Manufacturing Mavericks

In this episode, Gustavo (Gus) Gutierrez, owner of GC Machining Solutions, takes us through his incredible journey from a 15-year-old who traded coffee for training at his first manufacturing job, to buying his own shop. Gus doesn't shy away from doing the "hard stuff", including moving a shop, implementing an ERP, and is currently managing a shift from 10% medical and dental device manufacturing to 80%. Wow.

Gus talks to Greg McHale about investing in education, making time for family, and the advice he gives his kids. He also shares his experiences across various roles in manufacturing, picking the right team members, building a strong company culture, and why technology is crucial to staying competitive. Gus's insights are a valuable resource for anyone in the industry.

  • Got bit by the manufacturing bug at 15 when he would buy coffee for people and clean their machines if they would share some knowledge (5:53)
  • A desire to learn something new everyday led him to a lot of oddball jobs, but manufacturing just kept calling his name. (11:16
  • Working third shift and being a full-time electrical engineering student was a challenge, How Gus got it done with the help of a tape recorder!  (13:29)
  • Taking his daughter to IMTS starting when she was 9 really paid off in the long run (20:08)
  • Taking a job he didn’t really want to be able to Project Manage moving 30 CNCs and 15 pcs of equipment. (23:39)
  • Gus was at the top of his game as a plant manager with 325 people under him, but he wasn’t happy. So he followed a little whisper (27:55)
  • The difference between a good employee and an engaged employee (29:28)
  • Letting the team pick the new team members helps build a strong culture (33:20)
  • Technology: It’s important to give people the right equipment, the right tools for success. (37:21
  • In medical devices, everything is critical, especially keeping the end-user top of mind (41:30)
  • Advice to his impatient younger self: Change the glasses you use to view life, and you’ll get to this success. (45:07)

Creators & Guests

Greg McHale
Greg founded Datanomix, a company delivering game-changing production insights and intelligence to manufacturers of discrete components. Datanomix was founded on the premise that the 4th industrial revolution would require turnkey products that integrate seamlessly with how manufacturers work today—not clunky workflows that depend on human input or complex data extraction. He brings enterprise data skills to a market ripe for innovation. Greg has held engineering leadership positions at several venture-backed companies and is a graduate of Worcester Polytechnic Institute.
Eric Van Orden

What is Manufacturing Mavericks?

Manufacturing Mavericks aren’t afraid to shake things up and stand out from the crowd. They are embracing the best tools and technology to showcase world-class American manufacturing and grow their business.

Join Greg McHale, founder of Datanomix, as he sits down with these exceptional people to hear their stories and explore the important lessons they learned along the way. Listeners can gain valuable insights they can use in their own facilities to improve their bottom line.

Greg: Welcome to Manufacturing Mavericks, a podcast where we showcase and celebrate exceptional people from across precision manufacturing who are boldly embracing new ways to improve their processes, grow their bottom lines, and ensure American manufacturing will thrive for generations to come.

Welcome to this episode of Manufacturing Mavericks. I’m your host, Greg McHale. As the founder of Datanomix, I’ve had the privilege of visiting hundreds of shops all across the country and in those visits, I have met some of the most incredible and innovative people in this industry. Our goal with the Manufacturing Mavericks podcast is to highlight those leaders, those mavericks of manufacturing who are innovating not just with technology but with culture, people, and process too, so we can all learn not just what they do but why they do it. We’ll dig into what got them into manufacturing, what fires them up to go to work every single day and pour their blood, sweat, and tears into keeping the manufacturing dream alive in our country. With that, I’m honored to introduce today’s Manufacturing Maverick, Eric Van Orden. Welcome to the show, Eric. How are you doing today?

Eric: I’m doing great. Excited to be here and have this opportunity. I want to say thank you, and very humbling that, you know, you want my opinion. I felt like I’m just a guy.

Greg: [laugh] .

Eric: Humbling experience, but excited.

Greg: That’s great, Eric. I knew the second I met you, I knew you were a Manufacturing Maverick, and there’s a specific reason. I think we’ll get into some of that story a little bit later in the podcast, but you know, the fact that you made me come meet you at four o’clock in the morning to try to prove some new technology to you—

Eric: [laugh] .

Greg: —is a pretty Maverick move, wouldn’t you say?

Eric: Um… yeah. And sometimes, you know, we’ve talked a lot in the past, also, and you have a busy schedule, I have home outside of work, and that just happened to be the time that fit perfect for us, so—

Greg: [laugh] .

Eric: Why not?

Greg: I’m glad it fit perfectly for us, too. It was a great meeting. We’ll get back to that story in a little bit. So, you know, Eric, Paramount Machine, Salt Lake City, Utah, very well respected company, you know, very known in the area in NTMA as, you know, a high quality, high precision, you know, high technology company. Why don’t you tell us a little bit about the story of Paramount Machine?

Eric: Paramount Machine, my dad started the company in his backyard, probably, I think it was, close to 28—25, 28 years ago, somewhere around there, just with the idea of trying to be better and wanted to control a little bit more of his destiny. So, made a couple moves, and now we’re where we’re at now. It’s a 30,000 square foot facility, pretty much entirely CNC. We have a couple of manuals for support equipment, about 70 full-time employees, horizontals, multi-axis mills, multichannel mill turns, Swiss machines, chucking lathes, wire EDM, sinker EDM. We are pretty well involved in most of these subtractive manufacturing processes. So yeah, that’s a little bit of an overview of just the company and technology, you know, broad strokes.

Greg: Awesome. So, your dad started the company, you know, 25, 30 years ago or so. Does that mean that you grew up, you know, all around manufacturing, manufacturing in the blood? Did you not take an interest in manufacturing early on? How did you end up catching the bug?

