In a recent announcement, Haas Automation Inc. (Oxnard, California) reported that, in the 12 months of 2005, the company has built and sold more than 10,000 machine tools. That’s a remarkable accomplishment, and congratulations are in order.
The growth of this company has something to tell us about manufacturing in the Unites States. Here are some of the insights that other manufacturing companies might take from the company’s history and from what it has achieved.
1. Don’t count yourself out. In the late 1980s, when the company began building CNC vertical machining centers, most analysts said that making commodity machine tools in the United States was pointless in the face of surging low-priced imports. Gene Haas, company founder, owner and president, did not believe this. His original methods for building machine tools focused on competitive pricing and quality, and the company has kept that focus ever since.
2. If you count yourself in, be committed. It takes a substantial and sustained investment in manufacturing equipment, facilities and employee skills. The company built a factory designed for automated production of machine tools in large volumes and has expanded the plant several times since its opening in 1997.
3. Be ready to take on the world. In a global economy, if a customer seems out of reach or it seems that a competitor can’t reach you, this situation is only temporary. Close to half of Haas CNCs are exported. China is one of its fastest growing markets. Yet, the company knows that it has to be able to take on China if machine tool builders there become direct competitors.
4. Don’t be afraid to market aggressively. In addition to exploiting conventional marketing methods and sales channels, this company created its own with its network of “factory outlets.”
5. Constantly renew your products and your processes. Visit the Haas booth at any trade show and there are likely to be several new machine configurations on display, show after show. It’s apparent that by keeping its factory lean and responsive, the company can quickly ramp up production of the models in which the market takes the greatest interest.
This is not to say that one particular company has a sure-fire formula for how to manufacture in the United States or is alone in advancing machine tool building in this country. However, this company’s accomplishment is an encouraging sign of what is possible when vision, tenacity and innovation come together.