IMTS Community  Mike Griffith

Mike Griffith

Mike Griffith

President, Major Tool & Machine

Majorly Essential Manufacturing

Mike Griffith has a vision to be the partner of choice when it comes to manufacturing solutions that are essential to the world. With only a handful of shops that do machining and fabrication for very large components, the right people who are dedicated to this work are essential.

Move over, Texas. They build 'em bigger, faster, and more accurately in Indy. The vessels that thunder off launch pads in Florida, patrol the high seas, and lurk under the Artic Ocean all rely on critical components machined by Major Tool & Machine.

“We don't talk about inches. We talk about feet and tons. Parts don't get handled by hand, they get moved by 50-ton cranes,” says Mike Griffith, president of Major Tool & Machine.

Located in the heart of Indianapolis, Major Tool occupies about 650,000 sq. ft. and has 450 employees, supporting mission-critical developmental and production programs in aerospace, defense, power generation, oil and gas, nuclear power, and semiconductors. Founded in 1946, the company was acquired by Precinmac, a diversified manufacturer of high-tolerance precision machined components and assemblies, in 2021. The move afforded Major Tool the ability to leverage experience across eight divisions in North America, including Utah-based Peterson Incorporated (of which Griffith is also president).

“Our country needs shops like Major Tool & Machine,” says Griffith. “The work we do is essential to so many different industries. There are just not many places that can deliver the size and complexity of the parts we manufacture here.”

I Like Big Parts, and I Cannot Lie

To provide a concept of “big,” Griffith notes that a Greyhound bus can fit under one of its mills from Fives Giddings & Lewis (IMTS booth #338260), which at the time of purchase was the largest in North America. To confirm tight tolerances on big dimensions, metrology equipment includes two bridge-style CMMs from ZEISS (IMTS booth #134302); one has a volume of 5x10x2.5 meters and the other 3 × 6 × 2 meters.

Major Tool's newest addition – and by addition, we mean a new 240,000-sq.-ft. building addition – houses 11 large CNC machines, nine of which are from Parpas America (IMTS booth #338959), including four XS large gantry machines with a longitudinal travel of 10 meters and one XS with 20 meters of travel. All of them are climate-controlled.

“We were walking the aisles of IMTS in 2018 to find a very large high-speed gantry mill to support some of our aerospace and defense programs,” recalls Griffith. “We were walking down the aisle, and there was a sign that caught our attention. It said, ‘The world's most accurate gantry mill.’ That's a pretty big claim, so we stopped to talk to the folks from Parpas to understand the basis for their claim. In addition to the motion control, they have a patented temperature control system. That was very important for us because we machine very large aluminum components to very tight tolerances. To hold a tolerance of ten thousandths of an inch over a 10-foot part, you have to manage thermal growth, and Parpas does that.”

Driving Out Variability

Griffith goes on to explain that when you machine large parts in a large operation, driving out process variability at every step is critical.

“For instance, we measure cutting tools on a ZOLLER presetter (IMTS booth # 432018) that's equipped with RFID technology,” he says. “The RFID chip gets read at the tool changer and automatically loads the offsets into the machine tool. We also use a shrink-fit and tool balancing equipment from HAIMER (IMTS booth #431510). Balancing a tool is critical for improving tool life when you're running on a high-speed machine and trying to generate as many hours as possible of unattended run-time.”

To drive out variability at an enterprise level, Major Tool has used Infor VISUAL brand ERP software from Infor (IMTS booth #236452) since 1996.

“We embrace technology here in a big way,” says Griffith. “As an example, all inspection is done electronically.” He goes on to describe how inspection data has upper and lower tolerances. If an operator were to enter something out of tolerance, our software would automatically flag it. If the gauge being used does not pass calibration, it gets flagged. If a part is recorded out of tolerances in the inspection system, operators have to generate an internal nonconformance document and link it to the rejected step, otherwise they can't close the operation or move to the next manufacturing step.

“We process thousands of operations a week, so we have to have a robust scheduling system, which is also part of the ERP system,” says Griffith. “All of these various controls enable us to maintain the kind of tolerances that customers in critical industries demand.”

There's Always a Problem

When it comes to technology investments, Griffith and his team go to IMTS because it presents an opportunity to engage with so many people.

“Most of us that attend IMTS have some kind of problem we're trying to solve,” he says. “It's great to be able to go and engage with the machine tool builders and to be able to talk about those challenges. There are so many different ways that they approach trying to machine a very tight tolerance component. Everybody has different options, so you go to IMTS to find out what is best for your application. IMTS is a playground for adults that work in manufacturing.”

We Are Essential

While IMTS offers “an incredible resource” for finding technology, no such resource exists for finding talent. As a result, Major Tool also makes major investments in finding, growing, and retaining people. The company hosts the largest manufacturing day event in the state of Indiana, bringing in 900 high school students for its 2023 event.

“I think part of our job as manufacturers is to educate the next generation of workers,” says Griffith. “Manufacturing Day is a great opportunity for us to bring in not only high school students but also educators into our facility. We teach them what manufacturing really is about and the incredible careers that a person can have working in manufacturing.”

Major Tool is constantly on the lookout for new talent. Once it finds people with aptitude and attitude, the company grows employee skills in its onsite training facilities, one dedicated to machinist training and one dedicated to fabrication training.

“A huge piece of our success is bringing in people that have little skills in our industry and giving them the training they need,” says Griffith. “Once we elevate them to our shop floor, they enter into a mentor program with skilled fabricators or machinists so they can continue to grow their careers. We are always looking to figure out how to invest in our people, our processes, and our technology.”

If finding people is half the problem, the other half is retaining them. Major Tool is more successful than most, and in 2022 was named one of the best places to work in Indiana Manufacturing. The company has an onsite workout facility, as well as an onsite healthcare and wellness clinic that is staffed by a doctor and nurse practitioners.

The onsite health clinic removes issues and excuses, as seeing a doctor is as easy as walking down the hall. Major Tool also requires an annual physical, which enables its people to get in front of health issues that they wouldn't otherwise know they had.

“We need people that have a sense of pride and passion, and when we find them, it's important for them to be around long term, living healthy lives, and having successful careers,” says Griffith. “Because of the nature of the work in this facility, their health is essential to the health of the world.”

Mike Griffith and a team from Major Tool & Machine will be at IMTS 2024 exploring the latest technology – will you be there? Register for IMTS 2024 and start making plans today!

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