Category Archives: company news

40 Years of HARBEC: Part 2

1987-1997… Growing, Transforming and Embracing New Ideas

During Harbec’s second decade, many significant changes and opportunities were in store. By 1987 Harbec had outgrown the barn and it was time to come out into the open and find a real manufacturing space that could offer them a solid opportunity to grow and develop. The pursuit of a better space lead Bob Bechtold to an opportunity in nearby Ontario that was conveniently located and was an enormous, 10,000 square feet of space and coming from the 2000 square foot barn basement, this seemed like more space than it could ever use. Now the business was able to grow and expand and in only a couple of years they were already starting to add on to what would grow to over 50,000 square feet in the years to come.

This was also the decade of plastics for Harbec. During that time the company was called “Harbec Manufacturing”. It was doing general machining, pattern making and model making and enhancing these wherever possible with the strength and precision of CNC. They were also getting a taste of plastics through the rubber molding they did as part of their model making. Bob believed, “the business indicators at that time were offering much more consistent and positive growth in the plastics industry,” so he formed a second company named Harbec Plastics.

This is also the period when they completed their first addition to the building. They had a chance to mold clear plastic boxes for holding baseball cards. Initially they were successful producing a single box cube and from that the customer offered them the chance to mold the ‘triple cube’. The problem was that they did not have a big enough press or a place to put it. In the pursuit of opportunity, they took the job and while they were building the mold (6 or 8 weeks), they added an addition to the front of the building. They bought and installed the new (actually pretty old and used, but new to them) 400 ton injection molding machine and built the mold for the ‘triple cube’ sports card collector’s box.

That 9,000 square foot addition allowed them to put all the molding machines in the new area which meant they could dedicate the complete original front of the building to machining. Around this time they also decided to merge the original Harbec Manufacturing Co. into Harbec Plastics, Inc. and became one company which years later would become the present HARBEC, Inc.

CNC machining continued getting stronger and stronger but the pattern shop was diminishing and eventually faded away. The skills used in pattern making are similar to those used in model making so as the pattern work dried up, they replaced it with a new line of business. They developed their ability to make proof of concept , engineering models where precision and material type were required to be as close to production intent as possible. It was the pursuit of this ability that led them eventually to aluminum ‘bridge’ tooling and additive manufacturing.

Before they developed aluminum tool making, if the customer needed multiple plastic prototypes, the best they could offer them was to either CNC machine them, or to cast plastic parts from silicone rubber molds. This process required a ‘master’ of the needed part to be precision machined and then it was encapsulated in silicone rubber. After it hardened they would remove the machined ‘master’ and then pour liquid urethane into the void of the rubber mold cavity. They could usually get about 25 urethane parts from the rubber mold before it would fail. One of the most significant jobs they ever used this on was a virtual reality helmet. They produced over 100 units for the customer who then gave them to software developers so they could be using them to write the programs and games while the production tooling was being built.

Virtual Reality helmet molded by Harbec in the 90s.

They were constantly trying to find ways to improve their ability to produce engineering prototypes. This led them to investigate the potentials of a new technology that was being introduced called rapid prototyping or 3D printing. In the early days the 3D processes were Stereo Lithography (SLA) and Selective Laser Sintering (SLS). Fused Deposition Modeling (FDM) came shortly thereafter. While these processes were capable of doing some things well, they were not able to use the exact materials or produce the accuracies that you could get from a CNC machined part. Bob Bechtold shares, “We had confidence that these technologies would be of major importance in the future and we wanted to be part of it.”

They purchased their first 3D printing equipment in the mid 90’s and went through several different devices before they got the DTM brand SLS technology machine. This machine was able to produce, as an example, a nylon part to +/-.005″ tolerance and so they were able to use it to produce functional and accurate engineering prototypes. At about the same time they were trying to figure out a way to produce their molds faster and cheaper like the rubber molds but that could produce more parts per tool. Eventually they reversed their rubber mold making. They cut the opposite of the part (the cavity) into an easy to machine material which, after a number of different material experiments, was determined to be aluminum. This success gave them not only the ability to do more engineering prototypes better and cheaper, but it also gave them an excellent way to do low volume molding more cost effectively without sacrificing any precision or quality requirements.

This new ability opened their eyes to a completely new kind of customer. As they were products of their location, being near Rochester, they lived, learned, and grew up in a world of Kodak, Xerox and General Motors, etc. These were companies that made ‘millions’ of cameras, copiers and cars so everything they were involved with was affected by that huge volume kind of thinking. Unfortunately those “millions of” kind of companies did not last and if Harbec was to survive without them, they needed to find this new potential customer and learn how to think and act differently.

