Dynamic for series production

C 250 | C 22 | HIN Feinmechanik | Devices and prototyping

From draft to design through to production: HIN Feinmechanik has successfully established itself as a specialist in complicated components and complex devices. The "Made in Germany" quality seal is important to the owner – including in his stock of machinery: all six milling centres are supplied by Hermle in Gosheim.

Marco Hin is already waiting outside. The sun warms the air on this fresh September morning. "We could actually do the interview outside", remarks the 42-year-old company founder with a wink. Instead, he opens a side door in the middle of the white low-rise building, letting the noisy hum of the milling machines escape – and ushering us inside. We follow the typical sound of the cutting machines and find ourselves in a hall with five Hermle 5-axis machining centres arranged together. There is still some free space – among other things, for a CNC rotary grinding machine and a CNC surface grinding machine. In the end, we know it’s only a matter of time before space could also be at a premium here. As it happens, HIN Feinmechanik GmbH only moved into the new building in Waldkirch near the city of Freiburg im Breisgau in 2020. "For us, that was a big jump that saw our production area increase by a factor of three", comments Hin.


Success begins in the cellar

Marco Hin describes himself as a practitioner and loves to stand beside the machine. The qualified tool mechanic and certified mechanical technician only realised how much he enjoyed this when he swapped a life of hands-on work for a career in project management. Fortunately, he is still able to indulge his interest because his father, a master precision engineer, keeps a milling machine in his basement. "That was our playground", says Hin. Word spread about his abilities, and what was once a hobby soon became a business on the side. In 2014, Hin achieved his ambition to become his own boss by founding HIN Feinmechanik GmbH. "We started from the very bottom. To gain a foothold in what is still a highly capital-intensive sector, we reinvested all the money we earned", explains Hin.

The first parts were simple: small aluminium adapter plates to be cut to length, screws to be turned and valve blocks made of plastic with a hole pattern. Three months after founding the company, Hin invested in his first machining centre from Maschinenfabrik Berthold Hermle AG – a company he was already familiar with: "My background is in mould construction, and the Hermle name frequently crops up because the machining centres from Gosheim are reliable and cut with great precision". However, one of the main reasons was the excellent customer service – both for new as well as second-hand machines.

The second-hand C 800 V obviously confirmed the young entrepreneur’s opinion: In 2015, he got started with 5-axis machining using another second-hand C 600 U and then purchased his first 5-axis machining centre directly from Gosheim in 2016. "It’s important to me that our products are "Made in Germany". It is equally apparent that our machines and tools also come from Germany and that everything is put into practice with the help of Hermle machines", explains Hin.

  • Von links: Geschäftsführer Marco Hin, Helmut Müller, Vertreter der HPV Hermle Vertriebs GmbH, und Konstrukteur Andreas Kitz.
    From left: Managing Director Marco Hin, Helmut Müller, representing HPV Hermle Vertriebs GmbH and design engineer Andreas Kitz.
  • Komponenten für die Pharmaentwicklung aus Edelstahlwerkstoff 1.4571
    Difficult to machine: HIN Feinmechanik mills components from titanium-stabilised 1.4571 stainless steel for pharmaceutical development applications.
  • Moderner Maschinenpark der HIN Feinmechanik
    The first impression counts: HIN Feinmechanik impresses with its modern stock of machinery and exceptional quality.
  • Herstellung der Flansche für den Rennsport von HIN Feinmechanik
    HIN Feinmechanik manufactures flanges for motorsports in pilot series.
  • Konstrukteur Andreas Kitz an der C 250 U von Hermle
    Design engineer Andreas Kitz at the Hermle C 250 U.
  • Produktion bei der HIN Feinmechanik
    The view of the brightly-lit production area shows just how impressed Marco Hin is by Hermle as a provider of precision milling centres.

