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Hoa Tran stands between his rows and rows of A51NX Makinos.

In the heart of Morgan Hill, California, stands T&H Manufacturing Inc., a testament to the resilience and tenacity of its founder, Hoa Tran. What began as a journey of uncertainty on a crowded boat bound for nowhere has transformed into a thriving manufacturing powerhouse. With a sprawling facility, an impressive array of machinery from Makino, YCM, Star, Hyundai, and Takisawa, T&H embodies the quintessential American dream.

Unaware that he was saying goodbye to his home and family Hoa Tran boarded a boat with his brother when he was barely in his teens. He didn’t know exactly where they were going or what the ramifications of the trip would be. All fleeing the chaos of post-war Vietnam, a vessel meant for maybe 25 passengers was overloaded with a hundred and seven people. There was little food and water, and the air was thick with the smell of fear and the unknown. “I didn’t really get what was going on until I started to listen to the people huddled together crying,” reflects Hoa. “I was just with my brother and didn’t know where we were going.” Leaving under the cover of nightfall the boat had no destination, just a point of departure. “The boat broke down on the first day,” continued Hoa. “They were able to get it running, but just barely. Smoke was coming out like hell. We drank rainwater and hoped that pirates wouldn’t find and kill us. We were lucky the ocean was calm, and we didn’t capsize. After two weeks at sea, we didn’t die and were picked up by a passing tanker, eventually landing us in a refugee encampment in the Philippines. Hoa and his brother lived in the refugee camp for two years before his brother returned to Vietnam. For three additional years Hoa continued to live in the refugee camp alone.” For the  five years, Hoa navigated the challenges of refugee life, separated from his family and grappling with an uncertain future. However, fate smiled upon him when his parents’ gained asylum in San Jose, California, they too had spent years as refugees in an Indonesian camp, but now were able to sponsor his arrival to the Bay Area a few months after theirs, laying the groundwork for his own journey to the land of opportunity.

T&H rely heavily on the Makino A51NX horizontal machining centers. Key elements for Hoa are the high-speed spindle, multi axis capabilities, accuracy, reliability, durability and usability. T&H have stand-alone Makino A51NX centers with dual pallets as well as a MMC2 Linear Pallet Pool System. The MMC2 has 50 pallets that feed four spindles nonstop, providing a constant flow of parts to the machining centers.

“I got here May 27th, 1994” tells Hoa. “I had zero dollars in my pocket and lived with my parents.” Hoa didn’t speak a word of English and had no known skills, but by chance made a decision that would shape his life in America. Hoa enrolled in a machining course at the Center for Educational Training (CET) and began taking language classes. “I registered for a 6-month course in machining,” Hoa recalls with a hint of amusement. “I randomly picked it because it sounded like a manly job, a job for men. I didn’t know anything about manufacturing, but I was able to get work right away as a deburrer. After a few months I wanted to run the manual machines, but they said no. I offered to work for free on the machines and they said no. So, I got a new job at a different company operating their machines. I stayed there a short time learning setup and easy programming. After six months I asked to do programming and they said no. Again, I offered to work for free and they said no, so I bought a computer and after work taught myself how to program. I then went to work for another company as a programmer. In 2003 I partnered with a guy in a small operation. Our collaboration didn’t pan out, but I knew my time working for others was over.”

In 2005, Hoa’s entrepreneurial spirit led him to establish T&H Manufacturing with just two old CNC machines and a thousand square feet of space. “In 2005 It was just me and my brother,” tells Hoa. “We did everything from finding customers to deliveries and running the machines. My very first client was Samsung and that first year we did really well, and business doubled the second year.” The company quickly gained traction, thanks to Hoa’s commitment to quality and customer satisfaction. With each passing year, T&H expanded its operations, investing in more machinery along the way. “We blew up year after year and here we are 19 years later with T&H Manufacturing and T&H Sheetmetal,” continues Hoa. “T&H Manufacturing has 50,000 sq.ft., 120 employees and  88 CNC machining centers. T&H Sheetmetal in neighboring in San Jose, Ca. has an additional 17,000sq.ft.,  18 employees and laser and NC punching as well as full welding capabilities.” 

Redundancy and similarity are at the heart of T&H’s stable of CNC technology. T&H have 30 YCM mills of varying configurations; the two most popular being seven YCM NXV01020A, and eight 5 axis YCM FX-380.

Investing in pre-owned machines was a great way for Hoa to grow the business without the capital expenditure required with new equipment. Back then he saved money purchasing used machines like the Supermax, now called YCM. “In 2008 is when I met Joe Clancy, he tricked me really good,” laughs Hoa. “Of the 80 CNC machines on my floor, 76 of them came from Clancy Machine Tool. Any machine regardless of the brand will eventually have an issue, so service is the most important factor when I buy a machine. For example, YCM is a brand we have many of and we love them as they outperform their price point.  What really makes them great is they are backed by the service and support of Clancy Machine Tool. I make a call and sometimes within hours a tech is here. Joe himself has come. I’m not kidding. We got a new 5 axis installed and it was dripping coolant. Before I knew it, he was climbing inside looking for the leak. My strategic partnership with Clancy Machine Tools has been instrumental in ensuring the reliability and performance of our machining centers. I never have to call my customers and say we will be late on a part because my machines are down.”

