but a friend of mine gave me one, actually, I think they, I think they actually gave it to my brother first. And cuz he was a three pack a day smoke man. and, uh, , and I think I stole it from him. I stole his and I said, I'm gonna try this. And, and uh, it got me off the cigarettes.

Jeff: I I never picked up a cigarette ever again after I, I got it. [00:31:00] And back then there were, there was no middle of the road device. It was either like a really cheap device or really expensive, you know, three, $400 devices. And I had bought one of those very expensive ones.

Sunny: Were they that much better than

Jeff: the really cheap ones?

Jeff: They, they really were that much better, but they were also not, you know, I'm looking at 'em going, this thing's kind of a piece of crap. I think I could make a better one, or at least I could design a better one. And so I went to my, you know, I went down to my dad's house and that's how it all kind of started.

Jeff: And I said, I'm gonna make myself a good, uh, vaporizer. And so I made one for myself and. , the, uh, you know, I started show, started showing it to like the other guys I know. Oh, that's, that's amazing. And, uh, you should, you should make 'em and, and sell 'em. And I had a friend, the, the Facebook groups were really big back then, the vaping Facebook groups.

Jeff: And so couple of my friends kind of convinced me to make a batch of 'em [00:32:00] and put 'em up on one of the Facebook groups. And so we did, we, I think we made close to a hundred of 'em, and we put 'em up and they all sold. I was like, holy crap. How, how quickly, um, pretty quickly, you know, they, they, we, we kind of released the pictures.

Jeff: Everybody signed up on a list and semi PayPal money and I

Sunny: mean, that's shipped them up. That's amazing. For 2013.

Jeff: That's incredible. It was, it was incredible. Um, of course, doing it, doing it the way we were doing it was very difficult. So my, uh, on a manual lave. Yeah. And my. So my grandfather, when he passed away, had left.

Jeff: Um, he was not a rich man, but he left my dad, uh, like $7,000 in a, in a certificate of deposit account. And so my dad said, Hey, let's, why don't I take that money and we'll buy a better lathe?

Sunny: Was your dad in

Jeff: manufacturing? Uh, so my, my father's a a cabinet [00:33:00] and furniture maker. I see. And I grew up doing construction with him, building cabinets, doing furniture.

Jeff: So we have, and we also like restored classic cars like we have. He has a 66 Ford failing that we completely took apart and put back together. So we we're very mechanically inclined. We we're fairly used to machinery. And that's how you

Sunny: bonded together. You spent time doing that together. Yep.

Jeff: And, uh, and so,

Jeff: And so that's, uh, and that's when we bought our first kind of bigger, it was still a manual machine, um, but it was a lot better than what we had. And and that's really how it got kicked off. And, and the, the market there kind of changed a little bit, uh, right after we did that. And that style of device went out of, um, went out of favor.

Jeff: And so we kind of pivoted and we,

Sunny: what, what did that, what did that feel like the getting the market kicked out from [00:34:00] underneath you?

Jeff: It felt like getting kicked in the stomach. I mean, I, I remember standing, I had, I think I had quit my job by that point. I, we were, we were doing, uh, maybe I, maybe I was still working part-time, um, part-time and part-time.

Jeff: I remember standing in the, in the, in the garage, uh, making these devices and I knew nobody was gonna buy them because the microchip versions like had come out. Right. Everything had a chip in it now, and Oz didn't. And, uh, I was gone. What am I gonna, what are we gonna do?

Sunny: You know? Did you have plans at that moment about buying another machine and improving manufacturing processes?

Sunny: Like had you already pathed out your future when this was happening? No. Okay.

Jeff: Not at all. All right. We were, we were just, I mean, we, at that point it was, it was like a dream and a hope. Mm-hmm. , right? We had , we had this mach we had, we had the machine, we had bought, we had the, uh, the little south end. And, uh, I think my dad had, had, had the bridge, he had a bridge foot mill at the time.

Jeff: And, and, uh, we tried one other [00:35:00] product that really just didn't pan out. Nobody, nobody really wanted it. And, and so and so we had. I told you my father was a cabinet maker, Aaron. He'd asked me to go up to Woodcraft Supply to get him something one day. And I saw this bag of all these little scraps of cool colored acrylic.

Jeff: And it was just like a, it was all these scrap ends, but it was a big bag. It was like a, I dunno, 20 pound bag of these things. And it was like $20. And I was looking at it and the guy came over and he said, he said, you know, he goes, that that bag's been there for five years. He goes, you can have it for five bucks if you want.

Jeff: And I was like, okay. And I don't know why I bought it, but I did. And, uh, it's just sat on the bench in, in the garage for probably six months. And, and, and then this all happened. And, and we were, I was kind of freaking out that we weren't gonna be able to sell anything. And so, . I, my [00:36:00] father was still working at the time, so he was at work and I looked up, I saw that bag and I, and I said, geez.

Jeff: I said, you know, I could make, I could make the mouthpiece for the vaporizers out of that, and they might look pretty cool, you know, they'd be all these different colors and they'd be fun. And so I broke down the machine. I set it out. I came over with a quick design and I started making those. And my, my dad came home from work.

Jeff: He goes, what are you doing? I go making drip tips. Right? That's what they call the mouthpiece for a vape. And, uh, he's like, why? I go, well, because these aren't, these other things aren't selling anymore. We gotta do something. And, uh, I took 'em home that night, took some pictures. I threw 'em up on Facebook and I sold every single one that I made.

Jeff: How many did you make that night? I think we made 200. I made, I had made 200 of 'em. I sold 200 in one night. Geez. And uh, and then a store called me, , well, well messaged me on Facebook and [00:37:00] I said, Hey, how, how much would you wholesale them to me for? And I said, whoa. And, um, so I gave him a price and he said, okay, I'll take 200.

Jeff: So I drove back up to Woodcraft and I bought every bag of that scrap acrylic that they had. I think they had like three or four more bags. I bought it all and uh, and brought it home and just started cranking 'em out. And then, and it just, it blew up. Um, and within six months we had, I think we had like six or seven machines in the garage.

Jeff: Wow. Yeah. And we big garage? No, it was very small. We had like three, the, the 66 floor failing was still there. I see. And so we had one half of a two, two bay garage. We had about 325 square feet and we just squished everything in. And it was just, you still operating all of it? It was, it was me and my father and um, and we were doing.

Jeff: When we first started, we were doing everything by hand on [00:38:00] manual laths. And finally we had, we had made some money at this point, and, and we had, I would say we had probably had like 12 or $13,000 in the bank account that we had. We had managed to stick away. And I, I, I said, listen, we, we need, we need to get computerized in, we need, we need a CNC machine.

Jeff: And, uh, my dad's kind of old school, so he was, he wasn't totally on board. Uh, and he, he said, no, no, no, we can, we can keep doing it this way, it'll be fine. And How'd you convince him? So I think we got into an argument about it, and, and I, but I had found one, and, and it was small and it would fit in the garage and it looked perfect.

Jeff: And

Sunny: even then, after you'd found it, it was gonna fit. You could afford it. He was still

Jeff: absolutely, no, he wasn't. Absolutely. No. Um, but we definitely, we, we definitely went back and forth about it. And finally I said, look, I said, I'm just gonna go down there and I'm gonna look at it, and if it's nice, I'm gonna buy it.

