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Top Spartan Racer Set a Goal to Have 100 Eurotech Machines

Updated: Mar 12


Axem Distributing, Inc., Is a wholesale distributor and manufacturer of firearm components based in Gallatin, TN.


Spartan Racer, Mike Dowell.


Mike Dowell (center) w/Jodie Mixa & Tim Hertel

Working hard, 80-hour work weeks, missing out on family time, absent for kid's baseball games, does this sound familiar? This was something that Mike

Dowell was facing day in and day out. Sure, he was making six figures, but the day didn't leave much room for anything else but work. He was a salesman in the machining industry, particularly the firearms industry. He loved what he did, and he was good at it, but it was taking a toll on him and his family. In 2013, Mike's now-fiancee, Jodie Mixa, told him he should start his own company. She had a lot of experience in the same industry as she had worked for many years as a president of a machine shop, so she knew the drill and she had a vast amount of experience with accounting. She never doubted he could do it as she recognized the spartan qualities Mike possessed so she went out and bought him QuickBooks and a week later Mike started his own company. 


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Mike had the connections and a thorough understanding of the industry. He knew there was a high demand for good quality parts, so he jumped in with both feet, bought a repo CNC machine, and shipped it out to San Diego where he planned to start his business.

I love to be outdoors so California is my first choice for the business. I am an avid obstacle course racer-running, biking, etc., explains Mike. 


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"I surrounded myself with good people and good things happened. My business partner Jodie takes care of all the accounting and customer service and my other business partner Tim Hertel is the operations manager and is very good with systems. These two are both experts at what they do, and we have the same work ethic; with them, we made a nice profit in the first six months. For six months, we doubled our profits." It was, at this point that they dubbed their business AXEM.


Three months later, a family tragedy struck; Mike's youngest daughter Emma lost her mother. Knowing Emma would need her grandmother in this time of grief, Mike changed his business plan from San Diego to Northern Kentucky and reshipped his machine." Here Mike opened a facility of 5,000 square feet and started manufacturing. "Initially we had two Tsugami machines and a mill but at the end of the day, what I wanted was a machine that would run lights out.

A Wise Investment

In 2016 Mike had the money to invest in new equipment, and he started searching for the right machine and process. Here's what Mike said he found, "At that time I did not know about Eurotech and was thinking an Okuma cell would be my choice. However, the local Eurotech distributor, Dave Hornsby, asked me to visit a local Eurotech customer who had 6 Eurotech machines running in his shop that he ran with his wife. He was persistent so I finally agreed to go. The weekend before this visit was scheduled, I broke my foot in a Spartan race in Carolina, so I wanted to get out of going up there. I considered canceling but, in the end, I met Dave and saw the machines. I couldn't believe what I saw. This was a one-man show in the middle of a cornfield. The Eurotechs were machining a finished product without damaging any parts, lights out and the sub-spindle shift was amazing. This was a better machine. I knew that this was exactly what I had been looking for. None of the competitors had a process that came close to this."


M16 Carrier Parts

Eurotech machines produce M16 carrier parts and bolts. After a day shift, Axem runs lights out, all night. “I come in the next morning and the machines are still running parts to print. Eurotech machines allow for more family time. they allow me to do more

and still make money.”


 

We have been so successful all the money stays in the company, and I can share the profit with our great team. We can be very competitive because we have fewer employees and lower overhead," - Mike.

 

Mike purchased 3 Eurotech Multipla B465SY-2 (71mm) machines. "With Eurotech's help, I set up the machines for our M16 carrier and bolt parts. We run an 8-hour shift and then after the day shift we run lights out, all night. I come in the next morning and the machines are still running parts to print. Eurotech machines allow for more family time, they allow me to do more and still make money." With new technology, Axem grew even faster. "The

Eurotech technology put me on the path to reach my vision, and I know they will get me to my ultimate goal, which is 100 Eurotechs running lights out.


Mike moved and is currently into a new building in Gallatin, TN.

It is a state-of-the-art 40,000-square-foot building. "I just had the floors painted and am receiving two new Eurotech triple turret Multiplas. I am very proud of what we have done with these machines and anyone who visits is blown away by what we are doing.


Just 5 minutes from their new facility is a state park where Mike trains for two hours a day. "We get tooling changed out in the morning, and then I go for a 6-12 mile run on my lunch break. I like to be active and am always training for another Spartan race." Mike was in the Spartan championships in Canada last year, he has run three marathons this year and is preparing for the championships being held in London. It's not unusual to see him at the shop with a 40lb weight vest on, doing lunges across the shop floor while talking to customers on the phone.


 

   "The new building is designed to run lights out; from an auto-fill system for coolant to a robot I'm designing that will go around and empty chips during the day and night. Keeping the machines running without human intervention is key," - Mike.

 

The same Spartan mentality that pushes people out of their comfort zone and into the race is how Mike runs his shop. He has a process that allows him to run lights out without any of the many problems that manufacturers can face. His process takes into consideration tool changes, so lights out are never interrupted. He has designed a coolant system that feeds the machine 24/7 with no human intervention. He is presently designing a way to keep oils in the machine cool again without human intervention. And for the new building that they are opening this month, he is working on a new design for a machine he dubbed the Rumba that will empty chip hoppers every two hours. His shop is pristine, very disciplined, and organized. "The machines run lights out with very little intervention and this allows me to take care of the sales side of the business."


"The days of working 80 hours a week are over. I missed out a lot with my older daughter who is 23 now. I regret that and wish I could have made more time for her. I don't want to repeat that with my younger daughter; she is 13 and I can play an active role in her life ... and softball games. That's one of the reasons I love the Eurotech machines. They let me work and still have family time and while I'm enjoying time with my family or outside running an obstacle course, the machines are running lights out and making us money."

Mike's philosophy has a lot to do with his success, "Address what-ifs and checkmarks before they rear their ugly head. A lot of machinists with experience of 25+ years know what can go wrong with lights-out machining. My philosophy is why not go ahead and make a list of these potential pitfalls and check them off your list, i.e., eliminate them and avoid possible failures? For instance, turrets can't index unless they are already home - a potential wreck, right? I've never crashed a machine because the parameters to prevent this are in place." "It's too tough to find good people who want to work. I invest in equipment and technology so the few people I hire are well rewarded."



AR-15 Carriers and Bolts Machined Lights Out at Axem. “Winning bids is easy for us because of the Eurotech technology, and we don’t have close to the overhead the other companies have.” - Mike Dowell


Mike with his daughter.

Axem has so little overhead that it can make exceptional parts cheaper than the best-priced competitor. "Winning bids is easy for us because of the Eurotech technology, and we don't have close to the overhead the other companies have," said Mike. He continued, "We machine with more quality and we have a better-looking part. Other companies have to hand grind and polish, but we don't have to because of the technology."


“One of the reasons I love Eurotech machines is that they let me work and still have family time.” - Mike



Please visit Axems website for more info... www.axemmachinetools.com

 

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