It's Not Them. It's Us

It was a Friday evening. I was driving home from the Greater Cincinnati airport, listening to the radio, when I heard the news that Cincinnati Milacron sold the machine tool group.

Columns From: 10/1/1998 Modern Machine Shop, ,

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Chris Koepfer

It was a Friday evening. I was driving home from the Greater Cincinnati airport, listening to the radio, when I heard the news that Cincinnati Milacron sold the machine tool group. You could have knocked me over with a feather. Lucky I didn't wreck the car. I immediately questioned myself, why such reaction? I've been away from the Mill for almost seven years. But in my heart I think I know why.

The Mill I spent my early career with was literally a family. It was third generation family owned and operated. In my immediate family, my wife's side, her grandfather started there in 1917. Her dad took early retirement after 46 years. The Mill family, like any, took care of its own. Traditions were passed from old timer to new kid. We had an expression, "there's the right way and the Mill way." However we all knew they were the same things. Mess with a tradition and there were relatives, too numerous to count, ready to set you straight. That's probably why it worked so well for so long.

"Family" is a collective noun. It refers to a group as one. What it doesn't account for are the individual people whose aggregate make up the group. It was the effect on those individuals that flashed in my mind when I heard about the sale to Unova.

A nice benefit of my job at this magazine is that I've been able to keep in touch with many of my former co-workers at Milacron err, Cincinnati Machine. And in my travels, I've come across many Mill alumni in a variety of metalworking companies. To a person, I've never heard any one of them slam the Mill itself. Sure some have gripes with individuals but none, myself included, ever regretted their time with the company.

I'm continuously amazed by the incredible reputation and popularity the Mill enjoys. It's thought of by many as a paragon of American builders. Maybe that's right, but when I was there we didn't feel that way. Quite un-paragon-like, we all ran fast as possible to keep up with the work. I remember every quarter and the rush to ship machines so they could be booked. I knew guys who spent countless hours tracing problems so they wouldn't reoccur. Sounds like a typical shop doesn't it?

And that's really the point. The Mill is, after all, not a paragon nor is it a collective noun. It is simply a motivated group of individuals who are caretakers of a rich machine tool tradition, but who are basically just trying to get the job done right while satisfying their customers. It's them. It's us. It's metalworking. Unova is lucky to get them.

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