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NewsDesk: Quality and Ambitions Grow at Haas Automation

By Staff Report

Interesting changes have been happening at Haas Automation, one of the few American machine tool builders left standing after scores have been displaced over the decades by Japanese, German and Korean builders.

But none has a bigger, stronger grip on the manufacturing market or its attentions here than Haas, founded in 1983 by Gene Haas, who remains the company’s sole owner.

Gene Haas captures some of that attention himself, as a generous philanthropist who co-owns the NASCAR racing team Stewart-Haas Racing and is in the process of launching into Formula One, which is popular in Europe and the world at large, with his Haas F1 Team.

But those investments just hint at the big gains his company has made in recent years, as well as its ambitions for the future. Revenues at the company surpassed $1 billion in 2014 ($1.19 billion, to be exact), and the company aims to pass the $2 billion mark by 2020, Robert Murray, general manager of Haas Automation told Manufacturing Engineering during a break at a recent HaasTec Open House.

More than 3000 visitors poured through the company’s sprawling Oxnard, CA, manufacturing facility and headquarters during the four-day event in mid-March. Haas’ 1 million ft2 (93,000 m2) facility is the largest manufacturing facility west of the Mississippi, and it’s buzzing at capacity. About 1300 employees churn out about 1250 machines a month.

The lots outside of the Haas factory are filled with machine tools ready to be shipped to foreign countries.

The shipping yard hints at how Haas aims to reach its future financial goals. The sunny lot is jammed with hulking vertical machining centers, horizontal machining centers, lathes, turning centers and more—wrapped in plastic and labeled for delivery, to Russia, India, China, Canada and other locales overseas.

To meet its objectives, Haas will need to grow exports from about 51% today to about 75%. As a point of reference, exports were just about one-fourth of the business a decade ago.

Murray said Haas will achieve its global goals the same methodical way it has come to make such a big mark on the US market.

The Haas DNA

With an absolute dedication to its core brand value of affordable high-quality machines, Haas captures about 40% of the overall machine tool market in the US. That market share is much higher when looking at some specific product lines, such as lathes. “We sell more lathes in America than anybody else,” Murray said.

That objective has been achieved with a robust—Haas would say unmatched—network of Haas Factory Outlets that offer service and support to the 175,000 or so Haas machines out in the market, as well as a financing program for machine tools to which buyers are receptive. And another feature that is not seen frequently in the marketplace: Transparent pricing published right on the Haas website.

But Haas’ success in recent years also has to do with big improvements, and investments, that have been made in Haas machines themselves. While Haas machines have sometimes been dismissed for their value position in the marketplace, Haas has been hard at work improving the reliability of its machines.

To be clear: Haas doesn’t aspire to offer the highest precision machines on the market. That’s largely because it understands the needs of its customers, who are primarily small-to-medium-sized machine shops, which represent about 80% of all US manufacturing enterprises.

With a deep understanding of what is important to those customers, in terms of productivity and specific machine features, Haas aims to offer the highest value machines on the market, and it wants those machines to be reliable.

About four years ago, Haas started a “Let the Factory Know” program with its distributors that created an infrastructure to provide feedback to the factory and has led to substantial improvements in quality and design, including some changes that are coming to market now. Haas has spent the last few years improving its quality, which is just one factor that has helped the company capture a strong position in the US market and a growing market overseas.

A Haas machine today is about 6–7 times more reliable than an older model, said Murray, who believes a Haas machine today is as good as any machine on the market. Take a VF-2, one of the company’s top sellers. The improvement in quality over the past four years in that model, Murray said, is “night and day.”

Murray said the VF-2 is now best-in-class for its value. He said a customer might find a machine that is incrementally better in a particular area, but he noted that it’s probably “two to three times the price.”

Quality is now baked into the Haas process, with universal service reports that feed data back to the factory headquarters. “We use the same measurements everywhere we go. We manage by data,” Murray said.

Because of the renewed quality infrastructure, Murray added, Haas quality “will get a lot better” in the future, too.

A Promising Future

Murray acknowledges his objective of more than $2 billion in revenue for 2020 is ambitious.

