My Take on Titan

The TV program about a CNC machining job shop is more realistic than the typical reality show.


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Since I don’t have cable TV, I have been missing out on a show that practically everyone reading this is liable to be interested in checking out. Titan: American Built is a reality show on MAVTV about a northern California CNC machining job shop founded and led by Titan Gilroy. Recently, another shop owner connected me with Mr. Gilroy, who shared an episode with me that I enjoyed watching.

Here are some of my thoughts about the show:

  • Mr. Gilroy (I’ll call him Titan hereafter) is more than what a quick sample of the show’s promotional materials might portray him to be. His trademark expression is the hard, stern game face. But part of the fun of the show is watching for the times when his humor, sensitivity or gentleness come through. He has the strong personality needed to be the central figure in the show, but in some of the impassioned speeches he gives about American manufacturing, he is also seen to be an able communicator who knows what he wants to say.
  • The producers of the show often choose to show manufacturing technology without any explanation. This is an interesting choice. I am so familiar with the work and technology of CNC machining that I can follow everything that happens on the show. But when I watch a scene such as the one in which Titan is explaining G-code programming to his son (also Titan), I wonder what the uninitiated viewer is seeing in this, and how much the viewer is getting. (Maybe a great deal.)
  • Titan is also speaking to other shop owners with his show. He knows they’re watching. In his comments about five-axis machining, software, and the use of capable cutting tools, he has a message for other owners: You’ve got to invest in technology.
  • The machining footage in this show is beautiful. One of my favorite moments is where Titan explains why it is beautiful. That is, he explains to the viewer that he is not using coolant in the milling of an aluminum part specifically for the sake of the footage, which is a choice he could not get away with if he was milling a different metal such as titanium. Every TV reality show is unreal to a certain extent, but in this case Titan took care to note the unreality, and to describe how authentic machining might look different.
  • Though there was added dramatic flourish, the episode I saw portrayed a realistic job shop situation that really is dramatic. That is, a customer called with a sudden order, needing a complex, critical, tight-tolerance part in a short period of time. When the part was machined, Titan got in his truck to hand-deliver it. Cinematically, this was done to shift the scene to where the customer would use and install the part. However, how many job shop owners haven’t also gotten in their trucks to make precisely this kind of hand delivery to a waiting customer?
  • The part in question was a prototype. I’d like to see an episode about production in the U.S. Can this challenge be realistically dramatized? I bet it can! When the challenge is to machine, say, 2,000 pieces of the same part, or 300 per month over the course of a year, then how does a manufacturer do this in the most efficient way, with the least cost for labor, material, cycle time and tooling? Manufacturing professionals do not just wield skill and technology, they also fight against cost. By applying the same respect for the audience that shows G-code programming without explanation, could the show portray the kind of thinking that goes into successfully winning and keeping a production job?

Learn more: titanamericanbuilt.com. (PS. A recent episode includes a visit to Cardinal Manufacturing. That episode is titled "Unveiling the Future," and the schedule here says it will be rebroadcast on April 11.)

(Follow up: After this post appeared, I published this much longer article about Titan Gilroy which appeared in the print magazine.)