Homegrown Machine Shop Finds Its Niche
by Kristine Tunney
You’ve never met anyone like him before, have you?” said Joseph Machine Co. (JMC) vice president of operations Todd Lowe, as we rode home from a small diner in Dillsburg, Pa. It was there that that I had met up with Joseph Pigliacampo, founder of Joseph Machine Co., his wife Aleta and some of his staff for lunch. And truth be told—Todd was exactly right. I’d never met anyone like Joseph before.
With an unusual combination of vigor and gentleness, Pigliacampo’s combination of candidness and a ppreciation for how far he’s come was evident in his joy in talking about his own transformation. From a young shoe cobbler who previously attended cosmetology school to one of the most well-respected fenestration machinery suppliers in North America, Pigliacampo described his company as a “diamond in the rough”—a company that prided itself on where it had been and looked to its past to propel it into the future.
In a competitive fenestration industry Joseph Machine Co. has worked its way to the forefront of its niche within a sea of other machinery suppliers. According to Abe Diehl, the company’s director of sales and marketing, more than 70 percent of what it now sells is standard stock equipment, while 30 percent is custom-made. In an industry where long lead times are the norm rather than the exception, the idea of buying needed equipment directly off the shelves has helped this company that prides itself on being homegrown, cultivate its own strengths to best suit its customers.
“Not many machine manufacturers focus on standard stock equipment and that has changed how we work dramatically,” said Diehl.
The company builds equipment in batches, a system that allows for material savings and is most effective for assemblers.
The company has come a long way since its early days, when it consisted of Joseph, Aleta, and a couple of machinists and assemblers. Residing in a new 100,000-square-foot facility, the company is now aiming its sights on pushing the envelope.
“We want to be the best, but that doesn’t necessarily mean the biggest,” said Diehl. “The company is built as an umbrella where almost everything is done under one roof, from the engineering to the programming. We really aim toward a unique ‘partners in design’ approach that connects engineers with customers to provide the best manufacturing solutions. There are a lot of hands that touch everything.”
According to Diehl, the ability to do things in-house is one of the company’s biggest assets. He explained that because so much work is done in-house at the JMC plant, customers only need to contact one company to get help with any part on the piece of machinery, making servicing as uncomplicated as possible.
Recent improvements include the company’s adoption of a three-dimensional CAD system, which has improved productivity and profitability while reducing overall delivery times. This new software system has helped reduce design times, while helping dramatically in the assembly phase by better representing real-world applications.
“It’s all about the machine design. We wanted to bring innovation to the lower-end market,” said Diehl, referring in part to Joseph’s ‘Zero-Scrap’ features on its saws. “We’ve had the technology since the late 1980s. However, fenestration manufacturing tends to be ten or so years behind other types of manufacturing industries.”
JMC has been especially successful with its line of Flexline Processors, now producing an average of four machine centers a month.
“Custom machine centers are what Joseph was originally known for,” said Diehl. “It’s one of the products we specialize in.”
Building On Tradition
“[Joseph’s] an amazing concept guy,” said Lowe. “After talking with someone for a few minutes, he can just begin designing the machine in his head. It’s his gift.”
And building better, faster, more efficient machines is what the company looks to accomplish in the future. Lowe also says the company plans to round out its vinyl-welding line in addition to making further improvements on the more than 20 different styles of saws and fabricating equipment that it offers currently.
“Innovation is how we get our share in an otherwise mature market,” said Diehl.
Staying on top and continuing to grow requires anticipation of future trends. The company’s RTM Geometric Saw is an example of this forward-thinking trait. According to Diehl, the demand for geometric windows has increased dramatically. As a result, the need for productive equipment to produce consistent geometric products independent of the operator has increased. JMC established its saw for geometric applications approximately 12 years ago and has sold as many of the RTM saws in the last year as it has in the last 11 years combined.
Additionally, Diehl anticipates Joseph’s standard product line of saws and fabricating equipment taking the company into the future as the needs of fenestration manufacturers continue to change.
“Customers’ products are changing much more rapidly than they were in the past. Previously, a window design would remain static, very rarely changing. Now, it’s often only two or three years before a window design is fully or partially changed,” said Diehl. “We design our equipment to be flexible enough to satisfy a number of needs.”
The company’s focus on its pusher-based technology for its saws offers improved safety, in addition to reducing the need of dedicated labor to the saw and reduction of operator inaccuracies.
“We let the machine dictate to the operator rather than vice versa,” Diehl said.
The company also looks to its vinyl welders to broaden its product offering to the fenestration industry. The company’s H4W series of horizontal welders and the V4W series of vertical welders are designed for the U.S. market, utilizing design features made for U.S. profiles.
Power of the People
For many years, JMC didn’t even have its own sales force, yet today now employs more than 60 people. From the designing phase to installation, servicing of the equipment and training of the staff that’s going to run it, Joseph Machine’s efforts certainly have come full-circle.
“If there is any way that we can be characterized,” said Diehl, “it’s by the fact that we sell turn-key equipment. We take ownership of what it takes to get you there.”
“We’re big on service,” added Lowe. “We believe we’re second to none in putting the customer first.”
Lowe further explained that the company is most proud of its culture, noting that under the current economic conditions, it’s definitely a buyers’ market for labor.
“We’ve picked up some great, hardworking people,” he said. “If you’re not a group worker, you don’t work here.”
For a company started by an ex-cobbler who attended cosmetology school, eventually planning to begin a career as a barber, Joseph Machine Co. certainly has come a long way from its humble beginnings. By focusing on bringing innovation to the industry’s smaller manufacturers, it has made a name for itself within its industry-niche and works to keep on growing. From its workers to its welders and its sales force to its saws, it certainly seems that Joseph Pigliacampo’s self-declared “diamond in the rough” machine company may have only begun to shine.
Kristine Tunney is a contributing editor to DWM magazine.
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