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Most of Heller’s business consists of flexible transfer lines for powertrain production in the automotive and heavy diesel industries. Notable users of this equipment include Caterpillar, Paccar, Volvo, Ford and John Deere, a new customer that will soon take delivery of this particular line once testing is completed.
One of the more telling things I saw at Heller Machine Tools’ recent “Technology Days” open house event was the open plot of land behind its 100,000-square-foot facility in Troy, Michigan. That might seem odd, but I wasn’t intrigued by the land itself so much as the potential it represents. Robert Pelachyk, president and CEO, commented that within the next few years, this area could house additional production and testing space for the company’s flexible transfer lines, horizontal machining centers and other offerings.
Although no formal plans for an expansion have been announced, the fact that the company is considering such a move evidences larger forces at work. First, Mr. Pelachyk said he expects continued expansion in the newly revitalized U.S. auto industry, a prime market for Heller. Second, he commented that the U.S. has essentially become a “low-cost” country when it comes to manufacturing. If the recent buzz about reshoring isn’t evidence enough for this, Heller’s own experience certainly is. He noted that since reorganizing six years ago, the U.S. operation has grown from between 5 and 10 percent of German parent company Heller Machinenfabrik’s overall business to about a third, and estimates for this year show sales doubling compared to last year. (Notably, this year also marks the company’s 30th anniversary in the United States).
However, outside forces alone can’t account for the company’s continued growth and ambitious projections for the future. Becoming less reliant on Germany by producing more products in Troy was a conscious decision made six years ago, as was a move to provide more robust service and support. And, of course, none of these factors would matter without the right technology offerings, which were the focus of the open house event. Click here for details on two of the most notable new developments.