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It All Started With LEGOS

Albert Raczynski | Machined Concepts

By Fran Eaton for the Technology & Manufacturing Association of Illinois News Bulletin – reprinted with permission

Albert Raczynski points back to the countless hours he spent playing with red, blue and yellow Legos as the likely time when his passion for designing, building and completing projects began.  “I built and played with Legos on the floor until my back hurt,” as a five year old kid 25 years ago, he said.

Today, the 33-year-old is the founder and CEO of Machined Concepts, a start-up shop with three employees in Elgin, Illinois. He’s typical of the Millennial Generation – innovative, energetic, and optimistic about the future.

Raczynski studied mechanical engineering at the University of Illinois at Chicago, and soon after obtaining his bachelor degree he landed a corporate engineer job with Caterpillar in Aurora.  “I really wasn’t taught much about manufacturing while in college, and what I learned was from pursuing it on my own,” he said. “Now I think an engineering degree should include two years in a trade school.”

Raczynski says he always enjoyed tinkering with cars, so he taught himself how to weld and started making performance parts for his buddies. Before he knew it, he was making race car parts on the side out of his parents’ garage.  He admits that looking back, economic conditions made 2008 one of the most difficult economic times in recent history to leave a steady job at Caterpillar and start a new business.  But the main reason for starting up Machined Concepts LLC was his passion for and his belief in American manufacturing.  “I really can’t think of anything more gratifying than being able to take an idea and perfect it into reality, “ Raczynski writes on his website. “There was a time in this country when we valued having a hard work ethic, and the ability to do things ourselves.

“… It is evident that manufacturing is most definitely coming back to the States. We are just glad to be part of that trend.”

Raczynski’s contribution to the rebuilding of America’s manufacturing is his suburban precision CNC shop, where he and his staff make machined components from prototype to production, utilizing state of the art equipment and software.  They specialize in 3D prismatic machined components, 4 axis and 5 axis machining, production milling and turning in all types of materials.  “I feel like manufacturing is slowly coming back around,” he said. “This whole recession thing weeded out a lot of people that couldn’t adapt and change. I feel like if I can handle what happened in 2008 and 2009, I can handle anything.”

Raczynski says from his perspective, manufacturing success in the future will depend on flexibility, receptivity and innovation. For instance, dramatic changes in product distribution to consumers are opening up new designs and products that were unimagined 20 years ago.  “In my generation, we have gone from not having cell phones, to effectively having the world at our fingertips,” he said. “Cell phones and tablets are not only revolutionizing the world, but the world is a very dynamic place you need to stay tuned into.”

Raczynski says like others in his network, it’s a challenge to find experienced machinists. He would like to see the school system encourage more in the next generation to consider trade schools rather than pushing students into college.  “The societal norm is to push kids to go to college, but it’s not for everyone, nor is college what it used to be. Kids are graduating college with more debt than ever before,” he said. “Hopefully, kids will become interested watching shows like Monster Garage or the Science Channel and Discovery. I know I couldn’t get enough of that. We need to make manufacturing cool again. Without manufacturing there is no basis for a thriving economy.”

Starting a business and feeling the pressure of keeping employees productive and working is something that keeps Raczynski from time for social life right now, he says. Much of the work falls on him as CEO right now – networking to find jobs, designing and creating prototypes, programming parts, and putting robust manufacturing processes in place to ensure the highest quality parts are going out the door.  “My biggest challenge right now is finding the time to do everything I need to do,” he chuckled. “It’s a lot like being a server at a restaurant. Each customer is like a different table and they all think they’re the only table in the whole restaurant.” So naturally time management and balancing priorities plays a key role in his success.  “The only solution is to find more people to get the jobs done right and on time. We’re working on that.”

Raczynski says he holds no unrealistic expectations for Machined Concepts. He’s motivated by knowing that someday “my kids will have more opportunity than I did and be able to stand on the proverbial shoulders of giants should they so choose,” he said.  “I had a machine tool salesman once tell me that perception is reality. I really didn’t like the phrase, or the salesman, but the more I thought about it, the more I realized just how accurate it is. Whatever you choose to set your mind to, you will achieve.”

Machined Concepts is located at 1760 Britannia Drive, Suite 8 in Elgin, Illinois and on the web at www.machinedconcepts.com.


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