Please tell me a little about your background.
I’ve been in manufacturing for over 30 years, and I’m a mechanical engineer by trade. My early career started as a CNC machinist and progressed into tool design and program management. This allowed me to work in various industries in sales for equipment, part sales, and company management throughout North America. I have been fortunate to participate in many different businesses and industries such as composites, plastics, and metals. I cherish the long-standing customer and business relationships that I have been privileged to achieve. Currently, I’m the director of sales for Wickert, North America.
Can you give us an overview of Wickert Hydraulic Presses?
Wickert is headquartered in Landau, Germany, and employs over 160 people. It has been in business for over 110 years. The company is a global manufacturer of hydraulic press systems. They are vertically integrated with design and manufacturing of hydraulics, electrical, software, tooling, and critical component machining all done in-house. Wickert delivers custom-engineered fixture hardening solutions integrated with its presses, complete turnkey packages providing tooling, automatic tool-change with preheating stations, ovens, robotic and vision interfaces, and product buffer zones as needed. Wickert also offers a single control package for the entire system with component tracking, production data monitoring, and SPC, including pre-selectable testing reports. Wickert applies its technology across many different programs for the automotive, aerospace, agricultural, and medical markets in various types of materials.
Since 2007, Wickert has been represented in the U.S. by Desma, USA, a supplier of machinery, tooling, and technical support for the rubber and silicone injection molding industry. Desma is based in Hebron, Kentucky, and has about 50 employees in the U.S., which includes our sales and service organizations. Desma carries both Wickert and Desma machine spare parts on-site and employs a team of experienced service technicians. Desma additionally provides tooling for molded elastomeric components and complete machine rebuilds.
Describe the systems that Wickert offers to the gear industry.
Wickert’s gear fixture hardening systems heats the gears and then provides an accelerated quenching process. Wickert’s GripSmart System grippers take the hot part out of the oven and move it into a mold, without distorting the part in that process. The grippers have been engineered so that they don’t add pressure, but at the same time, pick up the part uniformly. Then, the system injects the quench fluid around the gear. The control of the quench process thereby allows the gear to be cooled in a matter of seconds. The part is then transferred into Wickert’s new FinishClean system, which eliminates and recycles the oil at the first stage, eliminating oil residues downstream. This gives the customer the consistency that they demand, plus it eliminates costly finishing operations that happen when a gear is quenched in a standard batch process system.
The other capability we have is a forming system that can take a part from a completely flat state, and, when it’s put into the mold, it actually forms the part in the mold and is quenched as soon as it gets into the mold. The part is hardened at the same time it is being formed. The plate forming process has been mainly used in the agriculture industry and is a relatively new process for us. It’s a step off from the gear process.
Wickert’s gear systems are being used by companies across Europe now. In these systems, it doesn’t matter what size thickness of the gears — this system can take multiple gears out of the oven. The gears go into the mold, so there can be three different size gears that go into the press at the same time with different part configurations. This allows multiple part numbers to be run at the same time. Also, it allows manufacturers to mix and match their production levels. For example, if they were to have one gear machine go down that was cutting one kind of gear, they could continue to keep their heat treating operations full of parts by changing the tooling and running a different mix of part numbers together. Then, when that gear machine comes back up, they could fully load one part number and run that part number to catch up. Flexibility and accuracy of the finished parts drive production throughput with virtually no rejects in the process.
How do you work with a customer to solve an issue with their current process?
Normally, it begins when a customer opens a dialogue with Wickert to discuss an application — there might be an issue with their current production throughput or cost of production. We listen to the customer describe their current process and goals for the system. We ask clarifying questions to determine root causes to issues. With this in-depth process review, we can consider the goals of the customer and recommend solutions. Often, customers want references to systems we have supplied to demonstrate our ability to meet their expectations. Wickert’s extensive industrial knowledge and engineering breadth of systems allow us to instill customer confidence in the recommended solutions.
We work closely with our customers, and in certain cases, we can help them understand the return on investment for their machines, which is critical to someone who is looking to create a new process or make a change from one system to another. The customer needs to know will that machine create a payback for them, as they need to obtain funding. So we work with the customers to not only develop the systems but also to help them establish estimated processing times and how the system will result in lower scrap rates.
What sets Wickert apart from others in the same industry?
Wickert has custom systems for a wide variety of industrial users, and that is what makes our engineering team so strong. Our diverse engineering knowledge, our willingness to customize and supply tooling, and automation that is synchronous with turnkey pressing systems separate us from other suppliers in the marketplace.
What is in the future for Wickert?
Currently, Wickert is strong in the European market, but we deliver our press systems all over the world. Wickert’s current market focus is to penetrate and expand the North American market with systems that are in use in other world markets.
Customers are looking for ways to create additional throughput as their industry grows, therefore, they are looking for processes that are easy to change over and that gives them the flexibility in the manufacturing process while providing a payback. Wickert’s focus on the flexibility for multiple processes in one piece of equipment helps our customers meet their goals.