AMT Spotlight: AJ Kahler
Although Arthur “AJ” Kahler hasn’t been with AMT very long, he has certainly made a big impact; his focus and discipline are what set him apart both at work and at play. Hired in December 2020, AJ joined the team as Senior Controls Lead and has since been promoted to Engineering Manager/Technical Lead on the controls side of the Services group. His manager, COO Craig Salvalaggio said, “AJ entered his role with tremendous acceleration and he’s really influencing all of our team members, especially in how we onboard new employees.”
AJ is responsible for managing the controls team of the services group, and together with his counterpart on the robotics team, Jason Markesino, the two oversee a staff of approximately 70 engineers. In his current position, AJ manages the controls personnel and fixed-price controls projects. About managing the controls manpower, AJ said, “This involves understanding the schedule and skillsets of our employees while also understanding the scheduling and technical needs of our customers. It is a constant chess game to keep our customers happy, while also plugging our engineers into situations that fit their skillsets.”
Managing the fixed-price projects is also a tricky endeavor, “This involves keeping a pulse on all the jobs that we quote as fixed priced. I also manage the execution team to make sure projects stay on budget and on schedule while simultaneously supporting the team technically by leveraging my expertise, as well as the company-wide knowledge pool.”
“AMT is investing in our next generation of leadership and the focus is on aligning our people with highly technical managers for one-on-one mentoring,” said Craig Salvalaggio. “As Senior Controls Lead, AJ’s leadership has had a very positive impact on his team, especially with onboarding both new college grads and more experienced team members who may be new to this industry. AJ provides the highly technical leadership we are looking for and also does a great job being involved in projects on a day-to-day basis.”
During his short tenure at AMT, AJ has worked on a few key projects. “I act as a Project Lead when required and provide technical support to anyone on the team who needs it.” AJ supported a paper-industry client, helping them recover from an OEM mishap. “I spent a fair amount of time in Texas helping to make the execution team successful while also providing process controls support to both the AMT team as well as the client’s process engineering team,” said AJ. “I was able to act as a consultant to the client’s team as they continue to design the future controls architecture of their manufacturing plant.”
AJ is currently working on an exciting development project at a household cleaning product manufacturer. “I continue to lead/design/program an extremely cutting-edge project at our client’s facility. The project involves the integration of multiple high-level servo control products into a first-of-its-kind application.”
In addition to managing a large team and assisting as needed on projects, AJ and Jason Markesino run AMT’s Automation Academy. “This is a 6-to-8-week training program that new engineers go through before being launched into the field or onto a project. The Academy covers PLC programming, HMI programming, low-level networking, FANUC robot training, servo motion control theory and programming, and other controls-related topics. Jason and I are almost constantly putting new engineers through the complete program or running veteran engineers through portions of the Academy to polish their skills.”
Recently, AJ has been working to enhance the Automation Academy’s curriculum. “I have been focusing a lot of my time into training our new engineering talent, developing new training materials, and planning how to improve our current training lab. I have also been building and testing many new tools to help with project management, project tracking, quoting, scheduling, and knowledge sharing.”
AJ’s hobbies and interests also reflect his focus and discipline. His lifelong interest in martial arts has led him to achieve a black belt in American Kenpo, a type of karate based on street fighting. AJ has also competed with and coached a cage fighting team, taught multiple martial arts classes all around southeast Michigan and was even a guest instructor for close quarters combat at the Army Reserve. “Although I do not compete anymore, martial arts will always be a passion of mine,” he said. “This passion is what also sparked my interest in fitness. I have competed in both power lifting and bodybuilding events and still hold myself to a high standard when it comes to my fitness.”
AJ’s father spent part of his childhood in California and was an avid volleyball player. “Because of this, I started playing volleyball at a fairly young age for a boy living in Michigan (not California or Florida). I have played sand and court volleyball for many years and even played in a tournament against some pro-level players on Cocoa Beach at one point in my career.”
Besides sports and fitness, AJ enjoys studying philosophy, business, and ancient human history. “One of my favorite authors is Ayn Rand and my favorite book of all time is Atlas Shrugged.” As with many engineers, AJ engages with technology in his spare time. “I like to tinker with tons of home automation. I have a handful of ‘toys’ that I am constantly playing with from PLCs, HMIs, drones, robots, 3D printers, and more.”
AJ also enjoys shooting and collecting firearms, and would eventually like to shoot competitively. He is an avid metal/hard rock fan and attends concerts frequently. He has met a lot of his favorite bands in person, including Vinnie Paul from Pantera/HellYeah. AJ enjoys traveling and exploring new places. “I would love to one day visit the many unexplainable places on Earth such as the pyramids, Easter Island, the Nazca Lines, Stonehenge and all the rest. I am on a constant search for the truth.”
Born in Detroit, Michigan, AJ grew up in Armada and Shelby Township; he now lives in Romeo. His parents still live in Shelby Township with one of his two younger sisters. Shelbi, AJ’s youngest sister, lives with their parents while she completes her nursing degree. A close-knit family, AJ’s other sister, Mindi, lives one block away. Mindi, mom of three “highly entertaining children,” works at a chiropractic office. AJ is proud godfather to one of Mindi’s daughters. AJ is dating Haley, an x-ray technician who is pursuing certification to be a Reiki practitioner.
AJ graduated from Macomb Community College with an Associate’s Degree focused in biology and math. A lifelong learner, since graduating from college, AJ has completed many other certifications and classes related to controls engineering, including courses from Cisco, Rockwell Automation, Wonderware and ICONICS.
When asked what he likes best about working at AMT, AJ replied, “My favorite thing about AMT is the team culture. Everyone is willing to jump in and help and I always feel very supported by my co-workers.”