Jeff: And he said, fine. Go and, uh, , I went down and I looked at it and it was [00:39:00] perfect and I bought it and they, the guy I bought it from gave me all the manuals and I went home and I just dove in. You know, I, we didn't even have the machine yet. It was gonna be two weeks before it got to the garage. And, and I just learned absolutely as much as I could, reading all those manuals, the programming guides, and, and I, I had actually written my first CNC program on graph paper before we ever even got the machine.

Jeff: And, uh, machine showed up, we plugged it in, turned it on, I put my program in, I press go. And the thing the, there was a, the first cycle was a drill bit and the drill bit all the way into the piece, it, it came out like it was supposed to. And then it just went rapid fire back into the piece, , and then went sideways and just blew every tool off of the table and destroyed the pot.

Jeff: And I was like, ah, a little harder than you thought. Yeah. Um, So went back through and, and, uh, I had a minus sign in the wrong spot, which is super easy to do. And [00:40:00] we fixed that in about two hours after we plugged in. We were making, uh, we were making parts. And

Sunny: is that what you did that feel how you expected it to feel?

Sunny: Because I'm, I'm sure you had a dream about what the CNC machine is gonna do for you. Yeah. Did it, did it give you that

Jeff: juice? Oh, yeah. And, and, you know, my father and I were standing there just watching this thing. It was just doing its thing, just making part after part after part. And he just looked at me, he goes, he goes, wow,

Jeff: He goes, I wish we had had one of these six months ago. And I was just like,

Jeff: um, you know, and he, he, and, and that was it. You know what I mean? And then we were both convinced that this was the way to, this was really the way to go, you know? Um,

Jeff: in order to compete and. be able to deliver product we needed to automate. And so we, within I think a few months, I, I found another identical machine [00:41:00] and we bought that one too. We bought, we had a couple of secondary operation machines, manual secondary operation machines, and we just packed 'em into the garage.

Jeff: And I think around that time we hired our first employee. We were working out a, working out of the garage.

Sunny: So it, what's interesting is that you had no problems doing it manually, forever. There's plenty of people that know what a CNC machine is, and they just wouldn't have done it manually. They would've just bought the machine and started it without knowing whether there was a market for it or whatever it may be.

Sunny: Um, how, how is that in your head right now? Because you have this experience of doing it manually and you have this experience of learning from manuals how to program a CNC machine, not from learning from somebody else. Right. You. We're the best student ever of that particular book of Yes. Of, of instructions.

Sunny: Whoever wrote it has never had a better student than you. Um, how is that in your brain right now? Do you see things in your shop today where [00:42:00] you're doing it manually? You start manually, you're willing to do the, the, the brute force method, but you know, what automation does or how has that weaved into the fabric of who you

Jeff: are?

Jeff: Um,

Jeff: we don't have, we have, we have a couple of manual machines in our shop, but they're mostly just for support. I mean, everything we do is on the CNC machine. It's, there are certain instances where it is quick and easy to just run over to the bridge port or run over to the manual lathe and make a pushing or make a little, make a little fixture.

Jeff: But for the most part, it's just as easy and more accurate and less mistake prone for me to just sit down at my. CAD cam program and design it.

Sunny: Do you read the manuals for every new machine you buy?

Jeff: No. I don't. Um, the nice, the nice thing I, I do if I have to, so if I [00:43:00] buy a used machine, they don't come with training.

Jeff: Right. Um, and I have no choice. I have to dive deep and a lot of times even we have to, hopefully the previous owner left maybe a, an old program in the memory of the machine so we can kind of reverse engineer how it, how everything is done. Especially on the more complicated machines like the, uh, like the seven access Swiss machine.

Jeff: I, that was, uh, that was the most difficult machine for me to learn because we did buy, it used, I had, the manual was absolutely horrific. Almost no information. And it had a lot of new features that I didn't fully understand. Kind of a brain pretzel. Yeah. And I'd look at it and go, I think I know what this does, but I don't know.

Jeff: And we just spent all this money on the machine and I'm not sure if I wanna press that button because I'm not sure if it's just gonna go boom or if it's actually gonna work. Um, luckily I [00:44:00] was, uh, I was able to reverse engineer some of the previous programs, uh, and get it working and we were making money with it.

Jeff: And then I, I just by happenstance, um, ran into somebody who was a machine tech for another machine, and I was complaining about the Swiss, and he goes, he said, I, he goes, you know, I used to work for that company, right? I said, I said, really? He goes, yeah. And I was telling him, , I was struggling with the manual.

Jeff: And he said, oh. He goes, I know the guy that did all the training. I'll email him for you. Wow. And, uh, he got me in touch with him and he was able to actually email me all of his, like, PDF training material and it, and, and that opened up like a whole new world, um, because now I could make the thing do things I didn't even know it could do.

Jeff: Mm-hmm. . Um, and so there's definitely in, in terms of like buying machinery, uh, when we first started, we had no choice but to buy used, used [00:45:00] machines. Um, because I, I believe in, I'm a, I test the waters. I don't, I'm never a hundred percent into something until I'm a hundred percent into it. Um, and so I'll, I'll go slow.

Jeff: I'm cautious. Say, okay, is this, there's, yeah, there's, I know there's an opportunity here. Am I going to invest $200,000 or am I going to invest? $25,000 and maybe I invested 25,000. And I can see, and I start seeing, okay, yeah, now, now let's, now let's go buy that $200,000 machine. You know? Um, and that's how we started very cautiously.

Jeff: But there's, there's pros and cons to both. Um, the pro is now we buy new machines mostly, and they come with excellent training. , somebody comes in and, and sits with us and shows us exactly how this machine works and all of, all of the amazing things that it can do. [00:46:00] Especially with the newest stuff. It's very, there's so many great features that, that the newer machines have, uh, the probing cycles tool, breakage detection, tool wear, um, tool life management, um, things like that, that make, make life.

Jeff: Way better .

Sunny: The, the entire company of Amazon is run on that strategy. Make a small bet if it pays off, pour more money into it and keep pouring money into it until you hit diminishing returns. Right? So, I don't know who taught you that, but, um, almost trillion dollar company operates their entire business that way.

Sunny: So I think

Jeff: it was just kind of, that was just kind of natural to me that, that kind of mindset, it was like, I, I have a aggressive, be cautious. Yes. Absolutely. Absolutely. And, you know, sometimes, um, sometimes it happens quickly. [00:47:00] Sometimes we see that return quickly. Sometimes it's a little slower. Um, but, you know, it's, for me, it, i, for us, it makes a lot of sense.

Sunny: All right. Let's go back in time again. All right. You're, you're seeing seed now. Mm-hmm. , you're whipping parts out. Um, what happened next?

Jeff: We outgrew the garage, , we needed to become a real company. Mm-hmm. . Um, and so we, uh, we found a space in, we were, we were originally just right outside of Boston. And um, we found a space that was, I don't know, 1500 square feet, which was five times what we had in the garage. And how did that feel? It was amazing, you know, but we spent, not every space is necessarily fit for a machine shop.

Jeff: Yeah. And so we, you know, we spent some money to outfit the space, bring [00:48:00] vault it up, power requirements, and, you know, we really cleaned it up and it, it was kind of a dump when we, when we got it and we fixed it all up and it was beautiful. And even though we were small, it was important to us that we look clean and professional and we had a nice shop.

Jeff: And so we did all that and we said, geez, this is great. We're going to, we'll be here for at least five years. And we made it to two. We didn't even make it to two. I think within a year and a half we had completely filled that space. And it's, uh, what's the, I forget how that, there's some law that says, you know, like whatever space you have, you'll just, you'll just organically grow to fill it.

