McAfee Machine sets itself apart by implementing state-of-the-art technology into its operations.
When Delmer McAfee started a small manufacturing operation in his modest, two-car garage in 1970, he was not entirely certain where the business would go from there. He certainly was not expecting to build a company that could stand the test of time, eventually growing into a premier provider of well head and heater chokes. With the goal to provide customers with well-designed, quality products with excellent service, McAfee Machine Inc. has grown to become well known for reliability and quality for more than four decades.
Although the Odessa, Texasbased company has had its ups and downs, the family run business has remained a success thanks to its reputation for reliability and word-of-mouth advertising. “We’re about quality more than anything else,” President Delmer McAfee says.
The company’s production facility uses state-of-the-art CNC lathes and machining centers along with a CAD/CAM system to ensure quality. McAfee Machine’s in-house quality control system includes material traceability as well as corrective action capabilities.
All measuring tools used to manufacture and test products are inspected on a regular basis and certified to be traceable back to the National Board of Standards, according to the company. Also, all McAfee Machine chokes are manufactured to meet and often exceed American Petroleum Institute specifications.
McAfee Machine has the capabilities to manufacture heater chokes, wellhead chokes, flowcontrol products, liquid level controllers and downhole tubing testing tools.
As an avid drag racer in the 1950s and ’60s, Delmer McAfee took a strong interest in building hot rod parts – which is what ultimately inspired him to purchase his first machine. He would spend hours in the garage working with the equipment and, eventually, word spread to other local businesses that he had a mill in his garage. Soon, the business took off.
“Drag racers back then really were the innovators of the time,” says Buddy McAfee, Delmer’s son and the vice president of production. “Industrial companies would approach him and ask if he could make certain parts. Then, it became more of a business.”
Eventually, he had less and less time to work on his hobby. “Finally, the business became so busy that I realized I needed to move out of the garage and into a building of our own,” Delmer McAfee says.
Years ago, it was only the larger players in the industry that had the capability to manufacture the products McAfee offers. Yet with the company’s focus on staying ahead of the trends in terms of technology and equipment, McAfee’s 12 employees are able to do the work of a much larger operation.
“We have extensive CNC equipment and the latest stateof- the-art robotic welding systems, so we’re able to more efficiently manufacture products than a company two times our size,” McAfee says. “This technology gives us the ability to stay nice and lean within our operation.”
Maintaining an operation with cutting-edge equipment can be costly, but the company’s ability to reduce the overhead expenses that often comes with a larger staff has allowed it to afford the expense. And within the volatile oil and gas industry, being able to keep unnecessary expenses to a minimum is key. “Back during the really tough times, orders would be canceled all over the place, and when you’re sitting there with a lot of people and overhead, those things can really sink a good operation and push you into bankruptcy,” Buddy McAfee says. “We have enough strength right now to withstand any slow times.”
“We have extensive CNC equipment and the latest state-of-the-art robotic welding systems, so we’re able to more efficiently manufacture products than a company two times our size. This technology gives us the ability to stay nice and lean within our operation.” - Delmer McAfee, president
While some operations may hesitate to implement technology in certain areas of the business, McAfee Machine strives to use technology to its advantage wherever possible. “It often helps to find technology that helps the company comply with new regulations, especially,” he says.
And unlike many of its competitors, the company is able to manufacture more than 90 percent of its product in-house. Some competitors manufacture anywhere from 40 to 60 percent of its product themselves.
All in the Family
The younger McAfee recalls working in the family business during breaks from school and college, and practically grew up learning about the industry. Although the family has been approached to sell the business to larger players in the industry, this has never been a serious option. “When you sell a business that has your name attached to it, it can be a stain on your name if the quality of the product ever diminishes,” McAfee says. “Keeping it in the family allows us to maintain control over the product, and that’s probably the biggest advantage we have.
“Whoever may purchase the business may not have the same desire to keep the name clean, in tact and in good standing,” McAfee adds.
Educating the Future
As a member of the Odessa College Metal Technology advisory board, McAfee actively spends time working with the next generation of industry leaders to ensure they are well equipped to hand the challenges that lay ahead.
“It can still be a struggle to recruit young people into becoming a machinist, but the number one thing you can do is entice them with all the technology involved in this work,” he says. “They are not afraid of technology like the older generation tends to be.”