Producing quality, precision-machined components at Camcraft, Inc. is the result of its vast engineering capabilities and positive working environment in which management and employees work together as a family, as David Gill reports.
Founded by Bud Hawley and Carl Orszulak in 1950, Camcraft started out in a two-car garage with a single piece of equipment. Bernard Bertsche, who had joined the firm in 1974 as comptroller, purchased the company in 1986; he is now chairman and chief executive officer. Today, Camcraft, Inc., of Hanover Park, Ill., is an 83,000 square foot facility with over 250 pieces of equipment.
Soon after Bertsche acquired Camcraft, his son, Michael, joined the company. In 1995 his other son, Pat, came aboard. Camcraft’s family atmosphere combined with its focus on the employee and the customer promoted consistent growth for the company. “Everything we’ve done — our plans, our mission statement — is based on biblical ways of doing things. We honor God in the way we treat our employees,” says Bernard Bertsche. “Knowing that we have something that we stand for has given our people more faith in the company.”
Investing in the Future
Bertsche’s focus on continuous reinvestment and employee development prepares Camcraft for the future. Hard evidence of this belief comes from the comments of Don Slawinski, Camcraft’s training facilitator. Formerly a CNC machining supervisor, Slawinski has been with the company for seven years. “One of the reasons I came here was the family atmosphere, which I got a strong sense of during my interview process,” he says. “I have quite an open hand in what I do, plus I have a tremendous amount of support from everybody. Camcraft creates an atmosphere where the employees can learn. It has also empowered me to broaden my own academic development. I’m presently pursuing a master’s degree in adult education. This atmosphere has motivated me to help employees achieve their full potential. Working here has been inspiring and a joy.”
One of the many accomplishments of Camcraft is being the first company in the state of Illinois to have a training program certified to the National Institute for Metalworking Skills, Inc. (NIMS). This program is officially designated as an NIMS-certified training program in the modules of machining level I and screw machining levels II and III. The topics under the program include measurement, materials and safety; job planning, bench work and layout; drill-press operations and manual and power milling; surface grinding; manual turning between centers and in chucks; and multiple spindle.
The Right Design
Camcraft is now one of the largest precision component manufacturers in the country, producing very complex components for the hydraulic, automotive and OEM markets. “The expertise we bring is not only in machining but in design review. We help our customers produce the most robust assembly possible,” says Tom Bertsche, sales manager. “What we’re successfully doing is providing our customers with a supplier that can bring value-added services to all of their product development cycles. Our engineering experts will work closely with our customers to design their product in the most cost-effective manner.”
Along with Camcraft’s certification to ISO 9000 and QS 9002, its engineering capabilities have proven to be a strong marketing tool in the company’s continuous growth. Paul Lindsay, hydraulics business unit manager, says, “We’ve evolved from an approach in which we would look for business on a part-by-part basis to one in which we’re looking to partner with a group of companies that have a need for high-volume complex components, and who require a high level of engineering and project management support from their suppliers.”
The Camcraft atmosphere helps in another facet of customer relationships. Tom Bertsche adds, “It takes a long time to develop the engineering and machining skills our customers require, and we’re not going to be successful with our customers if our turnover rate is high. We pride ourselves with having the lowest employee turnover rate in the screw machine industry, and our customers benefit from having strong relationships with staff from all levels of our company.”
On a Mission
Camcraft’s mission statement calls upon the company “to employ positive, dedicated, skillful people to produce high quality precision components at a reasonable profit….Our sincere obligation to our people includes providing a safe, healthy and positive work environment, encouraging each member of our team to realize the full potential of his/her abilities in business and personal endeavors.”
“From our mission statement to the benefits we offer, we strive to meet our employees’ needs,” says Patrick Bertsche, vice president of operations. “My father’s practice has always been to be visible on the shop floor building relationships with our employees. It is important that all managers and supervisors follow in this practice. We promote the open-door policy that encourages employees to come into management’s office with their thoughts and ideas.”
The Hydraulics Wave
Camcraft’s long-standing expertise in hydraulics will provide much of the acceleration to its future growth. “Over the last five years, we’ve seen hydraulic applications finding their way into the automotive industry, such as engine and suspension systems,” says Tom Bertsche. “We look forward to growing with our customers as they look to serve that industry. We’re leveraging the technology advantage we’ve developed over the past 10 years to meet this automotive need.”
Lindsay adds, “Our mobile hydraulics side has experienced quite a bit of growth related to the deployment of new product from our core customers, especially on the electrohydraulic side. Our customers have been able to combine both electronics and software to design more miniaturized hydraulic components. This technology has made its way into passenger vehicles, in terms of ride stabilization, transmissions and fuel systems.”
Tooled to Grow
Camcraft has geared a significant portion of its capital investment to preparing for the growth of the hydraulic market and other growth opportunities, according to Patrick Bertsche. “We’ve been spending at least 10 percent of our net sales on our equipment, including new fixturing and tooling,” he says. “Internally, we have several engineers dedicated to the improvement of our processes and automation. We are not a supplier of commodities, but of custom-designed components.” Over the years, Camcraft has responded to the ever-increasing quality demands with improved operating systems and advanced technologies. Camcraft’s equipment inventory now includes machines by Schutte, Hydromat, Index and Citizen and Traub, with much of this being CNC-controlled for difficult, tight tolerance work.
The company’s efforts have gained high praise from its industry as well. At its 67th annual business meeting, the Precision Machine Products Association elected Bernard Bertsche president, citing his service on numerous association committees such as the Industry Strategic Planning, Tool Show Task Force, Executive, and Finance Committees. In addition, he has served on the Association’s Training committee and is currently the Secretary of the PMPA Educational Foundation.
As in any company, with growth comes change. On Feb. 23, 2001, Michael Bertsche was elected president and chief operating officer. Bernard Bertsche announced to the Board of Advisors that it was time for him to step down from his role as president and pass it on to Michael. He retained the positions of chairman and CEO.
When the younger Bertsche was asked what challenge will he face as president and COO, he answered, “There isn’t just one challenge — meeting customer demands, purchasing the right equipment, hiring the right people and keeping focused on the right type of business to pursue. It is important to have a strategy in place to choose what customers and markets to serve, and what areas of business to focus our efforts.”