Jeff: Sure. Right? Yeah. It's just, boom. And that's what, that's what seems to happen every time. And so we, uh, we, we filled that out very quickly and we said, all right, well we need, now we need 5,000 square feet at least. [00:49:00] And, and that's a. and we're gonna have to find the space and we're gonna have to put,


Sunny: when you, when you filled that 1500 square foot space, was it just more of the same, more of the same machine, um, whipping out more of the same product?

Sunny: Or how did the business evolve during that time as you filled that space? We

Jeff: bought better equipment. You know, we, we, we, when we moved in there, still kept the old stuff. We, we kept all the old stuff we bought. Um, we bought a better, a better lathe, a bigger CNC lathe with, with flood coolant and, you know, some different capabilities.

Jeff: Uh, we bought another machine that we thought was gonna be great, and we actually kind of got screwed on it. , you know, we, we made mistakes, um, and had to sell it at a, at a loss. We had to get, uh, get lawyers involved to try get, uh, our money back. And, um, so there's a lot of, a lot of lessons in there that, uh, that we learned along the way.

Jeff: It's very important if you're gonna buy a used machine from somebody to send somebody out to [00:50:00] inspect it. So that you know that what you're getting is actually what they say it is. Um, you know, we didn't, we didn't know that back then. Well, we did and we trusted the guy trust, but verify, I guess. And so, so we upgraded the equipment, we were able to, um, we were, we were really able to expand our, um, expand our capabilities so that we could produce more a around that time, my brother came on board with the business, uh, as our sales head VP of sales.

Jeff: How'd you convince him to come? Uh, it was tough. He didn't , he didn't really want to come, but, uh, my dad and I convinced him, and, and this at

Sunny: this time, it's just primarily the mouthpieces.

Jeff: That's it. It's all we make. And, uh, so he came over, he left his, he left his job and came on full, full-time. And, you know, we did, we did a lot of trade shows.

Jeff: We did a lot of. [00:51:00] expos and you know, he just, he just went around and, and he went, he traveled everywhere. We bought a van and we would load up display cases and products in this van. In the van. And he would go and he'd be out in Oklahoma or North Carolina, Atlanta Mobile, Alabama. And we went to every, we probably did one show, one expo a month for two straight years.

Jeff: And he

Sunny: loved doing that.

Jeff: Yeah. He, he, he liked, he loves sales. He's, he's the salesman of the family for sure. And, uh, and he's amazing at it, you know, and he really, he, he, uh, I can do sales, but it's, I'm not a, I'm not a sales, I'm not a natural salesman. My brother is a natural salesman. He really is. And so he really, uh, was able to push our name out there and get us in with some of the bigger distributors.

Sunny: So how many, how many mouth pieces were you making and selling at this time? [00:52:00] A, a week or a day or whatever? Unit of measure? Yeah. I

Jeff: mean, we were, uh, we were producing about a thousand pieces a day. Um, and we couldn't, we could not keep up. We were, they were just cranking out. And then

Sunny: no real competition out there yet at this point.

Jeff: No. So there are other people that, there were plenty of other people that were making similar stuff, but nobody, uh, we, they were just one man shops. So they were, they were doing like really custom hot, like really everyone was different. Everyone was this, and we can't sell that to distributor. Right. You can't sell that to a distributor.

Jeff: So, you know, in, in, so we invested in the CNC technology. We, um, we limited our selection. And our styles. Um, and, and originally we had, I think, [00:53:00] 12 different styles in over a hundred different colors and color patterns that you could choose from. And we still offer a lot of that, but we don't offer that to distributors.

Jeff: We offer that to the consumer. Um, we'll offer it to, you know, individual stores if they want to buy like that. But when we went to the distribution model, uh, we just, we slimmed everything down to 10, 10 different color patterns and, uh, the three most popular styles out there. And we just focused on that.

Jeff: And what ended up happening was our only rail competition was China. That was it. And on the, they, they, they can make some really, really good stuff over there, don't get me wrong. But on some of the lower end stuff, the quality tends to slip. And so what would happen is, is. , you could buy, uh, you could order in [00:54:00] 10,000 mouthpiece, and they were okay, but 40% of 'em didn't fit right.

Jeff: And there's no going back and asking for a refund or a return, you know what I mean? In the distributors that were eating that cost, and that was the biggest complaint we heard from them was, is that most of 'em didn't work and they were getting tired of it. So we, that's when we really slimmed that line down.

Jeff: Um, in doing so, we were able to cut the price by almost 60% and, and actually compete with pricing from overseas. Mm-hmm. and, and

Sunny: once you factor in the logistics and the shipping and everything. Correct.

Jeff: And, and and the timeline. Right. And we, and we, you know, we, we got a nice little display box and we packaged it correctly and that was, that was really it.

Jeff: That, that sent us to the next level. You know, that idea of, hey, how do we. , how do we beat overseas pricing here [00:55:00] in America? Right? How do we do it here and deliver high quality, good product that the distributors wanna sell, that they want to push because they know nobody's gonna come back to them and complain?

Sunny: What, and what's the answer to that question? How do you

Jeff: beat China? You have to, you have to think outside the box, right? You have to think, okay. Um, and I, I, I do, I kind of do a backwards analysis. They say, okay, what is, this? Is the product. What is somebody willing, what is the end user willing to pay for it?

Jeff: Okay? They're willing to pay this, okay? Uh, the, the, it's $10 retail customer, that means I have to sell it. The, the store needs to buy it for five. The distributor needs to buy it for three or less, right? And then I go, how do I do that? . Right? And,

Sunny: and the deep belief that it can

Jeff: be done, that it can be done.

Jeff: And, and then I said [00:56:00] about, and that's what we did, is we said about how do we do that? We shrink the selection size down. We offer a, a limited variety of just the most populist stuff. And we set up our machines to just absolutely crank them out as fast as possible. Uh, we automate everything we can and, you know, our, our nicer stuff, the, the stuff we were making before, they were all individually bagged and they had a little card in them and all.

Jeff: Can't do that anymore, right? We can't now, now we, now we have a, a, a, like a rip top display box with a foam insert and then just pop, pop, pop, pop, pop, pop in, ship the box, you know? Um, because it cuts down on the time to manufacture and the human labor. And, and that's how we, that's how we try and think. ,

Sunny: but you're operating a machine shop now.

Sunny: Yes. You're not a mouthpiece baron. No. . What happened? Did you get bored with

Jeff: it? [00:57:00] No, the um, we were, we were really, it was really flying and, um, August, 2019, we had, we had just about our best month ever. My brother and I were like, we were high fiving each other. We were like, this is amazing. You know, uh, we can, we can finally like, breathe a little bit, right?

Jeff: Because the, the, the sales are just killer and this is, this is it. We've made it, you know? And, and then the whole thing came crashing down the next month. For the second time. Yeah, for the second time. at this point though, um, we had moved out of that other space into our, you know, we were, we were in a new space at this point, 5,000 square feet.

Jeff: Uh, we were actually in 10, 10,000 square feet. So we moved into our, that We were in, we were in our current facility. We had very fortuitous fortuitously, uh, realized that we, [00:58:00] the next move we needed to buy a building, we needed to purchase a building that we could grow into. And we found a 17,000 square foot building up on the New Hampshire border that we could afford, that we thought a bank would, might give us a loan for

Jeff: And, um, and, and we, we, we pulled the trigger on it. We bought the building and there was actually a machine shop in there, which was great because we didn't have to outfit the space for a machine shop. Uh, we also bought some of the equipment and custom a list of the shop that was there, and we moved in and we were still just doing the mouthpiece stuff.