Eric: I definitely had a mechanical inclination to things. I have to thank my dad pushing me when I was young. I remember one of the first toys I had was an erector set, and being able to build things with that and put things together. He’ll also tell stories that, buy me a brand-new toy, and I’d have it taken apart in ten minutes. And not quite sure why I would do that, but I wanted to take it apart and wanted to see how it worked. And when the shop was in the backyard, I was always out there hanging out. Throughout, like, junior high, my summers, I’d get up and eat breakfast, and I’d either go ride my bike—at that time, the shop was only, like, five miles away from our house, so I’d go ride my bike to the shop and that’s how I spent my summers was hanging out in the shop. And then in high school, I got in trouble a couple of times because my teachers would call because I wasn’t in school, and I wasn’t in school because I was at the shop. And a great group of guys that was the core group, and they were only four, five years older than me, but I’d just go out on the shop and hang out with them. And, “What are you doing?” And, “How are you doing this?” It was a really fun and exciting time for me.

Greg: That’s—I don’t know that I’ve heard of too many folks who when they were cutting class, it was actually to be working and learning, but [laugh] on something they cared more about than the schoolwork, which makes a ton of sense because it’s far more interesting than [laugh] anything that happens inside of the school.

Eric: And I definitely had to toe the line. And when those conversations did happen, it usually started with, “Hey, so-and-so teacher called. What’s your grade in their class?” And if it wasn’t at least an A-minus, then I was expected to be there. So, the high expectations there from—that my dad instilled in me, I made sure that I had things taken care of, and then at that point, it was like, what else can I really ask? So.

Greg: So, did you then go right into the family business after school? Did you explore other career opportunities? How did that go out?

Eric: I did not. So, I moved down to Southern Utah when I graduated high school. I wanted to go to college down there. It was a fun time. I wonder sometimes what I did learn down there, but it was fun. And I did that for a year, and then I moved back up to Salt Lake, and I was going to school, and I worked at American Express customer service, answering phones. And the path that I was on was, I was working on my bachelor’s in Business Administration, and honestly, after that, I wanted to go to law school because I thought that, with an MBA and a law degree, you can pretty much pick and choose anything you want to do.

Greg: Sure.

Eric: I maybe had, like, some golden plan of, well, maybe I’ll come—I’ll get my MBA, get my law degree, I was planning on working in American Express for a while, and then maybe one day I come to the shop and help run things. Course of events, life happens and called my dad one day and said, “I don’t like what I’m doing. I want to come be a machinist. I want to come work at the shop. If I can machine parts and make a decent living that way, I think that will make me happy.” He said, “Well, you’re going to have to give me a couple of weeks because I need to find out if we have an opening for you and where I would be able to put you. I’m not just going to say yes because you’re my kid.”

Greg: Wow, that’s awesome.

Eric: Yeah, so a couple weeks later, I put in my two weeks at American Express, and ended up here. And that was 13 years ago, so been here full-time for 13 years since.

Greg: So, even though, you know, a lot of people would think, yeah, it’s the owner, son, of course he’s just going to walk in. He’s going to give him some, you know, cush opportunity inside the company. Your dad actually said, “Wait a minute. Let me see if we even have something for you.” And then you started out, what? You started out machining right away?

Eric: Nope. I started out hand-sanding parts. We had a really ambitious guy that was working for us at that time, and he—we were building these plates, and they had, like, little pockets inside of them. And at first it was small, you know, one, two-piece things. And he took the time to stone and sand all the mill lines out of the pockets because it was like a—they were using it for a visual thing. They would put a piece of glass or something on top of it and run some fluids through it, and so being able to see just, like, a complete grain instead of the machine lines they really appreciated. So, production greatly ramped up. We had four bay, six bays and twelve bays, each one had that many number of pockets, and there were hundreds of them. And so, I sat at a desk and I used a stone, and a reciprocating sander, and ScotchBrite made sure that every single one of those had every mill line out of it, and a nice fine grain that ran vertical.

Greg: Wow. That’s some serious work [laugh] .

Eric: It wa— [laugh] it was good work, but it was terrible work. I hated it [laugh] .

Greg: [laugh] . Yeah.

Eric: And it was good experience though. And, like, you can’t—you know, this is all audio; you can’t see, but like, there’s a little bit of internal joke that there is Paramount’s expectations, and then if you raise your hand about three feet above that, there’s Eric’s expectations.

Greg: Nice [laugh] .

Eric: And so, yeah, definitely it hasn’t been, like, the boss’s kid. And I never wanted it to be either. I wanted to be—you know, I grew up in this shop and I grew up being friends with a lot of the core group, and I wanted to be respected from them as a peer, as a coworker, not—and what I was able to do and accomplish, not who I was.

Greg: Sure. I mean, and massive credit to your dad for seeing it the same way, right? It’s easy for, you know, some young guy just to come in and waltz over the top. And it’s like, you know, can that guy even run a machine? Does even know, you know? And the answer is you did, and you’d been doing it, you know, pretty much your whole life, but you also earned your way through some of the harder work, some of the harder jobs.

Eric: Oh yeah, definitely did, and I appreciated all that. So, I did hand-sanding, deburring, stuff like that, for a while, and then got into wire EDM work. We needed some help in the wire EDM—at the time, we had two of them—and that was my first foray into, like, actual machining was wire EDM. So, I did that for a couple of years. That followed us—from that shop, we moved to the current location. We started to do more wire EDM work, we were able to get a third wire, kind of grew that a little bit. In between that time—you know, wire work can be boring because it takes forever—I would go out on our chucking lathes—we have some MORI NLs that we run—and I would go out and start learning on the NLs, spend time out there doing some production work. And then at the time, also, we had probably five bridge ports and four engine lathes. And super grateful, there was an old timer that kind of took me under his wing and taught me a lot about running an engine lathe and a manual mill. They all had readouts on him with, like, a conversational control, so we do little programs and things like that. And definitely, he took me under his wing and taught me some of that stuff. And he had high expectations for me, too. I remember coming in to work a few times, and he would just give me a look and be like, “Oh, you stayed out too late, huh?” It was like, “Yeah.” “Well, it’s not going to get any easier, so here we go. Get ready to set up the steady rest because we’re boring long parts.” And so—

Greg: [laugh] Aw, man.

