Keep buying new machines! This was the seed that would eventually sprout into great success for well-known Precise Tool & Manufacturing. The lesson was instilled in the company’s President, John S. Gizzi, from a tender age and it has put this company on the forefront of the USA’s CNC machining industry. John kindly took some time out of his busy schedule to tell me more about the company.
One of the few CNC machining firms brave enough to take on complex 5-axis machining, Precise Tool & Manufacturing has grown over two generations thanks to the dedication of its team and its founder, John P. Gizzi.
This spirited Italian-American family from Sicily and Abruzzi brought their passion for people and precision to the industry in the early 1970s, when John P., a toolmaker by trade, bought a Bridgeport mill and a lathe and started making tools from his garage at night. He spent his days at work, but lunchtime was for selling his machining services to local automotive companies. He was often accompanied by his infant son John S., quietly sitting in his baby chair.
“My father started with nothing. From there, he really took the chance and made his own success. He eventually quit his day job and continued to work in his garage making parts all on his own. He was his own salesman and his own machinist.” says John S. More family joined the fledgling venture, including both of John S. Gizzi’s grandfathers, and the company slowly grew into the industry giant it is today.
The company’s engineering team is most often the answer to other manufacturers’ failed attempts at designing, replicating, or manufacturing complex components that are not achievable without the expertise and state-of-the-art equipment that Precise Tool & Manufacturing offers. Together with the services of sister company Advantech Industries Inc., which belongs to the president’s brother, clients have access to a full service manufacturing company that includes machining, fabrication, sheet metal, and product assembly.
This company’s work is as its name suggests – Precise. Every job goes through rigorous processes in the engineering department where the team looks at ways to make parts better, faster, and cheaper. Rather than just copying and reproducing components, these experts suggest ways in which parts can be manufactured more easily. The effectiveness and ergonomics of the design are considered in detail, and the best solutions are applied.
“Our strong engineering department, from our programmers to our process engineers and tooling specialists in the tool crib, definitely set us apart from our competitors,” John S. states. Precise Tool & Manufacturing’s diverse abilities are another facet of its distinguishing factors. Precise Tool can handle projects ranging in size from 5 inches to 216 inches in diameter – an ability that I am told very few shops have.
Another secret weapon in its arsenal of next-level industry strengths is the fact that it takes advantage of the latest machine tool technology. Gone are the days of lathes only being lathes and mills only being mills. Today, single application equipment has made way for multi-tasking manufacturing machines, milling and turning from the same sophisticated machining centers.
The trend also enables five-axis machining that one would usually need multiple set-ups to perform. This equipment’s moving tables are combined with moving axes that allow for incredible detail to be cut into metals. It is understandably one of the hottest tools of the trade, and Precise Tool & Manufacturing has fourteen of these five-axis machine centers, making it agile at complex jobs.
John S. recollects when Precise Tool & Manufacturing was approached by a customer who needed a machined from solid hog-out done but the original design division would not release the piece’s solid-machining file. Precise Tool & Manufacturing was provided with the casting-model file and asked to create fifty machined from solid replicas. Always up for a challenge, the engineering team started by reverse-engineering the casting-model file and turned it into a machined-from-solid file.
“It took probably over four-hundred hours of programming and prove-out to get a good part off the machine and it took two to three months between machining and out-sourcing to be able to make this order complete. We succeeded right out of the gate,” says John. The customer was very impressed with Precise Tool & Manufacturing’s unique ability to master this achievement with so little data and time to its disposal. Earlier this year, the feat subsequently led to a large add-on contract.
This great success has been accompanied by many others. The company once designed multi-million-dollar automated pick-and-place robotic lines which optimize task division amongst robots and cut down on production time for the automotive industry. It also machines for the space and defense industries. “We have made parts for local companies trying to create high energy out of a lower-energy input, and most recently we are involved in Department of Defense contracts,” says President, John S. Gizzi.
