Weiler Abrasives has worn many hats dating back to its original roots in 1898, but gear grinding has become one of the company’s key initiatives.
“We chose gear grinding for several reasons,” said TJ Boudreau, category manager with Weiler Abrasives. “Our unique vitrified technology gives our gear-grinding products significant advantages. Additionally, it complements our technical deburring business. Deburring is a critical aspect of gear manufacturing, and we’re the leader in gear-deburring technology.”
Weiler Abrasives manufactures high-performance vitrified grinding wheels for all of the major machine manufacturers, including Reishauer, Liebherr, and Gleason, according to Boudreau.
“We make all shapes and sizes of gear-grinding and honing products,” he said. “We also manufacture specialized vitrified products for hob-sharpening machines and high-performance type 1 OD wheels that are sometimes utilized after hardening. In addition to our industrial grinding products, we manufacture wire and Nylox brush products for gear-deburring applications. Our deburring offerings include standard-size brushes used on common machines such as a CDMC Model 1100 as well as custom-engineered brushes designed for a specific customer application. We can make just about any size and shape brush that you can dream up.”
Weiler Abrasives uses CNC finishing equipment for all of its precision abrasive products, according to Boudreau.
“This was a great insight by our company seeing the future need for tighter and tighter tolerances,” he said. “We hold very tight tolerances on specialty profiled wheels, including our worm-gear wheels and our single-profile wheels. This is valuable to our customers because it reduces the amount of fine dressing that our customers have to face once they get the wheel and put it on the machine. “When you take out 45 minutes of dressing for the customer, all that time goes back to their production. It can be a tremendous savings for them.”
Boudreau points out that Weiler Abrasives has relationships with some of the best grain technology companies in the world, which also presents a special advantage.
“You got your big guys, and they all have their own grain divisions, and they’re obligated to the technology that those grain divisions develop,” he said. “We don’t have those types of restrictions, so we’re able to partner with grain producers to develop technology that’s specifically designed for the markets and applications that we are focused on. We also don’t try to service every single industry. We have a lot of varying capabilities, but our primary focus is what we call our initiative markets. We put our resources into developing top-tier products for the applications within those industries.”
With grinding becoming more of the norm in gear manufacturing, Boudreau said customer service is a top priority at Weiler Abrasives.
“Over the last decade, grinding has become a much larger part of the gear-manufacturing process,” he said. “People are grinding from solid, and gear-grinding applications are becoming more challenging every year. In order to tackle these very aggressive gear-grinding applications, customers need high-performance gear-grinding technology. These types of wheels have traditionally been available only from very large domestic and European players, limiting the choice customers have. I’ve spent a lot of time with customers over the last year, and many of them are frustrated by the service and delivery that they are getting today.”
To that end, Weiler Abrasives is extremely customer focused, according to Boudreau.
“We focus on solving end-user problems, and we focus on innovation,” he said. “We’re not afraid to look at one end user and say, ‘How can we solve this guy’s problems?’ And we’ll design something specifically for his application. It doesn’t matter to us if we can sell that to somebody else or not. Our job is to solve this customer’s problem. We really want to be technical consultants for our customers. We want to be able to leverage our technical expertise to help our customers succeed. In doing so, our customers will grow, and we’ll grow with them. That’s kind of our philosophy.”
A part of what helps Weiler focus on its customers’ needs is the company’s approach to delivery, according to Boudreau.
“Everyone’s challenged on delivery,” he said. “Our model’s a little bit different, because we have some different logistical challenges. We’re manufacturing in Europe, which other people are doing, so it’s not impossible. But some of these companies, if you order a wheel out of Europe, they’ll be glad to sell it to you in 20 to 24 weeks. It’s a little hard for customers to plan production around those kinds of lead times.”
To help combat that issue and help customers avoid carrying massive amounts of inventory, Weiler Abrasives has a fast-track program, according to Boudreau.
