My family got started in this by happenstance. My dad began the business in ’64. When I graduated from high school, I became involved with the business. Predominately at that point in time it was a custom welding operation. In the summers I began in ’64. [Went to] full-time in 1970. I guess probably the opportunity to do as many varied and diverse things as we have done, I had the opportunity to work with some really great people. Most of my staff is tenured. I’m probably closer to a lot of them to a lot of my family members.
The Whitney laser is integral to probably about ninety percent of what we do. Having parts right to begin with is critical to downstream operations. Mismatches cause additional work or maybe just totally remaking of the part. A lot of the customers we work through – when we send them components, they’re going to feed them directly into parts that maybe they have produced in-house or been produced by others. They don’t like for them to show up and have to rework them before they can use them. In a lot of cases the customers we’re working with are far enough out of town it’s not as simple as just rerunning them a part, put it in back of a truck, and carrying it to them. It’s an overnight deal or maybe a couple days on the truck.
Our first experience with Whitney equipment goes back to 1978. We purchased a 647 C punch plasma and then we just used it in a variety of applications since then [we’re] and still running it today. My dad, my son, and I rode up to Rockford with Herman Green. We walked out they had a purchase order in hand. We came back and set up with our bank to get the financing for it so we could pay them. They brought the machine and set it up fairly easily. We purchased our Whitney laser and got operational in 2003. Along the way we’ve learned probably how to use it to affect downstream and benefit us as we move into welding operations. If we’re doing specialty fittings that were going to sell to customers who have to have a nice fit when they put all the pieces together, er use it to go through and do some pre-processing and drilling.
It’s probably been a lot more involved in our operation than I ever would have thought to start with. I think early on, when we bought it, there was just probably a sense there was just a really high-end plasma oxy-fuel cutting machine. It has turned in to be a lot more than that. When we purchased the laser we’ve got right now, I guess probably the first thing we were looking for was a laser. Beyond that, sheet size was a major consideration. The ability to go from the thinner materials up to the thicker materials was a draw.
At that time Whitney was probably the only ones that had 6-kW machines. They were ahead of the curve on that. Since then it has helped us be more productive by allowing us to consolidate secondary operations into a single stage, and since that is all CAD driven we can be a little more accurate with it. It saves time and money mostly from the elimination of processes. The ability to go through and take multiple parts of the same machine thickness and group them together on large plate sizes. Rather than multiple plates, we might put a single plate on that machine and do that on a smaller machine, we might have to load four plates. If we’ve got everything set the way that it should be downstream, cleaning is either non-existent or greatly reduced.
I can do stuff with my laser that a lot of people can’t do. A lot of the projects that we work on, we’re all working with larger sheet sizes. There are not a lot of places around that can accommodate sheet sizes that we have. That permits us on many circumstances to go through a single-piece component rather than having to go through and clinch together two or three pieces, weld, and then be concerned about heat draw and some of the other stuff that may go along with it. So that’s probably one of the things that excites me, especially when we see some larger projects to be done with physical part sizes. It gives us a little bit of an edge. I think W.A. Whitney to be a very fine company. They and we have both gotten older together since we first got our machine.
I have a lot of people I consider friends up there that are very knowledgeable about the industry. They seem to always be looking for a better, more effective way to do something. I would recommend Whitney. They’re a great organization and they’ve always tried to do right by me. I have telephone numbers of most of the key players up there that can go to battle for you if you have problems. They have proven to me overtime they stand behind what they do.
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