Hooked on Manufacturing

by Curt Burnett on June 28, 2011

Manufacturing hit me like a ton of bricks.  I was 27 years old, finishing grad school, and out of money, so I took a swing-shift job as a production welder. Since I was the only person on the crew who didn’t smell like pot (those were simpler times) I was made lead. Being competitive, I spent my welding time thinking about how to make the work go faster so we could beat the day crew. I made some very, very simple jigs out of scrap that helped speed things along. And my co-workers, all fierce competitors on the softball field, started to get into the game.

Before long we were beating the day crew and then some. One evening president Manford McNeil (universally known as Mac) came out to the shop to see what was going on. I  proudly showed him my pathetic little improvements, and to his everlasting credit he reacted by inviting me to spend one day a week making more such little things. One thing led to another, and soon I wasn’t welding at all. 

Eight years later I moved on from the wonderful job of Director of R&D at Romac Industries, still able to tell people that I’d do the work even if I weren’t getting paid for it. But I was hooked on manufacturing, and what drew me away was the idea of starting a company built in the image of Mac. A lot more learning had to take place before Seametrics could emerge, some of it at the School of Hard Knocks.

So when I hear recent talk about the need for and benefits of American manufacturing, I respond like a true believer. We can make things in America, and we should.  I’d put our people here up against any in the world. We have to pick our battles, some commodity products don’t make sense for manufacturing in a high-wage country. But we can make things. It’s the best game in the world, more fun than any other pro sport and besides, it helps buy weddings and mortgages and college educations for the participants and their kids.

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