German machine tool builder expanding operations in Michigan

Aug. 13, 2008

Heller Machine Tools ( in Troy, Mich. Is expanding its workforce and has begun assembly of its advanced, large capacity horizontal machining centers used by automotive suppliers and powertrain manufacturers to produce key components. Heller is expecting to assemble more than 60 machines in Troy in 2008, and increase production going forward.

Heller chief executive officer Robert Pelachyk said his company is looking forward to significant new orders in 2008-2009 for its flexible machining systems. The company reported it had a backlog of more than $100 million.

Heller, a subsidiary of Heller GmbH, Nrtingen, Germany, one of the largest machine tool builders in the world and a chief supplier to the automotive industry worldwide, occupies a 100,000 sq-ft plant in Troy.

Last year Heller delivered a flexible machining system to Detroit Diesel Corporation, a Daimler company, Redford, MI, that machines a family of diesel engine blocks for the recently introduced DD15 engine. Heller said the hybrid system can produce lot sizes of 1 with no time lost to changeover.

Heller also announced a major order from PACCAR for a flexible machining system to produce that company’s first U.S.-made large diesel engine. PACCAR will take delivery of a turnkey flexible manufacturing system that will machine cylinder blocks and heads for a 6-cylinder heavy-duty diesel engine at PACCAR’s new engine plant located in Columbus, Miss. The complete system will be designed and built at Heller’s facilities in Troy and Nrtingen.

The PACCAR turnkey system will include more than 40 computer controlled (CNC) machining centers, part handling automation, wash, deburr, and pre-assembly equipment.

“Managing the design, engineering, machine building, integration and installation of these complex system components is a key Heller competency, and has earned the company business in Europe, Asia, and South America as well as North America,” Pelachyk said.

The company said expanded machine tool manufacturing capability at Troy will allow Heller to take advantage of lower costs in the United States compared to Germany while keeping product development at the German headquarters. “The dollar’s value is one of the factors that makes assembly of our machines in the U.S.A. a practical move for Heller,” Pelachyk said.

“We are a low-cost country, in global terms, right now. And when you consider Michigan’s skilled work force with the euro-dollar relationship, you can see that Heller gains a big cost advantage over its competitors. This works directly to the benefit of our customers who get highly regarded German machine tool technology built locally into systems designed and serviced by Americans,” he said.

“Heller is also building up its service capability in Troy, and assembling machines within this market allows us to be even more responsive to customer requirements,” Pelachyk said. “It is our intention to be the premier designer and builder of turnkey flexible machining systems in the United States, and we are well on our way to doing that.”