Rich Gebhardt: Mastering the Art of Machining

Rich Gebhardt, Laser Precision’s Machining Supervisor, was launched into his career path by a machine shop class during his junior year in high school. He enjoyed it so much that he took a welding class the next year. Upon graduation, he joined our 2nd shift as a welder. That was 11 years ago and he’s been here ever since. 

Learning the Craft

Rich continued his education after high school, both on the job and off. In addition to welding, he filled in on machining equipment, the horizontal band saw, punch press and press brake equipment. He maintained a full-time schedule at the College of Lake County for two years, studying mechanical engineering, while continuing to work with us part-time. He then transferred to the Milwaukee School of Engineering. After acing every programing and CAD class CLC offered, he decided that machining was his true calling and came back full time as a lead in our machining department. In Rich’s estimation, classwork was time well spent, since it gave him a solid foundation on how design and manufacturing work together to deliver a quality finished product.

His Job Today

In his current position, Rich oversees and supervises all machining, saw, and turret operations throughout the facility. Every day he comes to work he has four goals summed up in a phrase we all strive to achieve in our company: “Deliver our customers the correct number of quality parts, on time, made safely.” His chief tools in achieving these objectives are his master schedule, training and a constant emphasis on safety.

Training is one of his favorite activities. He enjoys working with people and educating them how things can be done more efficiently, which ultimately leads to increased productivity. His method is to point out what needs to be done, offer an initial suggestion on how to do it and then walk away. Questions are always welcome and are answered thoroughly to improve the machining knowledge of everyone that works with Rich. The workers seem to appreciate this simple, matter-of-fact approach. It allows machinists who work with Rich to take ownership and pride in the work they produce. Rich jokes that his job is to put himself out of business by sharing every piece of knowledge he has with his operators. He takes pride in all they have learned and the department’s capability for machining fixtures that can hold all the complex shapes fabricated by the plant.

RC: Radio Control and Relaxed Casting

Rich’s interest in machining actually started when he was building radio controlled cars and helicopters, designing and machining his own parts for improved performance. His current at home project is building and programming a drone from scratch.

Living near the Chain of Lakes, it’s natural that Rich can usually be found with a fishing rod in his hand during his free time. He goes after large mouth bass, catfish and muskies at least three times a week. His main goal is to relax and be in touch with nature, so he is strictly a catch and release sportsman (although he does enjoy the occasional fish fry). In the summer, he reaches his favorite spots with his 2011 Polar Kraft 163 T. In the winter when the snow flies you can find him on the lake too, only the mode of transportation changes. He travels to his favorite sites by snowmobile for some ice fishing.