Impres Engineering Leads by Diversity
Impres Engineering Service, a machine shop in Holland, Michigan, is unique for their wide range of specialties. They provide parts for marine, automotive, industrial, environmental, home, and scientific products. Hoek notes, “Our specialty is our diversity. We do low volume production machining, production tooling, and a whole lot of prototype parts. We work with steel, plastic, aluminum, carbon fiber—you name it, we work with it.”
Ross Hoek founded Impres in 1995 as a part-time general machining business. Hoek went full-time in 2001 and hired his first employee in 2004. In recent years, the business has grown to eight craftsmen and CAD/CAM programmers working on ten CNC machines. Impres has recently moved from a 4,500 sq. ft. space to a 36,000 sq. ft. manufacturing plant.
Customers are extremely loyal to Impres. In fact, the business has grown strictly by word of mouth. “Customers know that if they need something done quickly they can trust us to deliver,” says Hoek. “We provide unusually fast turnaround. We often have to provide a quote in one to two hours and complete the entire job in two to three days,” says Hoek.
Challenges: Rapid Growth Requires Better Tools
Over the past year, Impres has entered the marine industry and has begun building marine master models. “We take the same level of detail that we put into the minute components we make and apply it to boat models that are 18 and 22 foot long. We are able to deliver a quality product in less time and with less cost,” explains Hoek. The manufacturer, Lund (New York Mills, MN), is introducing a new line of fiberglass boats, and Impres has built all five master models for this new line.
Serving many industries with a wide variety of products that require diverse capabilities, Impres needed solutions that supported their extensive list of specialties. “As primarily a prototype shop, we have very unique needs. We must produce a part that is accurate and do it all in two to three days. The work pace is very demanding because there is always something new. We have to read a part file from the customer, figure out how to machine it, how to hold on to it, fixture it, flip it… this type of work requires very experienced machinists and programmers and they need the right tools to help them get the job done,” notes Hoek.
Solution: Cimatron Means One Stop Shopping
Impres chose Cimatron as the standard software for design and manufacturing across all operations. “Cimatron has great surfacing capabilities, solid modeling capabilities, dimensioning, assembly processes, and mold design,” Says Hoek. “Cimatron’s completeness enables us to provide a diverse range of products, which is extremely valuable to our business.”
To produce large scale models even quicker and more accurately, Impres purchased a 5-axis machine, which helps reduce the number of setups and enhance cutting capabilities. Impres uses CimatronE 5-Axis Production for accurate manufacturing of complex shapes, providing programmers with control of every machining aspect. Hoek says, “Many of the fiberglass lay-up parts are very deep. We needed to go to 5-axis in order to cut these deep vertical walls using shorter tools. We also needed to reduce the number of setups. A part that previously required nine setups may require only two using a 5-axis machine.”
Results: Impres Rises Above the Competition with Cimatron
Using Cimatron has enabled Impres to expand its business even as the industry as a whole has been under increasing pressure from overseas competition and a shrinking customer base. Impres customers include national brands such as American Standard, Gentex, Herman Miller, Johnson Controls, Lund, and Lyons.
With wide-ranging capabilities and a stellar reputation for quality and speed, customers know they can trust Impres if they need something done quickly and accurately. As Hoek notes, “We have to deliver a quality product and we have to do it faster than anyone else. The comprehensive Cimatron solution helps us do that. This separates and elevates our offering in comparison to the competition.”
CimatronE 5-Axis is helping Impres position itself as a national player in the market for marine and other large fiberglass lay-ups. “There are lots of machine and mold shops around, but it is very rare that a machine shop can produce an 8 foot by 12 foot part with a single setup. Having these capabilities puts us into a whole new arena,” says Hoek.
Off the Road to the Races
No story involving Ross Hoek would be complete without mentioning his off-road truck racing (see http://www.rosshoek.com/), a passion that Hoek has managed to integrate into his business. In 2003, Hoek decided to build his own high-performance truck. He designed the truck with CAD software and built the critical components with Cimatron NC. The truck was an immediate success, winning several races in its first year.
Since that time, Impres has developed its own line of race truck parts. In between customer jobs, they produce hundreds of these parts, contributing to a steady revenue flow.
Cimatron, a sponsor of Ross Hoek and his truck, has also benefited the race truck part production. “Parts for race trucks are traditionally hand-made and very expensive,” explains Hoek. “The demand for this type of racing is growing, but the costs are prohibitive. We are able to machine these parts with the same high quality, in less time, at much lower cost. As an example, we were able to build and sell in one year more truck chasses than the competition had built over many years. We are planning on taking over the market.”