President and Owner, Ketchie Inc.
Three generations of owners at Ketchie Inc. have been finding inspiration at IMTS, and this year is no different for current owner Courtney Silver.
A 75-Year Family Tradition: Three Generations Find Inspiration at IMTS
Courtney Silver believes manufacturing has a higher purpose. As president and owner of Ketchie Inc., her philosophy is that manufacturing creates an opportunity to make a positive impact in people's lives through relationships, products, and services. It brings with it pride and dignity to make products that improve people's lives.
The precision machine shop in Concord, North Carolina, makes high-mix, low-volume parts for OEMs in several industries, including textiles, railroad, medical, and heavy construction machinery. Three generations of owners at Ketchie Inc. have been relying on what they learn at IMTS to grow and maintain a competitive business since 1947.
Silver got into manufacturing in 2008 when she joined the company with her late husband, Bobby Ketchie. She'd never been in a machine shop before and had no idea what role she'd play in the business.
Looking back, I stepped through that door and immediately fell in love with machining and manufacturing,” Silver says. “I love the fact that we're working with our hands, our hearts, and our minds to make products that are useful all across the country.”
There's great pride in the parts that Ketchie produces. For one of its oldest customers, Ketchie produces shafts, gears, and pinions for knitting machines that make nonwoven apparel like Under Armor clothing. Silver is especially proud of supporting the railroad maintenance equipment by producing parts for track lifting machines.
It may not be something you think about every day, but it's a part of helping our country to have a thriving economy, provide jobs, and be competitive globally, Silver adds.
Improving Lives Through Manufacturing
Although manufacturing quality parts is a top goal, Silver's greatest satisfaction is the company's emphasis on improving lives for people. That starts with helping her employees develop their skills.
We provide an environment where they can be the best that they can be, with the skills that they have as God designed them, Silver says.
Whether you work at Ketchie or are visiting, three large placards on the shop floor clearly relate the company's mission:
- Be agile, do the right thing, and embrace continuous improvement.
- As an organization following Jesus Christ, we seek to be the most respected custom manufacturer for having the highest quality people, products, and service.
- Machinists have an aura about them. They are resourceful problem-solvers, mechanical innovators, ingenious mechanics. American manufacturing depends on them.
In addition to supporting employees and their families, Ketchie helps people in the community through partnerships with the Boys and Girls Club and Cooperative Christian Ministry. Silver recently hired an Afghanistan refugee living locally who reached out looking for a job. She worked with a local congressman to get them a social security number and enrollment in English classes. Now he's an important team member working in assembly and shop floor support at Ketchie.
It's amazing to me that we get this opportunity every day to change people's lives with a place to work that's respectful, and the work is dignified, Silver reflects. One of Silver's favorite memories at IMTS was seeing young female students in their school uniforms walking through IMTS 2018.
I was so encouraged because I think it's a wonderful way to expose young women to what manufacturing is and the wide variety of careers you can have,” Silver says. “A career in manufacturing can be very empowering for a woman.”
Inspired at IMTS
Three generations of Ketchie presidents have been attending IMTS since 1950, and Silver has been at every IMTS since 2016. The company has used IMTS to find solutions that help the company refine its mission and evolve.
Attending IMTS is very energizing, Silver says.
I come back to Ketchie inspired and thinking about ways to position things differently. Maybe look at the work we're doing and see how to do it better, faster. I learn about investments I can make with a reasonable return on investment to strengthen our supply chain.
Ketchie has a number of Mazak machining centers and lathes, including a new Mazak Quik Turn turning center that will arrive soon. The shop makes it a priority to visit the Mazak booth at every IMTS. Silver brings part prints so Mazak representatives can review them.
We sat down at a table in the booth and went over what machine they'd propose for the family of parts we were looking at,” Silver says. “IMTS is great because we can talk to so many subject matter experts in the industry and make a lot of progress researching solutions.”
At IMTS, Silver plans to bring a team with representatives from operations, the shop floor, quality, and project management – a variety of representation and responsibilities, but also a diverse group with varying levels of experience.
We're bringing a multi-generational team because it combines new, fresh ideas with wisdom and experience, Silver says.
When you combine those things, it's a win-win.
To help solve labor challenges, Silver plans to look closely at robotics and automation at IMTS. Of particular interest are quick changeover automation, flexible intelligent robotics, collaborative robots, and new workholding and tooling.
I'm excited to go to IMTS this year, not only to look at some things that we already know about, but also to discover technologies we haven't even thought about yet,” Silver explains.