The Manufacturing Executive
The Manufacturing Executive

Episode 129 · 1 week ago

Treasure Hunting for Used Machinery


Our guest today thinks of himself as a treasure hunter not for gold and silver but for used machinery parts, and in this episode discusses how one man’s trash can be another’s treasure.  

Listen in as Noah Graff, Vice President of Graff-Pinkert & Co. talks about: 

  • New trends and insights coming from the precision machining space
  • What is treasure hunting
  • How supply chain challenges have affected large equipment manufacturing 
  • What's going on in the world of machine parts

Noah is also the host of the Swarfcast podcast. Check it out at 

Often the best things to do to find equipment is to go into people's shops, and you often go in looking for one thing, and then you don't make a deal on that, and then you see something in the corner and it's not running, and you go what about that? And they're like, oh, you're interested in that, and you're like, well maybe. And somebody's trash is another man's treasure. Welcome to the Manufacturing Executive Podcast, where we explore the strategies and experiences that are driving mid size manufacturers forward. Here you'll discover new insights from passionate manufacturing leaders who have compelling stories to share about their successes and struggles, and you'll learn from B two B sales and marketing experts about how to apply actionable business development strategies inside your business. Let's get into the show, m H. Welcome to another episode of the Manufacturing Executive Podcast. I'm Joe Sullivan, your host and a co founder of the industrial marketing agency Guerrilla seventy six, where we help B two B manufacturers grow through revenue focused marketing programs, from Clorox wipes to baby formula to semiconductor chips. Simply buying the things we need as consumers or as business buyers has been difficult, if not impossible, over the past few years, and for those of you responsible for buying machinery in your manufacturing operations, it's likely you've experienced similar challenges. My guest today thinks of himself as a treasure hunter, not for gold or silver, but for used machinery, and he's here to tell you how the used machinery business has changed during a time when buying new isn't always an option. Let me introduce him. Noah Graph is a podcaster, blogger, and manager at Today's machining World. He helps professionals and precision machining succeed in their careers. He's also the host of the swarf Cast podcast. Twelve years ago, Noah joined Graph, Pinkert and Company, his family's used machinery business, or as he prefers to call it, treasure hunting business, founded by Noah's grandfather eighty years ago. At Graff Pinkert, Noah serves as vice president and machinery dealer, a role that often leads him on treasure hunts all around the world. A film major in college, Noah has done various side projects over the years including documentaries and a reality show. Noah lives in the Chicago area with his wife, Stephanie and baby boy Abe. Noah, welcome to the show. Thank you, and what a wonderful way of summing up my professional life. Hey man, that's it's it's I like to have a little personal touch in there and set the context for our listeners. Asked me, asked me about whatever whatever you are, and we're gonna do it. We're actually definitely a dive into the treasure hunting element too, because most people don't really get to put that in their job titles. So it's kind of cool. No, it was. It's great talking again. I was a guest on your podcast, Swarve Cast. I don't know, a year or so ago, something like that. That's about the time we first met, and I remember you were like very inquisitive when you were setting doing a pre call with me, like, who is this this marketing guy? I got to make sure this guy actually knows what he's he's talking about. And yeah, yeah, it's it's funny because like I would be doing the same thing if if I were you. But as our listeners know, I've been with manufacturers. What's that I said, how did I find out about you? I'm trying. I don't think. I don't know. It's it's a mystery. It could have been linked in. It could have been maybe I was just scrolling through different podcasts about manufacturing and it found you that that could have been Yeah, quite likely. Yeah, but well, anyway, here we are, and I'm I'm excited to have put the spotlight on you this time around. So I think you're you're in a very interesting corner of the manufacturing machinery business, and especially at this moment in time. I think there's some interesting things going on at what you're doing exceptionally relevant, So very curious to...

