The Swiss Army Knife of Manufacturing
June 22, 2020
That iconic scene. The sun peeking through the slats. Harry Hogge petting the perfectly formed frame of the soon to be #46 car. The metal reflecting the last beams of dying light. It gives me chills every time.
The connections between metal and Days of Thunder go deeper though. Much, much deeper. In fact, Days of Thunder (more specifically Cole Trickle’s personal journey from startup to stand out) mirrors our own journey to becoming a trusted sheet metal partner to some of the biggest companies in the United States.
These are the parallels between two American classics.
The skill of a driver isn’t measured by the speedometer. Yet some manufacturing partners seem content to focus on that metric alone. In the movie, Cole quickly discovers that having the fastest time means nothing if you can’t drive under race conditions. In manufacturing, posting the fastest time is easy if nobody is checking for accuracy. That’s the difference between “in and out” shops and manufacturers that you can rely on to consistently perform under the pressure of “race conditions.” We know that speed doesn’t always mean going fast. Sometimes crossing the finish line first means foreseeing obstacles, utilizing resources and avoiding mistakes that are the detriment of speed.
Every few years a big financial institute will predict the manufacturing industry will grow by leaps and bounds in the decades to come. And every time it’s followed by a slew of new drivers that want to enter the race. In our younger days, signifying that you thought you could walk into our industry without any experience and compete with us was something we took personally. We see it a bit differently now.
If someone wants to come in and spend their money to tell the world about manufacturing, that’s great, we’re content to let them pull us around the track. It’s only a matter of time before their inexperience betrays them and suddenly there are a lot of people in the market for a manufacturing partner that knows what they’re doing. After seeing so many “gold rushers” come barreling out of the gate only to disappear a few years later we realized something. The flashy website, the ballooning ad budgets, it’s all there to hide one simple fact; they can’t drive. After 3 generations in the sheet metal business and 15 years revolutionizing manufacturing for America’s leading producers we realized something else; the satisfaction we bring our clients ensures that we aren’t going anywhere.
So while the hot shots grandstand and struggle to get their package of promises across the finish line, we’ll be keeping the pressure on, raising quality standards and staying in position to capitalize on every mistake.
An empty track is one thing. A track full of cars is another. What happens when things don’t go as they should?
This is when plans suddenly change on the fly; last minute changes before production, there is no place to put the parts when they get there, a machine breaks, the power goes out or Chicago is literally on fire… again.
These are the real race conditions. There is a cloud a smoke blocking your vision. Debris and spun out cars are covering the track. The apocalypse is coming at you at 200MPH. This is the reality that scares so many of those “gold rush” shops away and the reason they won’t take your phone call when they’re 3 days behind schedule. Once you’ve been through it enough, you know how to push through and it barely slows you down. That means when we encounter an obstacle, instead of throwing up our hands, we work with our clients to guide them through the wreckage and stay in the race without losing momentum.
There you have it, a piece of classic American cinema that you will never see the same way again. Put the pedal to the sheet metal on your next sheet metal project.