When Jim Holland approached his father — Jim “Moose” Holland — about joining the company in the mid-1970s, his response was fairly straightforward. “He said no,” Holland recalls. “He just didn’t want one of his sons working there.”
Holland kept trying, however, and eventually made a phone call to his father’s partner, Clarence Moore, who saw things differently. “He was delighted to give me a job, which dad wasn’t very happy about at first, but he eventually got used to the idea,” he says with a laugh. “And I think I did a pretty good job for him.” Jim Holland — who is now the president of Moore-Addison, which is based in Addison, Illinois — says his father’s initial reaction had to do with a number of things. First, he was a solid businessman who had graduated from the University of Pennsylvania’s Wharton School of business. Second, Moore had already hired his own son, and Holland was hesitant to fill the company’s ranks with members of his own family as well. “You’ve got to understand that this was a man who didn’t even insist on having his own name in the company’s title,” Holland explains. “As partners who had started the company together in 1953, dad’s job was to bring the work in, and Clarence’s job was to get it out. My father was worried that his customers would pressure him for discounts if they knew he was an owner of the company.”
So Jim Holland’s first task when he joined Moore-Addison in 1976 was to prove what he could bring to the operation. He did so by working his way up through the ranks, starting off as a shipping clerk, then handling sales, and even running the machines, eventually taking the company’s helm in 1997 — his father passed away in 1982. And while he has certainly made his own mark, he has also worked to retain the company’s original mission.
“Gear manufacturers were the company’s main source of income in the early days, so it focused on producing high quality gear blanks out of phenolic materials, which are hard to work with and create a lot of dust,” Holland says. “Nothing high-tech, nothing complicated. These were parts that could basically be described over the phone. You know, ‘we need a circle that’s four inches in diameter and a half-inch thick with a two-inch hole,’ but everything had to be very precise. They were one of the few people who were working with this phenolic material then, and what they produced was of a higher quality than what their customers were used to getting. These days you can mold a class-10 gear blank, but the norm at that time was class three or four, and Moore-Addison consistently turned out product that was more along the lines of class five or six. So even though we’re a machine shop, we don’t do complicated machining. Our work has more to do with precision.”
And precision is a quality that Holland finds very appealing, both from a professional as well as a personal standpoint. A graduate of Beloit College, where he studied music, Holland went on to earn his master’s degree in percussion from Indiana University’s widely renowned music program. “Then I bounced around between a number of jobs, teaching school and playing in different orchestras,” he says. “But that’s a tough field to make a living in, and it was really hard on my family, so that’s when I decided to see if I couldn’t make a go of it working for the family company. I’ve got to admit, though, that even now I think of myself as a musician who happens to make his living in the plastics machining industry.”
But he’s helping others to make a living, too, since the company employs some 30 people at present. One of Moore-Addison’s central philosophies is to hire entry level workers and not only teach them the craft of machining quality gear blanks — alongside machinists with years of experience under their belts — but also the basic tenets of being a productive employee. “With the people who’ll be working in manufacturing, we’ll start off with the simplest concepts you can imagine, like the fact that they’ve got to be here every day at seven o’clock in the morning without fail. And we make clear that if they can’t handle that, we’ll work with them, but only for so long,” Holland says. “And with the people in clerical positions, we try to instill our commitment to excellent customer service. We want our customers to hear a human voice on the phone when they call us, and we want them to know that when they have a question, they’re going to get an answer — and sooner, rather than later.”
Those customers are found throughout the United States and Canada, Holland says, adding that Moore-Addison is represented by an experienced force of outside sales representatives. “We work with companies as far south as Texas, and as far north as Ontario, so we cover a lot of ground as far as our customer base is concerned,” he says.
In addition to the gear manufacturing companies that Moore-Addison has long been affiliated with, one of its first big customers was Western Electric, back in the days when it was a telecommunications giant, for which the company made intricate non-metallic parts for switching stations. Another long-standing relationship is with GM’s Locomotive Group–which has operations in LaGrange, Illinois, as well as New London, Ontario–and the Vapor Corporation, which manufactures automated door devices for buses and rail and is based in Montreal. “We’ve always worked with large companies, and especially those that are involved in high-voltage applications, for which our plastic parts are ideal,” says Holland. “And we also do a lot of work with what’s known as the ‘converting industry,’ where the activity involves taking big rolls of a particular material and cutting it into coils, whether that be steel or paper.”
And just as the industries the company serves have evolved, so have the materials that it works with. In addition to the phenolic family, Moore-Addison also provides parts made from heavy duty engineered plastics such as Delrin, Ultem, Lexan, nylon, acrylic, and Ultra High Molecular Weight (UHMW) polyethylene. “It’s funny to think about what an exotic material UHMW was back when we first started working with it in 1976, but now it’s replaced a lot of nylons and other things in high-wear applications. It’s really an amazing material,” Holland says.
Just as his father once had Clarence Moore to handle manufacturing while he managed the company’s sales activities, Holland says he now relies on Tom Champion to oversee operations. “The important thing about Moore-Addison is that this isn’t a one-man show by any means–this is not an ego trip for anybody. We all work together and share the same goals. And I think that Tom enjoys our work for the same reason I do,” Holland says. “We both like to bring our resources to bear in order to make a good part, it’s as simple as that.”