...this conversation. Yeah, that's let's rock and roll. It's nice to be on the other end that Yeah, yeah, it's it's I think it's I've found it's a little easier to be on the receiving end of a podcast because you're just talking about the stuff you talk about all the time, versus having to really prep a good interview. That's It's can be challenging sometimes, so I don't know the preparation. That's true, and I try to prep. But that said, I'm not gonna lie. I sometimes edit. There's nothing wrong with that. A lot of podcasters don't edit, or they say they don't. I always have that in my mind. Generally, I'm only editing when i'm stumbling fair enough, Well, what we'll see, how we'll see how you do? You don't great at the end of the episode. Awesome, So well, let's let's go here. First, we're talking a little bit about you know, we're both podcasters here. One thing that's undeniable to me as a manufacturing sector podcast host is that I learned so much from talking to people in this space week after week after week. This is you're gonna be episode seven, So you know this. My show has been running for I don't know, coming up on two and a half years. Here, I guess, and I'm just I'm better at what I do. I understand my audience better by hearing other people talk rather than talking at them. That's been probably my favorite part about being a podcast host, in addition to just meeting very interesting people who have are deep experts in what they do. Your podcast, swarve cast is more niched down than mine, like you're in precision machining, which I think is it's for people in precision machining, but obviously I talked to people like you. Yeah, I mean it's not it's it would be hard to do every single thing with only precision machining people. It's just that that's who I sell machines to general. So that and Today's Machine World, which has been around, that's our blog. Used to be a print magazine that's been around for twenty years, and that was directed at precision machining like turn parts, screw machine parts. So yeah, we're a niche, but I mean it's it's relatively similar. I mean, we have a lot of same guests and sure, sure, yeah, I know that that makes sense. But I mean you've got to defined audience and you're creating content for them, and you talk to a lot of people who influence you are a part of that space or influence that space, And so I'm just curious out of the gate here for you to tell us what are some of the trends and insights you're seeing from talking to so many people in that space. What's going on in in in that in your world. Sure, business for our clientele seems to be really, really good. It's been our best year at Graft Pinker and the business is so interesting because machines that for instance, there's a machine called a Davenport. It's a screw machine. It's it is one of the old list multi spindle screw machines. You know, multi spindle screw machines. There, it's like they're for real high volume. It's like having five lades or six lades at a time. So this machine, Davenport, it is known by some people as the machine that won World War Two because the Germans they only had like single spindle lades and this had five spindles. And it's almost the same design as it was back then. But it's just really great for spitting out parts. And we had a Davenport that sat in our warehouse for two years and this year we've probably sold eighty of them. It's just it's it's really interesting how just the mechanical screw machines that people may have labeled as tomorrow at ease, there's just a huge demand. And...