“I’m always aggressive on my goals,” said Murray. But he said he has the utmost confidence with his team, which has been working together for decades. “We’re always talking about what customers want,” he noted.

Haas is also offering new models, such as the ST-55, which is a heavy-duty, large-bore turning center aimed at the energy and aerospace sectors and their big parts. In the future, Murray sees an expanded drill tap line, including a five-axis version, increasingly easy to use controls and he’s pushing his engineering team to simplify machine design, to make them easier to build and repair.

But the big hopes are being put on Haas’ investment in Formula One and what it can mean for the Haas brand overseas, where name recognition is low. “We are nimble, fast and quick,” Murray said. “We just have to execute.”

—Sarah A. Webster, Editor in Chief

New Board at AMT

The Association For Manufacturing Technology has elected its 2015–2016 officers and directors. The 2015–2016 board year begins April 1, 2015.

The AMT board of directors—which represent the American manufacturing technology industry—named Jerry Rex, executive vice president, Concept Machine Tool (Plymouth, MN), to serve as chairman. He follows Kevin J. Kilgallen, president, Mid Atlantic Machinery (Harrisburg, PA).

The board elected Richard L. Simons, chairman, president and CEO, Hardinge Inc. (Elmira, NY), to serve as first vice chairman. Ronald S. Karaisz, president/CEO of Kar Enterprises Inc./Novi Precision Products Inc. (Brighton, MI) will serve as second vice chairman/treasurer. Brian J. Papke, president, Mazak Corp. (Florence, KY), was elected secretary.

Newly elected to a three-year term as a member of the association’s board are Christopher A. Bailey, vice president, Global Automation Solutions (Cleveland); Dr. John B. Cheung, CEO and Co-founder, OMAX Corp. (Kent, WA); and Paul Ricard, president, DP Technology Corp – ESPRIT (Camarillo, CA).

Board members who were re-elected for a three-year term include: Jerry Rex of Concept Machine Tool; David J. Burns, global head of sales, The ExOne Co. (Irwin, PA); and Lee Morris, CEO and chairman, The Morris Group (Windsor, CT).

Ninth US Manufacturing Hub in the Works

The Obama administration in March announced a competition for manufacturers and universities to form the ninth manufacturing innovation institute, this one to concentrate on textiles and fibers.

The US government will invest $75 million while private entities are to invest another $75 million, according to a White House statement. The textiles group will be led by the US Defense Department.

The group is to be called the Revolutionary Fibers and Textiles Manufacturing Innovation Institute. The institute is to research and develop “technical textiles,” or new fibers and fabrics that are lightweight, flame resistant, strong, and in some instances have electronic sensors. Possible applications include new protective gear for fire fighters and new military uniforms.

The announcement means there will be a competition among groups of universities, nonprofit organizations and companies to be selected to operate the textile institute.

The other eight manufacturing institutes are in various stages of development, including five where headquarters have been established. Those groups emphasize such areas as additive manufacturing and digital manufacturing.

The institutes are supposed to be a way for companies and universities to collaborate on research to improve manufacturing and add jobs. They’re also intended to spread manufacturing advancements to small businesses and entrepreneurs in addition to large corporations.

According to the statement, the textiles institute is the first of eight new institutes President Obama wants funded by end of 2016. The president’s goal is to establish as many as 45 of the manufacturing hubs over a decade.

At the same time, the administration announced two programs aimed at assisting small manufacturers.

The first involves the National Institute of Standards and Technology’s Manufacturing Extension Partnership (MEP).

MEP consists of a state-federal network of 60 centers and 1200 manufacturing experts. Nonprofit organizations will compete for agreements to operate MEP centers in 12 states and offer lean production and technology services to small businesses. There is to be $158 million in federal funds invested to be matched by $158 million from the private sector.

The 12 states that will have MEP competitions are Alaska, Idaho, Illinois, Minnesota, New Jersey, New York, Ohio, Oklahoma, Utah, Washington, West Virginia and Wisconsin.

The second program is called the White House Supply Chain Innovation Initiative. The administration will convene a group of executives from companies that want to help small manufacturers adopt new technology faster and improve product design.

