Dreaming and Succeeding as a Manufacturing Startup with Brandon & Mike Kane

Episode 182 | Challenges: Leadership Community Growth Process Technology

Specific skills and practical know-hows are needed to succeed in the manufacturing world, making a manufacturing startup difficult to achieve. Brandon Kane, however, knew he wanted hands-on work that made a difference in the world and began his own shop in the garage with his dad, Mike. Together, they have transformed a dream into reality through hard work, determination, and a willingness to learn. In this episode of the MakingChips podcast, Jim Carr and Nick Goellner explore what makes or breaks startup business endeavors and what we can learn from Brandon’s entrepreneurial spirit.

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The statistics behind startups

Entrepreneurship has many benefits. Most small business owners were inspired to create their own startup from a desire to work for themselves and be their own boss. Others had a passion they wanted to share with the world. The unfortunate reality, however, is that most startups don’t make it past their first couple of years. Jim and Nick share some surprising startup trends from the past few years. Most small business owners, for instance, are 50-59 years old - not young college graduates. The funding to start a business is often taken from the founder’s personal savings account, and family is usually a strong source of continued funding for the initial months of a small business. Learn more about the interesting statistics of startup businesses by listening to the entire episode!

Inspired beginnings of a manufacturing startup

Manufacturing is often seen as an industry that has a hard time inspiring the younger generation to follow in its footsteps and pave the way for the future. Brandon Kane, however, grew up watching his dad work in the manufacturing industry and fell in love with “hands-on” work. He attended a technical high school, learning skills that would help him late on when he decided to begin a manufacturing startup with his dad in their garage.

Brandon’s dad, Mike, settled into his role as the visionary of the business - having seen needs in the industry that weren’t being met by the larger corporations and companies. While time is money, there should always be excellence in production, and Mike felt that smaller orders weren’t being met properly by the larger businesses. Mike helped Brandon begin a small business - Manufacturing Solutions - that saw a need and began filling it.

Brandon’s love of design led him to experiment with CAM software on their first machines, creating a trigger for a firearm they use for hobby target practice. From there, the designs became more complex, and Brandon’s knowledge of software grew to produce prototypes, and he became more comfortable with different tool paths and CNC machines.

Different learning paths - same passion for excellence

Jim and Mike talk about the differences in the ways that they learned manufacturing skills as opposed to how the younger generation - such as Brandon - have picked up the skills needed to succeed. While it used to be popular to learn through hands-on experience with the machines themselves - learning to feel and listen to the tone of a machine and metal to determine whether or not the design would come out - Brandon learned through CAD-CAM software first. He and Mike purchased a video series on how to work the tools with the software, but much of the learning was done through experimentation and from mistakes made along the way.

Mike explains that in a startup, you learn a lot through failure. He talks about the edge that modern technology can give a manufacturing startup by providing new software that can optimize a CNC machine to produce quality parts every time with a well-built design. Probing systems have also taken much of the guesswork out of machining, allowing for a more consistent product.

Building the benchmarks for a strong foundation

While there are many differences in the ways Mike and Brandon have learned the industry, they are united through the passion to produce quality products to fulfill a need and to inspire a positive atmosphere among manufacturing leaders. Much of their business's marketing has been done through word-of-mouth and through maintaining a strong social media presence on Instagram. Brandon loves sharing his day-to-day life with others, hoping that his business will inspire others to launch into their dreams with determination and hard work.

Realistic benchmarks are important to any business, and Mike and Brandon have built theirs around practical goals. They both know that they would prefer not to compete with large, corporate companies and have tried to maintain steady growth without growing too big too fast. Mike wants to hire another employee with the same passion for learning and sharing the manufacturing industry. Brandon wants to become a bigger influence on social media and hopefully begin coaching others while also building the business he and his father have built. Be sure to listen to the entire episode for the rest of the inspiring story of a manufacturing startup done right.

Here’s The Good Stuff!

  • Surprising startup business trends.
  • Brandon and Mike Kane: manufacturing entrepreneurs.
  • Growing up inspired by design and hands-on work.
  • Generational differences in learning and manufacturing application.
  • Learning through failure.
  • Marketing through word-of-mouth and social media.
  • Shooting for practical benchmark goals.
  • Creating a positive atmosphere and influence on the manufacturing industry.

Tools & Takeaways

This Week’s Superstar Guests: Brandon & Mike Kane

Connect With MakingChips

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Jim Carr: Welcome to MakingChips. We believe that manufacturing is challenging, but if you are connected to a community of leaders, you can elevate your skills, solve your problems, and grow your business. I'm your host Jim Carr, and I am joined by my co-host Nick Goellner today. Jason is buried in ERP implementation back in Chicago, and Nick and I flew out to Clinton, Connecticut this morning to do an interview with a young entrepreneur in metal working.

Nick Goellner: Some big shoes to fill, but I'll do my best.

Jim Carr: I think you're going to do just fine Nick. It's a pleasure having you with me today. It's a good one-on-one time. We've been working together now for months. We've known each other for years, but I think it's going to be a great show today. I'm really stoked to rerecord this episode.

Nick Goellner: Yeah. We had quite the adventure getting out here. Why are we rerecording?

Jim Carr: Well we're rerecording because we originally had our guest on the show about a month ago. He flew out to Chicago, and we did the episode, and for some reason we just couldn't find the content.

Nick Goellner: Like you forgot to hit the record button.

Jim Carr: I don't know. We don't know. We're not going to point fingers at anybody, but all we know is we didn't. And this is going to be ten times better, this episode, than the last one.

Nick Goellner: Well there's nothing like being in the shop, seeing it for yourself. I'm glad we made the trip out here, even though our flight got canceled.

Jim Carr: Even though our flight got canceled but we worked through the problems, much like in manufacturing, in metal working when you're running your daily business, life throws you all kinds of things and you have to adapt, and change, and move forward, right?

Nick Goellner: Well last night life threw me a call from you at like 3:00 in the morning saying, "Hey Nick, our flight is canceled, we got to get on a new one." Here we are.

Jim Carr: We did it.

