BY CHUCK VANDENBERG
FORT MADISON – A new CNC mill will become part of a local manufacturing company’s repertoire this spring. And the piece of modern tech is so big – it needs its own building.
Huffman Welding and Machine, a family-owned corporation nestled on the city’s west side that provides commercial and industrial welding services to a wide variety of enterprises, is in the middle of the construction of a building on the property’s southeast corner. The building will house a new state-of-the-art mill that will expand the company’s offerings to clients.
Bob Huffman, Jr. said the building just started with red metal framework. The concrete for the base of the building was poured in December and now Seither and Cherry is crawling over beamwork getting the building ready for the enclosure.
“We were getting tight on space in order to do some of the things we wanted to do to increase our ability,” Huffman said. “But once we decided to add this piece of equipment it absolutely created a need for a new building because we had no place to put it.”
Mike Huffman, Bob’s brother, said it’s always been the company’s philosophy to try to grow each year.
“Even in the lean times of 2009-10 we didn’t layoff a single person. Our number one goal is to keep our employees working and we’ve been able to do that. This addition will allow us to offer another service and expand our reach. Which in turn should create more business and then hopefully, at some point, additional employees,” Mike said.
The company will also move several large metal lathes into the new structure to create additional space in the main working areas. The new building will include two 10-ton mobile cranes. Employees currently utilize two 5-ton cranes to move heavy equipment in the current buildings.
The new mill is fully programmable and can be operated by one person. Huffman said the programming can be done from a central office or at the mill itself. He said one of the benefits is that if a job is repetitive, the programming can be done one time and then be stored in the system which will save programming time.
He said the mill will run 10 feet across and then 8 feet up and down from the job enabling the company to work on a piece of equipment that weighs up to 45,000 lbs.
“This is the biggest machine we’ve ever purchased,” Bob said. “It’s 16-feet tall and it has x capabilities of over 10 feet. The spindle will have y capability of eight feet.”
Mike said his father started as a welder for area fertilizer plants.. Those early days lead their father Bob Sr., to start his own business in 1971 and to say the business has grown from there is an understatement. The business has continued to be family owned by Bob’s three sons Michael, Richard (Hank), Bob Jr. and his grandson Jason Huffman.
“Now, with all the new mills. we can machine profiles and shapes with curves and circular patterns.” Mike said. “This machine will allow us to do that on a very large scale.”
The mill is a Lucas CNC mill, which stands for computer numerical control, which in non-tech terms means it’s an automated piece of equipment which allows for high precision jobs with shorter project times. The mill itself is set to be delivered toward the first of April and Mike said it should be functional at some point in May.
The new building is a 12,000 square foot addition. Mike said that equates to the expansion that was completed in 2007, which at the time, was the largest expansion in the company’s history, bringing their total square footage of the welding and machine facility to 65,000. The company also owns several retail Farm and Home outlets in Iowa and Illinois.
The Huffmans also installed a solar panel field on the south side of the property that generates over 300,000 kilowatt hours.