Company Spotlight: JR Machine

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JR Machine is a Wisconsin based operation whose unique capabilities give the outfit a national reach. Punchlist Zero caught up with Parker Tumanic to talk about those capabilities and recent trends in the machining industry.

Tell us about the very beginning. How did JR Machine get started?

Parker Tumanic: JR Machine was started in 1991 by my grandfather, Jerome. In the mid-nineties, my dad, Tim, bought it from him. In the beginning, JR did a lot of commodity work: bushings and pins. We were doing about $3 million in sales with low margins. It hummed around like that for a while until 2001 when the recession hit. All of a sudden, volume went down by 30% and we had a decision: either we lock the doors or reinvent the company.

We reinvented it by changing our focus to high-value parts. Shortly after doing so, we reached over $10 million in sales. At that $10 million revenue number, we had 30 people employed vs 25 people of 3 million in the mid-nineties. 

Industrial fittings

What about JR Machine’s capabilities?

We have centered on one machine, the DMG Mori NLX 2500. What’s great about this machine is it has no secondary operations. The raw material goes in, turning and milling is performed, and a finished product comes out the backend. We produce parts that are 1” to 10” in diameter, up to 28” in length. 

This kind of continuity in machines is a high differentiator for us. The flexibility afforded to us by the DMG machine allows us to better plan production and ramp up as needed. We have three shifts, can rise to any occasion, and keep customers happy. We don’t lose customers to performance concerns and we are happy about that. 

Why should an OEM choose JR Machine over the generic machine shop just down the way?

More than anything it’s our dedication to service, quality, and on-time delivery. Our common machines and ability to accurately monitor capacity are also big differentiators. We can easily analyze available capacity and can strategically plan.  We also understand the market well and are invested in our customers’ success. 

modern machine shop

When do you get engaged with clients?

We typically seek out original equipment manufacturers (OEM) to help them optimize their operations. JR is transparent about our capabilities. We will tell clients what we can help them with and what we can’t help them with. We don’t really do one-offs. JR fits great with OEMs who want to improve their supply chain and deliver better value to their customers.  

You mentioned that you are seeing more domestic sourcing. Can you expand on that comment?

In the 2000s there was a common misconception that China was the lowest cost producer, and thus the best place to get parts. The reality is total cost of ownership wasn’t factored in. Also, China’s costs have been steadily rising. We are now seeing India as a low-cost provider. In the last 10 years, the U.S. has been highly competitive on raw cost, but a definite winner on overall cost of ownership. It is great what is happening with automation in the US. We are seeing more manufacturing coming back to America and more components are being produced domestically. 

Where do you see JR Machine in five years? 

We will continue down the path of automation. It’s important to say here that automation doesn’t replace somebody’s job.  It keeps more jobs in the country. Our machines have a 10-year cycle. As they wear out, instead of replacing them, we are updating with new machines. We currently have 21 CNCs on the floor and of those eight are completely automated.

automated CNCs

What about the oil and gas industry? Do you think there will be a rebound in the future?

Don’t we all wish we had a crystal ball?! There are so many parameters that affect the oil industry. At $40 a barrel is when things start going a bit for us, but $60 is when things really start hopping. We notice the machining requests start coming in 3 months later, we will start to see more activity.