Recently Headland interviewed Victorian based, Frank Gogol from Hargo Engineering on their purchase and installation of their Nakamura-Tome Lathe (WY 100II) during the pandemic.
“You have to be willing to have a crack and make a few mistakes before you get there.”
HL: How long have you been in business?
FG: My Dad, Heinz Gogol started the business in 1976. Dad came from watch making background in Germany and he started the business as an engineering shop, specialising in small components. I joined in 1991, after I completed my apprenticeship in electrical fitting with Siemens, manufacturing high and low voltage switchboards.
HL: In terms of size how have you grown?
FG: Like a lot of family business, Hargo has grown conservatively over the years. When I joined the business in 1991 Hargo employed around 8 people including the family and by 2015 we had grown to 20 staff. In 2015 Hargo established an advisory board to help with expansion and direction of the business and has since doubled in size in both turn over and staff.
Up until 1995, Hargo’s machinery still consisted of Sliding Head Cam Autos and the purchase of our first CNC, a Start SR16 was made. The benefits were soon realised the transition to a modern CNC machine shop began. By 2005 Hargo had become purely CNC retiring all of the Cam Autos.
HL: What industries do you service/what is your specialty?
FG: We cover a large range of industries and currently make components for Model Trains right through to the Space X and Starlink programs and everything in between.
At the moment, our specialty is complex, high quality components at production volumes which we are supplying to Automotive and 2nd Tier Aerospace / Defence both in Australia and the USA.
HL: What are the keys to your companies’ success?
FG: Not being scared of the difficult jobs, investing in the right technology and getting the technology to work for you, to its full capacity and capability is key. We’re not afraid to try new things and add spend a lot of time developing tooling to get parts from the machine complete. We empower our people to think about the best way, most efficient way to manufacture the component.
We also have a strong training program. I think getting the right people is a big struggle for many Australian manufacturers. We have focused heavily on overcoming this through our apprenticeship program. We get a new apprenticeship every year and we train all the way through. We select people based on their attitude and always select someone that is keen and open and willing to learn.
We also open our doors to schools and have lots of work placements giving students the chance to experience engineering before they are looking for a job. We always have a new face starting. Everyone in the business has a responsibility to train, that way we share the knowledge from all the people in the business.
HL: How you do remain ahead of the competition?
FG: We have a strong focus on our people and supply chain. Hargo currently exports up to 40% of sales and have had to become globally competitive. Hargo has had to develop a supply chain within Australia and the USA focusing on value and quality, it’s been hard work to find a supply chain that you can trust to deliver a high end product that you expect competitively. We have spent a lot of time visiting key suppliers in the USA to foster and develop those relationships early.
We are also looking to expand our footprint into the USA market. But of course this has all been put on hold for now. We are still looking to set up a small manufacturing plant over there. We already have a brand for ourselves over there which is fantastic, it gives us a foot in the door.
HL: What are you good at?
FG: Relationships, both Customer and Supplier are key for us. Working closely with our customers as most of our work is repeat and doing it on-time and to high-quality standards is critical. We are also big communicators; we are actively communicating with the customers on how we can manufacture parts most efficiently. We help them to manufacture the part most cost effectively and talk to them about how they make their parts, we don’t hide pricing and keep everything very open and transparent.
HL: So recently you purchased and installed a Nakamura WY 100II during the pandemic, What problem were you trying to solve through purchasing this equipment?
FG: We have been growing our export business consistently and needed a machine that would reduce our cycle times and maintain a high capability. We were focussed on a particular range of material and size.
We have experience with other brands and knew what differences would deliver our outcome, the Nakamura became the obvious choice. The key for us was getting the cycle time down on a complex part with many variations that are used by a number of customers that we have and are targeting. The very first mil spec housing we machined on the Nakamura had a 30% quicker cycle time, so we’ve definitely made the right decision. We are confident that future quoting reflecting this reduction will grow this business more.
HL: Why did you purchase this equipment over the competition?
FG: The capability of the machine is most critical, but for us the level of service, support and training from Headland themselves was also an important factor, we have dealt with Headland in the past and have been comfortable with them and they are a good company to work with.
HL: What’s the real value of the machinery you have in your factory?
FG: Cycle times and repeatability, this machine was more about our customer, some of our customers are using the Nakamura in their machine shops and with our efficiencies we knew we could get cycle time down significantly and be competitive. We’re currently manufacturing shell blanks for the SpaceX program which is highly competitive and demanding in quality standards. We’ve had Headland’s CNC programmer, Gurav working on the installation and training on the software and he’s been pretty flexible working around the restrictions of COVID adapting to our split shift no contact policy.
HL: How has Australian manufacturing fared through Covid-19? How is the current state of manufacturing in Australia in your opinion?
FG: I’m receiving mixed feedback from the market. While some sections of the industry seem to be doing quite well, and some manufacturing seems to be coming back on-shore, we need the whole end product to come back to Australia, for the industry to truly benefit.
HL: Any additional comments?
FG: I took over a great business from my Dad, he was more conservative than me and we were in for a slow, but sustained growth. I’m a bit more aggressive, I got a board involved that has pushed us a long a bit quicker and we’ve doubled in size over the last 5 years. During COVID, I’m happy to say none of our staff have lost any hours and we have still hit all our budgets putting us on track for our best year ever. However, we are very cautious in the next few months ahead to see what happens. But overall, we’re remaining positive and pushing ahead.
And no matter what, we’re always willing to have a crack, so I think that helps in times like these.
Read more about Hargo Engineering and what they do.