Nick Goellner: We made it.

Jim Carr: We did it. We're here. As we normally do on this show, we talk about what's new. Jason and I normally talk about what's new in our respective business. Tell me what is new at AME [inaudible 00:02:08].

Nick Goellner: Well, I'll talk about AME today. We're going to do an episode in the future on the power of partnerships, and I'm really excited about this new partnership that we have with Stan Martin from-

Jim Carr: Yeah, Stan. I know him.

Nick Goellner: I think you got one of his trunnion nails-

Jim Carr: I do. He's on my VF too.

Nick Goellner: Yeah. We've got this Amrock brand. It's all about work holding. There's a little hole in our portfolio in the trunnion category. And Stan is our new partner, and we're really excited to bring his stuff into our fold and see what we can do together.

Jim Carr: Yeah they really have a unique work holding system. And what I like about their particular trunnion tables is the way that they integrate with the Haas brand, a, and the Haas rotary tables. I know if you go on their site you just tell them what type of Haas model number you have, what type of rotary like we have HRT210, and I think a 310 now. And he'll show you exactly through his website what trunnion table adapts to that particular rotary.

Nick Goellner: Exactly. You nailed it. The word is integration.

Jim Carr: Integration.

Nick Goellner: He's a machinist by trade. He understands exactly what they're trying to do. He's got all the relationships with the indexers. We just want to build on top of that with our work holding systems that go on the trunnion. It's a perfect partnership, and I'm excited to talk about it in the future. But what's new at CARR?

Jim Carr: Well, Jason always makes fun of me, he doesn't make fun of me, but he always razzes me about not being a big reader, right. I've been living in the podcast world now for four and a half years, and we've interviewed some really dynamic people, and I've learned a lot about reading and about-

Nick Goellner: Like how to read?

Jim Carr: What I miss ... No, I mean I know how to read. I definitely know how to read. It's just I never really enjoyed it. But pushing myself out of my comfort zone, I've really implemented a culture, of course CARR we just won two awards-

Nick Goellner: Congratulations.

Jim Carr: A couple of weeks ago. Thank you. The next step for us is integrating a traction into the CARR Machine & Tool. We've been reading Traction as my leadership team, there's four of us. And last week we wrote our vision, we wrote ... We defined our 10-year, our three-year, our one-year, our 90-day end issues, and it has just been so impactful on the way I can see the business is going. And it really, it demonstrates that when you empower your employees they really stand up and give it back.

Nick Goellner: Absolutely. And that's been a great book for us too, the Traction book and whole EOS, Entrepreneurial Operating System. I just ... I think it's really, a lot of it it's kind of self explanatory or maybe common sense, but people don't do it. They don't reverse engineer success, and they don't look much further past tomorrow. What it forced ... We're going through the same thing. And what it forced us to do, is really take a look at like, "Okay, if we're going to hit this 10-year vision, we've got to break it down into a three-year goal, a one-year goal, 90-day targets, all the way down to what are you getting done this week?"

Jim Carr: Absolutely 100%. And MakingChips is going through the same process as well.

Nick Goellner: Absolutely.

Jim Carr: And fist bumb to me because I just hit a rock the other day, and I'm ... It's still glowing from the afterburn of hitting that rock.

Nick Goellner: Yeah. It's exciting-

Jim Carr: It is.

Nick Goellner: When you lay out targets and you get them done.

Jim Carr: Oh my God. It's like-

Nick Goellner: [crosstalk 00:05:23]-

Jim Carr: It's the best feeling. Yeah, and I know everybody on the team was happy that I hit that rock as well.

Nick Goellner: You're a rock star Jim.

Jim Carr: I've always wanted to be a rock star. Now I'm a recording star, so that's okay. I'll take it, I'll take whatever I can. But manufacturing news, let's talk a little bit about that. What's new at The Boring bar?

Nick Goellner: Yeah. The Boring Bar is our newsletter, you can get that newsletter at makingchips.com. And what you'll get in the newsletter is you'll get Chip-In contributors they're the-

Jim Carr: What is a Chip-In contributor, Nick?

Nick Goellner: They're the leaders that we bring on, they can share their insight with us, they can publish it our site, and then we can share it with metalworking nation.

Jim Carr: Is it somebody that owns a restaurant?

Nick Goellner: It is not. No, not that kind of chips.

Jim Carr: What kind of leader are they?

Nick Goellner: Anyone who can equip and inspire the manufacturing leader is a good candidate for someone who could Chip-In on MakingChips.

Jim Carr: Okay.

Nick Goellner: Actually the youngest Chip-In contributor is our guest today, it's Brandon Cane. And he's telling his story about his entrepreneurial journey, and why he and his father started this machine shop.

Jim Carr: Yeah. I've read it, it's awesome.

Nick Goellner: The other piece of the Boring Bar is a three-part series that I wrote on entrepreneurship in the manufacturing industry. We're about what, four months into this thing, and everyone tells you that, "Hey, don't start a business if you want an easy life." And they weren't kidding.

Jim Carr: It's not easy. My dad always said, "If it was easy, everybody would do it."

Nick Goellner: Exactly.

Jim Carr: You just got to keep driving and you're going to have good weeks, bad weeks, bad months, good months, good years, bad years. And all I know is if you continue to pursue and push through, things will change eventually, and it will become positive once again.

Nick Goellner: And the last piece of the Boring Bar is always the manufacturing news, where we take some news from the manufacturing industry and we talk about it. This week's news is not necessarily just from the manufacturing industry, it's about startups. And it's the statistics that-

Jim Carr: Why did we pick that this week?

Nick Goellner: Just because we're talking about startups here today. We're talking about manufacturing startups, and these are the numbers that you need to know. The article is from smallbiztrends.com-

Jim Carr: And can I read some of these statistics?

Nick Goellner: Please.

Jim Carr: Because I'm going to take the credit for finding this article. When I was doing my research for it, it was really sobering when I read some of the statistics about startups. And I'm just going to read them verbatim. And it says, a 51% of owners of small businesses are 50 to 88 years old, 33% are 35 to 49, and only 16% are 35 years and under. 69% of US entrepreneurs start their business at home. Which that was much like me, I don't know about your family.