Eric: —had to work through all that. And then moved to the eventual [unintelligible] where I’m at now. I mainly had the Swiss area. We bought one machine eight years ago. We’ve been on, like, a year-and-a-half, buy another one. We’re up to—oh, I got to think reall—and count in my head—we’re up to seven, I believe, now. That’s mainly where I’m at, head up the process there. And then started to delve into other aspects like tooling, machine monitoring, things like that.

Greg: So, you guys had you had no Swiss machines eight years ago, and then basically, you ended up leading that department leading that effort. How did it come about that Paramount got into Swiss machining as part of its business?

Eric: So, we had a seasonal company that we were doing work for, and they had a large volume of parts that they wanted us to try and get through. They’re into snow-making equipment, right, so orders started to get placed September, August, and if it wasn’t done and completed on the mountain by the middle of October, you couldn’t sell it after that point; it’s too late in the season. So, a really short timeframe between when they placed orders and when we had to deliver parts. And had an opportunity with some smaller diameter stuff, and fortunately, the PO was large enough that we decided hey, you know, this… the only way we’re going to get this done in time is if we do make a delve into some Swiss, and experiment with that. And there’s me and another guy on the chucking lathes—a guy that I’ve known for my entire life that has worked at the shop, and he taught me a ton—so it was me and him that were on the Swiss. And he’s really good at what he was doing, and so kind of got pulled back into there, and just kind of had to take that headfirst dive and here we go, we got to start making parts.

Greg: [laugh] . So, how much lead time did you have to get that machine in, in order to make the parts on time? How much of a heads-up did you have?

Eric: Once the machine was on the floor, we probably had about four weeks to do 6000 parts.

Greg: Wow.

Eric: I just ran 15,000 parts in five days this last—it went through the weekend. But when you’re—not the same job. Different parts.

Greg: Oh, okay. That’s like [laugh] —that’s quite an improvement [laugh] .

Eric: [laugh] . No different parts. But when it’s—it’s really hard to run a Swiss machine because the way you have to think about it is so much different, and like, there’s different ways to go about it. And it was completely new to all of us. And so, if anyone’s listening you’re like—and depending on the complexity of the parts, sure, like, 6000 parts in four weeks is easy, but there was a pretty big hurdle. And you know, we were able to clear that. And we weren’t a hundred percent great at it. You know, we did some [two-ops] stuff that I built blanks, and send them to the mill, in the mill put slots in them. And so, kind of that helped with doubling up production. And in that 6000 parts, there was probably 30 part numbers, so it wasn’t just one run of one part. There was lots of things to change out and do—

Greg: Yeah.

Eric: —still learning and figuring it out as we went. We’re actually at 1.2 million parts made on that machine now.

Greg: Wow.

Eric: Yeah.

Greg: 1.2 million parts made. That’s fantastic.

Eric: Yeah.

Greg: So, what one of the things that we usually dig into next is describe the culture of your shop. But I mean, I think you just gave a great example. Here’s an order for parts we’ve never made before. The only way we can make them is buy a machine, and then we have four weeks to get them right. Do you think that’s a good description [laugh] of the culture of your shop, or what was what would you add to that?

Eric: I think this shops great. We have a very, very dedicated group of people. You know, 70—we’re—like I said, about 70 employees. It’s hard to find 70 dedicated people, you’re going to have stragglers here and there, but I really think we have one of the best groups that we’ve ever had right now. And there’s a lot of talent and potential in the shop right now. And we’re working on—like you mentioned, the NTMA stuff—we’re working with the NTMA and with some of the schools in Utah and trying to create an apprenticeship program because there isn’t an apprenticeship program in Utah. So, we’re trying to bring new people in and get them excited about manufacturing. The shop is like a family, really. And maybe I’m biased because I’ve been here—you know, I said 13 years full-time, but really, I’ve been here, at least in some capacity, for my entire life, basically. So, I’m 34. So, my dad started the shop when I was six. So, I’ve been around it. And the guys that we have, they really are like family. There’s guys I call here my uncle. You know, that’s my Uncle Jim. No relationship, but he’s my uncle. And we have a really good group, and everyone’s committed to success. And this is the part where it’s like, I’m just a guy. Like, part of my story is, my dad. He’s a huge influence. I haven’t had the opportunity to work in other machine shops, but a lot of other people have, and they all talk to me, and they all tell me the same thing that Steve’s the best boss we’ve ever had. He cares about his employees. And when Paramount succeeds, everyone succeeds. It doesn’t walk out the door in his pocket. He doesn’t go buy a brand-new truck. He’s got a—I think his truck is almost 20 years old right now, and the truck he had before that was 20 years old. He’s lived in the same house for 37 years. Like, the profit and the revenue that the shop makes doesn’t walk out the door with him. It gets passed around everyone else in multiple ways. You know, wages, bonuses, it goes into manufacturing equipment, you know, people walk in the door, and we’re definitely a DMG MORI house. Every machine save one is DMG MORI. And the one that isn’t is an Okuma. So still, another—not knocking on them; they have their place, but it’s not a shop full of Haases, and—

Greg: Right.

Eric: You know, even the Swiss, the Swiss are DMGs. The first one we did buy was a [unintelligible] and that was kind of a more, like, a… budget, more entry level, but we stepped up to Tsugami. And Tsugami is one of the most respected names in Swiss. Like—

Greg: Yep.

