The use of new composite materials in manufacturing has grown exponentially in recent years. Today, news outlets routinely report on breakthroughs made by manufacturers in building large-scale products with composites instead of metals. Prominent examples include aircraft, spacecraft, boats, automobiles, bicycles, and sports equipment. And this trend will surely continue as new manufacturing techniques evolve.
The term composite materials can refer to a broad range of substances. Technically, they can include everything from plywood to composite armor with Kevlar. You can think of composites in general as being a combination of reinforcement and a matrix (for example, the simple composite called concrete is a mix of fill as a reinforcement and cement as a matrix). In high-tech manufacturing, the latest composites are mainly thermosetting polymers (or thermoset), which must be heat cured into specific forms. Thermoset materials are usually liquid or malleable prior to curing, and once cured and hardened can no longer be melted back to a malleable form. There are numerous thermoset composites, but advanced systems usually employ aramid fiber and carbon fiber in an epoxy resin matrix.
The curing process requires a heating chamber to treat thermoset composites. Because precision temperature control is crucial to the curing of thermoset composites, the best industrial ovens offer state-of-the-art control features that heat the material to hundreds of degrees Fahrenheit within very tight tolerances.
Customers who require such precision-control ovens include some of the biggest names in manufacturing. For example, Wisconsin Oven has built a walk-in batch oven to cure composite-material components for the aerospace industry.
Today’s composites offer manufacturers a variety of advantages: composites are lighter, stronger, more durable, more heat and corrosion resistant, and more design friendly than traditional materials, as well as offering better overall production economies. For these reasons the use of composite materials in manufacturing has skyrocketed in industries where high performance is essential to product success.
The most famous example of composite use in recent times has been the design of the Boeing 787 Dreamliner, which features a primary structure built 50 percent from advanced composites. Other aircraft manufacturers have followed suit, as have auto makers, weapons systems suppliers, sporting goods makers, and a growing list of industrial innovators. Check out the website of the American Composites Manufacturers Association for more information on this remarkable revolution in materials science.
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At Wisconsin Oven we make it a point to celebrate our workers through our Work of Champions program. This program was started by the original Wisconsin Oven Champion—our President and CEO, Dave Strand. Dave was hired by Wisconsin Oven almost right out of high school in 1986. As Dave puts it, he was hired “to do the dirty work,” namely washing ovens, painting ovens, insulating panels, and doing sheer work. After a couple of years in the sheet metal department, Wisconsin Oven sent Dave to night school to learn to weld. Seven months later, Dave was in the Assembly Department building ovens.
Attitude is everything here at Wisconsin Oven, and Dave had a Champion attitude from the very beginning. He worked all the over time he could, building ovens during the day, and staying after hours to paint. It wasn’t long before he began doing field service for the company. It was in this role that Dave boarded an airplane for the first time, heading to New York City for his first on-site job. In lieu of a tool case, he had a suitcase duct taped closed with the tools he needed. Nervous when he showed up, he left a week later with more confidence. From then on, Dave volunteered for field service at every opportunity, gaining confidence with each success and seeing the world in the process.
In 1989, Dave was offered a lead man position in the factory. A year later he was made plant manager. As he began his new role he was mentored by the company VP of operations, who helped instill in Dave the value of inspiring a good attitude and work ethic in others. In 1994, Dave was made VP of Manufacturing, now overseeing both Wisconsin Oven factories—the standard division he had been running, as well as the custom division. In 1995 Dave was made VP of Operations. In addition to his existing responsibilities, he was put in charge of engineering, service, parts and production. In 2005, Dave became the President of Wisconsin Oven.
Last April Dave sold Wisconsin Oven to PLC Holding, who specializes in furnace manufacturing. Dave was made VP of North and South America for PLC. In this role he is learning once again, gaining a deeper understanding of the furnace industry while helping PLC to grow, and providing opportunities for Wisconsin Oven.
Attitude is everything here. If we don’t pick up on it in the interview, it’s pretty much over before it starts. That’s because we owe our success to the Champion Attitude of our employees. When our president Dave Strand began working here in 1986, attitude was low down on the company’s priority lists. As Dave volunteered for overtime, and always strove to work faster and better than the day before, he was met with taunts from many of the other employees. As Dave moved up the ranks, he brought in people with a work ethic to match his own, eventually replacing the naysayers with a team of Champions. Having people on staff with the mindset and dedication to always work harder strengthened the environment of Wisconsin Oven.
We’ve written before about our Work of Champions program, designed to recognize that Champion Attitude. Individuals need and deserve recognition. It’s one of the most critically overlooked aspects of many jobs today. Often times consistently good work is ignored, with the focus put solely on the occasional mistake. Recognition of good performance; telling the stories of success that need to be told—this breeds a positive attitude and leads to even more successes to celebrate. And it avoids the other common workplace issue of only discussing performance during a yearly review. At Wisconsin Oven, we call out our Champions regularly, and celebrate their achievements.
When interviewing new employees, as we’re doing now for various positions, our focus is on attitude. If you have the attitude and the work ethic to come in on time and always do your best, we can train the rest. So if you have what it takes to be a Champion, check out our employment opportunities and send over an application!
