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By Lauren Duensing

The new CEO of Miller Welding and Machine Co., Eric Miller, grew up with the company and expects to continually improve technology, automation and lean processes

FFJ 0118 face leadQ: You have assumed a new role with MWM. Talk about your background with the company and your vision for its future.

Eric Miller: We’re a contract manufacturer of industrial fabrications, and we provide parts to equipment companies around the world. I grew up with the business. When I was 14, I worked in the office after school and during summers—doing all the jobs that no one else wanted to do, which is exactly what a 14-year-old family member should be doing. I’ve worked in many different areas at the company, helping out wherever I was needed. In college, I studied computer engineering, and that has served me well because in the last 20 years, this business has changed to focus on data. After I graduated, I became the primary resource for the ERP system. If you’re the guy in charge of ERP, you’re going to have to learn every aspect of the business.

We’re in the midst of a fourth industrial revolution, so MWM has matured as an organization. We took steps to scale the company and grow and diversify into many different fields. We want to be able to implement the next generation of automation, not just in production tasks but also indirect tasks. Our ability to harness that advantage will really affect our success.

Q: How will automation ensure MWM meets customers’ quality expectations?

Miller: Ensuring quality is one of those things that automation is going to give us. Humans aren’t perfect, so how do we make it so they can operate at a higher level? How do we use control mechanisms or automate systems to put checkpoints in place so that if you’re having bad day, you literally can’t put a square peg in a round hole? We take customer feedback into account. What we think is quality is really irrelevant. What matters is how the market and the customer define quality. We have to constantly ask, “Are these products and services meeting your needs?”

Q: What other tools is MWM implementing to streamline operations? 

Miller: Obviously, we’re going to invest not only in equipment and automation but also in improvement, meaning we must keep up with best practices. How we can learn from other organizations? What are they doing that’s better than what we’re doing? What are we doing to improve and get the customers what they need quicker, faster, better and cheaper?

We sit down at least a couple of times each year with our supervisory groups and have a book study. It is helpful to read outside opinions on best practices and have conversations about improvement. In addition, if we launch an improvement project, we’re not going to pick people from the same team. For instance, on an eight-person team to improve welding, we might select two welders and then a machinist, a painter, a custom service guy and a manager because each person will look at things differently. We get really good results from that.

Q: How do customers benefit from working with family-owned companies?

Miller: My grandparents started the business. They had six children—five of them work here—and there are seven grandkids with various roles throughout the company. I have a heritage that I care about, and I have a very big respect for the team—the 350 other families involved in this. Decisions are made a lot faster here. Owners of family-run companies will make themselves more available to the customer base. If any customer wants to meet with me, they can.

We have one landmark customer that my grandfather met in his first year of business. We started working with them in 1963, and they shook hands on a deal under which my grandfather would work and produce parts, and they would sell them. My grandfather has no desire to sell. He jokes that he had kids so they could sell and he could go out and weld. Today, both companies are three generations deep, and 54 years later, we still work together on a daily and weekly basis.  FFJ

Sources

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Company Profiles

ABRASIVES

ERP SOFTWARE

MICROFINISHING TOOLS

SERVICE CENTERS

Norton | Saint-Gobain Abrasives Epicor Software Titan Tool Supply Inc. Admiral Steel
PFERD Inc.

GRINDING

NESTING SOFTWARE

SOFTWARE

Walter Surface Technologies Diamond Ground Products Metamation Inc. Striker Systems

AIR FILTRATION

LASER TECHNOLOGY

PLASMA TECHNOLOGY

STAMPING/PRESSES

Camfil APC AMADA AMERICA, INC. Koike Aronson Beckwood Press Co.
Donaldson Company Inc. Mazak Optonics Corp. Messer Cutting Systems Inc. SEYI

BENDING/FOLDING

MC Machinery Systems Inc.

PLATE

TUBE & PIPE

Boschert USA TRUMPF Inc. Peddinghaus Zekelman Industries
MetalForming Inc. Vytek

PRESS BRAKE TOOLING

WATERJET

RAS Systems LLC

LINEAR POSITION SENSORS

Mate Precision Tooling Jet Edge
SuperMax Tools MTS Sensors

PRESS BRAKES

Flow Waterjet

COIL PROCESSING

MEASUREMENT & QUALITY CONTROL

Ursviken OMAX Corp.
COE Press Equipment Advanced Gauging Technologies

PUNCHES, DIES & SHEARS

WELDING

Tishken

METAL FABRICATION MACHINERY

American Punch Co. Gullco

CONVEYOR SYSTEMS

Cincinnati Inc.

PUNCHING

Select-Arc
Mayfran International Scotchman Industries Inc. Hougen Manufacturing

 

CUTTING TECHNOLOGY

Trilogy Machinery Inc.

SAWING

 

Hypertherm

METALWORKING FLUIDS

Behringer Saws Inc.

 

DEBURRING FINISHING

Unist Inc. DoALL Sawing

 

Brush Research Manufacturing

 

Starrett

 

Lissmac Corp.

 

Tigerstop

 

Osborn

 

Tsune America LLC

 

SuperMax Tools

 

 

 

 

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