work the CNC machine, and the grateful Gilroy absorbed
every lesson. He made head programmer in six months.
“I didn’t have people judging me,” Gilroy says. “I was
judged based on the parts that I would complete — their
quality and efficiency.”
He says his acumen for math and art gave him the
confidence to not just repeat processes, but improve
them. “I instantly started pushing things past peak, max
level,” he says. “I played with levels, pushed them faster
and faster and the bit wouldn’t break.”
He was cutting cycle times, making his boss money
and in a few years became head foreman of the shop.
Ten years later, in 2005, he opened his own shop and
within three years the business was earning $1 million
a month and he had 55 employees. They were running
20 Haas machines and pushing them to their limits,
making parts three to five times faster than customers’
This time Gilroy was the one to take a hard hit. The
economy crashed. In 2009, the business lost 80% of
its work and Gilroy laid of 72% of his staff. The reality of
outsourcing, and how it nearly took everything he worked
so hard for, everything he had to overcome, also gave
him a new purpose.
“I’m 100% dedicated to making a difference and see
this trade lift up and see people compete and see all
that work come back,” Gilroy says.
That’s the reason for the show and the online training:
to mold new machinists in his style.
TITAN EX MACHINA
As it turns out, Gilroy isn’t alone in his loathing of slow
Jon Schaefer, a machinist in Phoenix, knew modern
CNC machines were being underutilized.
“It’s frustrating when you have to sit and wait for it to
go through everything, and you know in your gut it could
go faster,” he says.
He found Titans of CNC’s training library and decided
to test the method out for himself.
“After seeing it, I said ‘I knew it!’” Schaefer recalls. “I
jumped on board right away.”
Schaeffer pushed cycle times and went from doing
eight parts a day to 48.
The programmer also scared his operator, a friend of
20 years, by entering starting values five times faster
than usual and cutting at a shocking pace. But the values
were verified to work, and his friend is now also a believer.
Schaeffer wanted to evangelize to even more people,
and contacted Gilroy about how to connect the online
Titans of CNC Academy with actual shops, to give users
Because he also has his own small machine shop,
Schaeffer offered to become the first Academy “small
group.” At least once a week, Schaeffer allows machinists
of all levels of experience to come by his shop and work on
the different 10 Titan building blocks—training modules
that increase in complexity. They pay for materials and
need their own laptop to run Fusion 360, and Schaeffer
lets them use the machine and workholdings.
The Academy itself has 28,000 students and 1,600
teachers around the globe, with dozens of small groups
from coast to coast, as well as others dotting Europe and
Africa, in under a year.
“There is a huge skills gap within our industry, and
there’s not one entity who has developed content to
attract and retain machinists,” says Kymberly McCarty,
national key account manager for Kennametal, Titan’s
major sponsor for the academy. “Titan is the one who
raised his hand and developed the academy in order
to educate all generations and increase skill levels.”
While Gilroy says the strength of Kennametals’ HARVI
III End Mill is crucial to cutting aerospace parts, Kenna-
metal says it’s his strength of character that allows the
program to flourish.
“He’s able to grab and keep people’s attention, be-
cause of his reputation and level of passion,” McCarty
says. “He’s a big man with a big personality, but he
has an even bigger heart and wants to see everyone
Again speed is the secret weapon. Gilroy, who rarely
really hit the books, knows the power of practical learn-
ing. He advocates getting students to first use CNC ma-
chines days into learning, not months.
“These kids get it and understand computers and
when [a machine] can crash,” says Gilroy, who has had
a 7-year-old run one of his lessons. “It’s child’s play to
them; they’re just killing it.”
In Worcester, Mass., vocational teacher Brian Cum-
mings is running many of the training modules a third
of the time in his school. He estimates to have about $1
million in machining equipment.
“When I first started teaching, it was 75% manual, you
work way into CNC machining, and you couldn’t touch the
machines until senior year,” Cummings says.
This way, the students get three more years of experi-
ence, creating more qualified, more hirable graduates.
And he hopes more schools catch on.
“I think he’s found a way to be competitive and profit-
able in the US,” Cummings says. “The products in China,
luckily for us, have been a flop as far as quality and cost
of mistakes and unskilled labor.”
For Gilroy, it’s all about providing new challenges. In-
stead of new opponents to knock out, it’s new machines
and materials to learn and new jobs to tackle. That’s
what will make American manufacturing strong, and its
workers engaged and productive.
“If you try to keep people down and keep them as
button pushers, you’re going to lose them,” Gilroy says.
For the industry, the risk of not emphasizing on faster
production of parts and faster training of skilled labor
could also put it down the wrong path.
“If schools don’t step up quickly and adapt to a system similar to mine, they’re going to be left in the past
and all the companies around that school are going
to have problems with a skills gap and have issues
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Gilroy spent three years in prison before fnding
his niche as a machinist. Now he spends much
of his time training the currently incarcerated
to give them a second chance.