Q&A with George Buhaj

President, Avon Broach

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How did you get started Avon Broach?

I hired in as a draftsman in 1982. I was going to college for my degree in mechanical engineering. I had gotten my degree and worked my way up to chief engineer over the first eight years. Three former partners in the company wanted to retire, and I ended up buying the business in 1993.

What kind of changes did you make?

Very few, actually. It was a successful business, and I just kept it going.

Tell me a little about what Avon does.

We were started in 1950. Today, we’re an ISO 9001-certified company specializing in broaching and wire-EDM machining. We have a 30,000 square foot facility and over 75 machines, including a machine in here that runs about 5 million parts a year. We have over 5000 broaching tools and we employ around 19 people.

We are capable of broaching and wire cutting a wide variety of parts, regardless of quantity.  “One or one million,” is one of our mottos. It doesn’t matter if a customer contacts us for just one piece—whatever we need to do the job cost effectively, we can do it. As long as it fits in the realm of broaching, we certainly don’t discriminate between one or a couple or millions of pieces.

You broach all kinds of components, right?

Correct. You name the industry, chances are we do something for it: automotive, food industry, aerospace, power recovery—big turbines and generator components—food and medical industries, motorcycles, appliance, and so on. We broach components in many sizes and shapes, from tiny 1/4 inch diameter carburetor pins to mammoth turbine wheels over four feet in diameter and weighing 2600 pounds. If a customer has a specific spline, we can design and build tools for whatever need. We also do internal helical broaching.

You broach some unusual shapes as well…

True. We broach something called “Christmas Tree” forms. These are discs, 55 inches in diameter, with around 75 blade pockets.

Do you have people there that do research? Do you keep up with new techniques for broaching?

My vice president, Brian and I stay abreast of what’s going on in different industries, especially to learn what kind of equipment our customers use. Every other year, we go to IMTS in Chicago to see the newest technologies for all different types of manufacturing—not just broaching. We want to see machines being used for new methods of turning, grinding—whatever it may be.

Avon’s involved with wire EDM as well, correct?

Since 1984, yes. We were at the show in 2010 and ended up buying a new wire EDM machine, which is our third machine. We replaced the two previous machines. Our wire-EDM department provides efficient machining and precision manufacturing of plastic injection molds, extrusion, progressive and transfer dies, templates, and either prototype or production wire-EDM services

Being in Rochester Hillls, do you work in tandem with local colleges?

I have used the local colleges for my drawing and design engineering help. In fact, that’s how my VP hired in here. He was going to school for his engineering degree at a local university. I needed help and posted a “Help Wanted” ad on their job board, and I hired him. He’s been here almost 20 years. We’ve also used an internship program at some of the local high schools, and we’d get some of the young people in here to work part time.

Are you looking at growth opportunities, like expanding your facilities?

Well, we always want to keep growing, sure. But with the size of our facility, we’ve got plenty of capacity to add more business. And we’ve got plenty of broaching tools.

How much of your business is repeat customers?

That’s most of our business. However, we’re picking up quite a few new ones ever since two or three years ago. I hired a company to do search engine optimization for our website (avonbroach.com). Because of that, we’re constantly on the top. Avon also has a top ad on Google. We’re getting a lot of hits from around the country on our website. Internet marketing has been working well for us—we’re excited to get our name out there in any medium.

MORE INFORMATION: For more information on Avon Broach’s products and services, visit them online at www.avonbroach.com, or call 248-650-8080.