Nick Goellner: I don't think we started it at home. I don't think so.

Jim Carr: Mine was, my dad-

Nick Goellner: Because home was Germany for us. We immigrated here and then we started the business here.

Jim Carr: Well, mine was, my dad started the company, the machine shop in the two- car garage of our residential home-

Nick Goellner: It's always that garage story.

Jim Carr: That I was growing up. I was 12 years old and it just went to the next level. The next bullet point is, according to the National Association of Small Businesses, 2015 economic report, the majority of small businesses surveyed are S corporations, 42%, followed by LLCs, 23%.

Nick Goellner: You see these are the kinds of things I-

Jim Carr: Did you know that?

Nick Goellner: I don't really know-

Jim Carr: I'm a C corp.

Nick Goellner: I mean, I don't even remember-

Jim Carr: I'm a small company. I'm [crosstalk 00:08:37]-

Nick Goellner: How we structured MakingChips.

Jim Carr: I know.

Nick Goellner: I don't know why or how, and there's all sorts of things. You don't know what, you don't know.

Jim Carr: But we're not accountants, right?

Nick Goellner: Yeah, exactly-

Jim Carr: We're manufacturers.

Nick Goellner: [crosstalk 00:08:45] about that.

Jim Carr: We know how cut metal, right?

Nick Goellner: Let's get into some of these failure rates statistics.

Jim Carr: Do we have to go there?

Nick Goellner: Well, I think people need-

Jim Carr: It's sobering man.

Nick Goellner: To go in sober-minded. Yeah, absolutely. A bit more than 50% of small businesses fail in the first four years. In fact, of all small businesses started in 2011, 4% made it to the second year, 3% made it to the third year, 9% made it to the fourth year. There's something about that fourth year, and 3% made it to the fifth year. The leading causes of small business failure, incompetence, 46%-

Jim Carr: When I read that, I was like, "How can somebody that is starting their own business, that is passionate about the business that they're going to open, they're going to put their blood, sweat, tears, money and capital into it. How can 46% be incompetent?" It doesn't make sense to me.

Nick Goellner: Well, it takes a little bit more than passion, doesn't it?

Jim Carr: I know by the people that we're going to be interviewing today on the show is, I know they're not incompetent at all. And I just ... It just makes sense to me. Now maybe in the restaurant business people think, "Oh, I really like to cook, or I really like hospitality. I'm going to ... Start a restaurant." And it fails because they have absolutely no idea how hard it is, the hours and what's involved. But definitely I think in manufacturing, if you don't have the skill sets to start a manufacturing company, you better not start.

Nick Goellner: Well, that's exactly it. The next biggest reason for failure is unbalanced experience or lack of managerial experience.

Jim Carr: I must have read that.

Nick Goellner: Absolutely.

Jim Carr: Yeah. Startup finance statistics, the vast majority of startup funds, 82% came from the entrepreneur himself or herself or family and friends. And then breaking that down, it says 77% of small businesses rely on personal savings for their initial funds. 40% of small businesses are profitable, 30% break even, and 30% are continually losing money. Wow.

Nick Goellner: Here's a great one. Having two founders rather than one, significantly increases your odds of success, as you'll raise 30% more money, have almost three times the user growth, and are 19% less likely to scale prematurely.

Jim Carr: Yeah. 82% of businesses that fail do so because of cash flow problems. Wow.

Nick Goellner: Exactly. In those articles I wrote about startups. It talks a lot about how there's these influencers who are like, "Oh, just start your business and then eventually you can get these Lamborghinis that you see in the background." I don't know if anyone knows this Tai Lopez guy, but he drives me nuts. He's all like-

Jim Carr: You've mentioned that guy before. He must be out of my demographic.

Nick Goellner: I don't know. The point is he's like, "Hey, if you just read a bunch of books-

Jim Carr: Is he Kardashian?

Nick Goellner: And work really hard, you can have a car full or hot rides like me." And it's like, "No man, cashflow is one of the biggest things that could kill your business." Anyway let's-

Jim Carr: Well, anyway-

Nick Goellner: Let's get in the-

Jim Carr: The episode-

Nick Goellner: It's scary, yeah.

Jim Carr: It's a scary thing, and we all know you just got to work hard, and then play hard. And again, like my dad always said, "If it was easy, everybody would do it." I'm anxious to rerecord this episode. It's going to be 100% more impactful because we have got the other half of Brandon Cain's business partner with us today. And I'm sure he's going to really help us and the metal working nation, quite frankly, answer the tough questions about starting a small manufacturing company. Nick, why don't you go ahead and introduce and read the bio to our guests.

Nick Goellner: Today we're welcoming Brandon Cain, a young man starting out in our field. He's been operating as a small business owner in Clinton, Connecticut under the name Manufacturing Solutions. His father was an engineer in the manufacturing field and also an entrepreneur. Mike Cain has been through it all, machinist, CNC, engineer, R&D, all the way through to management and leadership at the VP level. Brandon grew up learning a lot and being inspired by his dad. He went to a technical high school, and though he didn't even take a machining class, he started thinking about owning his own business during that time. He's making a name for himself, and as much as he's a role model for the new generation of metal workers, he's also a humble person excited to learn from our community.

Jim Carr: Welcome Brandon back again.

Brandon Kane: Thank you guys.

Jim Carr: And Mike Cain. Mike's dad is here in the studio with us. It's a pleasure to have you here and hear your story, and really embellish on what Brandon told us before about Manufacturing Solutions, and where you're going to go. We were at lunch today with Brandon and Nick and I and I said, "You know, it really is a tight knit community of people in manufacturing and we all really, for the most part, we all want everyone else to be successful." And I want you to be as successful too. And I think it's all the part of the giving back process. Because my family has been in it for ... Since 1978 too, and third generation is in the shop right now, and I wish you guys the best of success and luck along the way as well.

