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American Manufacturing in the House
By Rebecca Carnes, Design-2-Part Magazine
Standing in front of a "Bad Ass Tool Crib" sign in his California job shop and wearing his trademark "Fight for America" T-shirt, Titan Gilroy musters all of his raw power and stares down the camera filming his new cable TV show. The ex-boxer turned CNC machinist, job shop owner, and TV personality socks his audience with a one-two punch and the message is clear – manufacturing is cool and reshoring is even cooler.
Because the average viewer, and person on the street for that matter, has no idea what "reshoring" is, Titan flexes his pumped-up arms in front of the camera and reminds viewers that "American manufacturing built this great country," and that it's time to "stand up and fight for America and fight for our jobs."
On his MAVTV cable series, Titan American Built, Titan tells viewers that manufacturing technology is "through the roof" and that job shops across the country are proving that Americans manufacture parts better, faster, and cheaper than anywhere else in the world.
His goal is to educate viewers and Americans in general about what American job shops do and how being a good American means buying American-made products made with American-made parts.
"Few people understand manufacturing and the intricacies of a job shop and what goes into a complex project," said Gilroy during a recent phone interview. Titan's job shop in Rocklin, Calif., specializes in high-speed CNC machining for mainly aerospace. "And if you walk into a mall and grab anybody and ask them about reshoring and ask them about manufacturing on a high level, nobody knows."
But Titan is bringing manufacturing to the masses, shining a spotlight on the capabilities of American job shops and the importance of buying American-made products so jobs can return from overseas and the middle class can prosper. Each episode, which airs Sundays at 10 p.m. EST, focuses on a new project that Titan's job shop, Titan America Manufacturing, is tackling, such as intricate parts for submarines, rockets, electric cars, and military applications.
The recipe for making the reality show successful is to illustrate how inherently exciting manufacturing can be, without any false drama, Titan said. During a recently aired episode, a scuba gear company named Oceanic said they were fed up with their brass diving regulators and hired Titan's job shop to build diving regulators out of titanium. The company wanted ten prototype pieces in only one week and if all worked out, they would move ahead with hiring Titan for production of the parts. And not only was there a time crunch, but the complex parts needed to be perfect because otherwise water could leak into the breathing apparatus and put a diver's life at risk.
The camera shows Titan's manufacturing team standing at a large table with a CAD drawing of the part on a big flat screen TV above them. All of the team's members are wearing "Fight for America" hats as the drama unfolds.
Titan tells his team to get the tools ready, double check the thread gauges, and make a special fixture with some threads on it.
The mill supervisor points out to Titan that there's another job running on that machine for another week.
"We're going to jump in there real quick and make this happen,' Titan shoots back. "When this part is done, I want it meeting spec, perfectly, all the way around. Failure is not an option."
He puts his fist over the table and the workers follow his lead. Joining their fists together, they shout "Team Titan" and Titan ends the rally with a "Boom," an emphatic endnote he has become known for ending sentences with.
The show gets into enough of the manufacturing nitty-gritty to satisfy seasoned machinists, while also keeping the general viewer interested as the team works hard to make deadlines and meet complex part specifications on parts that go into critical applications, such as for the diving regulator, where there is no room for error or people could die.
But while Titan tells viewers about some of the intricacies of machining metals like titanium, Inconel, and aluminum, he frequently reboots the message that was the impetus behind the show – American manufacturing is stronger than ever, and buying U.S.A,-made products should be on every good American's agenda.
"We just finished running the titanium piece that we rubbed everything out at 250 inches per minute. This is way faster than we've ever done before. We're saving our customers huge money, solving their problems, and keeping the work right here in the great U.S.A.," Titan told viewers during a recent episode.
Titan's theory is that if people can watch a show that explores American manufacturing on a regular basis, they will become more interested in the manufacturing process and therefore be involved in a "public outcry" to bring jobs back to the U.S.
"The only way they (viewers) can have passion about something they have no idea about is to see it on a regular basis and that's the whole idea of the show – a non-threatening way to show you manufacturing every week," Titan said.
Everyone in the manufacturing world was talking about reshoring, but nobody was doing anything about it, Titan said of recent years, explaining that making manufacturing accessible to the masses will make them care more about where parts and products are made and about supporting their country's manufacturing base.