...that's the machine we've made probably made the most money on this year. Because the C and C machines, the really nice stuff, the late model stuff, all the dealers are looking for it. Uh, And so that's one thing this year it's really really hard to find inventory is if people have something decent, they don't want to get rid of it. In the last few months, it's as everybody can feel it with the raised interest rates and inflation and war and everybody's feeling a little uneasy. But you've probably noticed in our world, people are still making parts. The manufacturers are still going they're they're not really the work isn't going away. If anything, there still getting more work. But it kind of seems like it's kind of like when you're looking at a stock and some stocks are like bye bye bye, some are sell and some are like we're we're holding it's you know, this is good, but we're not going to back up the truck. And when that's the case, I think that's when it's the toughest for machinery business because at least when lots of people are wanting stuff, somebody's getting rid of something often. But it's a very tight market. But I talked to people every day making medical parts, aerospace parts, automotive parts, and nobody wants to get rid of their machines because they say they have plenty of work. I talked to new machinery dealers all the time, Like I was talking to a guy sell Citizen Swiss machines. You know, they're like, they're probably the most popular, no, I mean, it depends who you ask, but they're one of the most popular machines, and they have backlogs for years just the I mean, they don't have any equipment to sell, which is there. That's where used machinery comes into play too, Like people sometimes will pay. It's kind of like cars in a way. You know, people will pay a lot for used cars right now because they can't get the new cars. I just bought a new car this week, and I think that the market is a little looser than people have been saying. I don't know, I didn't think it was. They threatened me, like we only have one of these on the lot. Yeah, But so that's that's what we're feeling. Everybody's pretty upbeat. People are pretty in touch with politics and everything, and so they're on watch. But at the same time, people still need all this stuff and people aren't you know, they need people. They tell me, if I only had another person to run this machine, I would buy this machine. Some of the machines we sell. It's kind of interesting because you know, we sell mechanical a lot of the machines we sell our mechanical screw machines. And in a mechanical screw machine, like if it's from the eighties or nineties, it's often considered young. It's like if it was made after I was born in it's like a pretty modern mechanical screw machine. And so you know, that's that's just an interesting niche. We're sort of during between that and the really modern ones. Sometimes the older ones people have the work for them and they just can't find somebody that wants to get into mechanical, dirty loyally screw machines because the kids want to push buttons. They don't want to... in a factory that's super loud and kind of dirty ish and has the reputation for that. I have a guy in San Antonio, Bill Cox, so I've interviewed a couple of times, and he has a pretty involved apprentice program at his in his shop, and he actually pays more for people who want to learn the mechanical screw machines than the people that want to learn the sea and see screw machines, because I mean it's and maybe in some respects as a higher skill level. And also it's just a it's a different skill level, and just to find young people that want to get dirty and you know, do things the old way is harder. So you know, I know you talk about skills gap and everybody's talking about that. That's just another wrinkle in it. So that's a little bit what I'm hearing that. I there's there's all kinds of other stuff, but mainly positives, and it's really encouraging. Well, that's great to hear. I mean, you're coming at this from a different angle than a lot of people I talked to, but I'm hearing a lot of the same. General pulse on things is business is strong, but you know, labor stuff to find we can't get, whether it's the parts we need or the machines we need. So yeah, I guess it's got you in a in a good position at this moment in time and in your own business at least if we can find them, we can find them. We keep saying, I mean, we've you know, we have a lot of cash, and we keep saying, you know, we're looking for inventory, we're looking for treasure, and of course you don't want to buy crap. Just to have something. Okay, let's take a quick break here. I want to let a couple of our strategists at GRIL the seventies tell you about something pretty cool that we're doing right now for marketing folks in the manufacturing sector. Peyton and Mary taking a way. Yes, So, I'm Peyton Warrant and I'm Mary Kio. Twice a month we host a live event called Industrial Marketing Live Right now. We have a group of fifty plus industrial marketers from a variety of manufacturing organizations. We meet up digitally to learn, ask questions, network and get smarter. Every session has a designated topic, and one of our team members at Guerrilla seventy six opens up by teaching for the first half hour or so. Topics have included how to get better at a manufacturing webinar, getting started with paid social on LinkedIn, how to optimize your website for conversions, creating amazing video content, and so much more. After we break it down, we open it up to Q and A so we can help you apply all of this in your own businesses. This is pure value, no cost, no strings attached, no product or service pitches, just so on, unadulterated learning experience. Oh and on top of these live sessions, we've also opened up a Slack channel where our attendees bounce ideas off each other and learned together all week long between sessions. We're building a true community of manufacturing marketing professionals here. So if you or someone at your company has the word marketing in his or her job title, please consider telling them about it. They can visit Industrial Marketing live dot com to register. We love to see you there. Talk about the treasure hunting inside of your business. I like the way you described that. I think that's what that's really interesting. Thank you. Well, you know, the treasure hunting it, I'll confess I didn't come up with it. I was seeing an analyst for a bit and I was, you know, I was going in the business, and uh, you know, you can look at things different ways. You can look at it. Is I go and find old...