Redundancy and similarity are at the heart of T&H’s stable of CNC technology used to support their customers in AI, medical, solar, aerospace, oil and gas, and semiconductor. They have  27 Makino A51NX milling centers, 30 YCM mills of varying configurations; the most popular being seven YCM NXV 1020A, twelve 5 axis YCM FX-380, and one YCM JD316. T&H have 3 Hyundai WIA-VLT 450, 4 WIA F-400 and WAIKF5600, pairs of Takisawa T-NEX1100, T-EX108, Star SR20, SR32 and a trio of SR16, and the list goes on. “It is important for us to share tooling, share programming, share operators,” explains Hoa. “Even though we buy machines for a specific job they are all very versatile. If semiconductor slows down, I can run medical parts or oil and gas. We run aluminum, steel, stainless, Hastelloy, Inconel and some plastics. We are ISO9001 and ISO14385 certified.”

T&H have 6 Star Swiss turning machines and 10 Hyundai milling centers. Being able to share programming, tooling, and operators is important at T&H.

The Makino A51NX is the cornerstone of T&H’s operations. Renowned for its multi-axis capability, and backed by Clancy’s service and support, these machines enable T&H to meet the demanding needs of its customers while maintaining the highest standards of precision and efficiency. “Quality of the machines is also very important,” details Hoa. “That’s why I rely heavily on the Makino A51NX horizontal machining centers. The A51NX Makino has impressive features that elevate it to the forefront of precision machining technology. Key elements for me are the high-speed spindle, multi axis capabilities, accuracy, reliability, durability and usability.” The Makino A51NX is a robust machine tool packed into a manageable footprint, delivering consistent and reliable performance even in the most demanding manufacturing environments. With user-friendly interface and intuitive controls, operators can easily program and monitor machining processes, maximizing productivity and minimizing downtime. The A51NX’s accuracy and efficiency come via its high-speed spindle and multi-axis capabilities. Together they provide versatility for complex machining operations, enabling intricate machining tasks with swift and precise cutting. T&H have stand-alone Makino A51NX centers with dual pallets as well as a MMC2 Linear Pallet Pool System. The MMC2 has  50 pallets that feed four spindles nonstop, providing a constant flow of parts to the machining centers. No more setup delays as operators can preload pallets for uninterrupted machining and keep the chips flying.

T&H manufacturing are an ISO9001 and ISO13485 certified company. They utilize the latest Zeiss Contura CMMS and Calypso software.

Hoa hired a  Director of Operations a few years ago to free up his time and allow more of his efforts to be concentrated on curating new customers and servicing the ones he has. Interestingly enough their relationship dates back to the early days of T&H. “My director of operations is Leonard Torres,” smiles Hoa. “He is a specialist in semiconductors and spearheading our growing assembly operations. He was a customer for 16 years and I was lucky to get him when the company he worked for moved out of state. I will never forget when I was getting started, he really helped me out. He was a customer, and they were closing one of their machine shops and had two machines they were trying to sell. I went over and liked both machines, but I could only afford one. I got a great deal of $8000 and was happy. Then a few days later he calls to tell me both machines were coming for the same price. But that’s not it. Later he called and had support equipment and materials that would just be left behind. He asked if I wanted them too. I said yes, but then I was so poor I didn’t have a truck. He loaned me his personal truck to go get everything. It meant a lot, and still does to this day. Due to our rapid growth we  are out of room to add more machines at this location, so I am working towards an assembly facility in our currently vacant 10,000 sq/ft facility also in San Jose to free up some space and increase our capabilities. We have the sheetmetal, we have the machine shop, so a dedicated assembly center might be the next big thing for us.” Full turnkey manufacturing is the future of T&H.

Aluminum, steel, stainless, Hastelloy, Inconel and plastics are all in a days work at T&H. Their customers are AI, medical, solar, aerospace, oil and gas, & semiconductor.

At its core, T&H Manufacturing embodies the spirit of entrepreneurship and the enduring legacy of the American Dream. Hoa Tran’s journey serves as a shining example of what is possible when determination, and opportunity intersect on the path to success. “The real story is Hoa coming to America and not what machines he buys,” adds Joe Clancy. “Look what he’s created and built.” In 1994 Hoa arrived here with zero money in his pocket. On the day of his interview, CNC West asked how much he had now. He laughed and said “$800, and I have a wallet. Thirty years later and things have turned out pretty okay. I was lucky. I was lucky to make it after two weeks on the water and only five years in a refugee camp. A friend, who works for me spent 18 years in a camp, 18 years of his life in a camp. We have several family members working at T&H including my brother who is VP and myself. I’m 48 and want to keep going another 10-15 more years. I love it. I have so much pride in what we make, parts that help people and help this country. I have a kid in college, and I would love to see them continue the T&H name if that’s what they want.” Reflecting on those early days, Hoa keeps  the first machine he owned in the back of the building. It’s out of the way and a little dusty but sits as a poignant reminder of the journey.

Despite language barriers and unfamiliar territory, Hoa Tran’s journey to entrepreneurship is a narrative woven with threads of courage and determination.