Developing their skills around faster, less expensive tooling capabilities that offered shorter life or lower quantities introduced them to different kinds of companies that had much more variety and product change over and whose products were produced in the thousands or tens of thousands instead of millions. These companies had great depth and variety of products. They also needed Harbec’s quicker lower cost tooling and molding capabilities to help them get to market faster and more cost effectively. This was the niche that they were looking for.

By the end of this second decade of Harbec, while some things ended, new and exciting opportunities emerged. Although the technology and concepts were new, Harbec would develop these new opportunities and potentials, like additive manufacturing and aluminum tooling, to become major portions of its capabilities. Harbec was working to “do it all”. From concept to completion, Harbec would be there every step of the way.

Watch for the next Blog in September discussing the next phase of Harbec’s growth and the preliminary planning that would lead them into their third decade and the 21st century. There’s more expansion and new endeavors ahead!

Community is More Than an Address

It is not enough to exist (have a physical address and place of business) in a community; rather it is essential to be an active, engaged, and a trusted ally within the community. At Harbec we take this to heart.   Since our humble beginning in our founder’s barn, Harbec has been a business that values hard work, persistence, the pursuit of excellence, innovation, and strong community. Harbec has succeeded by having strong values, ethics, and integrity which transcend every aspect of the work we do.   Our values for social responsibility are reflected in many ways. Harbec and its employees are very proud to have given back to the community in the following ways in 2014:

  • Food Drive – In November Harbec and its employees contributed more than 500 pounds of nonperishable food and frozen turkeys to a local shelter for women and children and the town food cupboard.

 

  • Blood Drive – More than 15 people participated in the annual American Red Cross blood drive which potentially saved almost 50 lives!

 

  • Gift Drive – Harbec employees contributed hundreds of new and gently used items in support of the Green Angels freecycle event, as well as  new gifts for 3 Harbec families and many items to benefit a local women’s shelter.

 

  • Community Education, Training, Awareness – In an average year, Harbec works with more than 30 local schools, universities, and organizations providing tours, guidance, mentoring and  support.  in 2014, we have furthered our commitment to technology education and exposed hundreds of students to our innovative and sustainable manufacturing solutions.

 

  • Commitment to Sustainable Manufacturing – Harbec continued its journey to reduce its operational impact on natural resources and the environment. In 2014 Harbec invested in and acquired new equipment, tools, and processes that will make its people, facilities, and operations more efficient, productive, and sustainable. Harbec’s investment to upgrade its Combined Heat and Power (CHP) physical plant will, for example, once completed in early 2015, lead to an even higher thermal efficiency factor, further reducing Harbec’s greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions to the local community.

Whether it’s for our local community or for one of our global customers, in 2015 Harbec will continue to work hard to provide the best solutions, and with the highest integrity, quality, and performance.   See you in 2015!

HAPPY HOLIDAYS!

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Materials Selection and Management Solutions

The development and commercialization of sustainable products can be realized by integrating a framework of sustainability across the following high-level product development steps:

  • Customer Needs Assessment
  • Sustainable Product Design Principles
  • Materials Selection
  • Sustainable Manufacturing
  • Product Packaging
  • Product Use
  • End-of-Life Product Disposition

product stweardship

No two products are exactly the same. All of the steps noted are important to producing a high-quality product. The right selection and efficient management of materials is essential to providing custom engineered product solutions to customers. The materials used in the manufacturing process, and as embedded in the final physical form define the ultimate price, performance, quality, longevity, and sustainability of  a product.

 

Harbec works to provide solutions to customers to achieve sustainable product innovation and commercialization goals. For example, Harbec’s Sustainable Design Guide is a useful reference for understanding key principles of sustainable engineering to incorporate into the design of new products. In addition, as a manufacturer of custom tightly toleranced parts, Harbec differentiates itself by offering materials solutions to its customers. Harbec has developed an expertise of materials and internal controls and processes that support the wise and efficient use and management of materials.

 

As a result, Harbec’s materials solutions integrate intimate knowledge of materials with customer needs and goals across the entire materials value-chain: product design, materials selection, custom manufacturing, materials management, and product use-phase, end-use, and life-cycle considerations for managing product stewardship requirements.