...we see dirty screw machines, and then maybe we fixed them a little bit or rebuild them, and then I sell it to other people for more money. Or I just find machines that are undervalued. But then, you know, you can look at things different ways. You can romanticize things, you can look at it in a more interesting positive way. And as you said, I'm a filmmaker. Filmmaking I think also has some treasure, just trying to solve problems and figure out different things. At the time, I was seeing and I was making a documentary about all the Chicago locations in Ferris Bueller's Day Off and in the movie. For the documentary, I go to like every location and then I try to recapture the experience of the movie. We go two find people's backyards where he was running through, or go find a house where you know where he takes the car from. And it was the same kind of thing, like trying to find treasure, trying to find something interesting and trying to find do do something that other people aren't doing, and it makes it it makes it cool. I call other dealers on the phone and I say, hey, do you have any treasure lately? You know, what sort of treasure are you looking for? And also the treasure is just it's it's the stuff that people don't know. It's what it's worth. And my colleague Rex, I've learned a lot from him, and one thing he said was the dirty machines are the ones who make the most money from when you go Often the best things to do to find equipment is to go into people's shops and you often go in looking for one thing and then you don't make a deal on that, and then you see something in the corner and it's not running, and you go what about that? And they're like, oh, you're interested in that, and you're like, well maybe. And somebody's trash is another man's treasure as so, like the thing I've been saying, as far as like the dirty machines, you're you're familiar with the term sexy ugly. Somebody I got it from I don't know, a movie or TV show. You look at Mick Jagger, right, he's he's not a good looking guy, he's you know, he's but some people would call him sexy ugly. So often the equipment to make the most money on is sexy ugly because the really sexy sexy stuff everybody knows it towards something. Nobody wants to give you a good price, so you're not gonna like be able to buy it and sell it for more money than you buy it for him because it's just obvious. So that's that's treasure hunting in a nutshell. Any thing we like to talk about is serendipity. Interviewed a guy who's an expert who wrote a book about SERENDIPITYA. I think it's called the serendipity mindset. You know, it's it's about being in the right place at the right time, making your luck. You know, you're never gonna find these machines unless you're going around looking. You know, you're never gonna you're never gonna find anything interesting unless you put some blurb on the web saying, hey, I'm looking for you know, a like Oh machine or a willham In machine, just something random, you know. And the other day I was looking for a Star machine, Star Swiss machine, and this dealer who I had never met before, he just that happened to be offered one, and so he...

...emails me and wants to work together because he it was coincidence. But this is the way I think we're always looking for for serendipity. It's like we'll call somebody because they offered somebody. For instance, somebody was asking for this weird machine and it was at Tornos Sigma, this machine that hasn't been made in ten years. And then I thought to myself. There was a guy who sent me an email about that machine like six months ago. So I email him and I'm like, do you have this? And he's like, no, I don't have this, but I have this whole like shop of machines I want to get rid of. I want to get rid of like eight machines, and like most of them were like really interesting treasure. So that serendipity, I mean, yeah, interesting stories or place is you've visited on the treasure? Sure, sure, I got all kinds of interesting stories. Give me one, give me one good one. Well, they had this Spanish company. We do a lot of business around the world. We had this Spanish company that was looking for this really obscure screw machine. It was like a ship multi spindle figured like a chucker, and they only made this machine in the seventies or eighties, and there's just so few. And I was looking online and I saw this this ad from this tiny dealer in Slovenia, and so I meet this and meet my Spanish customer and we drive the Slovenia and the machine was literally in a barn, like it was a wall. The machines but on one side of the wall and then you can hear Kyle's moving and the other side. We'll go to Brazil or Korea, Japan, just all over, and then we'll take one and sell it to some other country. Back a long time ago, before I was in the business, there was a machine, a multi spindles scream machine called the comb or Konomatic, and the government had like built this arsenal of machines just in case we were in the next war, like after kore or after Vietnam, and they they put all these machines like in hiding in these caves in Kansas City. And then like in the nineties, the government was finally like, all right, let's get rid of these. And so I guess graft Pinker was going in and just buying them like for very little money and just selling them really fast because they were cheering. But you know, so you get into like interesting stuff like that. That's that's really cool. Well, no, we don't have to tell our listeners about supply chain challenges that have obviously plagued the manufacturing sector and beyond over the last few years. But curious how it's affected large equipment manufacturing. I mean, I think you've kind of hinted at that earlier but just kind of curious is that how different it's been the last few years and how that's affected this world of viewsed equipment. So are you kind of hinting at like the whole i'm shoring being work back that kind of thing. I'm just curious where what you're seeing from from your end. I you know, obviously it's been tough to build a lot of things when I mean, jeez, I know people who have been trying to build homes over the last few years, and the materials are up and nobody knows where you know, some you know, or whether it's a manufacturer with some little part that they don't know, if it's sitting on a boat in China or...