Nick Goellner: When you talk about Manufacturing Solutions, the name of your business, and when we talk about the biggest problem in manufacturing ... Because I spent a lot of my time on the road traveling, and every single place I go has the same problem. We can't get young kids passionate about this or we're having a hard time filling the machines with talented workforce. And Brandon, you kind of represent the solution to that problem. I first found you on Instagram I think, and I was like, "Man, this is what the industry needs." Everywhere I go they'd love to have three, four, or five Brandon's. Anyway, let's dig in and talk a little bit about how your business came to be.

Brandon Kane: Yeah, well thanks for that nick. Yeah, I mean I grew up, I went to a technical high school, but ironically didn't take a machining course there. My dad was really-

Jim Carr: I'm going to stop you here, and what is a technical high school? What does that mean? I went to a public high school that had a manufacturing shop. What is a technical high school?

Brandon Kane: Yeah. You're leaving there with a skill pretty much. You're learning a trade, whether it's carpentry, machine tool, electromechanical, HVAC, they have everything electrical like electrician-

Nick Goellner: You didn't do machining. What did you do at the technical school?

Brandon Kane: I took electromechanical. That was really like a, I like to say-

Nick Goellner: [crosstalk 00:14:41] very applicable to the industry.

Brandon Kane: Yeah, absolutely. I like to say like a pre engineering background of everything from small electronics to pneumatics and hydraulics, learning a lot of stuff in that field. Yeah.

Nick Goellner: After high school, at what point did you and your dad start kicking this idea around of, "Hey, maybe we should do something together?"

Brandon Kane: I think during high school I always had like a thought that I knew I wasn't, not in a bad way, but just knew I wasn't or wanting to work for someone else my whole life. And wanted something more to really push forward, and something that was my own. And then after high school I went to a community, I still go to community college, just picking away at classes from business and engineering. Just really focusing on trying to figure out what I really wanted to do. I mean, growing up with my father, I always was hands on in building things and fixing things and learning a lot of the stuff. And I think that's really something that I was passionate about and, yeah, I mean he really introduced me to the trade. And I fell in love with being able to design something on the computer, and really go into the garage and make anything we really wanted to make, which is awesome.

Nick Goellner: You talk about introducing your son to the trade, how did that start? When was that first moment where you were like, "Hey, Brandon should really maybe think about a career in this?"

Mike Kane: Yeah. Well, thank you for having me, first off, I didn't get a chance to jump in there.

Nick Goellner: Yeah. Sorry.

Mike Kane: But it really happened about two years ago. Well, it really wasn't that long. It was after he got out of high school and started to go to college. I mean he took a few classes and started to recognize, "Hey, this is cool." I was never that kind of dad that forced kids into whatever I want them to be. I let them do whatever they wanted to do. And it was ironic, right, because that's kind of my demeanor, like, "Help your kids, you know this is a better choice for them." But I didn't. And then we joke about it now, five years later or eight years later, how long has it been? I'm like, "You know what, I really should have told you to take machining after all, look at where we'd be, we'd be so much farther along." It's kind of funny.

Brandon Kane: It is funny.

Mike Kane: Yeah, that's kind of how it started. And it was really just in the garage. We ... I had a manual milling machine and a lathe in the garage for 20 years, just like every machinist wants that and he's got to have it, right. He's got to go to make anything or fix anything. I had that. And as I progressed through my career, I got involved more and more with the purchasing of products for companies, whether it was R&D type products, or whether it was full blown production products. And because I have the background, I know virtually how to make anything that I was buying-

Jim Carr: You know how to read a print.

Mike Kane: Yeah. I could read a print, I can operate machines, I can design-

Jim Carr: You know tolerances, you know alloy steels and yeah.

Mike Kane: It was ... I was like, "This is ridiculous that I'm paying this much for this, it should cost this much."

Nick Goellner: Because you know what goes into it.

Mike Kane: Right, exactly. I always felt that as management in these companies that I was working, we were always paying too much for things. I was always arguing with the, whether it was the bigger companies that were building one or two prototypes for us, or when it was time to return products in production. I'm like, "This is just not right." I feel like the same guy when you're having your bathroom remodeled that, you call up the plumber, and he walks in and saw this is a nice house, this is a nice neighborhood, and he says, "How about $20,000 to remodel your bathroom." And then you start asking questions like, "You're going to be here for a week, and it's $3,000 worth of material, how does that turn into $20,000?" And that was the feeling I had, that people just weren't doing it right. Your time is worth X amount of money, and you're ... The materials, the material costs and you're going to mark it up some and that should be the balance.

Mike Kane: That's how much things could cost. And I felt people weren't doing that. We basically started this really small in our garage. We thought that we would buy one machine and see how things were going, and just deal with a little bit of prototyping from ... I have a lot of connections, and I put the word out, and we got a few jobs. And it just so happens we got really lucky. One of the companies that we built a lot of onesie, twosie prototypes for, their product launched, and they started to buy 10 at a time and then 15 at a time. And just yesterday we delivered a batch of parts for them that were for 40 sets of parts for the most part. And that's been going on for the last year or so. We're new and to doing it ourselves, but I mean that's kind of the story. That's where we are today and how we got there.

Mike Kane: And quite honestly it happened faster than we expected. We don't have everything in place we want to have in place. But we kind of did what we had to do to satisfy this very good customer's needs.

Jim Carr: Yeah. It sounds like you're definitely the visionary part. They say all good businesses have a visionary, and an integrator or somebody who has the big thought ideas, and then somebody that's actually going to execute the ideas. And MakingChips, Jason was always the visionary part, and I was always the integrator. Jason would always have all these great big ideas-

Nick Goellner: Like, "Hey, let's start a manufacturing podcast."

Jim Carr: Well, something like that and on, and on, and on, and on, and on. And I would have to filter those and kind of really focus on the ones that I thought would actually come to fruition. And then when Nick came on and the MakingChips marketing team came on, Nick, more or less, is the visionary on the marketing team, and Caleb is the integrator that works with Nick. I think in all good successful businesses, whether it's metalworking, or restaurant businesses, or any other business, that there's always two people. One is a visionary, one is an integrator and they can overlap a little bit.

