Hardinge Inc. has more than a century of history in manufacturing precision equipment – a heritage that still thrives today, says April Terreri.
We all admire a quality-made product. However, we sometimes lose sight of the sequential processes a product must pass through in its numerous stages of development, before it achieves its ultimate quality-control approval. Even before those sequential processes begin in the assembly of a product, Hardinge Inc. of Elmira, N.Y., is there, providing the front-end precision that makes this quality possible.
Just about every industry in the world uses Hardinge equipment, including automotive, aerospace, construction and farm equipment, energy and transportation, and the computer and office equipment industries. Electrical component makers, manufacturers of dental and medical equipment, and even defense industries rely on Hardinge precision to produce the quality parts necessary to guarantee a superior finished product. Hardinge sells to all sizes of companies from small job shops to large, multinational corporations.
Solutions for Specific Needs
The machine tool industry consists of two segments, metal cutting and metal forming. “Virtually everything we do is in the metal-cutting segment of the overall machine tool industry,” says Richard Lewis, manager of marketing operations. “We are really a solutions provider for the metal-cutting industry, and we manufacture and market a wide variety of products.
“Our customers have certain needs and our job is to meet those needs,” says Lewis. “They want to produce a part faster and more accurately and with better finishes than they did yesterday. We make the machines and tooling to help them do that.”Hardinge is an international leader in the machine tool industry, designing and manufacturing equipment including horizontal CNC lathes, Swiss-turn CNC lathes, twin-turn CNC turning centers, Super-Precision® horizontal CNC lathes, machining centers and vertical CNC lathes. Its branded products include Kellenberger® grinding machines, Hansvedt® electrical discharge machines and Hardinge® work-holding products like collets, chucks and feed fingers.
Hardinge’s engineered services include integrated automation, CNC lathe auto-mation and parts process development. Hardinge markets its precision equipment under the well-known Hardinge® and Hardinge Super-Precision® names. Its grinding machines and related toolings are marketed under the Kellenberger® name, and its EDM equipment and related accessories are marketed under the Hansvedt® name. Hardinge employs about 1,300 people worldwide in its 1 million square feet of facilities.
A Heritage of Precision
Brothers Franklin and Henry Hardinge began their small company in 1890 as a manufacturer of specialty tools related to bench lathes. Their first “factory” was located in an 8-foot-square section in the rear of a Chicago boarding house.
One of the most important patents the Hardinge brothers developed was a lens measure for opticians, which was the first successful lens measure invented and manufactured. Another of their many patents was for watchmen’s portable clocks. “The company has always been involved with precision,” says Lewis. “It was the Cataract line of bench lathes that developed the firm of Hardinge Brothers Inc., and this name stuck for over 100 years.” In 1995 the company went public and the name was changed to Hardinge Inc.
Hardinge considers new product development as the lifeblood of the company. “We’ve introduced over 50 new products in the last six years,” says Lewis. Hardinge introduces new products in three ways. The first is through internal development, researching, designing and manufacturing in-house. The second is through acquisitions: Hardinge purchased L. Kellenberger & Co., AG, a Swiss manufacturer of high-precision ID/OD cylindrical grinding machines; Hardinge also acquired Hansvedt Industries Inc. of Urbana, Ill., the largest U.S.-owned manufacturer of EDM equipment for general-purpose ram and wire EDM applications. Hansvedt also manufactures manual and orbiting ram EDMs, CNC ram EDMs and wire EDMs. “The third way we introduce new products is through joint ventures,” says Lewis. Hardinge and EMAG Maschinenfabrik GmbH of Germany formed Hardinge-EMAG, to manufacture a new line of inverted spindle vertical turning lathes (VTLs). These machines feature integrated automation and are perfect for small-lot production requirements as well as high-volume manufacturing.
“Not only do we have the products, but we also have customer support systems in place,” says Lewis. “We support our customers before, during and after the sale. The whole idea is to make our customers more productive. Another big part of our business is providing turnkey solutions.” Using just a customer’s drawing or a sample part, Hardinge can provide the necessary part programs, recommend the tooling required for the job and recommend the best sequence of operations for a particular part.
“We can tool a machine before it leaves our shop, ship it to our customer and send along a team to ensure that our customer is up and running and that the part is being produced the way our customer wants it,” explains Lewis. Priding itself on providing one-stop shopping, Hardinge doesn’t only sell the machines, but all the tooling. “A lot of companies sell machines, but when you want to tool it up, you have to go to someone else.”
When they say they provide support, they mean business. Hardinge Technical Centers are strategically located throughout the country to offer regional technical support similar to the support offered at the Elmira corporate headquarters. These centers offer advanced technological solutions, time studies, service, support and machine demonstrations and training.
Hardinge also conducts productivity enhancement seminars in customers’ facilities throughout the country. “We teach customers not necessarily about our machines, but about metal-cutting technologies and how to do their jobs better,” explains Lewis.
Hardinge markets through direct sales representatives and distributors. “We also promote our products through trade magazine ads, publicity releases, the Internet, and we participate in all of the major trade shows both domestic and internationally,” says Lewis.
Total Quality Management
“The most important thing about the way we manage our company that is distinctive is that we live and breathe by the principles of total quality management,” says Lewis. New employees are trained when they first arrive at Hardinge, and refresher courses are conducted periodically. “It’s the way we run our business.”
People notice when you continue to deliver quality. When the people noticing are themselves driven by quality, the accolades they award are so much more meaningful. Hardinge received the Supplier of the Year award from General Motors Corporation for three consecutive years. Winners of this award are chosen on the basis of quality, service and price by GMC specialists in purchasing, quality control, engineering and manufacturing. In the book “Making It in America,” Hardinge was named one of the top 50 companies in the United States.
Hardinge has clients throughout the world, but its largest market is in the United States. Hardinge manufactures CNC lathes, manual lathes, vertical lathes, EDM equipment, machining centers and a wide variety of work-holding equipment and tooling domestically. The ISO 9000-certified company has manufacturing facilities in Switzerland, mainland China, Taiwan and Germany. Its Kellenberger facility in Switzerland manufactures high-precision grinding machines as well as tooling and accessories. Hardinge’s mainland China facility produces CNC lathes, and the Taiwan facility producesvertical machining centers.
Stretching Out Globally
Hardinge will continue providing the highest-quality precision machine tool products in the world as it expands its presence globally. The company has already successfully demonstrated its mettle by significantly increasing its product offerings and global reach through its acquisitions and joint ventures, broadening its traditional horizontal lathe product line and expanding into new lines.
“We plan to continue growing in the metal-cutting machinery and tooling market,” says Lewis. “And we are constantly evaluating new products and new markets and are always on the lookout for new acquisitions or new joint ventures.” Lewis reports a very good quarter for early 2000. “We are looking forward to participating at the International Manufacturing Technology Show (IMTS) in Chicago this September. Hardinge will have the largest booth in the show, equivalent to more than four basketball courts,” concludes Lewis. They will need at least that much space to demonstrate all of their new products.