“If we go to Customer A, and they have an issue, or we think we can help them optimize a process, we will get the technical details, design a wheel, and the fast-track program will make that wheel within 30 days,” he said. “We can be back at the customer, testing and making sure that it’s the right solution for them very quickly. Once we establish a right solution, we work directly with the end user to understand their needs. We then work with our distribution partners to ensure we have a stocking and logistics plan that supports the customer’s needs. Even with strong local support and stock, something can happen or needs can change so we add another layer of support that I like to call Flex Stock. We will build inventory in our Pennsylvania facility where we can deliver basically anywhere in the U.S. within a couple of days. We stay ahead of that customer’s production and allow for demand swings.”
Whereas many manufacturers will carry inventory for big million-dollar customers, Boudreau noted Weiler Abrasives is willing to do that for any customer that it is working with.
“Weiler’s core business is metal-fabrication products,” he said. “And the expectation in that industry is: We can have it tomorrow. Our logistics capabilities and the standard we hold ourselves to are much higher than someone who can deliver in 20 to 24 weeks. Because we have this logistics expertise and capabilities already in-house, we’re leveraging that to be the best service provider in the gear industry.”
Weiler Abrasives actually began life back in 1898 in Germany where founder Joseph E. Weiler began manufacturing polishing brushes for the jewelry industry. In 1944, Karl E. Weiler, Joseph Weiler’s oldest son, started manufacturing these brushes in a chicken coop in Franklin Square in Long Island, New York.
As the company grew, it moved to Cresco, Pennsylvania, in 1957. The founders were fond of this section of the Pocono Mountains, which reminded them of the Black Forest. Since they were ready to build a bigger operation, it became the company’s new headquarters. The location has expanded many times since then, according to Boudreau.
In 1971, Karl Weiler, who is currently the chairman of the Board, became the president and began the expansion of Weiler Brush Company into Weiler Abrasives.
“We first got into coated abrasives,” Boudreau said. “We were the first company to manufacture flap discs in the United States. The Weiler Tiger Abrasives brand is very well known in the metal fabrication and MRO businesses and continues to be a great product that we manufacture today.”
In 2015, the company acquired SwatyComet, one of the largest producers of thin wheel products in the world. SwatyComet had an industrial grinding division. That industrial grinding technology is what pushed Weiler Abrasives into the gear industry.
That business jump has sparked many changes within Weiler Abrasives, according to Boudreau.
“You wouldn’t recognize it from a year ago,” he said. “Just a few years ago, there was no industrial grinding expertise within the organization on the Americas side, and we built a sales team and sales organization to support that. That’s a big change for us. We’ve always had an application engineering team, but they really focused on the deburring end of the business. Now our application engineering team includes guys with expertise specific to the gear industry.”
With all that infrastructure in place, Weiler Abrasives is set to grow along with the gear industry, according to Boudreau.
“I see the gear industry continuing to innovate and evolve,” he said. “There is nobody making equipment anymore that does just one operation or one feature. New equipment is evolving to the point where they’re doing multiple features in a single process step. We need to continue to evolve along with the industry and develop technology that is able to maximize the performance of the new equipment technology coming out. We want to stay out in front of the industry and partner with OEMs to make sure that the technology we’re putting in the marketplace is out front.”
To that end, Weiler Abrasives’ goal is to be the No. 1 name in the gear industry in terms of abrasive and deburring technology, according to Boudreau.
“We have an OEM program where we’re working with different OEMs,” he said. “We work together with them to design grinding wheels that maximize the output of their machines. If we can develop technology that makes their machines more useful and more valuable, it’s a win-win for everybody.”
Boudreau said Weiler Abrasives will be at the Motion + Power Technology Expo in October and expects a positive response at the show.
“We’re really excited about that,” he said. “We’ll be unveiling some new wheel technology at that time. We’ll be featuring not only our grinding products but our deburring products as well. I suspect we’ll be the only manufacturer there that can service the customer’s needs from front to back.”
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