Q&A with Steve Mueller

President, Ty Miles, Inc.

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Tell us about the company’s founder and namesake.

Tyrus H. Miles was my grandfather, and he was born in 1911 and grew up in Detroit. I believe he was named after Ty Cobb, who played for the Tigers. Ty Miles was a broach engineer who worked for Colonial Broach in the late thirties, and then for Michigan Broach in the forties, where he was chief engineer. Then he moved to U.S. Broach in that same position before he transferred to their sales department and moved to the Chicago area. In 1958 he pulled some investors together to start Ty Miles, Inc., and one of them was a man by the name of Leonard J. Smith whose family owned a screw machine shop. He was actually one of Ty’s customers, and he ended up joining the company and serving as its president from 1972 until he handed the reigns to me in 1998. Ty was chairman of the board until he passed away, nearly the whole time Len was president, and now Len is the board’s chair.

How did your grandfather manage to get the company off the ground?

He started off by working out of his house, designing the broaching machines and tooling and sending them off to be manufactured elsewhere. Then, when he was able to lease some space and start hiring people, he gradually pulled everything in house. He kind of created a niche for himself by producing a high-speed broaching system for the small parts manufacturer. A lot of the equipment at that time had a maximum ram speed of around 30 feet per minute, while our standard machine is typically rated at 120 feet per minute.

But it’s really the tooling that has the greater degree of intricacy, and we’ve gotten into a little of everything over the years. With more than 1,300 of our high-speed broaching machines out there, you can go through our parts drawers and find all kinds of workpieces. Any type of flat slot, straddle, internal spline, keyways, and made for all the different industries… aerospace, automotive, defense, medical, appliances, hand tools, the list goes on and on. We’ll spread those samples out on a table when we go to a trade show, and that’s typically what the guys in manufacturing will gravitate to.

How did you come to join the company?

I went to college at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign, and I’d work at the company during my winter and summer breaks to make some extra money. Once I was close to graduation I went on a couple of job interviews, but I knew how much it would mean to my grandfather if I came onboard–and especially to my grandmother, so that he could start winding down a little. He was 67 at the time, and I knew that if I wanted to have the chance to learn the business from him I probably needed to go ahead and do it. So I joined the company in 1978 and was able to work with him for five years before he retired.

Do you take pride in being able to carry your grandfather’s legacy forward?

Yes, I do. He built a company that had a reputation for manufacturing quality equipment and tooling, and I think the proof that we’re still known for that lies in the fact that we have so many multiple-machine customers. These are companies that have purchased eight, 10 machines from us, and they wouldn’t have bought so many if we hadn’t done a good job on the first one. Plus, I really enjoy what I do. I told myself when I first joined the company that if I ever felt like turning around and going back home driving to work in the morning, that would be it. But that hasn’t happened yet.

MORE INFO: (708) 344-5480 or e-mail stevem@tymiles.com. Visit online at www.tymiles.com.