Jim Carr: But it certainly sounds like Mike, that you were the visionary. You were the impetus behind starting this business, and really getting it kicked off. And then Brandon just came and said, "Yeah, I ... Let's do it." He was the executer.

Mike Kane: Yeah, Brandon, certainly had to start somewhere. And to start somewhere it was a lot easier to teach him machining and programming, than it would be to teach him the business. You kind of got to learn the business as you do the business-

Jim Carr: 100% correct.

Mike Kane: Just makes more sense to start him there, and as time goes on, he's going to do more and more of that until he's basically running the whole show by himself.

Jim Carr: You bet. Brandon, tell me about your CNC experience. You left your technical high school, you did not have any CNC experience. Your dad being the visionary said, "I think we should do this. I think there's something here. You're a hands-on guy, you get stuff done, you're ... You think things through, you want to execute." When did you start taking CNC classes? Tell us a little bit about that.

Brandon Kane: I mean, it really started with the software before we even had a machine, the CAD/CAM software. I learned ... I took a few classes in community college, a few CAD classes. I had a little bit of design experience, and learned how to draw stuff. But it really started when we got the machine and ... Well first we had the software and-

Jim Carr: What kind of software were you using for CAD/CAM or CAM?

Brandon Kane: It's called BobCAD-CAM.

Jim Carr: Yeah, I've heard about it. Absolutely.

Brandon Kane: Yeah. I picked around on that for about a month till we got the machine, and slowly started to make a few things and prototypes around stuff. I mainly started-

Jim Carr: Were they real parts, were they parts that you were selling, or were they parts that your dad said, "Hey, here's a CAD model. I want you to create a toolpath. Let's grab some aluminum and start cutting there."

Brandon Kane: It was really firearm stuff actually. We're kind of into just shooting recreationally a little bit.

Jim Carr: Absolutely.

Nick Goellner: You were making your own stuff, stuff that you wanted to use?

Brandon Kane: Yeah, just playing around a little bit. I mean I drew up a trigger, and just try to machine it out of aluminum, and some wood stuff actually and just small engraving stuff to get used to the toolpass and how it worked and things like that.

Nick Goellner: I think that's one of the biggest differences between how people use to learn and how people are learning now, is a lot of times people are learning on the software now. They're starting with the software, and then they're bringing it to the machine after that. Whereas we still do the old school training at Advanced where we start them on the old manual mills and then-

Brandon Kane: You do?

Nick Goellner: Yeah.

Brandon Kane: Really?

Nick Goellner: And they go through like the old German apprenticeship program, and maybe the software comes later. But you see these guys like Titan Gilroy who is ... Who are all like, "Oh man, these kids that were in this digital age, and they can pick it up and learn it on the computer." And he's got kids in 5-axis already after three years.

Brandon Kane: Yeah. Because of this generation and how, I mean I guess tech savvy we are, I picked up the software pretty quickly and was able to start making [crosstalk 00:22:31]-

Jim Carr: You weren't formally educated on the CAD/CAM software, you just kind of we're picking around at it, and it seemed natural to you?

Brandon Kane: Correct. Yeah. I didn't have any formal education in the software or manufacturing education as well. I learned it all from my father and-

Mike Kane: And the videos and stuff, right. We purchased the, for the CAD/CAM system we purchased the trainings that ... They don't offer a class you can go to, realistically. But we purchased the video series where you can watch the videos, and they teach you different parts of that and all that kind of stuff. I want to comment on that on the what's different now than then and stuff. It's very interesting you do it like that, but really what's different is the industry. Brandon's made a quarter of $1 million worth of parts this year, right? And really is just learning how to cut metal. 20 years ago when I started, more than 20, in 1980 right?

Mike Kane: In 1984, I started in CNC. If you didn't know how to cut metal, the CNC equipment, there was no chance of you being able to make a part. It was simply telling the machine to do what you would do by hand. Now with the advent of very good CAM systems, and tool libraries, and standardized tooling, and things like that, you could really take someone without a lot of metal cutting experience and they could be reasonably successful in at least 3D or two-and-a-half-axis CNC, making parts on a CNC machine. And I think that's what's so much different. I started out with a teletype making punch tapes that [crosstalk 00:23:52]-

Nick Goellner: Yeah.

Mike Kane: CNC. If you-

Nick Goellner: NC.

Mike Kane: Didn't know how to cut metal you couldn't-

Nick Goellner: NC.

Mike Kane: Yeah, exactly.

Nick Goellner: I hear all the old guys talking about the punch tapes and-

Jim Carr: No, I never did that, but I learned doing G&M code programming at a Fadal Vertical Machining Center. I mean I was pretty good too. I could take a print, I could go to the machine, I could make my set up, and I could just hammer out just entering G&M code programs using cutter comp and touching my tools off and Ds and Hs and all and all those things. It's interesting that it's kind of reversed itself. They're starting out with the CAD/CAM technology as the benchmark, and then they're integrating the CNC technology to that. Where before it was just the opposite. We had to learn the fundamentals of machining, what it's like to actually crank through 300 series stainless steel, or have a tap work harden and a piece of stainless steel and break the tap. And now it's completely different nowadays.

Nick Goellner: What ... I don't know. Is it better? Is it different? Is it worse?

Mike Kane: It's different. I don't know [crosstalk 00:24:49]-

Jim Carr: I think it's different. I think that's really good, Mike. I think it's just different.

Nick Goellner: Maybe there's more room for error and I think you'd been talking about startups, a lot of what you learn in a startup is you just learn through failure. You learn from making mistakes. You don't know what you don't know, and when you come across that problem, you're like, "Okay, now this is the first time, next time we'll be better."

Mike Kane: There's no question that to make a part now with a good CAM system from a solid model and machining on the CNC machine is far easier and less chance of screwing it up than crank and handles on a Bridgeport.

Brandon Kane: Especially-

Jim Carr: There's no way.

Brandon Kane: With the fact you can simulate everything in the software or-

Jim Carr: Right. You can see the tool path.

Mike Kane: That's right. Yeah, we know the parts good. He knows the parts good before he even walks out on the machine.

