Part Sherlock Holmes, part Erno Rubik, Hamilton engineers are the tireless problem solvers behind some of the toughest productivity tools on the planet. Some focus on casters and wheels while others play switch hitters with trucks and trailers, too. The common denominator? All are masters at custom solutions. We caught up with a few members of "The J team", as we like to call them (because most of their names begin with the letter "J"), to ask what makes them tick, why they enjoy a challenge and who has the best hair.
At a high level, how do projects happen at Hamilton?
Jevon: Usually we'll start with a sales person asking us "Can we do this?" If we say yes, which we do about 90 percent of the time, then we'll give them a price quote and usually some sort of initial design. Sales will take that back to the customer, and we'll receive a product order. That's when we do the design, all the CAD work and drawings. Once we get approval from the customer, we deliver a final set of drawings.
Dave: Our sales team is really great about asking questions up front, but of course there's a lot of back and forth in the follow up, consulting and advising, asking a lot of application questions before actual design begins.
What's the most challenging part of the job?
Dave: There's no precedent for many of our projects, so we spend a lot of time finding creative ways to solve problems - and still make things as economical and productive as possible.
Jeff: By nature, customers will always want things fast, cheap and custom. We can do one of those all day. But sometimes you have to explain to the customer that something they see in our catalog that's spring-loaded in carbon steel isn't going to work as well in, say, a stainless-steel version.
John: Most of us solve problems. I usually just create them (everyone laughs). The job is pretty challenging but that also makes it interesting. Anything can happen.
John and Pat, you've been with the company for a long time. How have things changed?
(John began his career with Hamilton straight out of high school 26 years ago rocking a blond mullet, while Pat is a 38-year veteran)
John: For one, I got a haircut. Second, when I first started we wouldn't take on projects that were more than 20,000 lbs. Now high-capacity is our specialty.
Pat: All the welding was done by hand when I started. Now everything is CNC (Computer Numerical Control) machines and robots.
Dave: (Deadpans) What you can't see is that these guys are actually chained to their desks. We don't let them leave.
Technical expertise aside, what do you think makes a good engineer?
Julie: Attention to detail.
Pat: Adapting and being able to wear different hats.
John: many of our engineers are also good experienced fabricators... with numerous fabricators supporting them on the production floor.
What do you think differentiates Hamilton?
Jevon: I'd say we're the go-to company for special requests. We also do casters AND trucks. Most of the competition focuses on one or the other.
Jeff: We rarely say no. Most companies might cringe when the customer asks for a special, but we thrive on it. In fact, the more outlandish the request, the better. We have the expertise and the knowledge to see it through. (In a blind end-user study, Hamilton was ranked as being best known by customers for custom solutions.)
What's a good example of a job that really showed our custom chops?
Jeff: Colossus was a massive project for us - and a perfect example of our core competencies in heavy custom engineered industrial products. Designing a custom 100,000-pound capacity caster was a challenge not only because it had to hold a tremendous amount of weight but because our client, a federal contractor, gave us very specific requirements. Everything had to have custom calculations - from the springs to the oscillating axle to the extreme-duty press-on tires.
1637 Dixie Highway
Hamilton, OH 45011-4041