We were kicking around some ideas here about whether or not we should do anything special for the December issue, and it was looking like the answer was no. After all, Modern Machine Shop is really about how shops can apply technology, not how they celebrate the holidays.
But times of celebration are also times of reflection, and in the Christmas holidays in particular, a time of hope. Surely there was something that would fit the tradition as well as that of our magazine. Then Chris Koepfer came up with the idea: "Why don't we ask some shops what they want for Christmas?" That is, why not check back with some very forward thinking shops we've visited in the last several years and ask their principals what, in today's business climate, would most help their businesses reach the next level of achievement?
And so we did. Their nine stories can be found in our "A Christmas Wish List" article.
It was, we all agree, an exhilarating experience. For one thing, these guys all seriously have their stuff together, and it's just plain fun to talk to people so accomplished in their work. Perhaps more significant, we were taken back at how much these shops had changed since we'd last spoken.
This really shouldn't have come as a surprise. When you see people at the top of their game--which is why we were in these shops to begin with--you tend to remember them as emblems of the very successful mode they were in at that moment. But while those snapshots are great examples to learn by, they seldom deeply speak to the fluid nature of competitiveness in the face of constantly changing technical and market conditions.
That none of these shops looked precisely like their former selves of even a year or so ago speaks volumes, I suspect, of how they became such shining examples to begin with. They are constantly evolving, investing, taking advantage of the best technology of the day, but wary too of the market twists that always seem to surprise lesser players.
My Christmas wish, therefore, is that all of us associated with the metalworking industry do more to emulate this singularly instructive model. May we aim at the highest benchmarks of the day, and gladly discard them when tomorrow brings a new challenge.