Eric: —they’re definitely in the top three. So, we do have some older MORIs, but they’re not any older than 13 years, and I’d say the average age is probably closer to five or six years old. That technology and bringing that in and that adds to the culture. And, you know, we do a lot of fun things around here, and we like to have a good time. We actually had a St. Patrick’s lunch today: corned beef, and cabbage, and potatoes, and desserts, all catered in today. And, you know, everyone gets on the intercom, and lunch is ready. And, you know, Steve doesn’t make anyone clock out to go do the company lunch, and we all get paid to, you know, hopefully some machines are running, but we get paid to sit in the break room and hang out with each other and do things that get everyone involved.

Greg: That’s fantastic. I mean, you know, when you walk into the shop, it’s obvious, you know? Like you said, the newness of machines, the presence of technology, you know, you guys have made some investments in robotics that I’ve seen, a lot of palletized equipment, lots of automation, you know, high-end Swiss machines, and then, you know, other technology, too, software products, inspection equipment. So, you know, one of the things that really struck me, you know, the first time we met—so maybe we’ll get to the 4 a.m. story—is [laugh] —

Eric: There you go.

Greg: —here I was with our brand new sales rep out of Denver, a couple years ago, and he says—so Andrew Lusty, great employee of ours, Datanomix in his blood guy, for sure, and in his customers love him. And, you know, he’s with us, you know, a month-and-a-half or so, and you know, we mostly been selling on the east coast at that point, and he was really our first one to open up the western side of the country. And he says, “You know, the first chapter of my strategy is Salt Lake City.” And I go, “Salt Lake City? I never been to Utah. Like, what”— [laugh] LA, you know? Seattle? Like, Phoenix? You know, tell me what I’m missing? And he says, “No, you got to understand, the NTMA is very strong in that area, Salt Lake City’s a very industrious place, companies really work together, you know, to learn from each other, and you know, come up with best practices, and it’s just, it’s a very different kind of a mindset than probably what you’ve seen in other parts of the country. And, you know, I promise if you come out here, it’ll be well worth your time.” So, you know, I end up going out there with him, and we got several meetings set up, and he’s like, “You know, there’s this one I’m still working on, Paramount Machine. You know, Eric is this guy I’ve called on, you know, in prior companies with, you know, doing quality equipment and stuff like that, and he’s just so toasted on monitoring [laugh] . He’s tried it, like, three, four times; he’s had enough. He’s not interested.” He’s like, “So, I pushed him, I pushed him.” He said, “I’ll tell you what, if your stuff is so good, why don’t you come show it to me at four o’clock in the morning.” And so, I said, “Done.” [laugh] . I think we had, like, a 7 or 8 a.m. flight out that morning; we had been out there a couple of days. So, you know, we came in, and we knocked on your shop door at four o’clock in the pitch black, and you know, you were there to very kindly let us in. And man, I mean, the second we walked into your shop, it was obvious that you guys were on your game, that you had invest in technology, obviously, you know, because in some cases, you know, things you invested in, you’re kind of, you know, what some people would call an early adopter, right? You look at technology that’s new and see if it can see if it can help the business. And that’s pretty unique in manufacturing, right? A lot of manufacturers are sometimes seen as later adopters versus early adopters. So, I mean, what is it in your experience in being there, you know, and how you’ve come up through the shop that makes you look at things on the early edge of the curve? What part of you drives that?

Eric: Oh, there’s a couple of things in that story you just told, and I want to touch on couple of them. Salt Lake and Northern Utah, and even Southern Utah, is actually a really huge industrial place. We have a lot of things going on in Salt Lake and—

Greg: Definitely.

Eric: You had mentioned, you know, industrious: that’s the state motto is ‘industry.’ And so, I think that it’s just kind of in people’s DNA, that they work hard. And also to the NTMA, like—and machinists know this—like, doesn’t matter where you go, to what shop if you have a square part, they’re going to put it on a mill, they’re going to rough it out with a face, they’re going to hit all the faces with the face mill, they’re going to pocket it with something big, they’re going to finish the small corners with small tools. Like, there’s nothing that we don’t know the other person isn’t doing. And so, if we try and, like, be malicious or conniving, and try and keep these little pockets of secrets—and don’t get me wrong, there are some areas that it’s like, “Hey, I’ve figured out if you use this tool to do this, you can get this feature from this angle, and then you can reduce cycle time.” And, you know, there are little secrets there, but as a broad, you know, industry, manufacturing, everyone does it the same way. And if you try to hide and be secretive from your competitors, it puts a bad name out. And so yeah, we are involved in the NTMA, and a lot of the shops are involved in NTMA, and we help each other out, and help those problems. And being on the forefront of technology, sometimes it’s hard to specifically understand. I was very turned off from machine monitoring. I did not like it. We had inconsistencies in data. It basically turned into mobile patrol light, you know? You’re across the shop; you see if the lights green or if it’s red, then you go take care of it. Well, now I’m at home—oh, machine stopped. Hey, I got time. I’ll run in and see if I can get it going again. Like, it was just a mobile patrol light. That’s all it was.

Greg: Mm-hm. Yep.

Eric: Didn’t do anything for us. Everything in this world is born from manufacturing. There isn’t—look around you, at your house, in your car, at work, anywhere, everything is born from manufacturing, so manufacturing itself has to be invested in technological advances. Dealing with some of the forefront companies, like DMG, like Okuma, like Tsugami, they have the capital expenditure, they have the budget to be able to produce technology. Sometimes we may not always understand that technology. And I’ll put this with machine monitoring: don’t really understand it. I’m good at putting holes in parts. I’m not a data scientist, so I don’t really understand it, but I know that if you look at every large company, they are going that way. So, it’s an eventual path that we’re eventually going to have to get on, so let’s start early so that we’re not late to the party. Because all of a sudden—and this the—a way, like, 3D printing and additive, casting houses should be scared shitless right now because—

Greg: [laugh] .