Jim Carr: Right. The only time you're going to have an error is if your clamp is in the way, or you pick it up incorrectly, right?

Mike Kane: Yeah.

Brandon Kane: And then it's all just set up wise. I mean, if you know to set the job up right you aren't going to have issues.

Jim Carr: Exactly.

Mike Kane: Even to the point where like, right now, even when I was programming CNCs myself, we never had touch probes or anything like that. Everything was no touching of the tools, put an edge finder in, pick up your X and Y zero, now he's using a touch probe to do that. It's ... He doesn't even have to think about that. I mean that job is usually one of the big things, right.

Jim Carr: I know.

Mike Kane: You knew what tools [crosstalk 00:26:00]-

Jim Carr: We would have like a 1000 feeler gauge that we would touch the tools off, right.

Mike Kane: Or a slip of paper.

Jim Carr: Or a slip of paper. But the slip of paper was like-

Mike Kane: Three [crosstalk 00:26:08]-

Jim Carr: 3000's exactly. And then man, that 1000 Shim stock would get ... You'd come down on a little bit too far and you'd up ... You'd be breaking it all off. Sometimes I'd have a piece that was ... It was like half the size of my thumb, and it was all ripped apart because you touched off on it so many times. Yeah. Now that ... I'm sure you have the probing systems on a Haas, yeah, that's what we use all the time as well, and it's great. You can pick up a apart in no time. It's just, it's so different.

Nick Goellner: As the downside that maybe you don't get as much of the fundamentals as you would if you went through the traditional training then.

Jim Carr: Maybe.

Mike Kane: Yeah. I think that's true. I mean just on the sheer number of parts, different parts he's made. If you had cranked handles and made at least one of those parts by hand, for everyone, we made, I think the last order was like 33 different parts. If you had made 33 different parts by hand, you would learn a lot more than just writing the program in a CAM system and running it at a CNC, no question about that. The learning curve is probably a lot longer for someone to go from, "Hey, I'm just entering this industry, to being an expert." And I have find it hard to believe you really could become a metal cutting expert if you just did CNC.

Mike Kane: Because you never really cut metal, you read in a book, you looked at the video. What speed and feed did you run, you took it off a chart. Like you said, you didn't crank the handles and feel what it's like, it was like, "Oh my God, this feels terrible. And then climb mill-

Jim Carr: Or here it-

Mike Kane: Versus conventional mill-

Jim Carr: Or hear it and you hear.

Nick Goellner: Yeah.

Mike Kane: Yeah.

Jim Carr: You-

Mike Kane: On a Bridgeport and [crosstalk 00:27:28]-

Jim Carr: Right. I mean I can sit in the office, and I can hear the machines running in the shop and I'm like, "Oh man, they're one running it way too slow." You know what I mean? Because I can hear their tool or the fixturing is not rigid enough and at the end it is [inaudible 00:27:40]. You know what I mean? That's the fundamental knowledge of having those skill sets.

Nick Goellner: You know that's something I hear everybody say is that hearing it. That hearing and know the sound [crosstalk 00:27:49]-

Jim Carr: [crosstalk 00:27:49] a lot-

Nick Goellner: When it's a great cut. Yeah.

Jim Carr: Well, it's just like when you golf, I'm not a huge golfer, but that's the same thing. When you hit that golf ball man-

Nick Goellner: And right in the sweet spot, yeah like [crosstalk 00:27:55]-

Jim Carr: And it just pings, you know you hit it well.

Nick Goellner: Yeah. We talked a lot about the differences between how people would learn in the past, how people are learning now, and just how the industry has changed, but some things are constant. There's three functions to every business, operations, sales and marketing, and finance. Let's get into a little bit of the sales and marketing stuff. Right now, where is your work coming from, and how are you getting that work?

Mike Kane: Yeah. Mainly it's word of mouth right now. No doubt, it's mostly connections that I've had. A little bit of work, we've done a little bit of stuff. I'm sure what Brandon has been doing as far as Instagram, we've gotten a few jobs from there. But for the most part, well again, we're really early on and we probably grew faster than we want to. We're being really careful about, not that. I mean, our website is not even completely online yet. The last thing I want to do is disappoint a customer. We're trying to walk before we run, and that's kind of the plan. And in the future, I know Brandon can talk a little bit more about the marketing side of it, or how he want to grow that once we're ready-

Nick Goellner: Well, think that's a great point because in the startup statistics article that we were talking about, one of the biggest reasons for failure isn't just not being able to grow, it's growing too quickly and then not being able to satisfy your customers, and failing for that reason. But let's get into some of this marketing stuff, that's how I found you.

Brandon Kane: Yeah it's crazy.

Jim Carr: We had Corey called Nick from BadassMachinists, I think he's got like 170,000 followers now and he's a fan, and a friend of MakingChips, and we had him on the IMTS panel discussion when we were talking social media. And he had shared a story where he's like, "Hey, this kid reminds me of me when I was first getting started." And it was you-

Nick Goellner: Was that Brandon?

Jim Carr: Yeah.

Nick Goellner: I didn't know that.

Jim Carr: And that's how we-

Nick Goellner: Really?

Jim Carr: First found Brandon-

Nick Goellner: Cool.

Jim Carr: Is through Corey being like, "Hey, this is a guy kind of starting from where I started." Are you a man on a mission with the Instagram thing, or do you just love social media, or both?

Brandon Kane: I'd say I'm a man on a mission. I mean, I really, in this day and age, think that obviously that's where the attention is. And listening to a lot of people who are experts in that space and learning a lot, I've really just learned that that's where you should be putting your stuff. And I mean I'm not doing much from a marketing standpoint. I just, I saw the platform and the opportunity to document really what I'm doing day to day. I'm like, I'm here, I'm running parts all the time. I'm on this journey of starting this business and building it with my father, and just want to like share the story. I had no idea that you guys would stumble upon me and things of that nature. But yeah, it's been awesome. I mean, in being able to connect with the community of machinists all around the world, and inspire, and help people in similar situations is really cool.