—Senior Editor Bill Koenig

EOS Names New President

EOS, in March, named Glynn Fletcher president of EOS of North America, as the 3D-printing company moves to integrate additive manufacturing with traditional subtractive production methods.

Fletcher previously served as president of GF Machining Solutions LLC in Lincolnshire, IL. EOS and GF Machining have jointly demonstrated systems that combine both manufacturing techniques.

Customers want to integrate 3D printing “with more traditional manufacturing processes,” Hans Langer, CEO of EOS, said in a statement. “Meeting this objective has been a long-term strategy of ours.”

There have been other indications of interest in combining 3D printing and traditional manufacturing methods, where material is cut, buffed or machined. Also in March, Hybrid Manufacturing Technologies Ltd. won the first-ever International Additive Manufacturing Award. The company secured the prize for a hybrid kit that can be added to CNC machines to add 3D-printing capability.

Fletcher will oversee Advanced Laser Materials, which provides polymers for additive manufacturing and Integra Services, which provides service and support for additive technology.

EOS, founded in 1989, developed Direct Metal Laser Sintering, where a laser melts powdered metals, and provides systems, software and materials as well as technical and consulting services. EOS is based in Germany while EOS of North America is based in Novi, MI.

—Senior Editor Bill Koenig

Workforce Development

SMTCL-Americas (Pamona, CA) has donated a new machine tool to Cal Poly Pomona’s engineering department. California State Polytechnic University of Pomona is receiving a SMTCL VMC850E. This vertical machining center will allow for the engineering department to give a more hands-on experience to students. The Formula SAE and BAJA SAE teams will also greatly benefit from the new machine. Currently the teams use the SMTCL Brio for making parts and wheels for their vehicles. With the new VMC, students will have a better chance of spending more time working on the machines. The China-based SMTCL has been working with Cal Poly Pomona for over five years. SMTCL is a subsidiary of SYMG, the largest machine tool manufacturer in the world producing 80,000 machine tools each year and with revenues of $2.9 billion.

Separately, the National Institute for Metalworking Skills (NIMS), a standards and certification body for the precision manufacturing industry, and the Gene Haas Foundation (GHF), which provides scholarships to schools for students entering technical training programs, in March announced that they will partner again this year to help schools prepare more students for success in precision manufacturing careers.

The 2015 GHF-NIMS Credentialing Scholarship Program will provide eligible secondary and post-secondary institutions with grants to build high-quality technical programs that provide students with foundational skills and industry-recognized credentials that have immediate value in the job market. The grants will cover up to 100% of the costs of testing and credentialing services for all students seeking NIMS certifications. The program will launch this year with a $100,000 investment from GHF.

In 2014, the Scholarship Program provided financial support to over 1000 individuals at 22 high schools and colleges in 16 states to pursue NIMS certification. Approximately 3500 credentials in foundational CNC machining will be earned as a result.

SME Gives Away 3D Printers

3D printers, a symbol of the future of manufacturing, were given out at SME’s HOUSTEX 2015 show in a format based on a classic TV game show.

An “SME Plinko” game was constructed at the SME booth at the event, held Feb. 24–26 at the George R. Brown Convention Center in Houston.

The game was based on the Plinko pricing contest on The Price Is Right, the long-running game show. At HOUSTEX, contestants were given two shots a day to land on either the “Grand Prize” or “Prize” slot. A disk would be dropped from the top of the board and eventually reach the bottom, where the slots were categorized.

Three grand prizes, a Printrbot Simple Metal 3D printer and 1 kg of PLA filament each, were given out, one for each day of the show.

The winners of the 3D printers were: Yolanda Morse of Baker Hughes, Brian Pond, of Mitsubishi Materials USA and Stephanie Dulski of BobCAD-CAM.

Also awarded were one-year free SME memberships. Those winners were Jim Schultz of Schultz Precision Arms, Sotha Heng of Halliburton, Ahmed Gaffar of National Oilwell Varco and Danielle Blanco of SMI Machine Tools.

HOUSTEX 2015’s total show attendance was 6589.

This article was first published in the May 2015 edition of Manufacturing Engineering magazine.

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