Eric: —that was already a dying industry, but the way that additive is going, sure some stuff is still going to be cast, and until you get the price down for, like, actual metallurgical printing or add—not—and printing is a lazy word, but additive manufacturing—once you get that to a cost point, castings are going to dry up. And there’s always going to be some subtractive. I don’t think you can necessarily get away with that. And we have, like, PLA filament printers here in the shop, and we’re experimenting with fixtures and workholding. And it’s not the metallurgical additive, but we’re starting—you know, when they’ve been here for—we’ve had them for six years in the shop. Because guess what? We know what’s coming. And just like machine monitoring, we know it’s coming. And this is so funny. You don’t need machine monitoring to tell you the Eric sucks at running a machine and can’t get parts off. Like, you know that, right? You already know some of those things about your shop. It was very interesting with Andrew because he came from the metrology side of things, and honestly that meeting was like on a flier because I didn’t understand what he was actually trying to sell. And it’s like, “I don’t know, some monitor. Like, I think it’s a measurement thing? I don’t know what it is.” And I talked with one of my coworkers, Devon, and told him about it, and I was like, “I don’t know, dude did really good stuff for us when he was with metrology.” Like, I kind of feel bad for him, kind of, taking it as just, like, cool. Show me what you got. I’m not quite sure what there is. And I don’t know, I’ve seen some of your media, but I’ve been heavily quoted as the religious revelation that I had—

Greg: That’s your line. That was your line, man [laugh] .

Eric: It was. And that’s, like, you know, Utah influence because everyone knows, oh, well Utah just has a bunch of Mormons, right? Like—

Greg: Yeah, right [laugh] .

Eric: So, [laugh] that was my religious revelation was, “Holy cow, like, you’re telling me I didn’t have to do anything, and you could tell me that much about my part, and about my cycle time, and about”—not even cycle time. Cycle time is a broken word because you walk out on the shop, “Well, what’s your cy—what? How long does it take to make a part?” “Well, two seconds.” Okay, so that means—I’m going to change that: 30 seconds because then I can do better math.

Greg: [laugh] .

Eric: So, it’s like, cool. So, you should be getting two parts a minute, and you get 120 parts an hour, right? Well, no, I only have five parts. Well, you told me it’s 30 seconds, so what’s going on? Well, the tools break after everything I do, and then I got to change all the tools. Okay, so yes, your cycle time is two minutes, but your production time is actually—will go to six parts an hour. It’s ten minutes a piece. Like, Datanomics tells you that. And that’s why I say cycle time is broken, were really need to change the industry to being more focused on production time. Just the information that was available—and definitely, we’ve had some growing pains throughout the entire shop with Datanomix, and it hasn’t always been a hundred percent. And some of that comes down to program structure, process, it comes down to, you know, you told me that we had an issue one time where we weren’t counting parts correctly with the right parts counter. So, things have to be processed, has to be correct. But one thing I definitely can attest to—and I get to see this firsthand because the area I’m in—on the Swiss machines, it was just right from day one. You literally plugged in the connection, and started getting valuable, valuable data. Anyone in manufacturing knows that not every job is a winner. There’s losers all the time.

Greg: Oh, yeah.

Eric: And trying to find those losers—and sometimes you can work with losers. You can go back to your buyer and say, “Look, this is where I need to be. I know that you want this price point, but this is where I have to be. If I’m not there, then I’m losing money.”

Greg: Yep.

Eric: And sometimes that’s a guessing game. And it’s heavily influenced on ERP data entry from the shop floor. And guess what, I’ll be honest with you, sometimes I don’t know if I always clocked in to the job for the right amount of time—

Greg: [laugh] . You and millions of other people.

Eric: —but you know what Datanomix knows? It knows exactly what the machine did because it only reads what the machine did, and the machine does what the machine does every single time. The excuse of, “I don’t know what the m—the machine just took off, did a random thing. I don’t know why it went there.”

Greg: [laugh] . It switched jobs.

Eric: “Well, it went there because you told it to go there.” Or yeah, you switched programs and you ran the wrong program. Or you say your tool wrong. Like, or you put a—I’ve been a victim of this—guess what? Modal codes. I was in G-0, not G-1, so guess what happened to the spindle in the tool? They made immediate contact. Like, but it did exactly what I told it to do. But yeah, just being onto—and you mentioned robotics. You know, we had—we bought our first Fanuc robot arm to load one of our NLs. Had a good project going with the company. Two months after we put it on the floor, they canceled orders and switched to in-house manufacturing. So, now it’s like, cool, uh… what do we do with this technology? Well, guess what? Round parts are round parts, and you can find round parts that are similar to other round parts. So, we started using that for other things. There’s some automotive stuff that we’ve been doing that we would have never been able to do if we didn’t buy that machine for a completely different sector, for a completely different project. But we were able to adapt and to use and think outside of—that’s the secret, right? I told you everyone knows how you manufacture stuff. Being able to think outside of the box, that’s the secret. So, did that, and, you know, our Okuma has got a Fanuc load-and-go system on it, so that’s a robot-fed machine. We just recently—when we first moved to this building that we’re in, you know, I say 30,000 square feet, and, like, it was huge. We had guys skateboarding around with $8,000 aluminum chassis, going from one end to the other to get to its inspection faster. And in hindsight, it’s like, oh, I don’t know if we should have been doing that because that’s an expensive part to be skateboarding around on. But—

Greg: You got to have stories though.

Eric: [laugh] You have to have stories. There’s a picture of floating around somewhere of me on a unicycle riding through the shop. Like—

Greg: Oh, that’s amazing.

