Weiland Precision Machine
Up and Running 1,000 Days a Year: Machines that Buy Themselves!
“I started with one Haas in a small shop, and I want to tell you, it really was tough getting that first machine,” says Charles Wieland, owner of Wieland Precision Machine, Inc., of Lake Elsinore, California. “But the dealer was most cooperative and I got that first one in. And I still have it.”
It only took a few years for that small shop to grow into a corporation with production earnings doubling on a yearly basis. Today, Wieland Precision Machine, Inc., designs and manufactures components for the electronics, telecommunications and aerospace industries, specializing in heatsink fabrication and tooling design. All it took was a healthy dose of insight – and intelligent investment in machinery that quickly pays for itself.
Building for Success
“As a fifth-generation tool and die maker, I grew up in my dad’s shop and got a real ‘European-style’ apprenticeship. But now that I was stepping out on my own, I wanted to make sure I could leave a few successful footsteps of my own on the road to success,” explains Wieland.
“I took Harold Stephens, my current general manager, with me and we started this shop back in 1992. We were a tool and die shop; that’s what our expertise was. Through that, we started to venture into production, and that’s when we first got the Haas. It was a VF-2, and it was kind of one of those middle-of-the-line machines: not too small, not too big – just right, you know! That Haas opened up a whole array of possibilities.
“That was the best move we ever made, because the controls were so user friendly. Today, my workers are capable of doing so much more on the Haas, because the machine allows them to do it. That’s the intangible factor that I think people have a hard time identifying when people ask them why they stick with Haas.”
Tool & Die Eye for Details
Wieland and Stephens had that “tool & die” eye, paying careful attention to detail. Because this trait carried over into their production work, their quality was very good.
“The standard production house may not take the time to improve a product,” says Wieland. “But we would go beyond the print requirements and incorporate our own production improvements. Because of that, we had to pretty much give up the tool & die shop aspect of the company. We were getting overwhelmed with production work. We bought the second Haas inside of six months. The third Haas followed a few months later, and soon we were buying another mill every six months.
“We started off on the smaller machines and saw the advantages of buying the Haas and what they could do for us. Then we moved into the horizontal, and that machine never stops! We’re loading parts on one side with that tombstone changer and it’s constantly ready to go. It never gets a chance to cool down; it’s working all the time!”
It took a lot of reinvesting and beating the pavement to develop a customer base they could depend on, but Wieland Precision Machine, Inc., is finally a company that produces, “and I don’t care about anything else,” says Wieland. “What I do care about is that we run 24 hours a day now, and if we don’t have the reliability or service to keep running, I lose the equivalent of at least two normal workdays, if not three, because of my 24-hour scheduling.”
Parts Parity a Plus
One of the design factors at Haas is the use of “like parts” on different machine models. This practice allows support departments to stock fewer items, yet still be fully equipped to service the user’s needs. The advantage to both Haas and the shop owner is that the service truck can arrive on the scene with a full assortment of parts on board, including motors, gears, electrical servos and boards, so problems can be fixed on the spot.
“I’ve noticed the uniformity of parts used in our Haas machines time and time again,” says Wieland. “My shop isn’t big enough for me to have my own maintenance mechanic here, but my guys can usually jump right in there and get it back in working condition.”
The new customer base at Wieland Precision Machine is starting to ramp up now, and that’s one of the reasons Wieland is planning on a $10-million year in sales. “And that’s double what we did last year,” beams Wieland. “I’m happy, but I just don’t know when to stop.”
Wieland recently published a new brochure to lure even more new customers into the base, and it has proven to be a huge sales success. “We walked into a customer’s office, showed the brochure and the customer signed a $67,000 order right then and there! We’re also ISO certified, so that helped too, but just being able to look at that brochure ... What a difference that makes,” says Wieland. “It’s a marketing tool that adds to the customer’s perception of our ability to perform in a professional manner.”