Jeff: And then the market, just

Sunny: when you were about to sign. that purchase agreement. Were you nervous at all? Were you afraid or were you on your high of highs at that point in time? I

Jeff: was on my high of highs at that point because we, we were able to, um, [00:59:00] we were able to take the business that we had all worked so hot on, you know, my, myself, my brother, my father, my wife, my wife worked, she did all the shipping and packing, all those little mouth pieces have o-rings, you know, she sat there and put thousands of these little o-rings on, on these parts.

Jeff: Uh, my mother did the books and paid the insurance and we were able to take that and we were to purchase real property, which was very, very exciting. You know, it's like a new chapter in, in our existence as, as a business and as a family. Yeah. You know, and, um, and we, we purchased a piece of property that had, you know, that had tenants in it.

Jeff: It had rental space. Um, And it also had a space for us. And so it was, it was very, very exciting. It was very, it was scary. It was scary. Um, but I'm not, I'm not someone subject to fear. Um, I like, I'm cautious and, but deep down I knew [01:00:00] it was the right move. I knew if we, we own the building. That's, that's it.

Jeff: You know, we, we have the space. It's ours. If we make improvements to it, that's money in our pockets, not money in somebody else's pocket. When we, when we leased space, every time we move, we just left money. Yeah. We just le you know, we, the first space we went in, we, we put 25, I think it was $25,000 just in electrical to bring the electrical power requirements in when we left.

Jeff: You can't take it with, you left it all behind , you know, and that stinks. Um, So, no, we, we were, we were ex, we were ecstatic, we were super pumped. And how long

Sunny: between that high and then the mark? Six months. Six

Jeff: months. Six months, six months later. Uh, it all crashed. We the, in September of 2019, we, our sales were down 85%.

Sunny: Help me compare and contrast to the first time you got punched in the [01:01:00] gut. How did it feel this time compared to that?

Jeff: A whole lot worse because back then it was just, it was just my, my dad and I in a, in a and you're still part-time and Right. And you know, there was, if, if it all collapsed at whatever, you know, we'd sell the, we'd sell the.

Jeff: my dad had bought, and I'd go back to my job in insurance and we wouldn't have lost anything. But now we had employees and we had a building, and we had machinery that we had loans on, and we had a mortgage to pay. And so there was a lot more pressure at this point, a lot. And I had to, uh, had to make hard decisions.

Jeff: I I had to lay people off. I, the, the day it happened, we knew, we knew the day it happened that it was gonna be bad.

Sunny: There was a day, there was a day,

Jeff: what day was it? So, um, I'm not exactly, it was sometime early September, and this was right around the time there was a, [01:02:00] there was a big Ebola, uh, thing where people getting sick of contaminated th e cartridges.

Jeff: And so that was in the news. And this is, this is September, 2019. 2019. Yep. No covid yet. No covid yet. So that was in the news. And then, and then, uh, The, I guess the story is that the, like Barron Trump got caught with a, a Juul, right? Cuz Juul was in the news too. And, uh, and President Trump at the time, he was still president, he got on TV and said, he goes, you know, this, this vaping thing, it's real bad.

Jeff: We're gonna look into it and we're gonna do something about it. And that just sent the electronic cigarette, mock it into an absolute panic and, um, watch. So you, I watched it on the news. I watch, I watched it on tv and I, you know, the president of the United States gets on TV and, and bashes your industry.

Jeff: Bad things are gonna happen. You, you

Sunny: knew in that

Jeff: moment, instantly, right? Because the, the, the vaping industry is very, um, very prone to these scares. [01:03:00] Every time the FDA says they, they're looking at it or they're gonna do it. It's a, it was a rollercoaster always, you know, because people that have stores that have a a hundred or $200,000 worth of inventory on their shelves, all of a sudden they say, Oh my God, I have $200,000 in inventory.

Jeff: I'm just gonna sell through this. I, I have to sell through it. Uh, if everything goes kaputz. And so they stop ordering. And so we dealt with that a lot. But this one was, this one was really bad. And, um,

Sunny: did the team know too? The orders just stopped

Jeff: coming in? Yeah, they, they knew, and I mean, with within three days, I, I laid off just about everybody.

Jeff: I had to, I, there was no way, no hopium, no hope. Nope. I knew, I knew that it was gonna be real bad and, uh, I kept on the people that I could. And, but most of 'em, I had to lay off 85% of people. Yeah. And it was, it was a sad day. And it was people that I didn't wanna lay off, but we did it. [01:04:00] And then I walked into my brother's office and I said, all right, dude, we, we have all these machines.

Jeff: Um, Time to do your thing. Go sell it. Yeah. Let's go find something else to make. And that's how Reformed manufacturing came into existence. Wow. Um, and we just, you know, he just started two kicks in the gut later. Yeah. And he, we pulled out the, we had, we had gotten a custom list from the guy that we bought the billing from, but he, he really hadn't done a lot of business with these companies in a while.

Jeff: But, you know, my brother decided making, making phone calls and, uh, I, I went out, there was a couple companies I knew of, and at this

Sunny: point in time you'd only ever made mouthpieces. Yeah. We'd never made anything friendly else. Bought O-Rings. Had your wife put 'em on there? Yeah. Packaged 'em up. Yep. I'd never been a

Jeff: job shop before.

Jeff: Never. And we, um, you know, everything we made, we designed, you know, we had some other products in the, in that we had made, you know, through the years, but the primary one was the mouthpiece. And, and, um, and so, [01:05:00] You know, we just, the first customer we got, it got, I think I actually landed the very first customer as I walked into this, uh, shop next to where I used to live.

Jeff: I knew they were there. I said, I'm just gonna, I'm just gonna walk in. And the receptionist said, oh yeah, go talk to our engineer. And I walked in, he goes, you're a machine shop. I said, yep. He said, you local? I said, yep. He said, uh, he pulled, he went up onto his shelf. He pulled this huge binder out and he flipped, flipped over a couple drawings.

Jeff: You think you can make that? I said, absolutely. He says, great. I hate our machine shop . He says, I hate the machine shop we use. He goes, I'll, um, why did he hate them? They just, they, they couldn't perform on quality. That was the biggest thing, was the, the quality was lacking. And so, um, he gave us a couple of drawings and asked me to quote 'em.

Jeff: I quoted 'em out. I had no idea whether my prices were right or [01:06:00] wrong. Um, he was pretty nice. And he said, he said, you know, he goes, that, that one looks a little low. He goes, that one, that one is a little high. And uh, he said, but if you can kind of bounce it out, if you bring this one down, you can bring that one up a little bit and, and we'll be okay.

Jeff: And, uh, and what I found is, is that, uh, most people in this industry are, are very willing to talk to you and, and help you out. And even the guy that

Sunny: gave you the instructions on how to operate that seven access

Jeff: Swiss machine, right? And they, they're very willing. And, and, and especially if you're gonna be their supplier and they're gonna count on you, um, most of them know that they can't nickel and dime me into death because you, in order for you to succeed, in order for them to succeed, you need to succeed as well.

Jeff: And so, um, so I got a lot of help and, and, and a lot of people help me to understand, The industry and I asked a lot of questions. [01:07:00] Uh, I met, uh, I met a another guy along the way. We actually, one of the manual machines that we had bought when we were in the garage, we bought from a guy that had a huge machine shop, me medical device manufacturer.

