Jim Carr

OWNER — CARR MACHINE & TOOL INC.

“We're all dreamers in the first three days of the show,” says owner Jim Carr. “It sets up our dreams and visions, and then we collaboratively identify our goals and begin doing.”

At CARR Machine & Tool Inc., an eight-person precision machine company in Elk Grove, Ill., dreaming and doing are equally important. IMTS provides CARR Machine with the ability to explore new technologies and innovations and then act on the insights obtained.

“We're all dreamers in the first three days of the show,” says owner Jim Carr. “It sets up our dreams and visions, and then we collaboratively identify our goals and begin doing.”

Carr brings his entire team to IMTS, but it wasn’t always this way. Carr began working for CARR Machine & Tool in 1978 as a teenager. Back then, his dad, the company founder, wouldn’t consider bringing the whole staff to IMTS.

Jim Carr

“Dad would say, ‘Are you kidding? Pay them all to come down to McCormick Place?!’ These days I take the totally opposite view and bring the entire team. Everyone digests information differently, and that diversity is valuable,” says Carr. “At the end of each day, the team discusses what they learned and what excited them. After identifying three to five action items, they determine which ones to move forward with.

The Carr Machine & Tool Inc. team

Carr sees how different roles within the company fulfill different needs at different times. For example, when considering the future direction of the company, Carr appreciates that millennials tend to think outside-the-box and are more apt to embrace new manufacturing technologies. That said, Carr also realizes the need for experienced machinists who can focus on today’s production goals. As with most machine shops, the problem lies with the industry shortage of skilled workers – one that Carr believes there is a solution for.

“As an owner of a manufacturing company, it is my responsibility to take those people, train them and convert them into skilled craftspeople,” says Carr, who recalls his own career path. As he approached the end of high school, his parents offered to fund a traditional four-year degree or provide the option of working in the family business.

“After a lot of deliberation, I thought that being a business owner would be the best thing in the long haul, and it’s been a very good choice for me and my family,” he says. Carr acquired skills by taking machinist apprentice courses with the Technology & Manufacturing Association (TMA, an organization with whom he has remained heavily involved, including serving as Chairman of the Board). Equally importantly, his dad sent him into the shop to learn the job from the ground up.

While Carr focuses on sales and leadership today, he’s proud of his ability to machine parts. His skills as a doer make him a better teacher. When working with apprentices, Carr sets 60-day incremental goals. A checklist for tracking progress and one-on-one meetings provide the basis for training over each successive 60-day time period.

“I have found that millennials like short-term goals,” says Carr. “They like to be rewarded and told they’re doing well. It makes sense to do this incrementally.”

Finding the Dreamers

 

As is the case in many industries, particular skill sets and interests translate well to manufacturing. For example, high school extracurricular activities often reveal certain skill sets, leadership and drive, while clubs, such as the auto club, or industrial arts programs reveal skills that also convert nicely to manufacturing technology. In addition, math proficiencies are very useful. “A combination of math skills and an automotive background is often a good indicator of potential,” says Carr.

Another indicator, “soft skills,” has been popping up more and more. “Young people will show up for an interview and their teeth aren’t brushed; they’ll be wearing a wrinkled t-shirt, and their hair isn’t combed,” says Carr. “While parents might not be in a position to pass on technical skills like my dad did with me, they can teach kids how to make a good first impression, help them develop a strong work ethic and learn to be courteous.”

Carr is walking the talk, with son Ryan now working at CARR Machine after obtaining a major in Business Administration and a minor in Entrepreneurship from DePaul University in Chicago.

“Ryan’s skills and interests make him naturally suited for managing a precision CNC shop,” says Carr. “He was one of those hands-on kids who, as a teenager, ripped apart his car and put it back together again. I took him to IMTS just like my dad did with me. Ryan had sensory overload at first and now appreciates why we come for multiple days.”

Planning for Days

A multiple-day show requires a multiple-day plan. The MyShow Planner application is an integral part of having a well-structured plan before arriving at the show.

 

“I use the MyShow Planner, download the IMTS app and make a very structured daily agenda,” says Carr. “I identify the different machine tool technologies, the CAD-CAM software, ERP systems and cutting tool technologies. Those are the four major things that are really impactful to run my business. I plan out all my ‘absolutely have to visit’ exhibits, then backfill with everything else.”

One of Carr’s recent purchases was the ProShop ERP system from Adion Systems, an exhibitor in the Controls & CAD-CAM Pavilion (East Building, Level 2 and 3).

“We needed to embrace a robust, fully manageable ERP that would control everything from the back door to the front door,” says Carr.

CNC technology is another must-see at IMTS. Carr notes that he used to have to manually enter in all the G+M code data for every movement of the machine (“grab the tool, turn on the spindle, turn on the coolant, bring it down and turn on the offset, etc. etc.”).

“Now a customer will send a CAD file. Our CAM software imports the information and automatically generates the appropriate cutting path. The programming and set-up times have been slashed,” says Carr.

Finally, Carr looks to IMTS for longer life tool solutions from exhibitors such as Sandvik and new workholding solutions from companies such as Advanced Machine & Engineering (AME). Carr’s recently acquired tombstones from AME have greatly improved CNC productivity.

“Tombstones are multi-sided fixtures from which you can clamp raw material to different sides,” says Carr. Tombstones are typically used in automated applications where parts are manufactured until completion and transported to the next station, dramatically increasing a company’s production rate.

“There is no CNC downtime related to setup and fixturing with a tombstone. As my dad always said, ‘If you’re not making chips, you’re not making money.’ Those are the type of solutions I seek at IMTS,” says Carr.

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