This month, Mazak Corporation celebrates a milestone anniversary of 30 years of operation at its Florence, Kentucky, campus. The company set up shop there in 1974.
The manufacturing facility it established then has expanded 12 times. In spite of 30 years of wishful thinking to the contrary by some, my sense is that the company is here to stay. One of the coolest things about my job as an editor for this magazine is the opportunity I’m afforded to establish and maintain relationships with many “top drawer” companies and individuals within them. Mazak is among a handful of machine tool OEMs I’ve been privileged to get to know well that rightfully deserve to occupy that top drawer.
Those companies seem to share a few traits in common. They are dedicated to the manufacture of machine tools, and they feature strong executive leadership and vision. In spite of temptations to reap quick advantage in ancillary activities, these companies manage to keep the corporate focus on investing and expanding their core competencies. For Mazak and a few others, this dedication has, over time, resulted in sufficient critical mass for the company to take successful advantage of globalization.
My relationship with Mazak goes back to the early 1980s—way before I came to Modern Machine Shop. At that time, I worked for Mazak’s advertising agency, which was a two-person operation. We helped develop promotional materials for the Florence-made machines and tried to help bridge the East/West cultural divide.
Owing to the vagaries of the metalworking industry, it seems that all too often, companies trying to celebrate a significant anniversary or milestone find themselves in the down side of the business cycle. In these cases, exuberance and celebration plans tend to become low-key because business is too poor to party.
But this year, the stars seem to have aligned for Mazak. In addition to announcing its 30th anniversary in Florence, the same release carries the happy news of record first-quarter sales. The company has more than doubled its production from a year ago and has nearly reached full capacity for the first time in its United States history.
While this is good news for Mazak, it’s also good news for the industry. Technology is a major driver for competitive advantage, and domestic investment in new machine tools—Mazak’s and everyone else’s—bodes well for a rebound in U.S. manufacturing.