Jeff: And, um, his shop is just, my father and I walked in there and were like, this is, I mean, you could, you could get down and eat your lunch off the floor in a machine shop. It was pristine, beautiful, clean. Everything was just running like top. You know, he had, did you go back

Sunny: right away and start sweeping ?

Jeff: He had like million, you know, he had a, he had one machine.

Jeff: It was a million dollar machine, just one machine. And it just made this one part just, you know, and we were just blown away. But he became a good friend of mine and, and um, and when we started doing the job shop stuff, I called him, I said, Hey, I have no idea what I'm doing. And he

Sunny: didn't see you as a competitor?

Sunny: No.

Jeff: He, he was, he, [01:08:00] he helped me out and helped me with some of the secret sauce on, and some of, some of the more business minded things that, like I never even thought of, you know, 1:00 AM my loaded machine, what's my burden, labor rate, how do I calculate that? You know, how do I, um, what kind of margins should I be trying to make at this point, at, at this size shop?

Jeff: Right. You know, all of these things. And, uh, and he was, he, I, I, I'm not sure, uh, would Syl here if he hadn't been as willing to share with me his knowledge.


Sunny: know? What do you think makes manufacturing. non-zero sum that he was able to help you. Cuz you know, you hear stories from construction, from trucking, from other industries, you know, it's kill or be killed is the vibe there.

Sunny: Right. Um, what do you, what do you think is the difference in manufacturing? [01:09:00]

Jeff: I think, I think that, uh, you know, there's not a lot, there's not a lot of it out there. There are, you know, there's a lot of construction companies, there's a lot of trucking companies. There's, there's not a lot of machine shops and at least not enough.

Jeff: Right. There's not enough. And there and there, there's absolutely enough work to go around. There's more than enough work for everybody. And so, um, I won't say everybody is, uh, like that cuz they're uh, of course bad apples. Sure. But for the most part, miserable people. Yeah. They're just miserable people for the most part.

Jeff: I think we all recognize that, you know, uh, in order for us to. To survive as an industry, we need to, we need to help each other out. We need to, uh, rely on each other. I, the other thing that happens is, is every machine shop has different capabilities. I don't have the capability to do every single part in my shop, right?

Jeff: I need to be able to [01:10:00] call this guy over here that does have that capability and say, Hey, I have an opportunity to get this job in, but I don't have the machine to do it. Do you want to take a stab at it? Because if the

Sunny: finished good can't get made, you all lose.

Jeff: Right? We all lose, you know, um, capacity is another problem.

Jeff: You know what I mean? Sometimes, uh, we, we, we run outta capacity, but we still have work coming in. Uh, I need to be able to call the shop down the street and say, Hey, do you have an open mill? Do you wanna run this job for me? And we do it all the time. I mean, I work, we're actually right next to another machine shop.

Jeff: And um, and that's another like, Another person. I, I, I can't, I can't even describe how many people have helped us along the way. I mean, just kind of blown away at the generosity of, of this industry. And, uh, we moved in next door to them. We went over, we met them, the guy that moves all on machines, he actually knew them.

Jeff: And he said, I'll bring you over an institution. And they're, they're a family shop too. And, um, [01:11:00] and we walked in there and the, you know, the father and the two sons, and the mother and the daughter. And they were just like, Hey, you know, you're on neighbor now and whatever you need, just, you know, just let us know.

Jeff: And, and they spoke the truth, you know, it wasn't an empty promise. No. It was not an empty promise, you know. And, uh, and we have a great, we have a great relationship, you know, uh, I try and help them out as much as I can, but they probably help me more. You know, I'll go over and, uh, and Peter next door has, uh, you know, 40 years of knowledge and experience.

Jeff: And when I, and sometimes I'll actually walk over with a, with a print, like, Hey, will you look at this with me, ? And he'll look at it and he'll go, you, you need to get this, this money for this type of pot. Or you, or you don't want to take that pot , you know, you're not, you're not, you're not a big enough shop to be able to absorb the cost of not, of screwing it up, [01:12:00] you know?

Jeff: Uh, we're not at the point yet where I could absorb a, a $50,000 screw up. Mm-hmm. , it would kill us. Right. It would just, it would sap all of my cash flow and. , what do you do then? Right? What do I do then? You know? So, um, you know, and he'll tell me that you don't, you don't, you don't want that, you're not ready, you know?

Jeff: Um, cuz we're still, we're at the point right now, we're, we're still trying to pay off all of our machines. You know, we got this building that you bought, right? We got this building that we bought. We have all these things. So, so, you know, we're trying to, that's kind of what we're like, we're working on. I was like, all right, how do we, we we need to get, we need to pay off all these machine notes, you know, we're more than halfway there.

Jeff: Um, I can't wait till we get there because the cash flow then really opens up. But right now we're still in, we're still in the investment stage where we're, where we're, we're still expending a lot of cash flow [01:13:00] on loans and interests and, and on top of all the materials, you know, and that's, . It's not, it's not e it's not an easy balance sometimes.

Jeff: Yeah. You know, we, uh, sometimes we, you know, we'll put out $10,000 of material for materials, uh, for a job, and then it takes us, uh, 30 or 40 days or 60 days to make all the parts. We ship them to the customer and we have to wait another 30 days to get paid for it. You know, it's, it's, it's an interesting, um, it's always an interesting balance.

Jeff: It's like, whoa, you know, trying to keep that cash flow, uh, moving and in going in the right direction.

Sunny: So you learn that painfully that profit and cash flow are not the same thing.

Jeff: Not the same thing at all. Yeah. And it's very easy to not, it's very easy to, to, to lose track of it too. And, and, and find yourself in a, in a hot spot where you've put out too much cash flow.

Jeff: And especially when you, [01:14:00] you know, , you, you have net 30 terms with everybody. And, and, and I think manufacturing is kind of unique in, in a way, it's like, you know, if you hire a painter or a carpenter or a contractor, the first thing they do is say, I need 30% down. Mm-hmm. . And for whatever reason, we don't do that in this industry.

Jeff: It's not standard practice to ask for a, you know, a deposit. Um, and I, I, I kind of think it should be, you know, well, you guys don't have enough

Sunny: power is the problem, right? You get Boeing out there with so much power, bullying all their, all their vendors, right?

Jeff: Yep. But so, uh, luckily, uh, Lately we've been working with more and more companies that, uh, actually provide the material.

Jeff: Hmm. And that's, that's a huge boost because they, they say no, you know, especially since we've gotten, they can buy

Sunny: higher volumes, better pricing. They can get better pricing. They can manage their own, they have the power to manage the [01:15:00] terms better.

Jeff: Correct. And, uh, and so we've gotten into the, uh, over the past year, we've, we've now had our focus as a job shop into the super all LA market.

Jeff: Right. Which is, um, hard to work with stuff. It's hard to work with stuff. You need, you, you definitely need really good machinery. Also better not scrap any of it. Yes. You need talented people that are paying attention. Um, and you need a little bit of, uh, fearlessness to, to just . Just go, just go and try and learn it.

Jeff: And, um, but, but the nice part about it is, is it's no, nobody wants to do it. , nobody wants to do, at least not around where we are. Nobody wants to really do that kind of work. I I say in Canal or has tolo and people are like, you're outta your mind.

Sunny: Yeah. But people like you have to exist to push the market forward.

Jeff: Right. And so, so we're, we're, we're kind of making a little bit of a name for ourselves in, in that, in that [01:16:00] side of things. Uh, we do it really well. We've, we've, we've learned how to work with those materials well and um, and, but along with that kind of what the point was, is like a lot of those companies, they want to control the material because it has to be right.

