27 Years of Technological Bliss
Ken Buechele 11.07.2012
(Ken Buechele was recently honored by Okuma for 27 years of distinguished service. Here we share his candid reflections on “growing up at Okuma.”)
In a recent ceremony I was recognized (along with several other longtime employees) for my 27 years of service with Okuma. While sometimes it seems the days of the mutually-beneficial and lasting bond between company and employee are waning, I think this culture is alive and kickin’ at Okuma. So, I’d like to share a brief story about how I got here, and why I’m grateful to still to be here.
Putting My Obsessions to Work
Back in the early ‘80s I was a Manufacturing Engineer for an industrial equipment manufacturer . We needed to upgrade our equipment, and I was responsible for the new CNC machine we purchased. Long story short, we purchased an Okuma LC40 4-axis machine. Back in the ‘80s, 4-axis was pretty high tech. I was given the challenge of taking parts machined on older manual machines to the new Okuma 4-axis CNC machine. Many doubted that this new technology could replace the BIG HEAVY 50-year-old manual machines. Some of you who know me know I have a slightly obsessive personality, and am a bit competitive. Well, I put my obsessions to work and figured out how I could combine operations and run 4-axis all the time and get that old manual machine out the door.
What’s Not to Love
I fell in love with that 4-axis CNC machine. I took parts that ran for 30-40 minutes down to 10-15 minutes, plus held incredible repeatability and finish. That one Okuma replaced around six manual machines. Some of the guys on the floor were upset we were making parts too fast. We were running jobs that typically stayed on the machine for a week or more, and now took only a day or two!
My Big Break
Well, a year after I had my LC40 up and running, Okuma posted jobs for Applications Engineers . It took me less than a second to send in my resume. I was hired by Kent Shigetomi back in 1985. My thought process at the time was to work for Okuma for four years, and learn as much about the CNC machines and technology as possible. I felt this would allow me to become a more effective Manufacturing Engineer, and I could help companies to be more efficient and profitable. Well, I didn’t realize it at the time, but EVERY YEAR something new was being released and technology was continuously improving. When we came out with the LB15 COLORED screen with 400 rapids, I figured this was IT man! How much faster can a CNC machine tool run!?!?
27 Years Later
I’m still learning new technology, and I’m more impressed today than I was back then with Okuma’s continuous innovation and technological development. It’s hard to want to consider looking elsewhere when you’re surrounded with quality people, quality products, and the leadership ethics of always doing the right thing by taking care of customers and people. I really grew up here at Okuma. Moving away from New York where my family and friends were, all of you have become my family and friends. 27 years later, I realize I now have the vast experience and product knowledge I was pursuing when I joined Okuma. Today as a Regional Sales Manager, each day is a joy as I help to provide the best manufacturing solutions possible to our customers.
When you say “Okuma”, many think of the strength of our machines, controls and technology. I’d say that part of this strength comes being the kind of company that provides a good home for good people to who want to learn, grow and contribute to our great manufacturing industry. Thank you Okuma.
Ken Buechele is Senior Regional Sales Manager, Okuma America Corporation