Mike Semrau, director of AKS Cutting Systems’ Consumables Loyalty Program, is a 32-year industry veteran who knows the value of hard work and quality machines.
After graduating from high school, Semrau completed a four-year apprenticeship program with a local Cleveland machine builder. After earning his Tool & Die Journeyman’s papers, he took classes for Quoting/Estimating and soon went to work for Kiffer Industries — parent company of AKS.
After working in the industry for some time, Semrau went back to school and earned an associate’s degree in mechanical design.
“I first worked for Kiffer Industries for five years as a Tool-Maker making parts used in building special machines, then later as a quote estimator, then as a sales manager, and eventually working with the AKS consumables program,” he said.
Semrau’s favorite thing about working for AKS has been the autonomy that comes with the company’s leadership style. “The level of independence is almost like running your own business,” he said. “As long as you do what is needed to get the job done, there’s nobody breathing down your neck.”
Semrau also has had the opportunity to travel and work with clients in many different industries.
“It’s been interesting going to different places because of the various industries our machines serve,” he said. “A lot of big companies all over the country use our equipment, so it’s just interesting to get to actually see the machines in action.”
The quality and longevity of AKS’ cutting systems contribute to job satisfaction, according to Semrau, who said he’s met customers who have been successfully running the same machine for more than 20 years.
“Designing some special tooling or other items for machines, and then coming across someone 20 years later and seeing that it’s still running strong, still doing the job that you designed it for, that’s a gratifying feeling,” Semrau said. “A lot of times you think people use something for only five or ten years and then throw it away, but the things we build here last a long time. I’ve spoken to customers who are the second or even third owner of our equipment that’s still working well for them. That’s a good feeling.”
One of his career milestones involved working with a customer who had purchased a used machine from Kiffer Industries several years prior. The company was so pleased with the machine, they asked Semrau if he could design them something custom. In the end, that same company ended up buying 26 brand new machines.
Both in his career and in his free time, Semrau believes in hard work and perseverance.
He and his wife stay active outdoors with hiking and trail walks, as well as being avid bikers. Since the couple lives close to Northeast Ohio’s vast network of biking trails, a typical ride can be 20 to 30 miles.
“Two years ago, we were inducted into a local bike club’s 1000 Kilometer Klub,” Semrau said, “because that summer we had biked over 1,000 kilometers, or 621 miles.”
The greatest advice he’s ever received — which can be applied to all areas of life — is from his father, who told Semrau to always try your best and to always work hard.
His advice for others who are learning the industry is simple: learn from people who have more experience and learn as much as you can in general.
“Try to pick the brains of the guys who’ve been there a while, the older guys; because they may retire in 10 or 15 years and then that knowledge is gone,” Semrau said. “A lot of times new people come in and just hang out with others their own age, especially the young guys. You’re not going to learn much from another guy who knows exactly as much as you do.”