Nicole Wolter

CEO & President of HM Manufacturing

HM Manufacturing makes gears, splines, shafts, and more for power transmissions. President Nicole Wolter takes her entire team to IMTS and explains how technology inspires a young workforce.

HM Manufacturing Gears Up for IMTS

Every two years, technological innovations at the IMTS — The International Manufacturing Technology Show capture one top-notch gear manufacturer's full attention. When HM Manufacturing wants to upgrade or replace a machine, network with industry people, or see new technology, they go to IMTS.

We've purchased almost every machine in this operation through IMTS,” says Nicole Wolter, president of HM Manufacturing. “Being able to see the technology, meet people, ask questions, that's how we stay up to date.”

Technology Seekers

HM Manufacturing, based in Wauconda, Illinois, makes drive products that include gears, timing belt pulleys, splines, shafts, chain sprockets, sheaves, and related parts for power transmission and precision mechanical components. As a second-generation leader of HM, Wolter understands the importance of investing in technology — not just for the machines, but for her workforce.

Okuma Genos M560-V

People are blown away by our equipment, but it's so much about what we're able to do, says Wolter. We have a young workforce, so it's about investing in them as well.

For Wolter and HM, technology is a blessing not just because it makes sense in the manufacturing industry, but also because technology helps HM appeal to a younger audience.

HM production manager Adam Pieroni uses the company's new CMM to check the bore face on a flange.
Manufacturing is different than it was 20, 30 years ago,” says Wolter. “When you invest in technology now, it's great because kids coming from high school or community college are looking for advanced technology.”

Wolter notes that younger students are enthusiastic about advanced machines and get excited about the interaction, because it's something they're familiar with.

Big OEMs are making these incredible machines that have interfaces almost like iPads, says Wolter. This is motivating for young people who are already so involved in this kind of technology. I think this is the way of the future in manufacturing.

All-in for IMTS

IMTS is a company-wide event, with the entire team attending on Friday.

Everyone that works at the company walks the show, says Wolter. During our lunch hour we reconvene and say, “What did everyone look at? Is there something we are missing?

Stopping operations for one day is worth it, because the whole team gets to see new technology. Different things come to light for different people while walking the floor — things they never expected.

We bought our parts washer from IMTS, says Wolter. We even bought a small heat-treating furnace that we didn't even know existed. That suggestion was from one of the team members at HM just walking around the show. It's more than just the big machines; it's the little things as well.

When Covid and supply chain challenges meant a greater need for more people on the production floor, Nicole Wolter, president of HM Manufacturing, learned to run this broaching machine.

Continuous Investment

In staying up to date, HM will often either purchase or replace a piece of equipment at IMTS. In fact, almost all their equipment is a direct result of visiting IMTS, which includes a Mitutoyo Crysta-Apex CMM, MECO broaching machine, ACER endmill, an Okuma LB3000 EXII lathe and Genos M560-V mill, two Mitsubishi GE20A gear hobbers, Nikken workholding, and a Lucifer heat-treating furnace.

Machinist at HM Manufacturing checks his set up on a Mitsubishi GE20A hobbing machine.

We purchased a new Mitutoyo CMM to upgrade our facilities and increase our inspection capabilities, says Wolter. As we grow, it's important to expand the capabilities we offer our customers.

In addition, they are looking at wire EDM to expand services and keep more work in-house.

We're doing a lot of R&D work, and we have a lot of internship programs, says Wolter. It would be great to have the capability and offer the service to our customers, but also keep training and teaching the next generation.

Wolter cites the need for reinvesting in equipment; the idea being that it's smart to invest more in an essential operation that's working well, such as with the purchase of a MECO broaching machine. With a skeletal crew during the pandemic, Wolter took time to learn the new machine herself.

We purchased it so we could do more broaching and have more keyway options, says Wolter. It turned out to be the perfect time for me to learn how to use it, because the shop needed help.

Reinvestment also applies to HM's new Okuma CNCs that enable them to do more milling and profiling. When a customer needed a certain part that required several different operations, because of the high volume, it didn't make sense to move the product around the shop for multiple operations. IMTS offered the perfect opportunity for finding an all-in-one lathe that would generate more and perform more operations.

If you're not making chips, you're not making money.

We contacted our distributor, we quoted it out, and we had our Okuma lathe drop-shipped two months later, she says.

Whether it's something new that brings additional services in-house or an expansion of existing capabilities, IMTS is essential to find the next solution for HM Manufacturing.

There are so many things happening every two years,” says Wolter. “Manufacturing is innovative, but IMTS is special. It's an exciting adventure.”

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