A Titan Of U.S. Manufacturing: Gilroy Titan Creates TV's First CNC Machine Shop Show
By Richard A. McCormack
There haven't been any television shows on prime time that concern CNC machining. But there is one now. Cable station MAVTV, owned by Lucas Oil Products, is airing a series on the workings of a CNC job shop in Grass Valley, Calif., run by Titan Gilroy, a man befitting of his name. The show is called TITAN American Built, featuring the latest automation technology running big jobs of complex metal parts at high speeds on tight deadlines.
The show, filmed at Gilroy's shop, Titan America, just might be good enough to be a hit, potentially with a production run that will last more than a 13-episode initial season, given that Titan Gilroy is a classic TV host, passionate about what he does and proud to be a successful American businessman who survived a troubled youth.
Like his name, Gilroy is a titan, brash with bravado, resembling a star wrestler with a Jesse Ventura-like voice. He could match the success of Paul Teutul, the TV personality of the cable show Orange County Choppers. Let's hope so. The manufacturing community needs somebody like him on the front lines of American pop culture, a Chumlee without the dumbly, in love with making the world's most complex titanium parts, and lots of them.
By way of serving in prison, Gilroy got to the point of owning a CNC tooling shop and a TV production company. He had his idea for the show after giving a speech in Chicago at a summit of state parole departments. His speech was so powerful that people were asking him where he would speak next. He got a call from the Discovery Channel and "it just clicked -- I knew what I wanted to do with my life," he says. Gilroy tried to sell Discovery on a manufacturing show, and started working with John Walsh from America's Most Wanted. Eventually he got to the point of starting his own production company called American Built Media and became executive producer "because I'm the only one who gets the story, because every day I have to go out there and make parts on TV and make them awesome," he says.
His sponsors have stepped up to make the show possible: Autodesk, IMCO Carbide Tools, Haas Automation and GoEngineer.
Like his machines, Titan Gilroy is big and running fast. He wants to make manufacturing in America cool. The technology is on his shop floor to do it.
Here is what he had to say in a conversation with Manufacturing & Technology News.
Question: There has not been a TV show focused on CNC machining. Is it sexy or interesting enough to gain an audience?
Gilroy: It's dynamic and different because of the way we run our machines, and people dig it.
Q: There has been a lot of talk about publicity campaigns promoting American manufacturing, but few have ever come to fruition.
Gilroy: There are some, but it's dormant. When you go to IMTS (the International Machine Technology Show) there are guys who love manufacturing and there is automation on a super high level. But soccer moms and pops and people at the malls don't know about manufacturing. They see "made in China" stickers on everything. They think that the biggest companies that are going overseas must have it right because there is no need to manufacture in America. There are no television shows on true manufacturing.
Q: What makes your show unique?
Gilroy: We have bypassed all of the NDAs -- the non- disclosure agreements -- with our customers. That makes it possible to come into my shop and [film] the secret parts that companies need in order to compete in their industry. We can build anything and everything. If you can design it and put it on a print, we can build it out of any material.
Every time we touch a piece of material, we are running it with the latest technology and running it fast and being aggressive, and then stepping aside and pointing to it and saying, "This is happening down the street from you and across the world, but you need to embrace it because it builds the middle class. If done right we can outcompete anybody in the world."
Q: Apple CEO Tim Cook said it might be impossible to bring manufacturing back to the United States because a big company like Apple could not fill a small room in Silicon Valley with a representative of every tool shop in the United States, whereas in China it would take several cities to accommodate all of them.
Gilroy: One of my customers is the owner of a very high-end medical company. He shared a document with me that he had for global value sourcing from his customer. The document showed how the company wanted its [suppliers] to source their products. The document said that if you continue to go through your normal path of making things in the USA, then we are going to drop you from our vendor list because you have to move your production to all these other countries in Asia and Central America.
My customer said, "Look, Titan, I have to give you my work because I can't get the quality anywhere else, but I'm taking a huge hit by doing that because of my [supplier] rating."
That is a big issue.
We need to take manufacturing in a dynamic way to the American people and get them excited about it and let them know what we are fighting for, because right now they are clueless and we are losing.
Q: Why will people watch the show?
Gilroy: We run our machines differently from everybody else. Companies don't know how to run titanium parts. They run them slowly. We can make 500 different parts for our customers. I am an artist when it comes to making difficult parts and I'm an artist when it comes to making a lot of parts by using automation.
Q: Is it a distraction to have a camera crew operating in your shop?
Gilroy: The camera crew is hand picked by me. They are here and are part of the show. I give my employees bonuses for being on the show and everybody gets a kick out of it.