...outside of San Francisco or whatever. Right, So what's happened is that, Yeah, people haven't been able to rely on China in particular for parts because the pandemic, or because of supply chain, because of long beach, because the ports all messed up, containers are so expensive work A lot of times it was you know, we we interviewed a guy who he was related a lot to unshoring bringing work back, and for a long time people it was sort of anecdotal, like it really wasn't any data to show that it actually was happening. But I think there is now. Um you're seeing, you're seeing we're coming back and or just people quoting jobs for parts and rather than quoting parts for rather than them going to China to quote those par it's there just coming to a local manufacturer to do it because in the end of the price is the same or better here because they're not gonna have as many rejects, they're not gonna have trouble getting the parts over here, you know. And you all you're also seeing you're familiar with the term near shoring, so some of the stuff is going back to Mexico or Canada, but it's it's still nearby. It's still sort of domestic. So you're seeing that as well. And it's still like the supply chain of machine tools, it's hard to I mean that's partly just from demand too. It's hard to get enough of them metals. That's that's hard people. I think that's getting a little easier, but everybody was really having trouble getting the right materials they needed. Part of it may have come from tariffs from you must not be named um, and so that's another issue. Fair enough, How what's the machinery market? How does it look different now in say, North America versus South America, Europe, Asia, other places? Do you see it? I mean you kind of travel the world and see it across different geogra geographical regions. Just curious. Yeah, no, that's a perfect question. I was talking to my friend Julie in Germany two hours ago. He's got a machine we're looking at, and I said, how was I was over there and in Germany and he's like, well, it's kind of tough right now. We've got the energy crisis. Said at the beginning of the year it was diesel, diesel scandal. Trying to think there was something else too there. They're having some difficulty. It depends on the country. Was talking to a guy in England earlier in the week trying to buy some machines. Didn't work. Unfortunately. The currency has been great for US. Um. We hadn't bought anything yet from Europe, but we used to buy some from Europe all the time, and then the euro went too high and then it became pretty cross cost prohibitive. It could be a nice situation from US if things are slowing down there. That said, I mean, we sold some machines to Europe recently to a guy in France, and I think it depends on the country. I've heard Italy is slowing a little bit. I've heard I think Germany is still probably going pretty strong. South America. I've got a guy I work with from Brazil and he he exports all our machines to Brazil and he seems to have a lot of business in Brazil and Mexico. Um In. I'm trying to buy some machines in Japan right now, and their currency is really...

...low. We're trying to feel it out. He says that used machinery business has been good over there. I don't know who who knows. People say all kinds of things, but yeah, I think probably here is one of the best places to be making parts. But there's always people who need parts. It's just a matter of a little bit of supplying demand. There's you're always going to need parts. M No. I really appreciate you doing this today. It was it was an awesome conversation, and I just want to give you a chance to tell our audience how they can get in touch with you and where they can learn more about Today's Machining World and Swarfcast and graft Pinker and all the awesome stuff you're doing. Oh, thank you. I really appreciate that. First of all, if you want to listen to our podcasts in which we talk about many of the same things Joe talks about and then but gives a different spin, a little bit different spin, a little bit of niche, and just our our style. It's it's called swarf Cast stands for like the chips and oil and crud and inside the Delia machine, just in case you wondered that. And then we have a blog and a website. It's more than just a blog. It's called Today's Machining World and that's where swarf came from. So you can find it at Today's Machining World dot com or swarf cast dot com. And if you're looking for a used machine tool, um, particularly something screw machines, Swiss, maybe even nilling machines or whatever, go to graph pinker dot com. G R A F F is in Frank b I n K e RT dot com and you just ask for me. And I really again, I really appreciate this opportunity. Joe It's fun to be interviewed and look forward to you know, can tinuing our relationship beautiful? Well appreciate it as well. Now, thanks for doing this and as for the rest of you, I hope to catch you on the next episode of The Manufacturing Executive. You've been listening to The Manufacturing Executive podcast. To ensure that you never missed an episode, Subscribe to the show in your favorite podcast player. If you'd like to learn more about industrial marketing and sales strategy, you'll find an ever expanding collection of articles, videos, guides, and tools specifically for B two B manufacturers at Guerrilla seventy si dot com, slash learn. Thank you so much for listening. Until next time.

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