"I wasn't just passionate about running a machine shop; I wanted to make a difference, and one day, I just got this idea to do a show on American manufacturing on a high level," Titan said. "So, I thought, let's create a TV series where we pull back the curtains to this amazing industry."
Just as a manufacturing project goes through a set of stages before arriving at perfection, so does his show, he said, explaining that he is focusing more on showing manufacturing processes and real-life drama, not contrived drama. Now in its second season, Titan, along with the help of his show sponsors – Haas, Autodesk, IMCO, and GoEngineer, a division of Stratasys – takes viewers though an epic journey each show with a complex, tough project being presented to Titan's team and then ending with Titan making a triumphant delivery of the part – usually in person. This way, viewers become more aware the importance of a part as a component of an end-use product. When Titan personally delivered a solid aluminum gear box for an electric vehicle eight hours north of his facility, he was invited to drive the car on a local roadway for the cameras.
"It Saved My Life"
Titan says he owes a lot to manufacturing, especially since his first job as a CNC machinist followed years of struggling as a troubled youth, and as an ex-champion boxer who wound up in prison because of a fist fight.
Instead of fighting in a destructive way, Titan made a decision after his second prison term to harness his creativity – he is also an oil painter – and strength into something constructive and positive.
Searching in a San Jose newspaper, Titan found a job at Zinola Manufacturing, where he ran a CNC machine with zero experience for nine dollars an hour. Six months after starting, Titan was promoted to shop foreman and then ten years later, he opened his own job shop, Titan America Manufacturing, in 2005.
Titan set out to tackle complex parts for the aerospace, military, and medical industries. His company prospered, but then hit a roadblock like all manufacturers when the economy collapsed in 2008.
Titan said he had to lay off 40 employees and just barely saved his company. Having faced many struggles in life, Titan forged ahead and upgraded his equipment and technology when many around him were scrapping their machines.
Today Titan is still fighting, but he is fighting for America. He continuously visits troubled youths in prisons and in school programs in order to spread the word about advanced manufacturing and working towards a positive goal in life. Recently, along with the help of GoEngineer, he helped teach a group of teenagers, who struggled with gang violence, how to design in 3D and use 3D printing machines.
"I am an ex-fighter who was in prison and was homeless and who has tattoos, and yet I'm running some of the most sophisticated equipment on Earth, and that's not something that you see every day," Titan said. "You have all these people who struggle in life, and I represent those people and so I represent hope."
Titan has a soft spot for troubled kids, having been born into a broken home filled with violence, alcoholism, and rage. Titan said a lot of kids he sees in trouble are reflections of their surroundings – it's the way they grew up and they think that's what life is all about. Titan's mother fled with Titan and his sister in tow to Hawaii, and that's where Titan grew up, sometimes living on the streets with his mom and sister. He got into many fights in school and got kicked out of the entire school district in Hawaii. A neighbor took notice and began grooming him to become a boxer. Titan climbed the amateur boxing ranks and was noticed by Top Rank Boxing. But before his professional boxing career even began, he wound up with a 16-year federal prison sentence, even serving six months in solitary confinement.
Titan said when he was young he had no hope, nobody pushing him, and he didn't understand what possibilities there were in the world.
"So it's important for me to reach these kids and give them hope and show them that there's a whole world out there, and to open their eyes and see past their circumstances," Titan said. "I want them to leave their mark on the world and become the best they can be."
There is a similar parallel with the United States and American manufacturing, he said. We have gotten so far away from manufacturing at home –the foundation of this country. So much of what the American picks up in stores nowadays says 'Made in China' and "we need to understand that we can only allow that to happen for so long before our entire country starts to erode."
And American job shops need to step up with technology and invest in advanced manufacturing if the U.S. is to reshore jobs back. Titan is making big strides with machining parts fast and with significant cost savings to his customers. He is currently running titanium at 250 inches a minute and aluminum at 800 inches a minute, when the norm is about 100-120 inches per minute. Titan is also making forays into 3D printing with metals, including titanium.
Just as manufacturing saved Titan, Titan wants to save manufacturing and restore the United States as the undisputed champions of manufacturing. During the introduction to his show, Titan reminds viewers that "American manufacturing built this great country and that great men built this country."
He also reminds viewers that he is not an actor.
"My birth name is Titan," he says in into the camera. "I am an American and this is American Built."
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