Jeff: It has to be the right material. And they have to track all the certifications. So they just say, you know what, we're just gonna send it to you. Mm-hmm. , we'll send it to you. You make the part, send it back to us. And I'm more than happy to do that because Yeah. I don't have to come out of pocket for it for sure.

Jeff: It's fantastic. Yeah.

Sunny: Whatever margin you could have made doesn't matter. Yeah. Mm-hmm. ,

Jeff: it's fantastic.

Sunny: So do you think that you're doing a good job paying it forward, helping the next little shop? You know, everybody feels a little bit of imposter syndrome that is too early for you to help others, but you've learned a lot if I'm not trying to inundate your, your inbox, but if a bunch of people that watch this and listen to this reach out to you, you're gonna respond to them.

Jeff: Absolutely. You know, there's, there is a, I have learned a lot, I've learned a lot over the past 10 years. Um, [01:17:00] there are mistakes that I made that, uh, I know I could pass on to people. Um, even just, you know, purchasing equipment or, you know, picking the right machine for your shop or things like that, that, uh, that I, like I said, I value those experiences, but I'm that type of person.

Jeff: If I could help somebody not, um, not go through it, uh, That's great because it might take them half the time that it took me. Sure. You know what, what I did in 10, maybe they could do in five. And I, and I think that's, uh, that'd be pretty cool.

Sunny: Let's go back in time again. September. Barron Trump just screwed you.

Sunny: Yeah. And, uh, your brother is out there selling his heart out. Yep. You're selling your heart out as well. Unbeknownst to you, uh, global pandemic's about to hit what happened

Jeff: for [01:18:00] us? Actually, nothing. Nothing, nothing. We, we got, I mean, I, we got really lucky I guess. Um, we had, uh, we had, we had landed two good customers and we had a third customer that was okay.

Jeff: And. . We, because of one of the customers that we work with, uh, we qualified as an essential, uh, manufacturer, uh, because they did government work mm-hmm. , and we were supplier to them. And, and we actually got busier. We got, we did, we got, we actually got busier than, uh, we were, I think it helped that we were still new, so it's not like we didn't have like a full plate.

Jeff: We were still sure we were still going after it, you know, so we [01:19:00] didn't really lose anything. And you're able to

Sunny: recover all the lost revenue from the other stuff? Yep.

Jeff: And just a few months. It was, it was a little tight. It took us, it probably took us, it probably took us four or five months. Even it out, we still had some leftover from the other business that was still generating some income, and then we were able to balance it out with the, with the revenue from the machine

Sunny: shop.

Sunny: Did that business ever pick back up again?

Jeff: It did, but it never went back to where it was. We probably, we probably returned to about 50% of where we were. Um, and then the market started changing again. And, uh, it still exists. We still, we still sell product, but it's been a, it's been a slow decline over the past few years versus reformed,

Sunny: which is just growing.

Jeff: Which is growing. Correct. You know, and we've hit some plateaus in reform too. Just, um, you always do. Yeah. Cause we, you know, we, we, we kind of bump up and then it's like, okay, how do we get to the next level? Figure it out. Yeah. We figure it out. And, uh, but yeah, we, we really weren't affected by the pandemic.

Jeff: [01:20:00] Um,

Sunny: we Were you buying new machines throughout the pandemic? Yeah. Through 2020. 2021. Yep. Hiring new people, selling new customers, all that

Jeff: stuff. We did all of it. Hmm. . And, uh, it was a little difficult. Some, it was a little bit difficult to get into some places, some places just, they wouldn't even let you in the door.

Jeff: Um, material became a huge issue. That was the, that was the worst part was there was a, there was a material crisis, especially with some of the, um, stainless deals that was, it was really, it was really bad. We, we, we got some of our biggest orders and, um, and they said, all right, well, we need parts in two weeks.

Jeff: And I called for the material and they said, okay, well, we'll, we'll have it too in six to eight weeks. And I have to call my customer and say, well, two weeks is never gonna happen, you know? Um, do you still want the order? Yeah. And, and luckily they did. But, [01:21:00] um, you know, we had, we had. Jumped through some hoops and find different vendors, cuz some people had stuff so other people didn't.

Jeff: We had to pull some magic tricks out of our hat and try and make it happen as soon as possible. Um, but that's, that was really it. The, we, we sailed through pretty unscathed. We had one, we had one wave of covid come through the shop and, um, but we were all pretty, we were all fine. And that was it.

Sunny: Are you back to high fiving each other yet?

Sunny: Oh yeah. ,

Jeff: we, um, you know, we had a lot of space, so it was, we all felt pretty good. You know what I mean? We, we, we increased our cleaning protocols around the shop. You know, we, we were able, we, most of the time we just naturally social distance in the shop anyways. All the machines are at least six feet apart mm-hmm.

Jeff: So, uh, we were never on top of each [01:22:00] other. And the biggest fear for us was, was always what do we do when we get home? Right? Are you going to, you know, who's ? Are we going home and just laying low? Or we, or is somebody going out? Right. You know what I mean? And, and, and that was kind of the big thing. So, you know, but, but we were all mature and we all kind of talked as a group and it was like, all right, we're, we don't want that.

Jeff: So we're gonna stay safe. We're gonna stay safe, we're gonna be smart about it. And, uh, and that wasn't a, a top-down thing. That was a group decision when we, you know, when this all came about. So we're gonna do this right. And we're all gonna be smart. And we did, we, we pulled through it fine. And you know, now we're on the other side of it, hopefully.

Jeff: And, uh, things can start getting back to. normal again. Mm-hmm. ,

Sunny: you think that we're through the bullet effect of all the supply chain shortages in terms of the stainless steel, [01:23:00] the raw material sheet, metal bar

Jeff: stock, things like that. There's still certain things that are tough to get, but yeah, for the most part it's, it's leveled out.

Jeff: You know, the pricing started to come down again too. Um, the pricing went through the roof, especially.

Sunny: How many of your customers do you think held back orders and parts until the pricing got

Jeff: back? Nobody. Nobody. No. You know, still

Sunny: needed the stuff. There's

Jeff: a place for them to sell it. Right. They still need it.

Jeff: So we still made it, you know, they gave us a little crap because they didn't like the price increase, but Sure. Um, and they didn't

Sunny: pay you any slower? Nothing like

Jeff: that happened? No. Uh, well, one customer, one customer fell a little bit behind and then I threatened to stop working, making the pots, and they sent us a check.

Jeff: they said, you know, sorry. They said, but I can't, I can't go out of pocket anymore money until you, uh, pay me. Yeah. So, and that was, yeah. So what's

Sunny: next? You, [01:24:00] you're gonna fill this space, obviously you're gonna grow the team, you're gonna grow your business, but what's, what's the next thing that you're yearning for?

Sunny: What do you

Jeff: want next? So the, the next thing is we're, we're, we're currently expanding right now. Um, you know, we, we filled up our 10,000 square feet that's full. Uh, we had a tenant move out, so we're taking over another 5,000 square feet of the building. And, um, we're expanding some capabilities into, uh, a bit of welding, fabrication and assembly.

Jeff: Uh, some value added services for our current customers. So, And we're really, we're really excited about that. I mean, it's, it, it's something that, uh, we've wanted to do for a while. The opportunity finally presented itself and, um, and we think it's gonna really, we, we feel it's just going to benefit the company as a whole.

