Homag gears up for expanded CNC router production in Michigan
February 11, 2016 | 2:41 pm CST
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Weeke assembly line at new Homag Machinery plant.

Homag Machinery North America has opened a large new 100,000-square-foot production location in Kentwood, Michigan, and held a grand opening event to mark the occasion.

Homag Machinery North America, formerly Weeke North America, manufactures the Weeke Vantech line of CNC routers and the ABD series of CNC drilling and dowel machines in Michigan. The new expansion and company name are part of a strategy by Homag Group to invest in manufacturing demands for the local market.

Speaking at the event, Christian Vollmers, president of Stiles Machinery Inc., said that Weeke North America was established in 2009 as a joint venture between the Homag Group, Stiles Machinery Inc. and Weeke Maschinenbau, a subsidiary of the Homag Group.

The venture started in a nearby building during the recession, and the company made its first machine in 2010. The company has produced 730 machines in Michigan since then, and the goal is to make 280 machines in 2016.

Vollmers recognized the importance of manufacturing in Michigan. “It is a clear target of the Homag Group to make machines (specifically) for the local market,” he said at the event.

“The new operation will be a center of development of CNC nested-based manufacturing technology.”

Matthaeus Schmid, vice president, operations for Homag Machinery North America, pointed out advantages to local production, including daily fluctuations in the dollar and Euro, and savings in ocean freight.

“Manufacturing in dollars makes sense,” he said at the event. “And it does not make sense to ship heavy machines around the world.”

The focus at the new location is on quality, material flow, and balancing production. Assembly is divided into small steps. A Kanban “supermarket assembly” system is used to help manage the 100,000 parts in each machine. Plans for the future include 50 employees and more product types. “Plans are for growth, growth, growth,” Schmid said.

James Swanson, product specialist for Stiles Machinery, said that the venture was intended to make machinery for the North American market, and has delivered a quality machine at an attractive price point. Swanson said that most content is sourced domestically from a large network of suppliers (the heavy steel framework comes from a supplier in nearby Muskegon).

Swanson said that a machine could be made in as little as a week or two, and domestic production will achieve a 10 to 15 percent cost savings. About half the target market consists of smaller cabinets shops. Another 35 percent is higher volume, commercial shops, and 15 percent is from the large office furniture manufacturers.

Also at the event were Stephen Kepley, mayor of Kentwood, Harald Becker-Ehmck CTO of Homag Group, and Robert D. Grooters, a developer involved in many manufacturing projects in Grand Rapids and West Michigan such as the new Homag building. Grooters thanked Homag and Stiles for being an important part of the community.

The new Homag Machinery North America location has improvements that include twice the production capacity and a streamlined manufacturing flow that applies the latest technologies and workflow processes to achieve efficient optimization.

The new space also takes into account the growing local workforce and has large office space, a break room, showers and lockers for employees. “We are intentionally investing in local manufacturing talent and resources necessary for today’s North American manufacturing demands and the forecasted growth at Homag Machinery North America,” said Andreas Muehlbauer, executive vice president of operations for Stiles Machinery, before the opening.

“We are anticipating future growth based on the market demand that we are currently seeing and this new facility will allow us to offer local manufacturing according to the specific needs of the North American market.”

Stiles has been an exclusive distributor in the United States for almost 30 years and currently serves as the Homag Group’s sales and service extension for the United States. See www.stilesmachinery.com.

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