Eric: But now—yeah [laugh] —but now we’ve grown so much that floor space is getting tight, and we’re trying to better utilize floor space, right? Because every square foot of floor space has a dollar value tied to it. So, one of the things that we recently invested in is an NL gantry loader. Yes, it’s larger than an NL 2500, but it’s not that much larger. Do you know how much more productive it is? It’s a hundred times more productive. We’re cranking through parts on that. So, utilizing square footage has also pushed us to be more adaptable to incoming technology, just maximizing. You know, you talked about palletized machines. We have all of our hor—not all of them. We have two standalones and six or seven palletized ones. Guess what? They all have 320 tool magazines on them.

Greg: Whoa.

Eric: You want to know why? Because that’s vertical floor space. And to have 320 tools in machine, you can—and on a pallet of machine, you could be running, I mean, plastic, aluminum, high-temp alloys, hardened steels. You need different tools for all of those, and to be able to just go from that subset, and… you know some of these machines come standard with, like, a 60 tool changer. Well, 60 tools sounds good until you start getting into switching materials, production, sister tools. Like, now we just load those magazines up, and tools are in an instant.

Greg: And so, I mean, you’re talking about—so you’ve been early in investing in software. You think about your physical space, you know, not just in terms of can I get a machine in there, but basically what capability can I get, almost per square foot, right? And this is you’re thinking outside the box is it’s like, oh, it’s not, do I need a lathe? Do I need a mill? It’s how much capability can I pack into that? Okay, a gantry is huge, but it’s a hundred times more productive, you know? And, basically, you know, that mindset is probably a significant part of what makes people love working there, you know? What was obvious to me when we walked in the door, and what’s obvious, you know, the times I’ve visited and what I see from you guys and the crew there is, it’s a place where innovation is sought after. You’re expected to innovate, right? I mean, and that clearly comes from you and your dad.

Eric: More him than me. I just get to help follow—I get to help… lead his dream. But yeah, it’s innovation, and we are a bunch of innovators here. And technology and, like, early adopters to software. Not an early adopter to using MasterCam or Esprit—which are the two that we mainly use in-house—but we have at least 20 seats of MasterCam, six seats of Esprit. We feel like we’re a little bit different than most shops where there’s a computer with a CAD/CAM software seat in front of every machine, and we don’t have lead programmers. Everyone makes their own programs. And that lets guys be able to innovate and be able to try new things, and they’re not stuck to, “Well, I don’t know, the programmer just gave me this, and now I got to go push the button and… spray and pray.” Like, so they really are in tune to what’s going on. And if they—everyone has access to the internet here, and access to production manufacturing, access to a modern machine shop, all these things on the internet, all the tooling websites. If someone finds something, there’s no one to say, “No, you can’t do that.” We always say, “Okay, great. When do you need it?” You know? My roles involved into helping out with tooling. And tooling can be a large expenditure for a company, but it’s also something that can be the most productive. Yeah, we could buy a $2 drill, and run it slower, and have poor finishes and deal with location issues, or we buy an $80 carbide drill and run it at 100 inches a minute, have better finishes, better accuracy, it runs a hundred times as long. Well, which one’s more productive? Yes, one cost more initially but which one was more productive? And, you know, we can’t—that’s all we can sell is machine time, so however the most you can be productive with it. And like I said to, like, with this software and kind of where he’s going with the whole MasterCam thing—and Esprit—is that you have to figure out how to get new people into manufacturing because manufacturing is at a crossroads. There’s a lot of guys in the industry that are 50, 60, even 70 years old. If no one fills that void, then it’s just going to stop, which can’t happen. Local cities, it can’t happen for states, the country. Like, we need manufacturing. So, how do you get people, the newer generation that likes to play video games, likes to spend time online, how do you get them involved? Well, we can say we can get them involved because everyone has access to being able to program. And they see that, and they come in, and they see, “Oh, this is cool. Like everyone’s using the computer, and everything’s nice in here.” Like, it’s. Nothing’s—you know, some shops are like a dungeon right? Poor lighting, floor is covered in chips—

Greg: [laugh] Definitely.

Eric: There’s a former NASCAR fan and is like, Roger Penske keeps one of the cleanest shops. It’s called—they call it ‘Penske Clean,’ and he has a high expectation of that. And, you know, the first thing we did when we bought the building, we sanded all the floors and painted and sealed them. And when they get scuffed up, we repaint them and reseal them. We painted the entire, all the walls. We painted the ceiling. Everything’s bright. We have hundreds and hundreds of lights in the facility. Like it’s a nice, clean area to come and work, so that’s inviting to the newer generation. They don’t want to go work in a dungeon, they don’t want to be covered in oil at the end of the day.

Greg: A hundred percent true. Your work environment is definitely one of the nicer ones I’ve seen. And you one of the things you touched on earlier with the MasterCam, the Esprit, and, you know, CAD/CAM in front of every machine, I can definitely tell you all the places I’ve been in, it’s super unique. And also that you have the expectation on the folks on your team—and, you know, not just the expectation, but that you actually, you know, motivate them and want them to own the part, literally from print to inspection. You’re not just asking for button-pushing; you’re asking for that end-to-end process. And of course, I mean, when you think about it, that’s going to be one of the things that incentivizes people to say, “Hey, I was looking at this, and I think we can do this differently.” You know? Maybe it’s a different tool, maybe it’s, you know, a different methodology, maybe it’s changes to the program, but you’re basically making everyone a mini owner of, you know, every process inside of Paramount. And, like I say, that’s definitely not something that I see everywhere. And I’ve been a bunch of places; it’s really special.

Eric: Yeah, it works out good. It’s been successful for us. And you hit it there, like, you know, there’s the old saying, like, “I’ll drive it like a rental.”

