By Fran Eaton for the Technology & Manufacturing Association of Illinois News Bulletin – reprinted with permission
Few things are more important when an airplane is taking off or touching down than dependable, sturdy and smoothly-functioning landing gear. Most fliers just don’t give those gears a thought – unless they malfunction for one reason or another. Manufacturing landing gear parts is just one of many crucial tasks Chucking Machine Products (CMP) in Franklin Park, Illinois performs for aerospace, defense and high-tech industry suppliers.
“We do a lot of unique work, a lot of ejection systems, tubes, landing gears. The tubes have to be precision throughout the entire length and their integrity verified before we send them out,” CMP Vice-President Kevin Sullivan explained. CMP manufactures complex shapes for components and products as diverse as rocket motor tubes, pilot seat ejector tubes, fuel nozzles, propellers and impellers. Their jobs for Pratt & Whitney, Boeing and General Electric often call for specialized metals such as inconel, hastelloy, titanium, waspaloy, stainless steel and nickel alloys, with very close tolerances.
“The type of work we do, very few do because it is high risk work,” CMP President Tim Merrigan said. “The parts are expensive, the materials are expensive and there are multiple operations with close tolerances.” It isn’t unusual for one of those parts to take four months to complete. Merrigan says that with all those demands, there is only so much profit a company can make, but no end to what one could lose. “Quality isn’t a discussion, it has to be top notch,” Merrigan said. “There is no second place. We have to be good on every dimension on every part.”
Tim Merrigan, Kevin Sullivan and Cathy Demma make up privately-owned CMP’s leadership team. All three come from differing backgrounds and were brought together by Cathy’s father Ed Iverson – who founded the company in 1957. Ed Iverson launched Chucking Machine Products after working with his father at Iverson & Co, who represented Hardinge Inc. Iverson, now in his 80s, is still actively involved in CMP. Cathy worked with her father during her early 20s until she started her family. Tim Merrigan married another of Ed’s daughters, Stacy. Tim worked for Iverson & Co for a number of years learning the industry and moved over to sales at CMP in 1995. Just before Tim joined the company, Kevin came on to help with operations.
Tim credits CMP’s leadership team brought together by Ed Iverson with the company’s sustained success. “The story here is the family and how we’ve all worked together so well,” Tim said. He says there have been a lot of changes in manufacturing over the past 20 plus years he has worked at Chucking Machine Products. “Our customers are better at what they do, and they in turn demand us to be even better with quality and on-time delivery,” Merrigan said. “We’re obtaining newer equipment on the shop floor and continuing to train several employees.”
Cathy rejoined CMP’s team as purchasing manager ten years ago. “For me, I take pride in what I do here. The best part is that it’s a family company. I like to do what I can to make it better and save time and money as I can,” she said. Kevin Sullivan, who focuses on company operations, says equipment and facilities are important, but they don’t make the parts. “Businesses are built on employees,” he emphasized, “and we appreciate ours. The average tenure is 17 to 20 years here. CMP’s employees are dedicated. We are looking for more that want to learn and have a foundation of interest.”
The rewards are worth all the energy they demand, President Tim Merrigan says. “Of course, there are financial rewards, but it’s also rewarding to employ 80 plus people with families. We have an obligation to open our doors every day to support our little community,” he said. Merrigan said his father-in-law’s recommendation that he become involved with TMA early on in his career was a wise one. “Ed got me involved in TMA’s Marketing group, and I’ve stayed involved as long as I’ve been here,” Merrigan recalled. He eventually moved onto the TMA Board of Directors and became chairman in 2010, and since that time, he’s been involved in TMA’s 401k Board.
Tim, Kevin and Cathy are delighted the next generation of the Iverson family is coming to work at CMP. That, and many other factors, raises the likelihood that the business they lead today of taking risks to provide durable, safe landing gears and other critical parts for aerospace companies will continue to thrive for years to come
About TMA: Founded in 1925, the Technology & Manufacturing Association (TMA) represents and supports manufacturers in the Chicago metropolitan area and surrounding counties in northern Illinois, northern Indiana, and southern Wisconsin. TMA has almost 1,000 members and represents over 32,000 employees and nearly 26M square feet of manufacturing in Illinois.