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History of Haas CNC

By Dan Eder

The History of Haas Automation

Haas CNC mills are world renowned for their quality and reliable performance. Today, Haas CNC programming is a benchmark for excellence in the industry. But before the company became synonymous with high quality Haas CNC machining, there was a time when Haas was just a hopeful upstart taking big chances on some revolutionary technology. The company’s story begins over 30 years ago in California, with a former job shop machinist who thought he could offer the industry something more.

Machine Tooling Before Haas

In the 60s and 70s, before the Haas CNC lathe came along, machine tooling was highly customized. The aerospace industry and the military were frequent customers. Customers in the industry frequently suffered from long lead times for products and prices sometimes were not set until the machines were actually shipped. The demand for a standardized approach was there, though no business had yet taken advantage of it.   

The Beginning of Haas

As the 1970s transitioned into the the 1980s, the business climate for the American machining industry began to see more international competition elbowing in. Many Asian firms such as Korean manufacturer Daewoo and Japanese manufacturer Mazak were gobbling up market share by offering new and innovative solutions. But these new upstarts would soon have to contend with an American company competing for that same market share. It was in 1983 that Gene F. Haas and Haas CNC programming stepped into the fray.

Haas founded Haas Automation as a machine tool manufacturing business that went above and beyond to service its customers. At the time, Haas was the first company to construct standard CNC machine tools while at the same time openly publishing the price list. It was an innovative achievement and one that got lots of positive feedback from the buying public at large.

A Strong Start & More Opportunity

Only a few years after founding the company, Haas offered a patented 5C collet indexer which positioned parts for machining with a high degree of accuracy. The commercial success of this item allowed the company to invest in more research and development on larger machine tool products as well as machine tool accessories. Over the next four years, the company expanded its product line to include fully programmable rotary tables, rotary indexers, Haas CNC mills and machine tool accessories.

The First Vertical Machining Center

The year 1987 was a key one in the history of the Haas organization and Haas CNC programming. In that year, the first vertical machining center (VMC) was born. This tool was capable of milling, drilling, tapping and boring and came to be known as the VF-1. Haas CNC machining  eventually took this product and mass marketed it to break into the machine tool sector.

Vertical machining uses rotary cutters. With a vertical spindle in place, tools typically cut across the top of a workpiece. The first Haas CNC machining center debuted at the IMTS show in 1988. At the time, the sticker price of $50,000 for this piece of equipment was unheard of. The firm still offers this machine to date and at the same price.

The company was firing on all cylinders. Haas CNC programming was able to compete with international firms offering machine tooling while at the same time breaking ground in other domestic markets that were overlooked, namely the job shop market. With speedy delivery times, lower costs and quality parts and labor, Haas began to make a name for itself in the American marketplace too.

In 1994, the first Haas CNC lathe, the HL-1, was subsequently introduced. Today Haas lathes are among the most renowned pieces of equipment the company produces.

Constant Innovation: The Evolution of Haas

Haas Automation has maintained an impressive pace of innovation since this period too, introducing new products every year to drive growth. The company has openly stated that it’s goal is to generate 10% of sales revenues each year from the sale of new products. In fact, the number of products Haas continually offers since these early days has ballooned up to 100.

Not only has Haas been successful competing against Asian manufacturers on American soil, they have taken the competition to Asia and succeeded there as well. Particularly in China, Haas has enjoyed a lot of success because of a superior distribution system, parts and availability and a reputation for quality manufacturing. In 2005, the most recent year for which statistics were released, 44% of Haas products were shipped internationally, either to Asia or Europe. The company expects this number to increase in the decades to come.

Another innovation during this period that helped Haas remain competitive was the early decision to build Haas CNC lathes and all its other equipment from the perspective of programmers and operators.

Customer Service -- A Key Component to a Winning Strategy

One of the most interesting things about the Haas story is not only the persistence of the staff, but the strategies that were employed successfully to gain more of a share of the market. It’s truly something to inspire entrepreneurs everywhere in every field.

Since 1983, Haas Automation has prided itself on customer service. This includes 90 day monitoring of newly installed equipment and distributor reports, which notify the company of customer issues in a timely fashion. The firm also frequently tracks the customer experience through monthly phone calls for candid feedback which is relayed directly to management.

Another key aspect of the Haas story was that the founder was once a customer himself. Haas ran a small job shop himself and instills all of his strategies with that knowledge. The company has frequently touted this in its marketing materials, stating the firm’s philosophy is to always build machines that “Gene himself would buy.”

Revenues and Thriving Growth

The year 1997 marked the 10,000th sale of a Haas CNC machine. For his forward thinking, savvy business attitude, Haas has been frequently honored in manufacturing circles, and rightfully so. Clearly, the strong commitment to a customer service customer service strategy has paid off for Haas Automation in the form of increased revenues. Products such as the Haas CNC lathe and Haas CNC mills helped the company gross $700 million in revenue in 2006 and surpass $1 billion in revenue for the first time in 2014, which marked the best year ever for the company to date.

Haas Today & Beyond

In the early 1980s Haas CNC machining  was virtually alone among American tool manufacturers at the time in providing high quality tools and parts, short delivery times, and lower costs. The company also faced stiff competition from overseas and eventually prevailed.

These days, Haas CNC machining is one of the largest producers of CNC machining tools in the world by volume. The business model for the company evolved along with its products. While at first working through independent distributors, the company developed guidelines for distributors and then, eventually, their own factory outlets. It was a slow evolution that has taken off exponentially since the dawn of the 21st century.

In the future, the company plans to continue growth at a quick pace in the decades to come. Indeed, the future looks bright for Haas Automation, which started over 30 years ago with a commitment to customer service and a plan to service an untapped niche in the machine tool market.

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