Co-Owner of ARC EDM, Inc.
Seeing yourself in manufacturing is a real-world thrill for Daniel Miller, co-owner of ARC EDM, Inc. He dreamed he’d own the shop he worked at in high school, and at 41, he’s already achieved that dream.
“I Will Own this Machine Shop Someday”
It's always been my dream to own my own business, says Daniel Miller.
I started working for ARC EDM, Inc. when I was 17 years old, and I knew then that someday I wanted to own the business.
Daniel put in a Herculean effort, once working around 115 hours a week. To put that in perspective, when he was starting out in 2000, his hourly salary was $7.50 an hour – and he made $52,000. That drive paid off, and today he owns and operates the Muncie, Ind., shop.
Daniel embodies American entrepreneurship. He worked hard because he was
not willing to fail, even against the discouragement of high school career counselors and speakers who did not see the potential in skilled trade careers. During a senior-year economics class, a woman came in from a
junior leader-type organization and asked the class who planned on college. Everyone raised their hand except Daniel.
I was a painfully shy kid. When she pointed me out as the only one who didn't raise their hand, I was embarrassed to death,” Daniel recalls. “She asked, ‘What&aps;s your plan?’ I told her I was working in a machine shop and that I would own it someday. She told me I would fail at life without a college degree. Now here I am at age 41, and I own the place. I was able to reach my goal.”
These days, Daniel wants principals, school superintendents, and junior leadership organizations to recognize that there are great careers available without a college degree. He reminds them when it comes to comparing paychecks, a skilled trade person – much less one who becomes a small business owner – can easily out-earn a college graduate.
There is room for college education, but many people are very successful in the trades with on-the-job training, he says.
This is a high-tech job. EDM is clean. There's no oil mist, and so much of it uses CNC controls or computer work like Mastercam. Years ago, a tool shop had 50 employees because it had 50 machines. Now you have 10 people running 50 machines. (Mastercam IMTS booth: 133222 and 215200)
While Daniel was exposed to the skilled trades through family, he also had the benefit of a machining trades program in high school. Unfortunately, those programs no longer exist in his region and don't seem to be coming back.
We attended our daughter's 7th grade orientation, and the principal, superintendent, and student relations people were talking about college prep classes, Daniel says.
I looked over the crowd and saw a lot of the guys I graduated with. They're plumbers, electricians, and HVAC guys. We all had on-the-job-training, yet schools are pushing kids away from the trades. It's hard to find employees because young kids don't even know industrial jobs exist. Small shops are the rock stars of this industry. Without small shops, you wouldn't have IMTS. You wouldn't have big manufacturing facilities because they all rely on smaller shops to help service themthem, so they can get products out to customers.
Job Shop Strong
Daniel sees his work in everything around him. That includes the rings that form the bottles for one of America's favorite cold malted beverages, the 30-tooth spline for the shaft of a racing Corvette, and even a tool for grabbing tissue samples.
Our daughter was only a couple of years old and had to have a biopsy done inside her stomach, he says.
They pulled out a tool with some little grippers that open up, and I realized we made the prototype years ago. I love the manufacturing industry because it keeps America going. You get to see and do a little piece of everything. When you're driving down the road, everything you look at trickles down to me or another small shop.
Daniel finds the technical challenges of the career rewarding. Knowing that one line of incorrectly entered code could scrap a part keeps him on his toes, as does troubleshooting. He also likes collaborating with FANUC application engineers. (Fanuc IMTS booth 338919)
I'll spend a few minutes scratching my head before sending over my program, and the engineer will find my mistakes, he says.
Conversely, I've had FANUC's engineers call me for advice on my techniques for holding part sizesize, so they could help another customer.
One of his best days on the job came when a company tried to get a part made at a competitor and they couldn't do it.
My competitor told my customer that it was impossible. It took me a day and a half to figure it out, but I made it, he says.
Since then, I've made 18 of those parts. That really gave me an ego boost to do what someone else said was impossible.
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