When John Zigler told people he was starting his own machine shop, they didn't exactly encourage him to take the leap into entrepreneurship. "The manufacturing field was in an economic downturn and no one could believe I wanted to start my own business. But ever since shop class in high school, I had a dream of one day having my own shop," explains Zigler.
The industry was in the midst of the worst downturn ever recorded and shops were closing daily. Zigler says he focused on his dream for the future rather than the dismal reality of the present. "My desire to own my own shop outweighed the 'what was' from 'what could be'...my biggest motivation was the desire my wife and I had to control our future,” explains Zigler.
John had worked at several machine shops. But in addition to manufacturing experience, he got some important life experience in figuring out what was most important to him personally..."I gained knowledge of what I did and didn't want for my life. What I did want was to be treated respectfully and fairly with a possibility for future growth."
Today, Zigler’s Machine & Metal Works in Dixon, Illinois, has 13 employees in addition to John and his family (his wife is the office manager and his eldest son runs the CNC lathe area), and a full-service machine shop that is fully equipped with four CNC mills, three CNC lathes, two manual mills, welding equipment, fabricating equipment, band saws, and Delcam CAD/CAM software. Zigler’s straightforward philosophy guides the company: treat people fairly, develop good relationships with your customers, and pay good help well.
Zigler attributes his company’s success to building strong relationships with customers and investing in the right manufacturing technology. “I think we have been able to retain our customers because we machine quality products with quick turn-around times. We’ve been able to continue growing and being profitable because we stay current with cutting-edge technology, which allows us to be efficient and profitable in a low-volume environment.”
When deciding which machine tools to buy, Zigler faced the challenges many shops experience—he needed to deliver high quality parts at low volumes, which meant he needed to find a way to reduce setup and programming time. His solution was the Hurco line of machine tools. “We needed to meet high quality performance with fast set-up and programming capability. Buying into the Hurco family offers us room to grow because they are continually expanding the product line. All of their machine tools have the Hurco control with conversational programming, which is the solution we needed to reduce programming time,” says Zigler.
Zigler says 50 pieces is a large run for his shop, which means time spent on setup and programming cuts into a part’s profit margin because there are multiple setups each day. On the shop floor, he has five Hurco mills (two BMC30s, a VMX50, and two VMX24s) and two lathes (TM6 and TM8) in addition to other brands of mills and lathes. While Zigler’s Machine & Metal Works manufactures a wide range of parts, their core business is manufacturing machine components for industries such as mining, automotive, equipment automation, and aerospace/defense.
“We machine all sorts of steel, stainless steel, aluminum, copper, brass, magnesium and plastic, with magnesium being the most challenging due to its flammability,” says Zigler. He and his employees say the Hurco integrated control is key to the shop’s success. “Hurco’s conversational control is so easy to use. We have six Hurco machines in-house and our operators are able to go from one machine to the other without having to remember or re-learn a different programming language,” says Zigler.
One of his favorite control features is the Tool & Material Library because it saves time and eliminates redundancy. “It’s like your cell phone—you don’t need to remember everybody’s number, you can just press one button. The Tool & Material Library is the same thing. I press a button that says aluminum and I don’t have to enter the information for the tool. It saves me three or four keystrokes each time on every page of that program. When I’m getting into a particular job, I might need to fine tune it. Instead of stopping, going back to review, I just press one button, and it updates the entire program,” explains Zigler.
The Hurco VMX24 is by far his favorite machine. “When machining similar types of parts, our VMX24 shines the most. With the windows-based editing functions, we can copy and paste program language quickly and accurately. Along with the higher RPM, feed rates, rapiding feeds, the Tool & Material Library improvements, and tool change speed, we are able to be more efficient,” says Zigler.
Beyond the control technology and the rigid machine tools, Zigler says the culture at Hurco is important to him. “I’ve noticed that the people I dealt with back when I started my shop are still there, which I think indicates the company is well run. If a company is turning over a lot of employees, I wonder if things aren’t being managed properly or they aren’t treating their employees well,” says Zigler.
Zigler’s philosophy mirrors Hurco’s approach to business. When a customer invests in a Hurco machine tool, Hurco is invested in the success of that business. We are honored that a company like Zigler’s Machine has made Hurco their machine tool of choice.