John S. graduated with a degree in mechanical engineering from the Rochester Institute of Technology in 1997. He then joined his father, learning the skills of running a business until he became president in 2007. “I brought my ability as a thought leader that resulted from growing up in the shop. On Saturdays, my father would bring me to the shop to help clean machines. I would talk with some of the machinists about what they were doing,” he says.
John S. slowly learned how to operate the machines and had the opportunity to attend trade shows all over the world. He has visited scores of machine tool factories in Japan, Korea, and Taiwan, been exposed to their technology and automation systems, and the best of which he has brought back and incorporated. Apart from what his father taught him, John S. also attributes much of his leadership skills to his history in the Eagle Scouts. Each new employee is welcomed on arrival by John personally. He also visits all his customers in person and is trusted with their toughest projects.
Approximately four years ago, Precise Tool’s training institute, PCMI, came about. Father and son decided to bring the thoroughness of old-time training and modern technology together in a school that would give young people the opportunity to earn while they learn and receive a taste of life in the trade. “This has been a revolutionary idea that is changing the face of the industry,” John S. states. The company started its training school in a building it owns adjacent to its machining facility and created a wonderful tool room with four lathes, four mills, a number of grinders, and other equipment. Its classroom was fitted with programming simulators, and its six-month program was born.
Half the day is spent in the classroom, and the other half is spent in the tool room where the basics of machining are taught. Students start right from scratch with manual machining, using a Bridgeport mill and lathe similar to what John P. Gizzi started with in the infancy of his machining career. Even though these tools are not in use anymore, students get a solid foundation in the fundamentals of machine movement and the processes that give shape to components during movement. This two-month period is followed by an introduction to programming used in computer numerical control (CNC). In addition, while in the program, students learn about cutting tools, blueprint reading, machine shop math, and CNC and G and M code programming.
“One of the fun things is that they get to see the product they worked on or made, and they know it’s going into space or go to our troops fighting abroad or that it’s going to be used in a power-generation unit creating electricity for a huge city. They get to see the worth of their work,” says John.
Once their studies are complete, they receive a certificate and join the company’s main machining factory, where they continue to learn until they can run the biggest machines in the shop. Not only does this secure a steady stream of top-notch labor, but customers also see it as a long-term plan that is preparing the company for the future.
John S. tells me that the company’s CNC machining students earn an hourly rate of $11 US while training. Once they get hired, they receive $12 per hour as a starting wage. This is followed by their enrolment in the New York State apprenticeship program, after which they are reviewed for a raise every six months by New York State law. By the time they complete the four-year program, some apprentices already earn $16 to $17 US when starting out in their career.
There is a warm, family atmosphere originally instilled by its founder, John P. Gizzi, and most of the company’s more than 110 employees have pretty long tenures, some for over twenty years. John S. states “We have a low turnover and my philosophy is to have an open-door policy of dealing with my employees, where anyone can come and talk to me about any issues from work to personal life. We’re always re-investing in the company and in our people.”
The company also supports several charities in its community, including the Paralympic Games and the Boy Scouts of America. Furthermore, it often speaks at schools to educate the future workforce about the industry and about how they can benefit from careers in the machine tooling industry.
“My dad always advises never to look back at your competitors,” says John S. For young start-ups, his advice is always to continue growing your company, to look for new ideas, and not stagnate. “If you stay stagnant, you’re not staying the same; you’re going backwards. You’re going to be overtaken by your competitors,” he says.
John S. sees the company moving forward through growth and its abilities to process and manufacture more complex parts using 5-axis technology and even parts made out of magnesium. He would also like to see an increase in five-axis machining on magnesium. “We have special fire-suppression units on our machines. In the future, I think, additive manufacturing like 3D (three-dimensional) printing is going to play a part in this industry,” he says. “That’ll be one of the things we look to revolutionize our industry in the future.” Precise Tool & Manufacturing is also determined to stimulate younger folks’ interest in getting back into manufacturing. “It’s going to strengthen our country again.” With its no-fear approach to evolution, we have absolutely no doubt that the company will do precisely that.