 

Advancements in materials science research are contributing to the availability of new commercially available materials that provide unique properties. Increasingly, Harbec is being asked by customers about biopolymer options for injection molding, particularly as a means to support their goals for sustainable product innovation, and in advance of new product labeling requirements. As companies increase competition related to sustainable products, materials from bio-based origins, including biopolymers, are being looked to as possible solutions. In response, Harbec has updated its online Biopolymer Information Center as a resource to learn about the diverse range of options for molding biopolymers. The website also identifies a sample of the biopolymers Harbec has had experience molding for a diversity of customers and toward their specifications for high quality tightly toleranced parts.

 

This month Harbec has also launched its Biopolymer Partners Program. Through the Biopolymer Partners Program Harbec is working to connect the dots between sustainable design and manufacturing and materials development and management. Harbec is working with customers who are looking for unique bio-based polymer solutions which can enable their products to reduce or eliminate petroleum-and-carbon based feedstocks within their product portfolio. Harbec is also working with a diversity of biopolymer and bio-origin polymer companies to sample, validate, and assess the vitality of their material within the production parameters and tolerances demanded by customers.

 

To round out its total solutions offering for customers choosing to design, prototype, and manufacture sustainable products, Harbec offers carbon-neutrality at no additional cost. Since 2013 Harbec has been a carbon-neutral manufacturing facility. Harbec’s investment in operational excellence, adoption and certification of  ISO 50001/SEP, on-site renewable and combined heat and power (CHP) energy solutions, and integration of sustainable manufacturing tools, systems, and processes allows us to be a high-value partner for the manufacture of sustainable products.

 

An Admirer…

Happy Earth Day! We truly do believe every day is Earth Day and it warms our hearts to know our decisions are recognized and appreciated by others. We received a wonderful note from someone we had never met and wanted to share it.

To: owner and employees,

You may think this silly but a few times a year I drive by your facility off 104 west on my way to my car mechanic in Sodus.

Your wind turbine actually has an emotional effect me. It fills me with a feeling of otherworldliness  and wonder. The flag on the turbine is also a beautiful emotional connection and the experience of driving by your facility adds to my life in a good way.

 I am glad for your existence, wish more companies would put their risk- taking and heart out there so boldly as you have.

 May your boldness encourage other companies to steps and beyond the bottom line.

With admiration, 

Darcie 

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Dear Darcie,

I want to personally thank you for taking the time to write your “An Admirer” note to Harbec. Since adding the wind turbines to our operations we have received an increasing amount of praise for our commitment to make substantial investments and steps toward sustainability. Harbec endeavors to be a sustainable manufacturing company and we are continuously seeking out ways to establish new goals, improve our performance, and advance our efforts. Your note was a welcomed reminder of the impact we have intended within the community. It inspires us to know that people like you take such notice, pride, and passion in our efforts and the time to share your thoughts. Thank you for that Darcie.

The wind turbines at Harbec are certainly a bold and visual statement representing the potential and promise of U.S. based manufacturing. Achieving economic growth in hand with a social and environmental consciousness to the local community and to the world is not only possible, but achievable. Our wind turbines are a symbol of economic, energy, and environmental freedom that business can dramatically shape. They also represent our commitment to our employees and local community to be a good steward of our natural resources, and a business that proactively manages its energy resources so that we can earn the opportunity to continue to do business and employ local talent for years to come. We also believe that through our own efforts, other businesses and communities may choose to also make positive and proactive decisions regarding the use of renewable energy and other sustainable technologies.

Your kind words resonate strongly with the core values and principles of Harbec. It would be an honor if we could share them with others that have interest to learn about our business. Thank you for your consideration, and again for your personal reflection and feedback.

Best,

-Bob-

Meeting the Challenges of 2014 and Beyond

As 2014 is officially upon us, we at HARBEC would like to thank our customers for their loyalty and trust, as we look ahead to another great year, and many more.

We’d also like to remind our clients, both old and new, that we believe your time is truly valuable, and as such, are committed to continuing to deliver solutions that save you time and money. We were one of the first rapid injection molding firms in the industry, having published our Quick Manufacturing Solutions (QMS) methods back in 1995. Our thoroughly researched and proven QMS provide rapid delivery on short- to medium-run parts of any material, without ever sacrificing quality.

These QMS methods offer rapid delivery with significant cost savings, high-quality first-run parts, reduced cycle times, less-stressed parts, and many more advantages—including access to our dedicated staff who are always happy to work closely with customers.