With the ability to handle loads up to 6,000 lbs. and a quench time of 10-15 seconds, our Horizontal Quench Furnaces are an ideal choice for heat treating. We offer ten standard basket sizes, chosen based on what customers use most. Most of our customers come to us knowing the basket size they need, but if they have any questions we can provide our expert recommendation, taking into consideration their process, product, size, weight, and any uniformity specifications that need to be met. And in the rare cases where it’s necessary, we can provide custom basket sizes.
These furnaces are an alternative to our Drop Bottom Furnaces. A Drop Bottom Furnace must be used in the production of parts requiring a quench time of less than 7 seconds. Otherwise, a Horizontal Quench Furnace is the optimal choice for a number of reasons:
- Maintenance – Horizontal Quench Furnaces are easier to service and maintain due to the fact that most components are on or near floor level.
- Cost – A Horizontal Quench Furnace is typically 50 – 75% less when compared with a similar sized Drop Bottom Furnace. This is due to a variety of factors:
- A Drop Bottom Furnace needs to be elevated, necessitating additional support structure is required.
- The quench tank on a Drop Bottom sits under the furnace, necessitating that the tank be pitted, or the facility be high enough to accommodate the equipment.
- Drop Bottom Furnaces utilize a more complicated door mechanism that typically requires double the amount of components that are used in a Horizontal Quench Furnace door.
- A lift mechanism is required to properly make use of a Drop Bottom Furnace.
- A ladder and roof platform are also necessary.
- Due to basket swing, the chamber and quench tank in a Drop Bottom Furnace must be larger than those in a Horizontal Quench Furnace.
- Drop Bottom Furnaces require a motorized quench tank (though this motorized tank can service multiple drop bottoms).
- Most Drop Bottom Furnaces cannot be tested at the manufacture’s facility due to height restrictions, often leading to unplanned delays and expenses.
There are not many companies that manufacture Horizontal Quench Furnaces, and of the ones that do, none are as rugged or as durable as ours. What’s more, our Horizontal Quench furnaces are built and tested to comply with the most stringent specifications, including AMS2750E. Each furnace is available with a wide range of programmable controllers, data acquisition systems and PLC choices, as well as an optional Energy Efficient E-pack™ upgrade to reduce operating costs. We also offer a dual tier quench platform to allow the furnace to be loaded while another load is being quenched. Rounding out our list of furnace features are fully automated operation and stainless steel tank construction for corrosion resistance.
We also pride ourselves on service here at Wisconsin Oven. We provide installation, start-up and training at your facility. And each furnace comes with our exclusive and unprecedented 3-Year WOW™ warranty.
In today’s competitive landscape, some big companies have started to eliminate relationships and base all purchases on lowest price. That’s a philosophy that simply doesn’t fit with who we are here at Wisconsin Oven. Over 50% of our annual order intake comes from repeat customers. If you really want to be successful in today’s business environment, you had better do everything in your power to maintain and strengthen the relationships you have.
But how do you do that? Is it simply a matter of checking off the boxes in your order process? Think for a minute about the companies that you’ve formed strong relationships with as a customer. What makes them stand out in your mind? Typically, it’s the people who went above and beyond that capture your attention, and your loyalty.
We believe in making sure that every customer gets a “WOW” experience. From their first visit to our facility to our communication after their project is completed, we strive to make each customer feel like our most important customer. That means listening more than we speak. It means neat facilities, and polite, happy employees. It means on time delivery of a product that screams extraordinary quality, and a follow up with genuine concern that all expectations have been met. And we make sure never to be “done” with a customer. We stay in touch and offer extraordinary service—forever.
There are few rules that hold true across every business, regardless of industry. But taking care of your customers is one of the few. A quality, long lasting relationship enriches both parties, and leads to long term success. And though their specific requirements may change, the general sentiment of what customers want has always been the same—quality and dedication. Provide those two things, and success will surely follow.
The Work of Champions program is an initiative here at Wisconsin Oven to recognize and reward the performance of employees who go above and beyond the call of duty. Whether they’re working overtime to take care of a customer, saving the company money by producing quality work in remarkable time, getting letters of praise from customers or making suggestions that will benefit customers, employees or the company at large, we feel it’s imperative that those efforts be recognized.
A Champion attitude is built into Wisconsin Oven. The President of the company, as well as many of our managers, began their employment here in the 80s and 90s at entry level positions. They possessed a “whatever it takes” attitude and achieved Champion performance, resulting in customer satisfaction, growth and success.
As part of the program, we make sure to provide information to all members of our team. We communicate all news good and bad, from how we’re performing to information on our profitability, order intake and outlook for the future. They make it happen, so they need to know how we’re doing.
We encourage our employees to play like champions every day, to give everything they do 110%, and appreciate the importance of our customers. And the best thing about the Work of Champions program? Our employees give us plenty of opportunities to celebrate.
We ask our employees to remember that without our customers, we don’t exist. And just as true as that, is the fact that without our employees we wouldn’t exist either. No matter who you are, being recognized for being a good person and a good performer makes you feel good, and if our employees feel good, chances are so will our customers.