Greg: [laugh] .

Eric: That’s how you—you know? But now you tell someone to do that in their own car, and they’re like, “Well, but I have to get an oil change, and, you know, tires aren’t cheap, and if I just burn them off, then that’s going to cost me money.” And with ownership, you take better care of things. And yes, we do try and instill that, “Hey, here’s the print, here’s the billet. Like, it’s yours. Make it.” And give them ownership of the part.

Greg: It’s fantastic. And I know you’ve been digging into—you talk about you’ve been digging into some tooling stuff lately. One of the customers I was with earlier this week said, “You know, a $200 tool might be the cheapest tool you could ever buy for a certain job.”

Eric: Oh, yeah. Definitely [laugh] .

Greg: If it keeps running, it’s a lot better than the $10 tool that you’re changing every however many pieces, you know?

Eric: I do get some grief from some of the guys—and some of them are newer—but they always give me grief that, “Oh yeah, tooling guys love it when they come here because they just come talk to you, and you spend money.”

Greg: [laugh] .

Eric: And it’s like okay, yes, but do you know how much more productive we are because of that? And that’s another thing that Steve’s great about, too. And… I keep going back to him. It’s his shop, you know? I’m fortunate enough to be able to help facilitate his dream on the floor because he is in the office so much, and that’s mainly my role is on the floor. I’m not in the office a whole lot. And so, it’s fortunate that I get to facilitate that. But… and that’s what I went back to. Like, the money that comes into the shop goes back to the shop, in either the employees, or in technology, tooling, machines, anything like that. And yeah, you know, the Iscar guy, the Walter guy, they love me. But I also know that they’re helping to make me more productive. And I’ve built great relationships with a lot of them. They don’t come in to try and sell tools; they just come in and say, “What’s going on.” And they just—we have a real conversation. And talk to the Iscar guy about what the Walter tools [unintelligible] , about what the [MA4 00:45:39] tool is doing. And the Iscar guy gives me his input on it. And his input isn’t always, “Oh, well doesn’t work because you don’t have an Iscar thing,” it’s genuine feedback, and talking about the technology behind the tool, and the application, and what’s happening in the cut. You don’t get that if you don’t build relationships. And maybe that’s part of the key thing in, like, the culture at the shop here, too, is like, we build relationships with people. And building relationships is very important in this industry.

Greg: It’s everything, man. And even though, you know, like I say, we walked up to a dark door at four o’clock in the morning, and I’m like, “Man, you know, what’s this mean? Is this guy going to be tough or, you know, what?” And you are tough, you know? You make people prove it, man. You make people earn it, but once we connected on value, and being able to help each other, and being partners, you know, it’s—you guys are fantastic to work with, and so is everybody inside your company.

Eric: Yeah, it’s great. And, I don’t know, I think that a lot of people can continue to get into manufacturing, can be successful, and like, the same story I had, you know what? What I’m doing isn’t working. If I went to work, and made parts, and worked hard and made a good living that way, I’ll be happy. This is one of my—there’s two quotes that I want to tell you during this thing, and one of them is Sam Walton, “High expectations are the key to everything. If we don’t have high expectations, what are we really holding ourselves to?” And then a little bit more the, like, philosophy that I have adopted lately, and I wish that I could get everyone to—still working on it. I got to try and figure out, I’m trying to get this as a banner to put up on the shop—but Winston Churchill said, “I like for things to happen. And when they don’t happen, I like to make them happen.” And that goes back to taking ownership of something. And you know, we all want great things to happen, but some of us just sit there and say, “Oh, it didn’t happen this time.” And then there’s the other group that says, “It didn’t happen, but I’m going to make it happen.” And you take ownership of it, and you fail. You find the tool path, you find the tool, you find the technology, you persevere, and you’re able to go forward. If you’re stagnant—there’s—you’ve seen it. How many shops are going out of business because they’re stagnant?

Greg: Oh, yeah. I mean, more than should be, that’s for sure.

Eric: Definitely. And, you know, you have to survive, you have to be on the forefront, and you have to participate, and you have to be engaged.

Greg: I think I’m going to do something fun for you related to that Winston Churchill saying [laugh] .

Eric: [laugh] . Great.

Greg: I think I can make something happen for you [laugh] .

Eric: All right, perfect [laugh] . That’s—hey, we talked about partnerships, and I feel, you know—that’s—and relationships, you know? If you’re going out on a limb there, and, “Hey, I can do something for you,” and that builds a relationship. We’ve built a relationship together, and we’ve built a partnership. And I talk to other people, other shops, about Datanomix, and sometimes it’s like, “Oh, geez, are you the pitch guy for Datanomix?” It’s like, “No. I just believe in it.” I just believe in it, and if they can be successful, then that helps me be successful. Like, we’re a partnership in this. It’s not… we’re not in a service industry. Yes, we provide a service, but we’re not in a service industry.

Greg: Right. I mean, it’s—you know, to be in this industry, right, to be in precision manufacturing, to be relevant for the next generation of this industry, if it’s not about people, technology, and relationships, I’m not sure what it is about, right? Those are just such key ingredients.

Eric: Definitely. And, yeah, and it’s—yeah, it’s relationships, it’s support, it’s—I have a great wife that probably wants to throw my phone in the toilet sometimes because, “What are you doing?” “I’m looking at Datanomix.” “What are you doing?” “Oh, I’m watching this video about a tool.” But she’s very supportive, you know? She’s in a tough career herself and understands the dedication it takes, and she supports me in my dedication. And very dedicated to keeping manufacturing alive, not only because I kind of say, it’s like the backbone of the country, but also it’s how I make a living. It’s how I can continue to provide for my kids. And I can teach them, hey, you can work hard and be good.

