Fraser, Mich. — Embracing technology has helped Eifel Mold & Engineering Inc. compete, but it says people have been key to its 50 years in business and people will continue to be the driving force.
The mantra for the mold maker has been people, process and technology, President Rick Hecker said.
Fraser-based Eifel has 17 employees, with many of those employees working there for more than 20 years.
"That's over half the crew right now are that type of loyalty and they've been here a long time which says a lot about our culture, and what it's to work here," Hecker said.
"It's a good team of professionals," he added.
His father, Josef Hecker, started the company in 1972 and it was originally named Eifel Pattern and Model Co. and provided tooling aids to automotive suppliers. Hecker immigrated to American from Kreuzau, Germany.
Rick Hecker joined the company in 1986 and started the business down the path of getting more prototype and production tools.
The company bought its first computer numerically controlled (CNC) machine in 1991 and started the process of CNC and computer aided development models. Currently, Eifel handles 200 custom jobs a year.
Eifel also has a 5-axis milling and molding making service on a Hermle C650 Milling Center with 6-pallet automation cells. It added its first 5-axis machine in 2008, a Hermle C40.
"It was in the marketplace, but you know a lot of tool shops weren't buying them back then," Rick Hecker said. "But we saw the advantage of having that type of technology in our shop."
It launched its first expansion in 1995, bringing the company up to 10,000 square feet then in 2012 expanded to 13,000 square feet. There is 9,000 square feet of manufacturing space, 1,500 square feet for trial molding and a 2,000-square-foot administrative space.
The biggest challenge Eifel had to overcome over the years was global competition. By investing in new equipment, such as the 5-axis milling mold in 2008, Eifel was able to stay competitive, he said.
Hecker sees being a family-owned company as a benefit, with his son Eric Hecker being in a sales and program management role they can collaborate about the future of the company.
"We are able to talk about the next 50 years," Hecker said. "What's going to keep us in the game, keeps us competitive and how do we produce better mold higher quality."
Eifel has worked closely with nearby Lincoln High School and Fraser High School for manufacturing day during the past nine years. They have hosted plant tours and helped with apprenticeship training. The company is also involved in American Mold Builders Association (AMBA), the Society of Plastics Engineers and Mold Technologies Division (SPE-MTD).