Jim Carr: Yeah. Corey found you, and then we found you through Corey and then ... But when I talk to you, you've got all sorts of stories of people reaching out to you and I liked what you said, it's just kind of documenting your day to day life, running a machine shop. What are some of those ... What's some of the feedback that you're getting, and what kind of questions are people asking you?

Brandon Kane: When Corey initially gave me some exposure on Instagram I just got tons of DMs, just people inspired, and asked me my story, and how did I get started and stuff like that. I'm just telling them my journey and everything else. But also being able to connect with people in the manufacturing community, bouncing tips and ideas off each other, and, "Hey, what is your idea on how you would hold this part?" And we're sending each other pictures back and forth and things like that. And then just eventually building connections with people where they're like, "Hey, we can't make this part right now. Can you just check this out for me quick and see if you can make this for us and ..."-

Jim Carr: Cool. You know what's really unique, Mike, when he said that we never had that platform. Think about it, Brandon just said he's got a job, he doesn't know how to hold it or he wants to amp up the efficiencies in his holding. He puts a picture out of what he's doing, and he has this entire platform, community of resources that can instantly analyze that picture, and in a matter of minutes get instant feedback for free about how you're going to able to hold it and machine it better.

Mike Kane: It's crazy.

Jim Carr: It is, it's awesome.

Nick Goellner: Yeah. And he said free, what is your [crosstalk 00:31:56]-

Jim Carr: I'm a little jealous, quite frankly. You know what I mean?

Mike Kane: Yeah. We would have been going now to the photo mat and getting a photo printed out, and send it ... Put it in an envelope and sending it to somebody, right?

Jim Carr: Exactly.

Mike Kane: How else would you have done it?

Nick Goellner: Do you guys have any sort of marketing budget or is it just all free social media stuff?

Brandon Kane: Yeah. I mean, it's word of mouth like he said, and then just social media. I'm putting stuff out and people are-

Nick Goellner: That's awesome.

Brandon Kane: Who are interested.

Jim Carr: What kind of benchmarking or what we call rocks, which are quarterly goals that you want to hit, are you doing anything formally like that, and would you like to share those with us?

Mike Kane: Yeah. Believe it or not, this sounds really funny from a business guy, but my goal is not really a financial one right now with the business. My goal for the end of this year is to, we want to have one full time employee other than Brandon, someone who can truly keep the machines running. I know we have to CNCs now, and we have a third one coming in probably within the next two, three weeks. Which will ... It's a different kind of CNC, so it'll open up another type of product line for us. I didn't tell you this, yeah but we kind of want to cater to prototyping things and making small production lots for people. I don't think we're ever going to be ... I don't think I ever really want to be competitive with when someone wants to make 10,000 of a CNC machine part. I just don't think that's what I want to do, that's just not fun. I think there's a lot more competition in there. I think-

Jim Carr: There is.

Mike Kane: Overall the business, prototypes there's two or three companies in the US right now that make probably 95% of the prototypes for everybody. And I think there's a way in into that market, and then the short run production. I mean how many times have you ... I mean, you guys have gotten someone call you up and want to make 12 of something, when you're normally making it a minimum of hundreds of something. If you choose to do it, it's 10, 12, 15 weeks out. And that doesn't work for me, and the other businesses that I run, I mean I need parts, 12 parts, in two weeks. I can't get that. Because it seems like my experience in the industry, I see this big gap basically. And that's what we're trying to fill. I'm not looking for a financial goal for this year, is to be have another employee, so we could keep our machines running. And then once we have that in place, fill out, there's a couple other machines I think we'd want to have so we could be very well rounded.

Mike Kane: If someone calls us up with a small sheet metal part or a lathe part, we can do that for him as well and turn it around in that same one to two-day turnaround. That's what our goal is. Our goal isn't financial. I have a full time job, I'm supporting this right now. The business, although it does make money, it doesn't need to make money right now. We need to get it to the point where it's all set up and ready to run, then we can start advertising it, and get the website up and running, and then that stuff should take care of itself.

Nick Goellner: Your focus is getting your business into the position where you can position yourselves as this niche kind of prototype, small run shop. And that was one of my biggest questions. There's thousands of machine shops with a couple of mills, how are you going to differentiate from all those? It's interesting that you have an answer to that.

Mike Kane: Yeah. Well, like I said, I've quoted at least a thousand parts all over the country, relatively small quantities in the last 10 years. No one wants that work. I've brought all the work that Brandon is doing right now, and this is about a third of it to other shops to have quote. Some of them know have quoted me. People I've known for 20 years, they just never returned a quote. It's just insane. And those same people, I hear a complaint about how there's no work and there's no business. You got to do the work, you got to want to do the work. And I think a lot of people in these small shops are looking for the great job. I mean, Brandon just noticed on this [inaudible 00:35:23] like, "Wow, it's really easy to make good money when you're making 40 of something instead of one or something or two or something."

Mike Kane: Well, most people I've run into go to the ... Go even farther than that. They want to set up and make a couple of hundred or something. They set the job up and they may run for a week or two, and they make 10 grand as opposed to sign up one or two jobs a day and making 500 bucks or 1000 bucks a job, or 1500 bucks for the day. It just, I think it's a different mindset, and that's why I think things aren't really aligned with what people, what industry really needs.

Jim Carr: You guys mentioned benchmarking and the vision is to hire a full time employee. I don't know what the skills gap is like here in Clinton, but I do certainly know what it is like in the Chicago area, and it's probably the same. But there's just no young skilled people that are entering the industry much like college graduates are entering in with marketing degrees or financial degrees. Do you see a skills gap in this industry? That's my first question.

Mike Kane: Yeah, absolutely. There's no one [inaudible 00:36:25] ... A funny story is, a couple of years ago I called up the trade school that I graduated from, which was happened to be the same trade school Brandon graduated from. And I wanted to hire a couple kids getting out of school who had a machining background. They spent four years, two in trade school. They knew something about machining way more than someone who didn't. And it just so happens it was the last year that my actual instructor was going to be there, he was retiring. Well, I haven't really been in contact with. But he told me, "Mike," He goes, "Honestly, there's three people graduating this year, and I wouldn't recommend any of them to you."

