United Grinding recently celebrated 30 years in its Fredericksburg, Virginia location with a ribbon-cutting event opening a newly expanded and renovated facility. At the event, United Grinding CEO Rodger Pinney and Walter-EWAG Sales Director Christian Dilger both spoke about these two companies’ views of the economic conditions affecting North American manufacturing, and the strong case for investing in this market. Mr. Pinney cited the “tailwinds” favoring North American manufacturing include cash-rich companies, a growing reshoring trend, continued low interest rates and a high level of capital equipment investment by auto and aircraft producers. Mr. Dilger said the companies see cause for caution in Europe and a likely slowdown in Asia, but good reasons to expect continued manufacturing strength in North America.
United Grinding’s headquarters is in Miamisburg, Ohio. The Fredericksburg location supports the company’s cutting tool manufacturing brands—Walter and EWAG. Technology within these brands goes well beyond grinding. Walter offers cutting tool measurement technology that integrates with its grinding machines, while EWAG couples grinding with laser machining and EDM to machine the hardest cutting tool materials. The Virginia-based staff provides expertise in all of these areas.
Formerly the US headquarters for Walter Grinders, the Fredericksburg office became part of United Grinding in 2004 when the Germany-based Koerber Schleifring group bought Walter. United Grinding is the arm of Koerber Schleifring in North American. Mr. Pinney, who was also United Grinding’s CEO at the time of the Walter acquisition, said it was clear from the beginning that there would be no consolidation of US facilities as a result of this integration. Continuing to serve tool grinding customers well would mean retaining competency, and retaining competency means retaining people. Many of the experienced Walter Grinding staff members have deep roots in this part of Virginia.
Plus, tool grinding is a market so different from production grinding that it deserves its own location. Production grinding customers are often large plants, says Mr. Pinney. Orders for several machines at once are common. By contrast, tool grinding customers are often small. A typical tool grinding service provider might be a family business with around 10 employees, purchasing one machine at a time.
Serving this small customer actually places greater demands on the equipment provider’s facility. The expansion in Fredericksburg is a response to these special demands. For example, tool grinding customers are less likely to request on-site training, because they often lack the space for this. A new 7,500-square-foot showroom and demonstration area in Virginia will provide ample space for training. Another requirement for all of United Grinding’s customers—but for the small tool grinding customers in particular—is for machine service needs to be addressed before they significantly affect uptime. A tool grinding company might lose a valuable contract if it unexpectedly loses the capacity to fill a time-sensitive order. Accordingly, the Virginia site has been expanded to make room for the larger staffing level appropriate to the growing customer base that this location is serving. Finding, hiring and equipping this additional staff is the task to which United Grinding is turning its attention now.