There is a shortage of skilled workers, and finding qualified fabricators is a big challenge.
“As a small shop, being able to free up our top guys to do other work is extremely important. For us, the ability to have anyone walk up to the saw and easily cut accurate pieces quickly has been invaluable.” – Daniel Hester, Founder, Hester Fabrication
In 2010 Daniel Hester, a civil engineer working for a major construction company, decided to start a small shop in his garage in Oakland, California. Daniel had been working in heavy construction for over a decade, designing and managing bridge construction, and wanted to pursue his dream of starting a shop of his own. His extensive civil engineering background lent itself nicely to starting a shop of his own. Daniel’s garage business quickly grew to be a full-time gig.
Today, that tiny garage shop has transformed into Hester Fabrication, a small precision fabrication shop that primarily does prototypes and short-run production jobs. Small is relative, though. The shop encompasses a 6,600-square-foot space in the Hayward Airport Industrial Complex.
Daniel, accompanied by eight employees and his shop foreman, a.k.a. Hayden the Doberman, specializes in engineering and building devices for industrial use in an array of manufacturing industries. “Our clientele includes several large multi-national companies, and we regularly ship our fabricated goods across the country and internationally. Our products include high-end security safes, construction equipment, and material handling devices.”
Daniel explains that Hester Fabrication’s goal for the future is to continue to develop innovative products and be the go-to source for companies who need turn-key solutions. Daniel is described as being obsessed with the details and with building things that will last forever. But Daniel is most passionate about designing and fabricating sophisticated solutions to complex problems.
So Where Did Daniel Turn When He Was Facing Difficult Problems of His Own?
“As a young business, one of our biggest obstacles has been finding qualified fabricators in the shop. Even a shop that provides great wages and benefits to its craft personnel, finding enough people with the skills to do what we do is extremely challenging. Our guess of what the future holds is that finding skilled craftsmen is only going to be harder, so we have been filling our shop with only the best equipment out there in order to be less constrained by the limited number of skilled workers. The TigerStop is a clear example of that,” explains Daniel.
The Hester Fabrication crew uses their TigerStop on a 12-inch cold saw to cut steel tube for a number of fabrication goods. “Because of the high variance in the type of work we do, we have to be a very lean and highly productive shop, but because we also do high-end fabrication work for very discerning customers, quality comes first. Our TigerStop has been a success in not only making us much more productive, but also by significantly reducing the amount of rework due to poorly cut pieces.”
The Hester Fab team regularly builds tube frames to within 1/32 of an inch, and prior to installing their TigerStop, this type of work required an incredibly skilled fabricator to layout and cut the pieces. “Before we had a TigerStop, we would generate a cut list from our design software and give it to the shop foreman. Depending on the complexity and dimensional tolerances of the job, he would either assign someone to cut the parts, or, if it was a high tolerance job, he would complete the layout and cutting himself. Our saw previously only had a manual stop that was 3′ long, so if our parts were ever longer than 3′ we would have to manually layout with a tape measure and scribe each cut. Even parts shorter than 3′ required skill to set the stop up correctly and accurately, which took a lot of time.”
Every Worker Is a Skilled Worker
“Now, with our TigerStop, we are able to put a young apprentice on the saw and get better results in a fraction of the time. As a small shop, being able to free up our top guys to do other work is extremely important. For us, the ability to have anyone walk up to the saw and easily cut accurate pieces quickly has been invaluable,” says Daniel.
Hester Fabrication’s TigerStop has helped the company make better use of its staff and resources. Now employees with the most skill can spend more time on tasks like designing and engineering products, rather than spending hours cutting parts. And even their most inexperienced workers can operate as skilled workers. This has allowed Hester to grow exponentially as an all-in-one engineering, design, and fabrication shop. The Hester Fab team can now focus on the details that really matter, like working with customers and their engineering departments to quickly develop innovative products.
For more on Hester Fabrication, visit their website www.hesterfabrication.com