Jim Carr: Really?

Mike Kane: In 1980 when I started, I had to take a test to get into the shop because everyone wanted to be in machine tool and die. And if you didn't pass the test, that wasn't in a shop that was open to you. And that was, I want to say 35 of us in the shop that year. It's unbelievable there's no one getting into this industry. And honestly I think that's what's going to turn things around. It's going to ... There's less and less people getting into it. There's less and less shops doing business. In our particular case, there's less and less shops doing the kind of work that I think we want to do, that I think is available out there. It just seems like the market's getting bigger and bigger for us when everyone else was saying it's getting smaller and smaller.

Jim Carr: Interesting.

Nick Goellner: Yeah. It's great. There's this huge problem that we talked about earlier in the industry, and we call it the skills gap, but shops like you see it as this huge opportunity to fill that problem and to be the manufacturing solution.

Mike Kane: Yeah. And we won't be looking for a 20-year machinist, that's not the guy I want. I mean, I'm not ... I don't want any jobs I got to run on a manual machine. I'm looking for someone who's going to show up for work every day and really wants to learn, that's who we're looking for. I'm not ... I don't really care if they're from a machine shop, but I'd love to get someone with a little skills, and an apprentice will be awesome, but I wouldn't say it'd be a requirement by any means. I'm more interested in the person than the skill set we can teach people.

Jim Carr: I agree. It's all about the culture. If they're aligned with your core values and the culture, your mindset, your business, you can always train them up. But they have to have the same fundamental core in their heart about what business is about, what you believe your business is about, and make sure that they're aligned like that, and that's when you have the best bang for your buck. But where are you going to recruit these young people from? Is there trade association, or there's a, obviously there's a technical school in the area, where would you go about finding them?

Mike Kane: Yeah. I would start there. And the state of Connecticut actually does a pretty good job trying to build up their manufacturing base even though it's getting worse and worse every year. They are trying, they're putting money into it. You can call the state and get a list of names of places where there are students. And there is, I want to say, there's like five or six trade schools in Connecticut, which is quite a few for a relatively small state like this. I would start with that path, the vocational trade schools.

Nick Goellner: One of the things we've done at Advanced is we have probably the largest apprenticeship program in the area. And man, I just, I go back like if we didn't start that program 10 years ago we would be in a-

Mike Kane: You have no [inaudible 00:39:10]-

Nick Goellner: Huge trouble. Have you ever thought about that? After you've kind of evolved a little bit further, and you've got a couple guys in leadership, and you might be able to start bringing in some of this young talent. Have you ever thought about like forming your own apprenticeship program here?

Mike Kane: It would be cool, yeah, I mean to really help the community and spread that knowledge of manufacturing and where things come from.

Nick Goellner: Because I think there's some like tax incentives. I know there is for us.

Mike Kane: Yeah, there's definitely tax incentives for that kind of thing, no question about it. I never really gave it thought at that level. I always thought about not necessarily bringing in people and helping them run my machines to make parts to make me money. But kind of like one of the first things I didn't see in CNC I did applications for a large manufacturer, we did a lot of training and I brought people there to actually train them. Even if we didn't make parts for living, it'd be kind of cool to have a machine or two set up where you bring them and you just teach CNC, and teach metal cutting. Almost like a school atmosphere, but obviously a short stay type thing.

Nick Goellner: Yeah. And it's almost like a little revenue stream for you. You offer the training and then if you find a great star student you can hire him.

Mike Kane: Great.

Jim Carr: I know we're getting about closing where we're getting our time's just about up here, but I have a couple more questions that I think are really important to ask you, and I want to ask you both the same question. Let's start with Mike first. Where do you see Manufacturing Solutions a year from today, 4-8-2020? What does it look like?

Mike Kane: Brandon and one other full time employee, fully functional CNC machining lathes and mills and I've the ability to make reasonable prototypes in sheet metal.

Jim Carr: In sheet metal?

Mike Kane: Yeah.

Jim Carr: Okay. Interesting. Great Vision. Brandon, what do you think? What does it look like 4-8-2020?

Brandon Kane: I mean, I like that idea. I also, I like the idea of becoming a bigger influence on social media. I want to be able to help people that way too. Whether it's, well definitely help people in this field who have an itch to start their own thing and stuff like that, and really just coach them through that hopefully. As well as build this business and-

Jim Carr: When people are asking you for advice, it's inspiring you to want to put more out there then?

Brandon Kane: Yeah, absolutely. I mean I love helping people, I want to help people, and I think in turn will only help us as a business, as Manufacturing Solutions. And if we can be the place to have a very ... Have a successful machine shop that does great work, and prototype work as well as somewhere like you said, that people can come to learn, and go online to learn from our content as well, I think that'd be pretty cool.

Jim Carr: Awesome. Well that's about it for this episode, this rerecord. I'm so glad we came out here today to meet Mike and get this highly functional episode up and on and to the airwaves. It's been an inspiration for me, and I really look forward to seeing where you guys are going to go a year from now. I wish you all the best of luck and I really, I want the best for you guys.

Nick Goellner: And keep posting that story, man. We'll be following.

Brandon Kane: I appreciate guys.

Jim Carr: Thank you. Because you know why, Nick? You know what my dad always used to tell me?

Nick Goellner: I think it's something like, "Whether you're on the West Coast, the Midwest, or the East Coast, if you're not making chips-

Jim Carr: You're not making chips, you're not making money.

Nick Goellner: That's it, man.

Jim Carr: All right, bam.

Nick Goellner: Bam.

Speaker 5: As always, thank you for listening to the MakingChips podcast. You need to increase the speed and feed of your business. If you're not elevating your manufacturing leadership, you're going to get left behind. The metal working nation is committed to a new way to stay ahead of the competition. We have more content to help you make an elevate at makingchips.com. Gain access to exclusive content as well as videos, blogs, show notes, and more resources designed to equip and inspire you. We'll see you next time.

Jim Carr: Anyway, I got a three-minute bio break. I'm never going to make it guy-


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