30 Under 30: Chad Frank
*Click here to download our 30 Under 30 List*
“It all started with high school shop class,” said Chad Frank. “We got to run some small manual lathes and mills. That’s when I really got caught up in manufacturing.”
There were some other factors, too, that helped pave the way to Chad’s current status as a highly regarded journeyman machinist at Hydromat (St. Louis). Chad has been around machinery as long as he can remember. He was a member of 4-H and got to operate a lot of small agricultural machines. There were also mechanical influences even before that. “Both my grandfathers were farmers,” he said, “so I was always around mechanical things, and my dad is a heavy equipment operator.”
Hydromat recognized Chad’s potential after his first year at Ranken Technical College. A company representative was on campus looking for potential recruits for Hydromat’s apprenticeship program. Although the program accepts only those who have completed a two-year program, such as the Associate's in Precision Machining Technologies Chad was pursuing, the young man’s ability and GPA (he went on to graduate with a 3.8) stood out.
“During Chad’s second year at Ranken,” said Kevin Shults, Hydromat’s director of marketing and the person who nominated Chad, “before the official start to his apprentice program, he worked part-time at Hydromat doing a number of jobs around the plant and learning the basics about the company’s technology and mindset.”
After graduating in 2003, Chad enrolled in the apprentice program. For the next three years he spent time in each of Hydromat’s manufacturing process departments. He also took classes in Auto-Cad, drafting, metallurgy and programming, among other subjects.
Chad was so successful that he was able to choose which department he would be assigned to. He chose the assembly department so he could build Hyrdomat’s rotary transfer machines.
According to Shults, Chad quickly gained mastery of programming the company’s EPIC CNC control and “has also become one of the company’s go-to guys for Fanuc control systems.” Ever since being exposed to programming Chad has recognized his affinity for it. “About the third quarter of my first year at Ranken we got into CNC programming.” It just sort of clicked with him. “Learning how to use the manual machines was the baseline for everything,” Chad said. “When you start out learning to run things manually you really can understand how it works. That’s the way everyone should learn how to do it.”
In 2007, the year after reaching journeyman status, Chad was sent to Switzerland to study the details of the setup and maintenance of the Tornos CNC multispindle machines, said Shults, and its TB-Deco programming language. The reason Chad was chosen, he said, was “we realized how quickly he picked up technical knowledge and we recognized how strong his drive to learn was.”
Married with two children, Chad likes to hunt and fish. “I’m also a volunteer firefighter,” he said.
Would he like to see his children get into manufacturing? “I definitely would not be opposed to my kids getting into manufacturing,” he said. “It’s a lot different—and better—than most people think it is. I also don’t think people realize how much potential there is to make good money at it.” ME