Life is short, break the rules. Forgive quickly, kiss slowly. Love truly, laugh uncontrollably and never regret anything that makes you smile. - Samuel Longhorne Clemens (Mark Twain)

Thursday, June 16, 2016

The Family Business - The Shop

I'm going to stray from gaming for a post and talk about the family business. While I don't work for the family business (we have an employee for that!), I am involved in the decision making. Recently we have been having to run overtime to meet demand. Usually this kind of thing only runs a month or two so we suck it up and work the overtime. This year the demand has increased and stayed steady at those levels since the beginning of the year. Since the work demand was starting to have an impact on our only employee it was apparent that we needed to increase our production capacity and that meant biting the bullet and building two additional machines.

In the shop we straighten fine, stainless steel wire and cut it to length and ship it out to a manufacturer that uses it as their raw stock to create different types of medical guide wires. If you have had the pleasure of dealing with a catheter or even worse an angioplasty odds are good that the wire came out of our shop. This business was purchased by my parents and originally came equipped with 10 machines all hand built by the original owner using whatever materials were at hand when he had to expand his production capacity. You can see the progression as each succeeding machine became more efficient and I can even tell when different machines came online because of the materials and frame design. The basic principle though is that two electric motors spin a series guides that the wire is threaded through to straighten it out. Since the wire comes wrapped on spools it has to be straightened to be usable (but not over stressed either). As the wire advances through the machine it will trip an electronic eye that activates the cutter and cuts the wire to the proper length as specified by the client.  

To add two more machines to the line we had to make some changes and move the cutting operations to a garage in the "Barn" (its shaped like a barn and it has a barn loft but the main floor has a garage and a finished space that we use for meetings and parties, although not so much since my dad passed away last year). Now the cutting of the PVC pipe and cardboard tubes used for shipping takes place in the garage and we can avoid making a mess in the main shop.

The new machines will bring the total up to 15 and these are basically identical as my dad had plans drawn up so that we could add capacity relatively easily. Unfortunately the machines hadn't been delivered when I was there so there are just a couple of empty work areas just waiting for them to show up.

Here are the ten original machines lined up on the left side of the shop. Machine #10, all the way at the back of the picture is dedicated to just cutting wire 110" long, this is the guide wire that will likely be used when they want to work on your heart without opening up your chest cavity!

The five new machines are on the right side along with the shipping area and business area. The bays for the two new machines are closest to the camera. Storage of shipping containers was in the racks above these machines. We will be storing those containers in the barn now.

Here is one of the old machines doing its thing. Innovations we made were changing the cutter and adding electronics that will shut down the machine if it doesn't see wire at the electronic eye after a certain period of time. Each machine has its own little quirks. Mostly around what wire sizes they like to run.

A new machine, my dad's design. These are more efficient than the older machines and all five (hopefully, the first three do) run exactly alike. They are easier to setup and keep running. The tray on the right side is were freshly cut wire sits until there is enough to work with. On the table on the left you can see finished wire laid out. We ship by weight and we know how many pieces of wire, of a given size, will make up a pound of wire (its a lot by the way). That way we can measure rather than weigh it, in this example 15 3/4" , measured across, makes up a 1/4# of wire. We usually aim to ship about 1000# (or a ton) of wire each month.


  1. What an interesting little business.

    Looks like you have a ready source of wire spears/pikes/banner poles to me...

    1. I do indeed! In particular whip aerials for vehicles are a breeze and very strong. We don't do much with wire that is thick enough for spears, pikes and banner poles though. :-(