CNC SUPERVISOR — HFW INDUSTRIES
“IMTS is still really important for my purchasing decisions. I can touch it, pick it up, look at it and talk with the tool reps. I've come across things at IMTS that I was able to put into action within weeks of coming back from the show. These technologies have cut processes in half and eliminated operations. IMTS has had a direct ROI impact on us.”
CNC Supervisor Peter Claus knows a thing or two about how technology keeps a manufacturer competitive. Over the past years, he's seen his company, HFW Industries (Buffalo, N.Y.), evolve from a small hardfacing and thermal spray provider to a robust machine shop with many capabilities, always using state-of-the-art manufacturing technology.
Claus' interest in manufacturing began with a machining elective in high school. He started as a manual machinist at HFW Industries at the age of 26 and, over time, gained more responsibilities to eventually become supervisor. Along the way, his love of technology has kept him connected to the shop floor.
“I like working with my hands because I'm a kinetic learner,” Claus says. “Years ago, the owner wanted me upstairs in the engineering department, doing quotes and planning jobs. But I knew it wasn't for me. Now I do some CAD programming, quoting, and job planning, but I'm often on the floor working with the team, helping them with the machines.”
Early interest in manufacturing
Claus' first visit to IMTS was in 1986 as a first-year apprentice through a program sponsored by the Chicago Association of Machine Shops held at Triton College in Chicago. An instructor brought a group to see the show.
“I was blown away to see how much was available out there – so many machines and machine tools. It was just amazing,” Claus says. “It piqued my interest and got me excited about manufacturing. IMTS is a great opportunity for kids to see what manufacturing really has to offer.”
Progress through machinery
HFW Industries prides itself on providing single-source capabilities to its customers in the automotive, chemical, power generation, printing, steel, plastic, nuclear and aerospace industries. In addition to making machine components, the shop is capable of finishing parts with thermal spray coatings, hard facing, machining, grinding, balancing, welding and other fabricating processes. So instead of sending a part to multiple places, HFW can do it all in one location and get faster turnaround times.
“When I started, we had just two CNC machines because machining parts was just a secondary thing; our primary business was hardfacing parts,” Claus says. “We never thought we'd start manufacturing parts because it's highly competitive. However, because we could make parts from stock steel and then add hard coatings, we started getting more and more work. Before we knew it, we needed more machines to keep up with demand.”
Today, the 70-year old company has 50 employees, 80,000 square feet of manufacturing space and a lot of machinery, including 11 CNC machines from Okuma, Dainichi, Toshiba, Hankook and Haas.
Inspiration from IMTS
Keeping an eye on new technology is very important for Claus, who is always looking for the next new technology that can help improve business.
“I believe that if you're going to do a job every day, you should have some passion for it.” Claus says. “I am constantly dreaming of the next best thing, a better way to do something. That inspiration is what IMTS has given to me.”
Claus brought a team of eight machinists to IMTS 2014, and each person came back with a list of things that interested them to share with the group.
“It opened their minds up to see the technology out there,” Claus says. “Also, it boosted their spirits because it's tough working all the time. They still reference the technology we saw back then as solutions for current problems.”
On Claus' wish list is a large VTL boring mill, and a slant bed lathe with live tooling for handling larger parts at higher capacity. This capability would bring in new business and improve efficiency. Plus, he will bring his head inspector to investigate a new programmable CMM and more optical gauging equipment to speed up the inspection process.
“In this age when people are doing more shopping online and retail stores are closing, IMTS is still really important for my purchasing decisions,” Claus says. “I can touch it, pick it up, look at it and talk with the tool reps. It's all in one place, which is fantastic.”
Claus considers attendance at IMTS a business necessity with measurable benefits.
“Attending the show is a minimal investment for what we can save in the long run,” Claus says. “I've come across things at IMTS that I was able to put into action within weeks of coming back from the show. These technologies have cut processes in half and eliminated operations. IMTS has had a direct ROI impact on us.”Read More Stories