Jeff: Right? [01:25:00] Everything kind of feeds in a lot of the parts that we do. They either, uh, some of 'em, we machine, we send them out, they get welded, then they get sent back to us and we, and we machine 'em again, and then they get sent and, and it's be so nice to be able to just do all that ourselves, you know? And there's a lot of pieces that we do that we could provide that service to.

Jeff: So we see it kind of as a, as just kind of going hand in hand with what we're doing now with the machining. Mm-hmm. , right? Is the, the value added welding, um, some fabrication, um, and, and then some contract assembly work. You know, being able to say, all right, so we make all these pieces, well, why don't we put them all together for you?

Jeff: Mm-hmm. . And so that's one thing. And then that we're working on currently. And then the next thing, which is really where, uh, the name Reformed Manufacturing [01:26:00] comes into play is, uh, we work, we work with a lot of the, uh, sober houses and treatment facilities in the area, and we try to hire people that are coming out of, uh, treatment programs.

Jeff: Um, it's something that's really near and dear to me and my brother's hearts. Um, and so we, we've found that like those people are coming out and, you know, they, they may be in a program for nine months or a year and, and, and. , they've gotten sober. Um, but now they need to get their life back on track.

Jeff: Mm-hmm. . And there's not a lot of opportunities out there for them. You know, there's not, a lot of people don't wanna hire them because maybe they have a, a record or because they, they were an addict and they have a stigma. Uh, we don't believe in that stigma at all. Um, you know, we believe that [01:27:00] these are really smart people that need, uh, need some direction, they need an opportunity, uh, and they need somebody to teach them a, a skill.

Jeff: A lot of people, a lot of, a lot of people do not have, uh, the skills that they need to go out and make a, a living wage to go out and have a good career. Um, so this is one of the things we kind of, we really believe in. And so our, our long-term goal is actually to, uh, open up a training facility that's our.

Jeff: Long-term goal where we can, uh, offer, uh, training and housing for these people. Uh, cause that's another problem that we see in, in that system is mm-hmm. , they say, okay, you've been living here for nine months in this program and now go out into the world. And, you know, I know, uh, I know guys that, you know, they, they [01:28:00] have a, a 480 credit score, and, and $10 to their name.

Jeff: How, how do, how do you leave there and go get an apartment? You can't. You can't. And that's not, I don't, that's not, that's a, that's a small injustice in the world that I see. Uh, and so our long-term altruistic goal is to. try and solve that, at least on a small scale around where we are because it's a problem.

Jeff: You know, when you get out of, when you get out of there and, and you get out and you're like, oh, great, I, um, I have a year sober. Um, but then I get out and I, I have no place to live and nobody will gimme a job. Or I, or I can only get a job with no future. What, what, what am I gonna do? Mm-hmm. , am I just gonna work at CVS for 1250 an hour for the rest of my life or be a manager at Dunking Donuts or am I gonna go back [01:29:00] and hustle?

Jeff: Cuz that's what most people know. You know, they know that, they know the hustle and uh, unfortunately a lot of 'em choose to go back and hustle.

Sunny: I did some research before this conversation cause I knew about this. And finding a community that accepts you. And that you can have a purpose and fulfillment in life is the biggest reduction in relapse probability of any other factor that's out there.

Sunny: Correct.

Jeff: So it's very important. Yeah. And so that's something that we, uh, like I said, we believe in when we're committed to working on, you know, we do it on, we do do it on a small scale now we just don't have the formal training facility Sure. And, and the housing aspect of it, but it's something that we're actively working towards.

Sunny: Yeah. Well, let's zoom out a little bit as a final topic. You know, earlier we spoke a bit before, uh, this conversation about how, from [01:30:00] your view in the market, there's a lot of people that are retiring and there's a lot of younger folks that are coming in. There's very few people in the middle that bridge that gap.

Sunny: You're one of just a few. , where do you think it's going? Where do you think the people of your age, what, what can, what can they do? The other people like you to help this industry? Where do you think the biggest challenges are? Uh, what are you most afraid of? What are you most hopeful for? How do you see the future?

Jeff: I think the, I overall, I think the future is bright. Um, I don't think manufacturing is dead in this country. I think, uh, you know, we've, over the past year in two years, we've seen a lot of it start to come back here. Mm-hmm. , um, I think we learned some lessons from the pandemic mm-hmm. , which is that we, we need to have manufacturing capability here, um, in case stuff like that happens.

Jeff: So, but overall, I think the, [01:31:00] I won't say the manufac. Yeah. Maybe even just manufacturing as a whole, but specifically the, the machining industry has a bit of an image problem, I think. . Um, I don't think it's very attractive to, uh, the younger generation, certainly not

Sunny: as attractive to the older generation when they

Jeff: started.

Jeff: Right. You know, and, and it's a different mindset too, right? The older generation, it was, learn something and do it for your whole life. Go get, go get your hands dirty. Yeah. And, you know, get greasy. And get filthy. And, and, and I think that's a lot of the image that, um, that's associated with a machine shop right?

Jeff: Is like row after row machines and it's, it's dirty and grimy and gross and, and, um, you know, it's backbreaking work and, and, uh, and there are machine shops like that out there. I've been in them . But, but that's not the case of, you know, the modern machine shop. The modern [01:32:00] machine shop is, it's a great place to work.

Jeff: You know, we have state-of-the out equipment. We are, we're, we have clean facilities, um, eat your lunch off of it, right? We have, we have, we're air conditioned, right? We have climate control. It stays 68 degrees in our shop, Iraq. Well, it's

Sunny: technically you have to be smart enough geometrically to figure out how to program the machine

Jeff: and, right.

Jeff: And we get to, and we, and we play with basically robots all day. Mm-hmm. , right? I mean, that's all a CNC machine is. It's it's a, it is, it's a robot, right. And you get to tell what to do. We get to sell what to do, you know, and uh, and then we have, and we have, uh, one of the more recent machines we invested in, it actually has a robot on it, you know, so it'll little robot on and it comes over and it picks the piece up and it brings it over and it loads, it takes the piece.

Jeff: It just finished out. keeps going, you know, and it's, it's amazing. It's, it's just so cool to watch and to be able to program and, and, and figure out how to tell it, to do what you want it to do and, uh, and make [01:33:00] really technical parts for cool industries. Mm-hmm. , you know? Um, so I think that's one thing I think I think we need to, um, and there, there are some people out there that have been doing a good job of showing that, what I just said, right.

Jeff: Like that, that the, that this is a good industry to work in, but we need

Sunny: more of that. Well, you guys make components for the wind turbines that are helping solve climate. If nobody else makes them. Can't do that either. Right, right. What, what can people outside of other machine shops do to help? What do you think needs to happen?

Sunny: Because you know that I believe that a decentralized network of smaller manufacturers is far more potently, agile and valuable than centralized manufacturing. How do we keep what we created uniquely in America Alive? We have hundreds of thousands, not enough, but still hundreds of [01:34:00] thousands of small manufacturers.

Sunny: How do we keep that tradition and that value going forward?

Jeff: You know, I think it's, I think it starts with education. That's my, my take on it is, you know, we, we've seen, I've seen a, a bit of a resurgence in, uh, shop classes in high school. Mm-hmm. , uh, I think that's important. I think that, um, not every kid.

Jeff: that comes outta high school is meant to go to college. Right. And I think there's a lot of money wasted Sure. On people that go, but really weren't meant to. I was one of 'em, you know, I wasted money on college and time and time, you know, um, college, I was, I'm not bragging, but I'm a very, very intelligent, I'm a very intellectual person.

