Emerging Leaders

Emerging Leader Strives to be an Ambassador for the Trade

“When we have shop tours for students and instructors, sharing the company’s journey and sharing my experiences over time is important,” says Clay Adcock, production manager at Custom Tool and a 2020 Emerging Leader.


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Clay Adcock, Custom Tool

Clay Adcock enjoys being knowledgeable about the technology used at Custom Tool and being able to answer questions to help his coworkers.

In August 2011, Clay Adcock walked into an interview at Custom Tool (Cookeville, Tennessee) with no experience in manufacturing, much less the machining trade, as his background was in auto mechanics. He made a promise to be the best worker the company would ever hire, if given a chance.

Within two years, he had excelled at learning the company’s two-axis turning centers and began learning its turn-mill machines, which he excelled at a year later. He began leading the company's goal of achieving lights-out production as part of the standard operating procedures. Adcock’s transition into management-related tasks began in 2015 and led to his current manufacturing manager position, which includes production floor management along with new technology implementation.

“While completing my assigned tasks, I gained thorough knowledge of machining and CNC controls through self-directed study and conversations with journeyman machinists,” Adcock says.

He knew he made the right choice working in manufacturing early on in his career at Custom Tool. “I realized that in manufacturing, especially a machine shop, you can never stop learning no matter how long you’ve been in the industry,” he says. “I enjoy being knowledgeable and being able to answer questions or have solutions when needed.”

Although Adcock says his advancement within the company has come from leading efforts in lights-out production, robotic machine tending, robotic welding and many continuous improvement efforts within the company, his nominator believes his success stems from other sources.

“Clay's rapid progression to this point is due to his lead-by-example attitude, his commitment to achieving company goals and objectives, a tremendous work ethic, genuine respect for his co-workers and a tremendous attitude of humility,” says his nominator, Bob Young, company vice president.

In 10 years, Adcock would like to advance to a position of overseeing the company operations.

When asked about a time when he thought outside the box to complete a task, Adcock says his idea was successful. “One time, we had a job for a part that was rectangular and I thought it would be best to run on a CNC mill,” he explains. “But after thinking about a better way to machine the part, I realized that we could turn certain features faster than we could mill them. So, I presented the idea, we made a special fixture and finished running the job using that approach.”

In 10 years, Adcock would like to advance to a position of overseeing the company operations. However, leading up to that goal, he would teach the next generation of Custom Tool employees to do his current job. He enjoys helping others advance in their skill sets.

“He is respected by his co-workers because he desires success and growth for them as well as himself,” Young says.

As an Emerging Leader, Adcock hopes to have a greater impact on the manufacturing industry by being an ambassador for the trade. “When we have shop tours for students and instructors, sharing the company’s journey and sharing my experiences over time is important,” he says. “Most everything in our lives is touched by manufacturing, so manufacturing is going to continue. Manufacturing is diverse. It offers a range of career paths where you have the opportunity to find a niche doing something you enjoy.”

To learn about all of the 2020 Emerging Leaders, read Meet Production Machining’s 2020 Emerging Leaders.

To watch videos about our 2020 Emerging Leaders, click on the links below:


  • Emerging Leader Nathan Neels Empowers his Employees

    Nathan’s unique knack for investing in the growth of his more than 50 employees creates a workplace made up of people who feel empowered, cared for and respected.

  • 11 Manufacturing Careers of the Future

    Share these new career paths with the young people you know and encourage them to look into these possibilities. 

  • Production Machining 2018 Emerging Leaders

    Young professionals are a vital asset to the precision machined parts industry, and it is important to acknowledge those who are making strides toward shaping the industry’s future. Production Machining is recognizing our industry’s young talent who were nominated by their peers through our new Emerging Leaders program.