A good climate

Something else that is important to him is the appreciation of employees, for which the contract manufacturer from the South Baden region is probably famous. The entrepreneur goes on to assure us that he doesn’t have any difficulties recruiting competent qualified employees. How does he manage this? "I adhere to the strategy of using one machine, one employee and one CAM system. After all, the better programmer is the one who can also operate the milling machine themselves, and vice versa". As a result, every milling machine operator can decide for themselves how best to produce their orders. "This makes the job and the workplace here very interesting", adds Hin. In addition to the excellent working atmosphere, the cutting-edge machine park is a convincing argument. To this day, he has also managed to welcome another employee with each new machine.

In 2017, in a rather unplanned move, the stock of machinery was expanded to include another second-hand C 800 U. In 2018, Hin expanded the rotary area. Four years after the company was founded, five employees were working on four milling centres and one lathe – today, the workforce has grown to ten. They design and manufacture prototypes, small-scale and large-scale production runs of up to 5,000 pieces for the mould-making, pharmaceutical and medical industries, for electronics companies and traditional engineering firms. HIN Feinmechanik also has in-depth expertise in the construction of devices – for example, for bending cannulas, centring sheet metal for laser-beam machining or for grinding fibre optics. The range of materials to be machined is correspondingly broad: aluminium, non-ferrous heavy metals, carbon, stainless steel, plastics, magnesium, titanium and tool steel. "Depending on the particular industry, the tolerances can sometimes range from tenths to hundredths of a millimetre. And for the high-performance applications, we simply cannot do without the precision of the Hermle machines", emphasises Marco Hin.


Getting ready at the starting blocks

This is a fast-paced development that placed heavy demands on the structures and processes. "Up to this point, everything had passed across my desk, which was no longer practical given the level of growth", explains Hin. In 2019, instead of buying another machine as usual, he expanded the operational structures of the company. It was more like stopping briefly to take a deep breath than actually taking a break. To relieve his workload, he employed a foreman to take charge of work scheduling while he prepared the business for the "big jump", which is how he describes the move to the current production building in 2020. "Here, we have tripled our production area, taken on our first apprentice and employed another worker", says Hin, listing the most recent changes. "At the same time, we then purchased our fifth machining centre from Hermle". At the end of January, the C 250 U arrived at the plant on the back of the Hermle lorry. In retrospect, this could have been a case of bad timing: having just moved premises, taken on new staff and purchased a new machine, he had resolutely set a course for growth. Then came the COVID-19 pandemic, forcing his customers to pull back, which led to a sales slump and short-time work.

What Marco Hin did next ultimately won him a prize: he invested again. But this time, it was in his employees, the website and advertising. "We simply went in a different direction. Also to keep up our motivation and to answer the question ‘what do we do now?’’’, explains the company boss. He topped up the reduced hours compensation. He also introduced petrol vouchers and a company bicycle leasing scheme. Hin also expresses appreciation for his employees with photo collages that are prominently displayed along the corridor between the offices and the production hall. "We’re moving forward" was the signal that he successfully sent in this way. The prize? The Jobmotor 2020 award in the category "Concepts during the pandemic" and the attention of valuable new customers. "After a dry spell lasting a couple of months, things started to pick up again", says Hin.

Fertigung von VA-Teilen in Serie auf der C 22 U von Hermle
HIN Feinmechanik uses the Hermle C 22 U for the series production of VA steel parts.

Now every second counts

Since July 2022, a sixth Hermle machining centre has been carrying out milling tasks in the production hall. The C 22 U differs from the previous 5-axis machines as it is more extensively equipped: with more space for tools, the automation package as well as internal tool cooling. Overall, this increases the pace of operation and reduces the cycle times. "Five minutes more or less was hardly relevant for the production of individual parts. This is also why we didn’t avail of internal tool cooling up to now. However, we automated the C 22 U, and with the robot working upstream, every minute counts", explains Hin. "Now, we can offer the entire portfolio, from prototype to series production".

We finish by walking back through the brightly-lit production area in the company building covering approximately 650 square metres. "A great deal has happened in a very short time, almost too quickly", says Marco Hin, getting to the point. He explains that he wants to keep the business at the current level for the time being, quickly adding that "for the time being" means for the next two to three years. It’s a state of affairs that is unlikely to remain static. However, there is one thing he is sure about: "We have always done well with Hermle and will probably continue to do so in the future".

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