Making Something for 100 Years

Last summer, I got a tour of National Machinery. It’s the place where my dad has worked for 32 years.

And now I think it’s a place of wonder.

“My dad always told me that the only way to move the economy forward was to make real things,” he told me this past weekend. My dad has done this for 50 years.

“The National” has been a fixture in Tiffin, Ohio, for more than a century. It industrialized the U.S. and Europe (post-war) by forming metal into things vital to everything from airplanes and cars to cabinetry. The engineering required to accomplish this is something I’ll never comprehend.

Like most manufacturing firms today, National has struggled — but that hasn’t stopped the company from making real things. It’s a company of individuals toiling to make their business thrive — and reinvent the parts that need reinventing — by making more of the real things that the world needs. They prototype, research, discuss, sell, iterate, pilot, refine, and produce over and over and over again in a constant loop of engineering, design, marketing, and quality assurance.

This is how to make real things.

But I was most touched by my dad’s and his team’s loyalty to each other, their respect for the company, and the pride they so obviously took in their work.

It was unlike anything I’d ever seen in my life.

The people on his team showed me how their machines worked and the results they produced each day by managing that machine. They didn’t speak in generalities. They got right into showing me the nuts-and-bolts of their making process — whether on a physical machine or on 3D software they were using to design the next prototype.

All of them also explained how crucial my dad had been to their careers and to the company itself. They talked about how his FORMAX machine in the 80’s and Met-Max Innovations group today were high points in the company’s history. My dad turned red, then praised them for enabling him to do what he loves in the first place.

Seeing my dad and his obvious commitment to National and its people was moving. But man, seeing their commitment in return filled me with unparalleled pride.

My dad has built an entire career — and those of others — making real things with real people all working their asses off to protect and sustain their ability to keep making things.

It’s like surviving for creativity and craftsmanship. And it’s an inspiration to witness first-hand.