Profile Feature: Manufacturing Parts Like Our Lives Depend Upon It
Making close-tolerance machined components that go into military and aeronautic products is a critical task that weighs heavily on Bob Weisheit, Jr., president of Robert C. Weisheit Company.
Lives depend upon the accuracy and quality of the crucial parts his team at Weisheit Company makes from difficult-to-machine materials such as Inconel, tungsten and titanium.
“And when we’re talking about close tolerance, some of our work is down to four places to the right of zero,” Weisheit told News Bulletin recently.
Add to precision the importance of on-time delivery of those crucial parts, and Weisheit’s work doesn’t get much more challenging.
But it’s rewarding, too.
“Knowing how important the components we make are in the proper functioning of equipment that protects our country and the countries of our allies around the world,” is just part of what the 62-year-old says keeps him going at the helm of the second-generation company.
Bob started working with his dad in 1972, right after graduating from high school.
His father started the company in the family basement in 1946. Eight years later in 1954 – the same year Bob was born – he moved the company to a 3000 square foot building in Franklin Park.
Bob continued working for his dad while he pursued a business administration degree at local colleges. In 1980, he bought the company from his dad, who then retired.
At the time, Weisheit Company’s work was mostly building dies with some low-volume production turning and milling work. But within two years, Bob bought the company’s first Hardinge CNC lathe, and things changed dramatically.
“The new machine allowed me to make more complex parts, and we received our first order for aerospace components,” Weisheit said. “The parts were for President Reagan’s Star Wars or Strategic Defense Initiative. By 1990, we had added new customers and five more CNC lathes and six CNC machining centers. Our employee count grew to 15 people, with over $1,000,000 in sales.”
Today, Weisheit is located in a 48,000 square foot Glendale Heights building, where 50 people work to ship out $10 million annually in precision-machined components, primarily to aerospace and defense-related companies.
Growing a successful company like Weisheit was a challenge, but its success has been good for everyone associated with the company, he said.
“We believe growth is good for our customers, our employees and our suppliers. Growth keeps work interesting, and certainly adds to profitability,” Weisheit said.
He pointed to four crucial things needed to grow a business that must happen in the right order.
“First, you need customers that require the products and skills you can provide. Next, if you have that, then you need larger buildings, more qualified people and finally, more machines and equipment,” he said.
Investing in the right technology and trying to predict what type of work will be in demand is another crucial part of growing a successful manufacturing business.
Thirty years ago, a typical new machine cost 80 to 100 thousand dollars. Today, it is not uncommon for a single machine to cost over half a million dollars. A mistake on purchasing equipment could be devastating for a company.
Weisheit credits the time he’s spent networking with TMA members at TMA events and committee meetings as having had a part in his company’s overall success. He served as the organization’s board chairman in 1996.
“I’ve had numerous mentors at different periods of my career that were TMA members. Working alongside them on committees and on the board of directors, I saw experience in action and learned many things that helped me run and grow our business,” he said.
Weisheit continues to meet on a regular basis with eight other peers in the business to discuss topics from business performance to industry outlooks.
“I feel very fortunate to have a handful of strong friendships born out of our TMA involvement,” Weisheit said.
So, with a crucial task at hand of creating accurate, high quality parts that can have a bearing on life and death, Weisheit persists in crediting others with his success.
“I am now in the 44th year of my machining career and I have been very fortunate. God has been very good to my coworkers and me. He has allowed us to make a living doing challenging and important work to protect our country,” he told TMA News Bulletin.
“Today I mainly coach from the sidelines. The employees are the ones on the field. They play hard and they win – all for our team.”
By Fran Eaton – published from Technology & Manufacturing Association’s February 2017 News Bulletin
ROBERT C. WEISHEIT COMPANY | PH: 847-648-4991 | FAX: 847-648-4956
999 Regency Drive, Glendale Heights, IL 60139, United States of America