Category Archives: Company overview

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!

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!

Why Employee Morale Matters So Much

  morale3One of the biggest assets of any business is its employees.  Accordingly, employee morale is one of the most important, truly fundamental aspects of running a company—no matter what the business or industry.

Low employee morale carries several highly negative effects: typically, it’s a domino effect that results in low morale spreading from one or a few employees, to the majority of them; low morale means low pride in work, and therefore decreased productivity, increased sick leave, etc.; and finally, low employee morale creates high turnover—employees come and go quickly, and rarely stay for long periods of time.morale1

On the other side of the coin, high morale brings about motivation, expectations that get exceeded, and a group of employees who truly care about the company, and the work they do.  It also comes across to the customers—as well as to competitors.  In short, it just makes sense.

At HARBEC, we believe this wholeheartedly.  One example of our commitment to our staff is our tiered health insurance system that is determined by salary, and offers affordable insurance to all employees.  100% of our eligible employees have health insurance; we even pay each of our employees who have outside insurance $1,000. We are sending them the message that we care about keeping them and their families healthy and happy.OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

We also offer our employees inexpensive dental insurance, paid holidays, vacation days, and personal days, long and short term disability, paid life insurance, profit sharing, 401K, and education assistance.  Finally, we hold regular company sponsored events that are a great way for us all to relax, have fun, and enjoy each other’s company outside of the office.

We care about what we do and what we make, and we care equally about the people who make it all happen.

Harbec Continues To Set Itself Apart From The Competition

Harbec Inc. was established in 1977 by Bob Bechtold, who saw a void in the market for a Contract Precision Manufacturer that applied innovative manufacturing technology and offered engineering support to its customers.  This vision made Harbec an early adopter of CNC machining and CAD/CAM software, and drove its expansion into all-electric injection molding, aluminum mold fabrication, and additive manufacturing.

At Harbec our pioneering technologies have allowed us to offer the best and most modern capabilities to our customers. We strive daily to improve and enhance the qualities that set us apart from our competitors.  Some of these qualities are:

  1. Problem Solving:  We pride ourselves on finding solutions to our customer’s problems.  We are constantly analyzing new technologies, materials and processes to make our work better.
  2. Manufacturing Expertise:  After 35 years of business as a Contract Precision Manufacturer, we have the manufacturing skill and experience to be the ideal partner for our engineering clients.
  3. Knowledgeable Technical Sales Team:  Our sales team is known for being the “Go to for answers Team.” They are quick, ready to help and very knowledgeable experts in their field.
  4. Thought Leadership:  We focus on being a leader in innovation and process improvements.  On innovation, we remain up-to-date on new trends and technologies that will improve our processes and services.  As well, we were pioneers in sustainable manufacturing with a goal of being carbon neutral by the end of 2013 and water neutral by 2014.

We make sure to have the best balance of price, quality, delivery and service. Trust us, if it’s being done we are doing it and if it’s not, we plan to be the first.  For more information about Harbec please visit our website.  We can also be reached via email info@harbec.com.