H.S. Die & Engineering, Inc. (Grand Rapids, MI)—the winner of the Leadtime Leader Large Shop Honorable Mention Award—knows a thing or two about reinvention. The company has recently entered the aerospace industry (see Flying High in Aerospace Sidebar) to ensure its long-term survival during tough economic times. Increasing automation to further tighten leadtimes—as well as molding, testing and sampling capabilities—also has played a part in the company’s continued success in the design and build of injection, compression, double shot, stack, RIM, structural foam and blow molds.
A total of 245 employees help maintain the company’s business philosophy of “quality on time.” According to H.S. Die General Manager Kent Hanson, “Speed to the market is practiced daily by every employee in the organization and is a trait that is brought to all of us by Harold Steele, our president. He has dedicated his life to instilling this philosophy in his business and each individual that comes to work here every day. To do this, Harold has always invested heavily in the employees, technology, equipment and facilities. He combined the practical experience learned from his passion for racing with demand for knowledge and continuous growth and improvement. This common-sense approach has aided his decisions and allowed his selections in these critical areas to bring H.S. Die great success.”
Industries served include: aerospace, agricultural, business equipment, consumer home and commercial products, national defense, electrical power generation, forging die, automotive, medical and recreational. Hanson notes that the manufacturing of such diverse molds makes it challenging to pinpoint a specific leadtime, but adds that H.S. Die offers a 10 week or better leadtime on “medium-size” tools (anything under 14” x 35” x 45”)—with a great on-time delivery record.
Investing in Technology
H.S. Die continually develops software and automates the build process—whether it is for molds, fixtures or actual machining of parts—with state-of-the-art software and machining equipment, explains Purchasing Manager Seth Galentine. “We have seven robotic work cells controlling 17 three- or five-axis machining centers loaded off carousels,” he elaborates. “In addition to this equipment we have advanced technology with an additional 15 five-axis machines as large as 10’ X 30’ and more than 100 CNC machines throughout the company. Our H.S. Technologies plant started more than 20 years ago. We have seen that our customers need one-stop shopping and not many mold shops were providing that in the marketplace. It balances out our company by designing and building special machines, fixtures, master models, assembly equipment, testing, gages and all types of automation equipment. We also have an injection molding plant with nine molding machines from 110- to 3,300-ton, in which we sample more than 2,500 molds annually. We provide manufacturing services and run limited production parts for many industries with a full quality department to provide the proper certifications needed at the molding facility.”
The company’s newest technology addition is a Metris CMM laser that has the capability to check work that is 60” x 114” x 360”. This portable machine provides great ease of use, Galentine adds.
On the software end, H.S. Die has developed its own proprietary tool tracking software named TOMMIS. “This system has been keenly honed to track every useful metric in the tool building process,” Hanson notes. “Every employee interacts with the software in a manner which benefits that individual. Management can create reports that show progress and potential bottlenecks in workflow.”
Hanson believes that when it comes to adding value to its services, other mold manufacturers will find it hard to compete. “Our customers can manage an entire program in one location,” he states. “Up-front engineering, feasibility studies, capacity to handle entire mold programs of more than 100 tools, complete transportation services, mold tryout, secondary machinery and check fixtures, mold servicing and repair, on-site seminars—all in one place.”
A Skilled Workforce
Hanson believes that H.S. Die has one of the most skilled workforces in the industry. “We have supported schools like Ferris State University and Kettering University, which have manufacturing, engineering and design programs, and we’ve hired interns and employees who have graduated from each,” he notes. Additionally, the company offers “The Basic Mold Theory Class”—a multimedia seminar that deals with every aspect of the mold building process. “These seminars were designed to help our customers understand basic mold design, how mold actions work, the steps to manufacture a mold, and most importantly, product design,” Hanson explains. “These events are completely developed and taught by H.S. Die employees and have been customized to fit specific customer groups such as cost estimating, product designers, project managers, and tooling engineers. All classes are held at H.S. Die’s facilities.”
Additionally, a great deal of time is spent developing documents to support H.S. Die’s customers’ product designs by the CAD design group and project managers to allow for better tooling conditions. “These documents support resolving feasibility on parts,” Hanson explains. “Because we handle large programs (such as an entire instrument panel containing up to 60 molds), we work with the customer hand-in-hand to resolve fit, function, assembly and quality issues while reviewing all components in the package as an assembled unit.
“Typically companies will hire consultants or outsource projects that are not part of their everyday business,” Hanson continues. “We have a wealth of experience, knowledge and talent and our president prides himself on being able to get things done with ‘his guys.’ It builds a sense of community. We all rely on each other and know that we are more than machinists or toolmakers.”
Forecast for the Future
In addition to H.S. Die’s tried-and-true methods of investing in technology and implementing new business strategies, the company will continue to look for new market opportunities. “Specifically, the agricultural and aerospace markets have been a boost to our business over the last few years,” Hanson comments. “We are currently utilizing some of our press time for production runs in the evenings to make use of our equipment resources, and we will continue to pursue more custom molding with lower production volumes.”
The company is committed to its loyal customers, but is looking to expand its customer base. “New customers are as vital to success as new market development,” Hanson says. “We have been successful in adding new customers every year, not only in the traditional automotive market, but in new markets as well.”
Clearly, H.S. Die’s strategies and philosophies are working for this 41-year old company. Hanson concludes, “With Harold’s vision and the teamwork of our employees, we strive to make H.S. Die a company which others will want to measure themselves by.”