“We’ve been in business six years now, and we added some 40 people this last year,” explains Wieland. “But this new business has brought about growing pains. As a matter of fact, we’re negotiating right now for another 25,000 square feet right next door to the existing building. We’re at 13,000 square feet right now, so I imagine there will be quite a few more Haas machines in here.
“This company has never held back as far as investing is concerned, and that’s probably why we have those eight Haas machines out on the floor now. There’s close to a million dollars worth of investment out there, and it continues to pay off. I’ve come to realize that machinery is not your real expense – it’s the machines that are going to make you money.”
Vertical vs. HS-1RP with Tombstone
Wieland was running a heatsink that required a lot of pocketing and drilling on the vertical machining center, and there was a tremendous amount of setup time. Then they tried running the same part on the new HS-1RP horizontal with a four-sided tombstone on a rotating pallet. The time savings were amazing.
“We saved around ten minutes a load,” says Wieland, “and we ran 20,000 pieces last year – at four pieces per load. That worked out to 5,000 loads, so we’re looking at more than 900 hours in cost savings just in going from the Haas vertical to the horizontal pallet changer.
“But there were actually more cost savings than that, because we had them in vises on the vertical, so the machine could rip through all of them and then come back to pocket them.” But there were also side-ops [side operations] and end-ops that needed to be done, requiring additional re-fixturing on the vertical. “So when we got the HS-1RP with the tombstone, we were able to do the face, plus we could do the sides,” explained Wieland. “That eliminated the previously required flip-flop of the part, a step that sometimes allowed the operator to mistakenly stick one in backwards. Well, maybe not just one, but more like a couple, because once you do one you can get mixed up in your mind on how to properly rotate the part and continue sticking them in wrong, because now it looks right!”
Wieland figures they probably saved another 10 minutes per part by not having to flip and re-fixture the piece. “So figure in an additional savings multiplied by a 20,000- part run, you’re looking at a fairly hefty savings total well in excess of 4,200 hours,” says Wieland. “It probably paid for the machine with just that one part, and that’s how you justify the purchase.”
Wieland also started engraving serial numbers on a lot of parts using the Haas serializing function, not only to satisfy customers’ demands, but to give the company a tracking system to monitor production control efforts.
“We had some tolerance problems coming back to us from one customer stating that a corner on one of our heatsinks would occasionally come in too tight and the component would not slide into place,” says Wieland. “By checking our serial numbers and following some parts through the cycle, we were able to pinpoint the problem back to a shipping/receiving dock problem caused by a worker dropping fully-loaded boxes of parts on the dock, thus bending one of the heatsink corners. It wasn’t a tolerance problem, but a handling problem that we were then able to correct to the customer’s satisfaction.”
Heatsinks Are Hot
One of the reasons the shop is so successful is that it adds new talents as it grows. But the real goal is to stay on the cutting edge of technology. “We’ve concentrated on the higher end of aerospace heatsinks, which we’ve identified as a $225-million market,” says Wieland. “However, there’s going to have to be a new revolution in heatsink design. The amount of heat that is being generated right now has to go somewhere, and I don’t know if aluminum is going to continue to be the key.”
Wieland explains that the present technology can’t advance much further until a way is found to dissipate this additional heat. “We’re working with a couple of companies that, with our combined abilities, should be innovative enough to come up with something new. And when this happens, we will be ready to take advantage of these possibilities and market that ability.”
“With the Haas VF-2 being the first milling machine we had in the shop, it’s kind of hard to make any comparisons,” explains Wieland. “But that machine has got to be one of the best machines we have, as far as accuracy is concerned. That machine is four years old; but since it runs 24 hours a day, it has a real-world lifetime of 12 years, and it’s still in really good shape. And that’s what you need.
“But the oldest Haas I have – even though there have been a load of major improvements over the years – is still cutting accurate parts right next to my newer Haas machines. It may be cutting marginally slower, but it is still accurate and very dependable. I have a lot of confidence in it.
“Like I said, we sure got lucky when we picked this machine. This is what we wanted. We’ll be with Haas forever. We’ve been real fortunate this way.”