Don’t let Avers Machine and Gear’s short history fool you. Despite its young age, the company’s expertise spans decades — performing tasks from machining existing parts to designing and creating the gears themselves.
“Originally, we were a CNC turning and milling shop, and we had relationships with other gear companies, and we would turn a lot of their blanks and machine a lot of their components,” said Chris Wellman, president of Avers Machine and Gear. “That was our beginning relationship, but a short time later, we bought a small gear company and started making our own gear product.”
That gear product range includes spur gears, helical gears, ground-thread worms and worm gears, splines, and straight bevel gears, according to Wellman. The company produces these products competitively to customer-required delivery.
Quality products, competitive pricing
“On the gear side, what we try to do is offer quality products at competitive pricing,” said Ivan Torres, vice president of Avers. “Most of our employees are all very efficient and run multiple machines, so we’re able to basically provide a better price and product than some of our competitors based on their size. In addition, we try to run minimal overhead here. So, you’re getting the benefits of a big company at the price of a smaller, tighter-run company.”
In constructing Avers, both Wellman and Torres — having worked for a large corporation in the past — were able to look at what worked and what didn’t and adapt it for Avers.
“The company at the time when we were working for them was over $125 million in revenues,” Wellman said. “We were able to look at all the systems and all the different things they had in place from ISO to company policies, shop efficiencies, and ERP systems. And what we tried to do was pick the best of all of those things that worked and implement them at our company. So, we have this experience from the larger side of things, where some small businesses may not have that exposure, and we were able to adapt best practices.”
Those challenges have to be addressed in order to be successful, according to Wellman.
“You have to have stuff in place, right? You have to be ISO certified; you can’t just do a part of it and have the other stuff be done outside; it doesn’t work,” he said. “You have to have all your core competencies controlled. You have to do the work in-house. You have to inspect everything that you do. And so, with all of that knowledge, we just started chipping away at bringing new equipment in and training new and existing people and adding new processes and new inspection equipment to be able to check everything that we manufacture. We just kept expanding, not only our size ranges and amount of product that we can make, but our capabilities as well.”
Not content with resting on its current success, Wellman said Avers is constantly looking to expand and evolve.
“We’re always testing new tools to be running on our equipment; we’re always trying to improve our process,” he said. “But more importantly, everything that we do now as far as equipment and capital expenditures, we’re doing more and more automation.”
To that end, Avers has purchased a new HERA with auto load-unload capabilities, and the company recently added an eight-pallet changer to its Doosan DVF 5000, which is a 5-axis CNC milling machine.
Avers is also setting up an intranet where all its machines will be connected to
each other, allowing for quick programming using Mastercam across all the different machine platforms, according to Wellman.
“We’re doing a tool management system where, similar to where we have our hobs all organized on an Excel spreadsheet, we can just go grab the tool that’s needed right away because they’re all organized on a grid system,” he said. “We’re doing the same thing for all of our CAT40 and CAT50 holders. By organizing and laser etching each one and putting together a system so when we go make our Mastercam programs, we have a whole tool library that’s already designed, built, and on-hand. And then, if there’s no tool available, we know we have to purchase something.”
That communication goes beyond the machines and equipment and is very much an integral part of how Avers deals with its customers.
“I think one of the benefits that we have is we’re very hands-on in the business, so we’re always accessible when it comes to communication and if someone has a project,” Torres said.
“For the most part, I’ve tried to remove myself as much as possible from sales to handle other things, but we still have a lot of customers who would just rather deal with me directly. So, they’ll give me a call and bounce ideas and then we have that communication where we’re able to throw back other ideas to see if this might be easier or save some money. And they take that. It’s well received.”
Part of that ease of customer communication stems from all of Avers’ staff having an operations/engineering background, according to Wellman.
“We don’t have just a typical sales guy here,” he said. “Everybody has shop-floor experience. They’ve managed, run, done everything you can imagine on the shop floor. And so, everybody has a lot of experience. When someone does call and they have questions, our staff knows exactly what they’re talking about.”
Avers Machine and Gear began life shortly after Wellman left Chicago Gear when he bought a vendor, Avers Machine. During a two-year, non-compete phase, Wellman spent that time growing the business and, at the end of those two years, Wellman bought a small gear company and brought it into the fold.
Since that acquisition, Avers has only continued to grow, according to Torres.
“In 2015, when we put a management team together, we were doing X amount of sales per year, and we brought in the new product line with gearing,” he said. “Since 2015, with the acquisition, we’re pushing a quadrupling of our sales. We have become ISO certified. We went from a 12,000-square-foot facility to 30,000 feet. That was a lot bigger than what we had, and now, we’re wrapping up an expansion for an additional 7,000 square feet.”
In addition to the physical growth, Avers’ employees have also grown from the 20s to almost 60, according to Torres.
“And we’re not done,” he said. “We’re constantly evolving. Another big thing for us, I think, is to create a company where our employees are very comfortable and enjoy coming to work. We worked at other places where sometimes the unneeded pressure and stress that was put on you made you maybe not want to come to work or not enjoy it as much. We try to keep it as fun as possible for all our employees. And that’s also by investing in the facilities, in technology, equipment, and also in our employees by being able to pay them very competitive wages. It’s not just achievements as a company, but achievements also as coworkers and employees. And it puts a smile on your face when you’re able to see where you’re at right now.”
An example of that is Avers is installing air conditioning in the entire facility, according to Wellman.
“A lot of guys have expressed interest in that, and we followed through with it, and we have a good rapport with our employees, and we see a lot of advantages of it,” he said. “It certainly is a very large cost, but I think it’s going to pay for itself in quality and retention of employees.”
Looking to the future
Attention to what keeps employees around to where the future of the industry may go is just part of what has made Avers a successful company that continues to grow.
“Automation is the wave of the future, so we’re actively looking into other ways of growing in those fields and getting more and more automated in here,” Torres said. “Trying to run lights out is one of our goals. And that helps our employees as well.”
Wellman also emphasized that Avers will be on the lookout for that ideal acquisition that would make a good addition to the company portfolio.
“We have been very successful in acquisitions, and so, if the right acquisition comes along again, we can take that other company and adapt our procedures and processes and systems and everything else to it and make it more efficient,” he said. “Like the last addition, our last acquisition, we didn’t have one customer overlap, and we were able to sell all of our products to all of their customers. It was really a great marriage. We’re looking for another one. It could be a small company; it doesn’t have to be a large company, but somebody that has some core competencies that might not be the same as us but might help support what we’re currently doing.”
That ambition and expertise has enabled Avers Machine and Gear to have the right expertise in place in order to take any job request to the next level.
“Avers is new to the gear industry, but all of us here are not new to the gear industry, because we’ve been in it our entire lives,” Wellman said.