I met a pretty remarkable guy the other day at Global Precision, a mold shop down in Davie, Florida. He's Rick Zicarelli, the CNC programming manager there.
Before coming to Global, Rick had worked in an aerospace shop. He was enchanted with the complicated and precision work he was doing there, making parts for everything from jet fighters to the space shuttle. But when that work started to dry up, he went looking for a more consistent livelihood, and thus hooked up with a group of highly skilled tool makers.
Rick spent his time on the floor. He knows how to set up and run a machine, in fact, spent years doing just that. But he also had the desire to do more with his life. So he went to night school to learn to program. And when the company decided to bring the 3D programming in house, he was ready to step up to the challenge. Today, he manages a department of 12 people.
Rick is enormously proud of what he does, even though it's just about impossible to explain to people outside the trade. While the move out of aerospace may at first have seemed a compromise, he quickly came to realize how challenging tool making could be. Maybe the end product isn't quite as glamorous--a shampoo bottle is always going to pale in comparison to an F-15. But programming the cavity to make that first snap-top cap was just about the toughest job he ever tackled. He finally got it though. Now he does them all the time.
At Global, they don't use trendy management terms like "empowerment" or "work teams." They don't have to. The people there know they have to work together -- how else could it be? They also know that the guy up in the programming department knows how to cut, and understands what the other departments need from him to do their work well. No one's commitment to the common cause is ever in question. And Rick doesn't even much think about the 12-hour days that have become so routine--whatever it takes to get the job done.
Is Rick Zicarelli special? You bet. But what really amazes me is that you can walk into tool shops all over this country and find more special people just like him. Collectively, they are a national treasure that is indeed difficult to explain to people who don't get what tool making is all about, and needless to say to those that do.