By Alex Lee
Zack Bishop’s father was a mechanic. At nine, he was helping his dad rebuild transmissions, disassemble them, clean their parts and put them back together.
But despite all the mechanical knowledge shared, Zack says the greatest gift given to him by his father was a work ethic. He remembers working late and on weekends to make good on promises to customers.
It was through one of his dad’s friends, a millwright, that Zack discovered machining. That led him to the Kalamazoo Regional Education Service Area’s (KRESA) Education for Employment (EFE) program and into machine tool technology classes. Upon graduation, he worked several machining jobs while strategizing the development of his own business. In 2015, at the age of 20, Zack’s dream of 4 Flutes Machining was born. Through a series of agreements with employers, Zack started to develop and do work for his own customers. This led to one machine in a pole building in Augusta, Michigan. There were lots of hours after work and on weekends while he worked a full-time job while building his dream. Zack says, “Things got crazy very quickly with a new company bringing all their business to 4 Flutes.” The need for more machines and more space led to a move to Vicksburg.
The November 2020 move to Vicksburg still saw Zack as 4 Flutes’ only employee. He was handling sales, ordering and unloading materials, design, cutting, invoicing, and shipping, while the business continued its rapid growth. Based on last year’s final production numbers, sales have increased 382 percent since the move. New business has expanded to include projects for the military and the space industry. To maintain that growth, over a dozen new machines have been added along with nine new employees.
4 Flutes is an eclectic mix of precision machines built in the early 1900s to state-of-the-art high-tech machines made for production volume. Standing in this shop gives one the feeling that anything can be made here. Zack says wages start at $25 per hour and there is no college requirement, although he encourages, and assists employees in taking college classes. “The education of tool making and engineering have improved exponentially at the post-secondary level over the last several years, and in our prototyping work we find ourselves talking to engineers and rocket scientists on a regular basis and knowledge is key.” Zack has carefully assembled a team of employees that he says “support each other at all levels and each of them wants to be a part of something bigger than themselves.”
Zack says 60 percent of their work is prototype work while the remaining is low volume to high volume production work. Some prototyping work, depending on materials and complexity, can come with a hefty price tag. Staying true to his father’s values, Zack wants to establish long-term customer relationships built on trust and experience. “When our clients move a project from a prototype to production, we want to continue with them,” he says, “we helped build the part, we know the challenges, we have the history. We also know that once production begins, the engineers are already planning the next prototype.”
Zack believes 4 Flutes will continue its growth over the next several years which will require some expansions. In 10 years he sees himself in a “massive state-of-the-art building that will rival some Stryker and Pfizer facilities, but still here in Vicksburg.”
In addition to growing his own business, he assists Vicksburg’s growth by serving on the Vicksburg Chamber of Commerce Board of Directors and the Vicksburg Planning Commission.