Q: There are some television shows about people making things, like Factory Made and How It's Made. What is missing from those shows?
Gilroy: For this to be successful, you have to show manufacturing, where it is now and how it is being done now. When we talk about cutting titanium, most shops are running at 10 inches per minute. But we have new tools that are running at 240 inches per minute. It has never been done before in the history of the world. You can go to Ford, GM and Boeing and you will not find anybody running their tools at 240 inches per minute.
But new machines and software that was designed six months ago have made it possible to make cuts that have never been made before, which means that we can out-compete anybody.
Apple can say nobody wants to do their work, but that's because they don't know how to do it. Those shops are not using the techniques to make money because they are running their machines too slow. But if they got creative and used good old-fashioned ingenuity and got artistic about the way they fixture things and rev more parts instead of less parts and rev them 10 to 20 times faster -- as we do every day -- then they would make money and make a killing and then they could do those jobs for Apple.
We need somebody to step up and show them how it is done. America needs to realize that this is happening right now and we can do it and stop training people in the old ways and step into the new technologies, new CAD/CAM systems and new machines. A machine 20 years ago could only go 30 inches per minute. But there are machines that are going 1,500 inches per minute. They can do arcs and thousandths of tolerances. Until now, you just couldn't do it. It wasn't possible.
Q: Why is Titan Manufacturing deploying this technology when so many other shops are slow in doing so?
Gilroy: They don't feel they have to innovate. But there is going to be a time when their wives will look at our show and they will ask, "Why are those guys killing it, with passion and patriotism, and not you?"
Q: Do you see a manufacturing renaissance occurring in America?
Gilroy: Absolutely, but we can't have one without changing our ways. We are building rocket parts that are going to the space station. We are building parts that are going to Mars and to the bottom of the ocean. We are building titanium knees for vets, and we are doing it fast.
But you need to get that in front of people and have them see it visually. That's when they start realizing that we really can do it and that the job shops today are immaculate and there is no grease or oil all over the floor and that people can make $50 an hour because they are talented and it's a year-round job that isn't seasonal like construction.
When I ask people, "Who is the true face of American manufacturing right now?" The only answer I ever get is Henry Ford. But that is so far removed and in the past because they haven't seen anything different. We need some fresh air, not of people speaking about how great manufacturing is, but by showing all of the cool stuff happening right now that people have never seen before.
Q: Do you need more sponsors?
Gilroy: For this season, I have enough to get the show done, but to go where I want to go with this show, I do need more sponsors. I see this show being able to showcase America in a way that nobody has been able to do it and I see it going so big that it can truly make a difference in this country, where it can lead the way where these kinds of shows become really popular. Discovery told me straight up that it's too boring and nobody will watch.
MAVTV is making it their number-one show. Their viewership is going up every year. It is important for me to spend time with people like you who are writing because it's important that the manufacturing community understands that there is show that is speaking truth.
At the end of the first episode I volunteered to debate any lawmaker about whether we can do it right here in America. Sooner or later if you are that bold then people are going to start asking the politicians, "Well, what about what Titan says? I watch that show and he's doing awesome things. Is that all make believe?"
Q: Why are you successful while other manufacturers are whining about high taxes, poorly trained workers, foreign mercantilism, bad infrastructure, high wages and costs, and excessive EPA, labor and OSHA regulations?
Gilroy: How does it even make sense to build anything overseas? Customers need to realize how fast we can produce quality parts here. Shipping costs are rising, quality is falling in China and people are saying that China is more expensive so they have to move to another country. But how many times do you keep moving?
Instead of having 100 shops with 100 people, the future will have 10,000 shops with 30 people. The politicians are influenced by the big companies, but when the American people start to find out that you can truly manufacture right here and that it brings good jobs and tax money to this country and people don't have to go on welfare and can actually make a good living with a good job, then the people will start screaming and demand it and the politicians will have follow.
Everybody talks about how we need manufacturing, but nobody is truly teaching anybody how to do it. I am not saying that I am going to teach every facet, but I might be a spark that shows people that it can be done and that everybody else can do it.
The cool thing about education is you have to throw out the old ways of learning because the machines, software and computers are so advanced. Autodesk comes with video after video after video showing you how to design parts and run your tools. If you have a good head on your shoulders and you're not mistake prone, you can pick this stuff up in no time. You can run CNC machines with weeks of experience and you can start programming them with a year of experience, and when you step into programming that is a $30-an-hour job. I can take a 50 year old who has been a machinist his whole life and put him in front of a new machine and he says, "It's impossible." But a 17 year old will have it go as fast as it can because he doesn't know any better.
(Gilroy can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.)
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