IMTS Community  Matt Gawlik

Matt Gawlik

President, 3D Graphite & Machining

Smart Use of Technology Brings Order to Chaos

Software at IMTS provides 3D Graphite & Machining's greatest resource for streamlining all their graphite machining processes.

If you want to become a visionary, start by pushing a broom. You'll earn street credit with employees and understand the nuts and bolts of the operation from the bottom up.

“I started out sweeping the floor at my dad's business. He did that on purpose as an introduction into manufacturing,” says Matt Gawlik, president of 3D Graphite & Machining. “Now that he's gone, I realize he was right ... about everything. Over the years, I've touched every aspect of the company, from shipping to cleaning the floors to CNC setup, sales, accounting, psychology, and all the way up to where I am right now, which is visionary CEO.”

3D Graphite & Machining has locations in Schaumburg, Illinois, and Jenison, Michigan, and operates three divisions. One supplies electrical discharge machining (EDM) consumables, a second provides ultra-precision custom electrode design and manufacturing, and the third provides EDM process consulting. Primary markets include the die and mold, medical, and aerospace industries.

“We look at our customers as strategic partners,” Gawlik says. “EDM is usually the last aspect of a job, so if there's any mistake or if you're late, it will create exponential issues. We drive productivity and quality at every step of project to ensure on-time, accurate delivery.”

Software Bringing Order to Chaos

When customers visit 3D Graphite & Machining, Gawlik first shows them the company's ERP system, which it implemented in 2016.

“We have a proven system that can track every aspect of their job. When I can press a button on our ProShop ERP software (IMTS booth #133027) and show them accurate reports presenting data in an actionable format, it makes them feel more comfortable doing business with us,” Gawlik says.

As part of his consulting business, Gawlik emphasizes simplicity and good software as the antidote to the chaos of a typical shop. He says managing an ultra-precision CNC machining job shop is the toughest business model in the world because of the numerous operational hand-offs, tolerance stack-ups, and shortage of skilled manufacturing labor.

“Everything and everybody has to talk to each other so that the last person in the chain is not handcuffed by the first,” he says. “With good software, we can do fire prevention versus firefighting.” To prove his point, Gawlik notes that for six months ending in December 2023, the company boasted a 100% on-time delivery rate.

Gawlik cautions business owners about failing into the trap of “the hero's journey” and figuratively killing yourself working for your business instead of learning to work smarter and have the business work for you.

“People are shellshocked that I don't work 80 hours a week, but I don't have to once I got my ERP software up and running,” he says. “It relieves a lot of typical CEO stresses. I can get my work done in a 40-hour week, and it's forced me to hire the right type of people.”

Working Smarter at IMTS

Gawlik attended his first IMTS event in 1992 and has not missed a show since. That first show, he staffed a booth for his grandfather's machine tool distribution business (“His name – Don G. Beck – is on the side of almost every Bridgeport sold in Chicago”). At the subsequent show, he also worked for an exhibition service provider supporting show setup. However, since 1996, he has attended as part of the family business.

All the top shops in the world are at the top because they embrace technology. You cannot excel unless you know what's available,”

His personal plan for IMTS 2024 includes three days at the show, with one free day to walk the show and two highly schedule days. Gawlik compares the spirit of IMTS to New Year's Day because it offers so many new and unplanned possibilities.

“One of my favorite things to do at IMTS is just to talk to people,” Gawlik says. “One of my most memorable moments came from sitting next to a random person at lunch. I ended up making a lifelong friend. Over the last 10 years, this person has also been my largest customer, and all because I sat next to him on a whim.”

For his planned visits, Gawlik says that while he loves looking at machine tools, cutting tools, and automation, “the best bang for my buck has always been on the digital technology side, specifically the Software Sector.”

One thing he wants to explore at IMTS 2024 is the utilization of application program interfaces (APIs) that allow different software types to exchange information.

“I also want to look at how we can use AI to gather information to make our shops more efficient,” he says. “One of the problems right now is there's so many different things happening at once that it is hard to collect all data, especially in a one-off type job shop, and present it in a useable way.”

Gawlik's second stop is the Quality Assurance Sector and a visit to Zeiss (IMTS booth #134302). “When I brought our first Zeiss CMM after a visit to IMTS about 10 years ago, I noticed my customer's eyes pop out when they saw that blue badge (the Zeiss logo) in our metrology room. They're like, ‘Ah, he cares about quality.’”

Gawlik's third personal priority is automation, especially as part of his consulting practice, as he believes job shops underutilize automation. Finally, he sends any employee who wants to go to the show. He recalls the year he directed one machinist to just wander through the cutting tool area and engage with exhibitors. The machinist came back with a tool that decreased runtime by 300% on a part that ran almost 24/7 for six months straight.

IMTS is potentiality realized. It's the most exciting thing we have in manufacturing. Nothing even comes close. IMTS is the epicenter of what's possible.”

Realize your manufacturing potential, visit and register now for IMTS 2024, Sept. 9-14, at McCormick Place, Chicago.

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