While focusing on quality and customer satisfaction is our number one priority, we also believe that this can and should be done in a socially-conscious, sustainable manner- at no additional cost to the customer. Our mission is to deliver high value  solutions while fostering respect for our environment, the global community, and everyone with whom we work. In fact, you can see how in our new mission video.

Our mission video isn’t the only new thing we’ve been working on introducing. Over the past year, our endeavors have included increased marketing efforts that are both concise and solutions-based, showcasing our ideals and our thought leadership. As of January, 2014, we will be sharing monthly newsletters, and will continue to bring these, along with regular videos to you, our dedicated customers/readers.

We’ve enjoyed meeting and exceeding any challenges that have come our way; no part is too small, no product is unmoldable, and no question is too tough. We invite you to continue to challenge us, and we welcome any and all questions, requests, and feedback going forward.

Happy New Year—we know it will be a great one.

Celebrating 2013: The Power of People, Partnerships and Performance

As we come to the close of 2013 there is much to be grateful for. The manufacturing sector in the U.S. is gaining momentum, particularly since all five components of the Institute for Supply Management’s (ISM) purchasing managers’ index (PMI) have demonstrated their strongest performance since mid-2011. In our last blog we touched on the vital role of American manufacturing and how many businesses that shifted production of goods overseas in the past fifteen years have begun to reinvest in U.S.-based production. The manufacturing sector of the U.S. is proving to be resilient. From our point of view at Harbec, the following three elements contributed to the strong momentum of our business the past year:

  • Performance
  • Partnerships
  • People

At Harbec we have seen firsthand, tangible outcomes that can occur by focusing on our performance, our people, and our partnerships. In 2013 Harbec updated its ISO 9001 and ISO 14001 certifications reflecting our commitment to quality and environmental management systems. We also pursued and were certified ISO 50001/SEP recognizing the importance of energy management systems to our business. The “SEP” designation for ISO 50001 stands for “Superior Energy Performance” and is an industry-led certification program that is accredited by the American National Standards Institute (ANSI) and focuses Harbec on achieving continual improvements toward energy efficiency. Our ISO certifications for quality, environmental, and energy practices are reflective of our philosophy of continual improvement in all that we do. As a result, Harbec is a leaner, stronger, more productive, and more aware organization than it was a year prior. In addition, our performance has also improved in all aspects of our business, but particularly our performance in helping our customers with custom engineered solutions. Our ability to adopt continuous improvement programs has enabled us adapt to change, drive innovation, and invest in our plant and our people. Consequently, we have achieved cycle-time, speed to market, quality, and cost-competitiveness improvements which have positively impacted our operating performance and customer satisfaction. Harbec’s performance was also enhanced by our partnerships in 2013. In the past year we extended our commitment to energy performance by becoming a U.S. Department of Energy Better Buildings Better Plants Partner. In doing so, we have set a goal to further reduce our energy intensity by 25% by year 2020. As 2014 approaches we will also announce some additional partnerships that we worked hard to solidify in 2013, including efforts to integrate new manufacturing capabilities with research and development and our energy reduction goals.  In 2014 we will announce a new initiative we are working on to use additive manufacturing tools to incorporate nature inspired (biomimicry) designs into production-capable injection molds that can further reduce cycle-time and energy consumption. The partnerships we established this past year were in support of Harbec’s 2013 goal of becoming a Carbon Neutral production facility, which we are proud to have achieved. As a result, we can now provide “Carbon Conscious Components” to our customers as an added value to our existing technical and business solutions.

While we are proud of our accomplishments, we are most grateful for the beating heart to our organization, our people. Without the hard work, dedication, engagement and collaboration of our employees, we would not be able to achieve our mission or sustain our growth. Harbec’s employees are the glue that bonds technical capabilities with customer expectations to achieve custom engineered solutions. In 2013 our employees demonstrated grace under pressure, wisdom and tact. As a recap, the graphic below highlights a sample of what we are grateful for having accomplished through our Performance, Partnerships and People in 2013.

In our view the greatest benefit occurs when people, partnerships, and performance can be integrated to achieve outcomes that are more consequential, lasting, and sustainable than if addressed singularly. In 2014, we commit to continue our efforts to align and integrate the power of people with strong external partnerships and toward performance improvements. Thank you to our employees, partners, and customers who have enabled Harbec to continue to evolve as a high value custom injection molding business with a social and environmental conscious to our customers and the world. We wish you the best for a happy, healthy, and prosperous New Year!