Road Report: Wish You Were Here, Day 4

This year, the volcano in Iceland didn’t stop Chris Koepfer, editor-in-chief of Production Machining magazine, from visiting grooving tool maker P.H. Horn for its Technology Days open house and seminar in Tubingen, Germany.


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It is day four, and we arrive at the reason for traveling to Germany: Grooving tool maker P.H. Horn is holding its Technology Days open house and seminar in Tubingen. Last year at this time, I had my airline ticket in-hand, ready to attend the event. The day before I was supposed to leave, the Iceland volcano closed German airspace. I’m here after waiting a year, and the visit has been excellent. 
The entrance to P.H.Horn’s Tublingen HQ welcomes its guests to Technology Days.
I have a long history with Horn and admire its dedication to the U.S. market as demonstrated by the company’s manufacturing facility in Franklin, Tennessee. It goes well beyond many other OEMs that want to sell here but not manufacture here. We need the jobs. The visit started early with a bus ride from our hotel to the company HQ. Dave Fabry, who heads up the U.S. operation, took us on a spin through the plant.
Dave Fabry, operations manager at Horn USA, stands in front of some of the new CNC machines that the apprentices (photo below) are learning to use.
One of our first stops was at the incredibly large and well-equipped apprentice area. Most German manufacturers have apprentice programs, but this is special both in its size and the quality of equipment these future manufacturers use. Sure they have bed lathes and mills, but they also use brand new DMG VMCs. (Although, I did notice a wooden cutting tool in one spindle, but heck, the kids are learning on state-of-the-art machine tools. Caution is good practice.)

Some of the apprentices in Horn’s in-house program learn about manufacturing.

Next, we meander through the massive grinding hall. Horn uses high-precision VMCs, all DMG, to grind the insert blanks. It also presses, sinters and PVD coats to the tune of 20,000+ inserts a day. After the tour, we sat in on a seminar, which was thankfully in English. Duane Drape, Horn’s U.S. sales manager and a long-time friend of mine, did a presentation on coating technology and manufacturing that I thought was perfect in its level of detail. That stuff can get technically deep. I hope to convert his presentation into an article so you can experience it too.

Duane Drape, U.S. sales manager, imparts knowledge in his coatings seminar.

Horn is a class act, and it’s not just me saying that—more then 2,000 customers and distributors from around the world showed up at this event. We Americans were well represented by almost 50 people who flew over the pond to participate. The take-away from the seminars was they were designed to push process rather than product. Horn gets a lot of tough jobs thrown its way, and it responds creatively and competently to these challenges. It was a day well spent and a trip well worth it. 

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