Heritage Tool and Die makes its living with the big boys

Kevin Scheiber is one of three partners at Heritage Tool and Die Inc., which began operations on the outskirts of Huntington in 1993 primarily as a plastic injection molds producer.
Photo by Jason Parsons.

A 15-year-old industry on the outskirts of the Huntington city limits may only employ four people, but even with its limited employee numbers, Heritage Tool and Die Inc. makes its living with the big boys.

Heritage President John Wegmann, one of three partners who started the organization in 1993, says the company's products go to several big-name industries, including companies like General Motors, Ford and Chrysler.

"We build primarily plastic injection molds," Wegmann says. "A lot of our business is from the automotive industry, electronics field and medical field."

Most of Heritage's business - 70 percent - is made up of producing molds the companies that buy from it use to mass-produce specific parts they need to complete what they sell.

Such molds they make are for braking systems in Ford, Chrysler and GM automobiles, sensors that end up on automobile engines, electrical connectors and a variety of tools that are used in hip and knee replacement surgeries, among others.

The molds take upwards of six to 12 weeks to complete after initial contact, Wegmann says.

"Typically we receive a part printout from a customer and we go through the quoting process to their product specifications," Wegmann states. "Then we sign and start work on our CAD system. Once the design is complete, we go through the machining process. Then we get to the point where assemble the mold and then show it to our customer."

The company's four employees, Tim Dalton, Wegmann and partners Jerry Smith and Kevin Scheiber, work a flexible one-shift day at the facility located at 679 W. Markle Rd., Huntington. Wegmann says the shift is flexible because the employees work as many hours as it takes to get a project completed on time.

Wegmann says the company works on several different molds at any given moment as the process takes weeks to complete. The company builds the molds, sometimes builds prototype molds and can also build a production mold.

"We have customers from all over the United States," he says. "A lot of the molds we make end up in Mexico and other countries. We generally don't ship out of the country but the customers we work for have plants outside the United States."

The rest of Heritage's business comes from making and stamping out tool and die sets and producing limited quantity units.

"Typically, we don't mass produce," Wegmann says. "We have produced limited quantities, say between 10 and 200 tools, for the medical industry. Most of what we build, though, our customers use to mass produce their products."

For example, Wegmann says the company in the past has produced several tools for the medical industry.

"Sometimes we'll build a part for the medical industry," he notes. "The parts we build will be for a specific hip replacement surgery, let's say, and they only need a few of those specific tools. In that case we have the capabilities of actually producing the part.

"We build some parts on a limited production basis that are manufac-tured to the customer's specific requirements."

Wegmann says Heritage Tool and Die was "conceptually" started in 1991 when the three partners worked at Yeoman Engineering, which has since closed.

"We worked on planning for a couple of years and actually hit the ground in 1993," he adds. "We started at our current location with the existing building that was around 1,700 square feet and we did a little remodeling. Two years after we bought the place, we added on and we now have a little more than 7,000 square feet."

From the initial beginning through the present, Wegmann says he and his partners have seen the company grow despite the initial drawback when NAFTA became law.

"It's grown quite a bit from when we started," he says. "We had a downturn there but now business has picked up again. It's been pretty good last year and this year, too."

Wegmann credits word-of-mouth from satisfied customers for the company's growth to include making molds and parts for firms across the country.

"We primarily get our business by referrals because in our business, it is hard to knock on doors and tell them about ourselves and our capabilities," he says. "Our referrals come from a company or individual we have worked with before."

Even with positive word of mouth, Wegmann notes that in order to earn trust and bigger contracts, ordering companies sometimes start out small until they get to know the kind of work Heritage produces.