Rob Sattler

VICE PRESIDENT — SATTLER, INC.

“We need to get ‘hands-on’ and understand the equipment we're buying. IMTS is an informative showcase that helps us make that final purchase decision. I enjoy seeing what the world has to offer, so I come to IMTS.”

There are three silos on the logo for Sattler, Inc. in Ira Township, Mich., symbolizing the company's heritage of three generations of machine shop expertise, all starting, like many job shops, in a barn.

Today, Rob Sattler, Jr. is vice president of sales, estimating and engineering. He proudly tells the tale of how his grandfather, Irwin Sattler, first established LaSalle Machine Tool in the 1930s making complex special machines for the automotive industry with some very basic machine tools. It's a far cry from the high-tech machinery Sattler uses today.

Rob Sattler

At IMTS 2018, Sattler plans to research large vertical bridge-type boring mills, which could be a $1 million purchase. Before pulling the trigger on such large investments, Sattler does his homework at IMTS.

“We need to get ‘hands-on’ and understand the equipment we're buying,” Sattler says. “IMTS is an informative showcase that helps us make that final purchase decision. I enjoy seeing what the world has to offer, so I come to IMTS.”

Machining for Generations

Among other niches, Sattler, Inc., specializes in robotic end-of-arm tooling, such as this unit for aircraft sanding.

Sattler's father, Robert (Bob), got into the machining business after serving in the Navy. He obtained degrees in Aeronautical Engineering and Naval Science and Tactics in 1948 from DePaul then Purdue, then had a short stint as a pitcher for the Yankees farm team. He joined his father Irwin Sattler at LaSalle Machine Tool in the 1940s. In the 1970s, Sattler Jr., continued the family legacy of industry and education by working in the shop as a teenager and obtaining degrees in Engineering and Business.

Sattler's first IMTS was in 1978 at age 23. His father brought him and his brother to learn more about the industry, eventually leaving the show with a lathe, a mill and some Kennedy Tool Chests for the cottage. Years later, Bob Sattler, with Rob's brother Paul, established a 500-acre dairy farm, which included a small machine shop. The machine shop grew to include some rebuilt CNC Mills, more machinery than was needed to just fix tractors! The patriarch realized the potential to open their own machine shop in 1994, and following a family meeting, Sattler, Inc. was born.

They started out contracting with local production parts makers to take their overflow work. Within two years, the company migrated to manufacturing parts and pieces for machine builders' tight tolerance standard unit details, which was a more profitable specialty. After investing in additional CNC machines, Sattler, Inc. got into the more lucrative business of designing and building fixtures and assemblies, such as pallets, robot end-of-arm tooling, robot cells and automation sub-assemblies for Tier 1 power train system builders. This has been an ideal ‘niche,' utilizing their experience, education, great tools and talented staff that comprise Sattler, Inc.

Sattler has made numerous equipment purchases at the show. He came to IMTS 2014 looking for a tool presetting machine and left with a Zoller (booth 432018) tool management system he'd learned about after researching at several booths. During IMTS 2012, he researched ERP systems for the shop, talked to a few different suppliers and then selected the E2 Shop System from Shoptech Software (booth 133252).

This production machining fixture from Sattler, Inc. holds steering knuckle castings.

“For me, IMTS is a toy store,” Sattler says. “We come with a list of equipment we want to purchase and do our homework on the show floor. Time in the booths is really valuable because we can ask questions and see the machines. We can crawl around the equipment and open up the guards to see how things are built.”

Pleasant Surprises

Although every trip to IMTS starts with a mapped-out plan, Sattler knows from experience that he must allow some extra time to investigate new technologies he discovers at the show.

“IMTS is fertilizer to help us grow,” Sattler says. “It's for researching all the information that we need and learning about things we didn't even know to ask. I often stumble upon pleasant surprises. There's always something I hadn't thought to look for that catches my eye, so I like to go down every aisle and visit every corner of the show.”

Sattler, Inc. designed and built this multi-function end-of-arm tooling for a well-known manufacturer of electric vehicles.

With so many machine and system builders at IMTS, Sattler has a dual purpose for his attendance.

“I'm not only researching new solutions for our shop, I'm looking for potential new customers. It's just so concentrated. It's like everybody is herded into one coral for me. I can walk 50 feet and speak with four different prospects that are qualified. It saves a huge amount of legwork.”

Looking to the future, Sattler sees a great opportunity to incorporate 3D printing capabilities. Currently the company outsources 3D-printed parts but would like to make them in-house eventually. At IMTS 2016, Sattler first learned about new metal printing equipment hitting the market. This year, the Additive Manufacturing Pavilion at IMTS will be one of his destinations to get a handle on this quickly evolving technology.

“I want to gain all the information I can about additive manufacturing,” Sattler says. “It's going to change the way engineers think, so I need to open my mind and really absorb what's going on. I'm pushing others at our company to get on board and start using this technology.”

With four decades of IMTS shows under his belt, Sattler knows that engaging at IMTS will always be a necessary investment in growing his business.

“IMTS has allowed us to implement what we want to do quicker and more efficiently. I can make contacts with so many customers and suppliers because this show brings them together in one place,” Sattler says. “There's always a lot to learn, and the industry is always changing. If I didn't come to IMTS, it would be tougher to make good decisions and the information we need, would be much harder to get. When I come back to the shop with even one great idea, I've justified the entire trip.”

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