Member Profile: Vanamatic Company

Vanamatic is an innovative precision machining company that uses cellular manufacturing and lean practices.

Vanamatic is an innovative precision machining company that uses cellular manufacturing and lean practices. The manufacturer provides products made from steel, stainless steel and aluminum to a variety of industries, including fluid power, aerospace, automotive and refrigeration.

Founded in 1954, the company traces its history to Michigan-based G&Z Manufacturing, which started Vanamatic to service a new industrial division of Aeroquip. Both the new Aeroquip division and Vanamatic were established in Van Wert, Ohio, about 75 miles southwest of Toledo. The company’s name was derived from the “Van” in “Van Wert” and the “matic” in “automatic” screw machines.

Vanamatic began with six employees and three screw machines in a 6,000-square-foot building. After a fire in 1965, the company relocated to a larger facility in nearby Delphos, Ohio. In 2003, Vanamatic moved to its current location, an 80,000-square-foot plant specially designed to improve efficiency and reduce lead times.

Today, the company has 60 employees and is led by three co-presidents.
James Wiltsie, Jr. is in charge of sales, while his brothers Jeff and Perry handle manufacturing and quality, respectively. They are the sons of James Wiltsie, Sr., one of the company’s original founders.

In discussing Vanamatic’s operations, Jeff Wiltsie points out, “We were constrained by space in our old building, and we couldn’t be very flexible because we were departmentalized. In designing the new building, we wanted to be able to move equipment around and set up cellular operations.”

“We’ve incorporated a tool called the Predictive Index,” says Jeff Wiltsie’s son Scott, the company’s human resources manager. “It helps us identify the right type of people to hire and gets those people working in the right jobs.

We first saw the Predictive Index at a PMPA Management Update Conference and have been using it ever since.”

Vanamatic’s engineering manager Steve Schroeder adds, “The Predictive Index also helps us with support integration. When requirements on the floor are higher and the production area needs help, we can pull people out of one area to help fill in at another.”

“We cross-train our people so they can do multiple jobs and fluctuate where the work is,” Scott Wiltsie explains. “When the economy went down, we were helped by our ability to get the right people in the right positions at the right time. Requirements change constantly, so being flexible helps us respond quicker. I think it’s going to give us an edge as we move forward.”

Another program that Vanamatic personnel first saw at a PMPA conference is Gainsharing. “It’s a performance-based reward system that drives continuous improvement,” Scott Wiltsie says. “When the company is doing well, the employees receive bonuses on top of what they already earn.”

A PMPA member since 1957, Vanamatic has been a presenter at numerous PMPA technical conferences. Several years ago, the company presented a program on setup reduction times for screw machines and later released it on DVD. The DVDs were offered for sale at $500 a piece with all of the money going to the PMPA Education Foundation.

“When we present at the technical conferences, we probably gain more from the process than anyone else gains,” says manufacturing engineer, Adam Wiltsie, another of Jeff Wiltsie’s sons. “The preparation we go through helps us review our own processes.

“I really like the variety of ideas coming out of the PMPA conferences,” he continues. “Some of our biggest programs have come from Management Update and the Technical Conference.”

“The best thing about PMPA membership is the networking,” says Jeff Wiltsie, a 4-year PMPA board member who also served on the Technical Conference Committee for 7 years. Other current Vanamatic committee members include Perry Wiltsie on the Quality Committee and Lu Ann Armstrong on the Benchmarking Committee.

“A real key to PMPA is the openness of our competitors,” Adam Wiltsie says. “They are very willing to discuss machining and shopfloor issues. We all work in the same world, so it’s nice to bounce questions off each other and hear the responses.

“I haven’t met any members who won’t share best practices or show how their people do things,” he sums up. “There’s a willingness by every PMPA member to want other member companies to get better.”

 

Vanamatic Company is located at 701 Ambrose Dr., Delphos, Ohio 45833. Phone: 419-692-6085. Fax: 419-692-3260. website: vanamatic.com