Volume 6 | Issue 5 | Year 2003

When you need to move equipment – heavy equipment in particular – regularly from one point to another in a plant, the solution is typically to install a conveyor belt. Hohl Machine and Conveyor Company provides solutions that are anything but typical, “We think of ourselves as problem-solvers,” explains Vice President Richard Milazzo, who along with his father purchased the 58-year-old company from founder-owner Frank Hohl in 1985. “We’re not a catalog supplier; we design and install custom systems.”

The Buffalo, N.Y.-based company employs a talented crew of 40 engineers to manufacture its series of conveyor components, including a new heavy-duty Adapt™ line. Hohl also designs and builds all types of electrical, hydraulic, pneumatic and microprocessor controls that are compatible and easily integrated into existing customer systems.

Why They Don’t Need Erasers
Key to the efficiencies of the company’s manufacturing process is a CAD/CAM system in which everything is laid out before it goes to production and then the specs are used to direct a numerical control plasma and flame cutter computer to perform automatic fabrication. Automation has its built-in efficiencies, of course, but the “people factor” is equally important. “Each of our highly skilled engineers and fabricators is capable of performing multiple functions. We don’t rely on specialists, but experts who understand the process from a broad system integration perspective,” Milazzo notes.

“Either our engineers or those of thedistributor rep go to the customer site and lay out the system. We get the exact field dimensions and plug them into our computer system, then present the plan to the customer,” Milazzo explains. “Everything is assembled in our plant prior to shipping for thorough performance testing and debugging. That’s probably one of the things that customers appreciate the most about us. When they get it installed, it works. The glitches have already been worked out. It saves time and expense during installation and enables earlier and easier start-up. With design, engineering, fabrication, controls and complete performance testing done in our plant, we provide the entire materials handling system from start to finish.”

While Hohl has a diverse customer base, from consumer goods to hazardous waste disposal, one of its major market segments is automotive. The transportation of engine blocks, transmission systems, and chassis, for example, all require smooth-running conveyance systems in the time-honored tradition of Henry Ford’s concept of mass production. How well the product is put together in large part depends on how well it moves through the factory floor, and Hohl prides itself on flawless engineering to ensure everything proceeds correctly from point A to point B.

Adaptable Modular Customization
Key to Hohl’s own manufacturing system is a modular approach that not only allows for quicker and more cost-effective customization for the initial installation, but also provides for modifications down the road. “Instead of having to change out an entire system after three years because the application has changed or just general wear and tear, we can rearrange and replace as needed,” Milazzo points out.

This is particularly true of Hohl’s latest product line of Adapt™ modular conveyors. “We’re going after a market niche that requires heavy-duty loads,” Milazzo says. With speeds of up to 200 feet per minute, the Adapt™ line provides well over twice the beam strength of the heaviest rail of competitive models. Chain-based belts are able to convey up to 1400 pounds, over twice the normal working tension. Higher capacity means fewer drives required for longer links and heavier loads.

Flexibility Determines Success
Hohl markets its products both directly and through a nationwide system of distributor reps. “Our reps add value to the product with their own engineering expertise and knowledge of customer needs,” Milazzo explains. “Advance Systems in Detroit, for example, is one of our key distributor reps in one of our major markets. We make a good team between our manufacturing expertise here in Buffalo and their on-site relationships in the automotive industry.”

In the final analysis, what Hohl seeks to convey to its customers is that flexibility – both in terms of design and manufacturing capacity, as well as the capabilities of the component pieces themselves – is the added value that determines the success of the application.

“Whether it’s a simple gravity conveyor or a complete turnkey system, we provide the most cost-effective and reliable equipment for material handling needs, “Milazzo says. That promise is what keeps their customers rolling the “Hohl” way.

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