Jeff: I'm very smart. But school was terrible. I hated it. I absolutely [01:35:00] hated school for whatever. I love to learn. I hated the structure. I hated that the way it was set up, I guess. Sure. It just didn't, didn't jive with me. And so not everybody is meant to go to college. Not everybody can tear

Sunny: through a manual and learn a CNC machine.

Sunny: Right. Right.

Jeff: And so we need, we need options for these people. And, and manufacturing, machining is one of them. You know, advanced manufacturing is. great. And if you can learn it, and you can, and you can do good, you can go out and you can make a hundred thousand or $150,000 a year. Mm-hmm. , I mean, you can make that kind of, that's the kind of money you can make if you become an expert at it.

Jeff: Yeah. You know, if you're, if you're a, if you're a top level guy and you learn it, and you don't need a college degree in order to go make that kind of

Sunny: money, and it's durable. Right. It'll be valuable forever. Yeah. Humans always need new stuff.

Jeff: Right. We need it. Um, you know, I, there's all kinds of other, uh, [01:36:00] political stuff that I, I, I think would help, but I, that's a whole other, uh, you can't control that.

Jeff: You can't control it. You know, I think, I think we need, I do really think that education is the key, um, high. Um, workforce reentry programs like what I'm talking about, right? Mm-hmm. , like basically what I want to do is as a workforce, it's a reentry program, right? It's, it's disaffected individuals, and it doesn't just stop with people that have an addiction problem.

Jeff: I mean, there's, uh, there's veterans and there's people coming out of prison and, you know, we just, we just, uh, got introduced to somebody in Massachusetts that, um, is with the Bureau of Prisons, and they actually run a, a, a machine shop program, and they teach the guys how to machine mm-hmm. , you know, and that's the, that's the kind of stuff that we, we need.

Jeff: We have a, we have a whole subset of people in this country that, uh, didn't need, uh, like you said, like they need a community. They need a career, [01:37:00] they need skills. Uh, they're perfectly capable of learning it. Um, and we have an industry that really needs people. Mm-hmm. , the, the, the manufacturing workforce is very tight.

Jeff: uh, in, in on the skills side, we have a huge skills gap. We have a lot of guys that are at or past retirement age that are retiring.

Sunny: And you don't think that robots are gonna replace humans anytime soon? No, I don't either, but no. I mean, I think a lot of people from outside of manufacturing think, why would I, why would I get a job in manufacturing?

Sunny: We're just gonna automate all the humans out of it anyway.

Jeff: Yeah. But you still need somebody to program all the robots. Right. You know, and, uh, talk

Sunny: to the designers. They don't know what they're talking about when they design the parts, things like that. Right, right.

Jeff: Exactly. And, and so, so, you know, we have these, we are all these people that are retiring and unfortunately they're taking a lot of this knowledge with them.

Jeff: And

Sunny: that's, I think we underestimate the value of that knowledge

Jeff: as a whole industry. A hundred percent. And, and it's [01:38:00] terrible. There. And like you said, there aren't a lot of guys in my age range that are in this industry, that are, that are able to learn from those people to, to take some, some of that knowledge and keep it going.

Jeff: And, um, and that's a problem. It's a huge problem because those people know a lot when they go, it's every time one of them retires. Um, we're losing a little bit of knowledge and so we need people that are to come in and learn from it. And the other problem too is that, you know, talking about small shops is there's a lot of times there isn't anybody to take over for them if they're the owner of the shop.

Sunny: Yeah. That this multi-generational wave, it's not happening anymore. It's

Jeff: not happening. It's, it's gone. And, um, and there's nobody willing to step in and. and take it over, you [01:39:00] know? Um, more for you. Yeah. But it's, uh, , you know, you can only do so much yourself. Right, exactly. And, and that's, and that's a problem, you know, so we need people that can come in and learn and, and try and pull some of this knowledge back and, and, and capture it so that we can pass it on to the next generation.

Jeff: Yeah. And they can, you know, in every year, in every generation we get to learn a little bit more, you know, but I can take what they taught me and I can, um, and I can take what I've learned with the newer technology and pass all that along to the next generation. And hopefully we're, we're building the next generation of shop owners.

Jeff: Mm-hmm. , you know, uh, and we. teach entrepreneurship too. Yeah.

Sunny: They, they can't survive. They don't know how to do business either. Right.

Jeff: It's a huge, it's a huge part of it, you know? And is, is the entrepreneurship aspect, um, [01:40:00] the business side of things, you know, how to, how do you run a, how do you run a business?

Jeff: That's a, that's a tough nut to crack sometimes. Sure. Yeah. Are you, I'm sure you know, and my Absolutely. I have my own

Sunny: lumps that I've

Jeff: swallowed as well. Exactly. Um, it's, it's not easy, but, you know, we, we have vision, we have drive, uh, we have hope for the future, and we push and we keep pushing because we believe in it.

Jeff: Mm-hmm. . And we believe that we can do it. And we make mistakes. We learn from 'em, and then we go do it better. We get back up on the horse. Yeah. That's always. Uh, that's always that saying, you know, just keep getting back up on the horse, you know, and that's all I do. Yep. I, I, I make, I make mistakes every single day.

Jeff: Sometimes they're big ones, sometimes they're little ones, but I still [01:41:00] make them. And I have to, you know, one of the things I do is I reflect on all my mistakes and I, I, I try and learn from them. If I don't learn from them, they're wasted. They're wasted. Every, every mistake is a learning opportunity, and that is, that's actually something that I, I ingrain into my guys when they make a mistake.

Jeff: I don't yell at them. I go over and I say, okay, what happened? Tell me what happened. What did you do wrong? Mm-hmm. , right. So that they can learn. That's how I. . Yeah. I crashed. I crashed a few machines. your

Sunny: first programmer?

Jeff: My very first program. Mr. Minus. Yep. Mr. Minus. I, every tool on the, it was a, it was a game tool machine.

Jeff: I just took every tool right off the, right off the slide, you know? And, um,

Jeff: you know, the trick though is, is to not repeat the mistakes. Yes. We have to learn from them. If I have an employee that makes the same mistake, [01:42:00] five, six, that's never, I mean, never, like three times in a row, that's a red flag. Sure. You know, there's no reason. There is no reason for that. And then I don't think there's any excuse for it.

Jeff: Right. Yep. That means you're not learning the lesson, you're not paying attention, you're not trying to improve yourself. You know, and, and we, we all need to do that.

Sunny: Jeff, I want to thank you for your time. Thanks for coming out here to Minneapolis where it's snowing, having this conversation with me.

Sunny: Thanks for everything you do for the industry. Thanks for absorbing the information from the previous generation and passing it on to the next for believing in people and how they can learn and working hard at doing in a very important thing for the industry and for the economy in general. Appreciate you.

Jeff: No, I wanna thank you for having me out. This was amazing. Uh, it was a great opportunity to hopefully get in front of some people in, in front of the next generation to tell 'em what it's all about and what's out there. Impossible.

Sunny: Absolutely. Thank you. Yeah. Jeff Murphy, reform Manufacturing, [01:43:00] Salisbury, Massachusetts, north of Boston.

Sunny: Thank you.

The Capacity Podcast is where small, vitally important manufacturers finally tell their stories. Hear how small business owners, entrepreneurs, and operations leaders overcome challenges to build amazing manufacturing businesses. Hosted by Fulcrum CEO Sunny Han. Listen to every episode on your favorite platforms or watch on Youtube.

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