Timesavers Inc. of Minneapolis has a long history and a respected reputation for manufacturing wide-belt, abrasive finishing machine tools for surfacing materials including wood, metal and plastics. The company, employing 600 people worldwide, is the largest manufacturer of wide-belt sanders in the world. “Our primary product line is our wide-belt abrasive sanders for the metal fabricating industry,” says Mark Poferl, national sales manager, machine tool division.
Wide-belt sanders are part of an automated process used for deburring metal components as they are being manufactured. Sanders are also used to grain-finish the surface of metals. These wide-belt abrasive sanders are used in industries including aerospace, automotive and electronics.
Although Timesavers does manufacture a number of standard products, a large part of its business is focused on custom-designed systems for customers’ specific manufacturing applications. “We develop finishing systems for our customers,” says Poferl, “everything from dry to wet sanders, materials handling to coolant filtration systems and machines for producing high-quality finishes to aggressive stock removal.” Timesavers also produces wood-finishing machines including finish sanders, abrasive planers, combination knife planers/sanders, feed-through orbitals, rough lumber abrasive planers, veneer polishers and seal sanders.
The first company to introduce wide-belt abrasive technology to the industry more than 50 years ago, Timesavers is the industry pioneer in sanding technology for the woodworking and machine tool industries and leads in sales of wide-belt sanders, while offering unmatched service and support. More than 40,000 Timesavers machines are busy working in industries worldwide today.
Timesavers was founded in 1946 in Minneapolis by Gordon Schuster. “Compared to our competitors, we offer the broadest product line and we manufacture entry-level to high-production machines to fit the needs of our customers,” says Poferl.
The engineering and design of Timesavers products are specific to the markets being served. “We are a broad-based company as far as our clientele and the machines we manufacture for them,” says Poferl. Over the years, Timesavers has designed and engineered value-added features to the sanders, including updated controls. “We have extended their functionality so they can be used in various applications, while making them more user-friendly,” says Poferl.
One of Timesavers’ most recent innovations is the human-mechanical interface (HMI). “We went from a push-pull control panel that had been the mainstay of the industry to an HMI computer system, which controls a variety of machine functions,” explains Poferl. Timesavers’ sanders can be equipped with automatic lubrication systems with programmable timers. Operators can also program sizes and applications parameters, such as feed speeds and part thickness, into the sander parts. “Then when they have to rerun certain parts, they can just recall that part from the touch-screen control panel and the machine will automatically set itself up, including thickness and feed speed,” says Poferl. “This new product of ours is the only product on the market that can do all of this. No one else in the metal-working industry has this kind of technology.” This system creates consistency and repeatability, which translates into higher production rates and healthier bottom lines.
Just a few years ago, HMI controls were applied only to upper-end models in the industry. “We are now applying HMI controls to more and more of our models,” says Poferl. Because Timesavers manufactures such large quantities of sander units, it has the buying power to purchase the HMI controls at cost-effective prices from its vendors, thereby allowing customers purchasing even the most generic machinery to enjoy the use of the HMI controls, once available only to customers with fatter wallets.
Timesavers sells its products almost exclusively within a distribution network throughout the country. The company’s independent distributors are experienced and factory-trained, and are ready to offer customers the expert service that has helped build Timesavers’ superior reputation in the industry. The company has manufacturing facilities in Minneapolis, Kansas and The Netherlands.
“Because we have two manufacturing locations in the United States, we have a lot of leverage with suppliers across the country because of the volume of products we produce,” says Poferl. “We can manufacture in either location and we can re-allocate manufacturing to either location, depending on available resources at either one of the plants. If we have a bottleneck or a lot of business or other issues to deal with, we have the flexibility to shift our manufacturing schedules back and forth between the two locations as resources, business and product mix dictate.”
The company acquired its Netherlands facility in 1991. Prior to the acquisition, this plant had been in business for more than 20 years, manufacturing and supplying to the European market. So Timesavers’ name and products are well-known and respected in Europe.
New Products, New Markets
Poferl attributes the success of Timesavers to the company’s dedication to continual product innovation and development. “The other part of our success story is that we have one of the best distribution networks in the industry,” he says. “Many of our distributors have been with us for well over 20 years. Our distribution network is very efficient, very mature and highly experienced.”
The company plans further expansion into other markets such as printed circuit boards and stainless steel polishing. Timesavers will continue its course of innovative product development in order to broaden its customer base. It will also pursue its mission to expand into other markets through a careful acquisition strategy.
With a successful presence in Europe and Asia, Timesavers is now focusing on the Chinese market. “We plan to continue to be the industry leader we are today,” says Poferl of the company’s future. “We also hope to play a bigger leading role in developing the technology in the wide-belt machine industry. We want to bring our technology to new industries that could benefit from our new products. These industries will discover that our products can help improve their production.”