Marten Machining, Stevens Point, Wis. is thriving in a 30,000-sq.ft. shop, 30 years after starting out in a two-car garage. In November, the shop will take delivery on its 22nd Hermle machine.

A Personal, High-Precision Success Story

Nov. 10, 2016
Over 30 years, Marten Machining and Hermle Machine have proven the significance of personal skill and high-precision technology Entrepreneurial insight Defining moment arrives First opportunities to learn

A successful job shop is often a very personal effort — the result of insights and hard work by an individual or a family or group. Other times, a shop’s success can be framed as the outcome of well-conceived, well developed, well chosen manufacturing technology. In certain cases, a job shop’s success derives from both personal and technical achievements.

Al Marten started his small business with nothing more than his own passion for creating well-turned parts and an acute attention to detail. Like many American entrepreneurs, he was confident he could draw on his own working experience — as a tool- and diemaker — and he felt sure he could succeed on his own. In 1984, he started Marten Machining Inc. in Stevens Point, Wis.

With neither customers nor employees, and a two-car garage for a workspace, Marten was starting with only his own skills and instincts. In his work experience up to that point, he had found the best way to start a project was to propose a defining question: “Well, how does that work?”

This question still sparks Marten’s curiosity, and his continuing determination to learn and to execute. It has guided him and the business over more than three decades, and in the course of that time it has left an impression on man others.

Put to the test — Working capital was scarce for Marten Machining in the early days, as the business started turning out parts and building a roster of customers. Business investments were personal expenses to Marten. Still, within three years the company had grown and arrived to another defining moment arrived, the determination to maximize the shops capabilities by investing in its first CNC machine.

This 1987-vintage Hermle UWF 851 has had a lasting impact on Marten Machining, milling parts requiring the highest degree of precision, and sparking the growth of the business.

Marten applied his same basic, inquisitive approach to the selection process, and committed to putting prospective machine-tool builders to the test. One of those was companies also was a new market entry at the time: Hermle Machine Co. is the North American extension of of Maschinenfabrik Berthold Hermle AG, Gosheim, Germany — and since 1987 it has been supplying North American manufacturers with high­precision turning machines, as well as manufacturing technology, applications assistance, customer training and service.

Having worked with large machine tools in the past, Marten understood well the mechanical and technical details that typically caused the greatest challenges during production, so he decided to see how a Hermle machine would perform on a test part before making his decision. Meeting with the Hermle representatives, he presented a test program for the prospective CNC operations. After carefully studying it for about five minutes, the Hermle rep declared: “Okay, this is where we are going to start.”

Together, Marten and the Hermle representative went through every detail of the test program, identifying and correcting potential trouble spots. After nearly 45 minutes of back and forth, it was time to mill the required test part.

To Marten’s great satisfaction, the part emerged from the Hermle machine on its first try, exactly as specified and to the exacting standards for precision he had sought.

The Hermle UWF 851 he purchased then has had a lasting impact on Marten Machining, milling parts requiring the highest degree of precision, and sparking the growth of the business. Nearly 30 years after that purchase, he still recalls with fond satisfaction that first experience with Hermle: “I worked with their sales rep for 45 minutes, and learned something in the process.”

You can always learn — Marten’s learning experience with Hermle and that first machine reconfirmed his belief in the power of “How does that work?”  It also led to a companywide commitment to train workers how to approach the CNC machining process. Over the three decades, Marten Machining has given dozens of future machinists their first opportunity to learn, to work, and to succeed. In addition to Al Marten’s personal success and the growth of the company, the machine shop is something of a model for how to train highly skilled apprentices.

“You can always learn,” Marten recently said. “After all my years in the business I’m still learning and we’re incredibly proud of the work we deliver for our customers. But, being able to pay it forward and give the next generation an opportunity to learn is as rewarding as anything I’ve accomplished in my career.”

Of course, this is also a technology success story. Operating multiple fully automated Hermle machines — Marten Machining has had more than 20 since that first purchase — the Wisconsin company is thriving in a 30,000-sq.ft. shop that makes the two-car garage seem like a lifetime ago. This month, Marten will take delivery on the 22nd Hermle machine. No other North American customer has been operating Hermle Machine technology longer, or more successfully.

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