Greg: Similar to what your dad did for you, right?

Eric: Yep. Similar to that. And it’s not always fun, it’s not always easy, and you know, there’s things at home that I probably ride my kids about, but I just want them to be better and know it. And that’s what my dad helped me to is, “I know you can be better than this, so I’m going to push you in.” And yes, I need more patience with my kids at home, but I do try to push them to be successful. And probably could have more patience at work to with some of the interactions I have, but it is based off of high expectations are the key to everything. And a lot of the times, I have pretty high expectations of what I think should happen.

Greg: That’s that’s fantastic. All right. I was able to off on the side here during our podcast, I was able to do the thing I wanted to do for you. So, when you get back out on the shop floor, I got a surprise for you in your area.

Eric: Perfect. Awesome.

Greg: [laugh] .

Eric: We won’t be ripping chips anymore.

Greg: [laugh] Do you like that one?

Eric: [laugh] I know, that was funny. I noticed that the other day that someone pointed out on the TV monitor, like, “Ripping chips. What’s going on there?” And I looked at the screen, it’s like, “Oh, well see how it’s on the down machine page, and there’s no machines there, like, I wonder if they built that in?” Like—

Greg: We did.

Eric: —if all the machines aren’t down—if all the machines aren’t down, we’re ripping chips.

Greg: Exactly, man [laugh] .

Eric: It’s funny. Like, it’s kind of became, like, a catchphrase type thing. Like, walk past, and they’ll just hear people, like, “Well, ripping chips.”

Greg: [laugh] I love to hear that. That was actually the—that was the suggestion of one of our customer success engineers who, he was with a customer, and they were like, hey, you know, when the down machines page is empty, that’s a great thing. Like, why don’t you guys throw some stuff in there to, you know, motivate our guys, or make them laugh, or something like that? So, he came up with that completely on his own. He found the gif, and he said, “Just put this gif in there when there’s no down machines”—

Eric: That’s awesome.

Greg: And you know? So that’s, like you s—us innovation has to come from anywhere, right? So, we’re like, “That’s a beautiful idea. People are going to love it.” And sure enough, that’s great to hear that we’ve put that in the vocabulary of your guys for having it up there because it means it’s having the effect that it was meant to.

Eric: Yeah. It does. And there’s also been some jokes of, like, well, we run late. That’s not what our chips look like.

Greg: [laugh] yeah, we did talk about that. We did talk about that. [laugh] I was like, some guys are going to be like, that’s not what, “Ours look like.”

Eric: Well, I have to remind everyone—I know, kind of, wrapping up here, but I’m going to jump back into it—I have to remind everyone, guess what? You have a live tooling lathe. And every lathe that we have in the shop has a y-axis and live tooling because of the capabilities it adds. And that’s a technology, it’s not a new technology, it’s been around for a while, but it’s one that a lot of people don’t invest in. And sure, sometimes you don’t necessarily need live tooling on every single lathe, but yeah, I do remind the lathe guys when they say, “That’s not our chips.” Well, remember, you have milling too, so it could be.

Greg: [laugh] There you go. There you go. So, Eric, one of the questions that we like to close with here is about going back in time, you know, to when you first got into manufacturing, when the torch was first lit, and giving some advice to a prior version of yourself. I think because of some of the stories that you shared today, the way I would ask it to you is, if you could go back to that kid that was skipping high school classes to go hang out at the shop and talk to him or, you know, the kid that rode his bike five miles to get to the shop just to spend more time there, what advice which would you give to him related to, you know, being in manufacturing, in the future of manufacturing, and becoming, you know, a successful person?

Eric: It’s hard to say exactly what I would go back and say. I definitely would tell a younger version of myself to be more patient. But I would also tell them to keep working and just do good, and that if you work hard, and you try—I’m going to throw another quote in for you—Dr. Seuss—it’s, “Think left, think right, think up, think down, all the thinks you can think up if only you try.”

Greg: Yeah.

Eric: So, that’s what I would tell a younger version of myself is to try. Just make sure you’re always trying, and you can be successful if you’re always trying.

Greg: That's a fantastic one, Eric. I definitely appreciate having you on the podcast. You are certainly a Manufacturing Maverick. I know at the outset, you said he didn’t feel that way, but I’ll tell you know, the way Paramount is run, the culture, the people, the technology, the investment back into the business, the contributions to Salt Lake City, Utah, the NTMA, you know, these are exactly the stories that we’re trying to find out there, and that we’re trying to make sure are heard in this industry, and are motivating and inspiring for the next generation. So, you’ve definitely accomplished that. Fantastic having you on the show. I deeply appreciate our partnership as companies, and hope you enjoy that little surprise when you walk back out to the Swiss area there, on the TV.

Eric: Perfect. Yeah. And I, again, started it with, very humbled. I’m just a guy—you said, I’m just a guy that cares, and that’s the difference. And we definitely, doesn’t matter who you are, if you’re in the [FOD] room, if you’re mopping floors, if you’re running a five-axis mill, a screw machine, like, we all have the potential in us to be Manufacturing Mavericks. And it’s just given that half a percent more at times. And very humbling, but also I think that, you know, everyone does have that potential to be a maverick. And just got to take ownership.

Greg: Everyone can get out there and start ripping chips, right?

Eric: Exactly. Exactly. Ripping chips.

Greg: [laugh] Awesome. Well, great. Great having you on, Eric. Thanks again for your time and hope you take care.

Eric: Yeah, I appreciate it. Hopefully we’ll see you soon.

Greg: Sounds good. Thank you for listening to Manufacturing Mavericks. If you’d like to learn more, listen to past episodes, or nominate a future Maverick to be on our show, visit, and don’t forget to subscribe to and rate this podcast on iTunes, Spotify, Google Play, or your favorite podcast app.