United Grinding North America – Leading the Way for the Future of Manufacturing

United Grinding North America remains at the forefront of innovative technologies, introducing next-generation machine tools to tackle the challenges arising in manufacturing.

With its eight company brands, the United Grinding Group is one of the world’s leading suppliers of precision machines for grinding, eroding, lasering, measuring as well as combination machining. We hear from Markus Stolmar, President and CEO of UNITED GRINDING North America on how the business is adapting to an evolving market.

The company supports its customers throughout the machine lifecycle, including equipment sales, installation, training, applications support, preventive and predictive maintenance, parts and repair services.

“While the United Grinding Group is headquartered in Bern, Switzerland, the UNITED GRINDING North America competence centre in Miamisburg, OH acts as the headquarters for the group’s operations on this continent” says Stolmar, explaining that in North America, the company’s competence centre is where machines are finalised for custom applications, training, application development, and manufacturing is done for rebuilt machines, machine tending and part handling automation cells.

He further explains that the company is divided into three business divisions, or product technology groups, that support the eight brands of precision manufacturing technology. The Cylindrical product technology group represents STUDER, SCHAUDT, and MIKROSA. The Surface and Profile product technology group represents MÄGERLE, BLOHM, and JUNG and the Tool product technology group represents WALTER and EWAG. In addition, a competence center for additive manufacturing is operated under the IRPD brand in Switzerland.

The company’s customer base can include any type of business big or small, from a small job shop to a global multinational corporation, across a range of industries, from automotive and aerospace to energy and general manufacturing. The wide portfolio ensures that business remains stable when demand for certain machines fluctuates.

“Some of our brands are over 100 years old, such as Fritz STUDER AG, MIKROSA & WALTER, and some are somewhat specialised in a certain grinding technology, such as MÄGERLE, BLOHM, and JUNG, the high precision surface and profile grinding specialists,” says Markus Stolmar, pointing out that high-quality precision grinding machines can achieve microscopic tolerances, helping shops meet customer needs even in the most precise and demanding industries, such as medical device manufacturing.

The age of digitisation

Speaking of current market developments, he reflects that the global pandemic has further accentuated several trends that began a few years back – digitisation, automation and a shortage of human resources in industries.

“This is a critical time in manufacturing – people are retiring at record rates, vacancies are going unfilled, new talent will need to be introduced into all areas of manufacturing organisations to keep things moving,” he says.

“The response to these developments is an increased focus on automation, enhanced training programmes, investments in the community, and introducing new, innovative technologies that simplify and shorten the learning curve, allowing new machine operators the chance to gain proficiency in a shorter time. United Grinding is participating in all of these activities.”

The company is constantly innovating to tackle customer and market problems with the most elegant technology, machines, and robots. Recently launched solutions include versaLoad™, a new automation cell, joining flexLoad™ in the line-up of machine tending and part handling automation solutions developed by UNITED GRINDING North America.

Developed for smaller shops with high-mix, low-volume production, versaLoad represents a flexible, affordable, easy-to-move and even easier-to-program collaborative robot to perform rote tasks and to free human workers to apply their talents to essential tasks. The solution boosts productivity by simplifying grinding process automation. In addition, the simple robot-teaching interface and lower price-point make automation more accessible to manufacturers looking to install automation in their machine line-up.

Customer Oriented Revolution

Markus Stolmar says: “The concept of Industry 4.0, i.e. connectivity to machines, is well known and widely applied. Now there is talk of Industry 5.0, the interaction of machines, focusing on touch screens, camera recognition, voice controls, all the features that the younger generation is so familiar with. We are now focussing on building a software architecture, including hardware design, with the prime purpose of making the operator’s life easier, more enjoyable, with intuitive controls.”

To this end, in October, the company unveiled globally at EMO, and to the North American market, “Customer-Oriented REvolution” – C.O.R.E., the next-generation technology that will simplify machine operation and so much more. Based on a new operating system that equips the machine with intelligence, C.O.R.E. helps to make production fit for the digital future.

Thanks to the uniform C.O.R.E. software architecture being implemented across all product technology groups, exchanging data between machines is easy, and communicating with third-party systems is also possible. C.O.R.E. not only establishes the technical foundation for other IoT and data applications, but it also forms the basis of revolutionary yet uniform operation.

This uniform and intuitive operating philosophy reduces training time. The configurable, role-specific interface helps prevent errors and increases the efficiency and quality of programming. Information can be exchanged quickly and in real-time via the front camera and Bluetooth headset.

Leading the way

While digitisation makes processes simpler and more transparent, boosting machine and general production availability, and automation may tackle the increasing labour shortage, the human factor remains irreplaceable.

To this end, United Grinding has partnered with TITANS of CNC to develop an online grinding academy, which is due out in spring 2022 and will grant unprecedented levels of access to training content and tutorials on how to grind parts and operate the company’s machinery.

“We have also started a scholarship programme for local, graduating high school seniors who are pursuing a path in manufacturing and/or engineering. We awarded four scholarships this spring, and look forward to helping more students next spring,” says Markus Stolmar.

In addition to these major, game-changing activities the company is engaging in, its brand companies, MÄGERLE, BLOHM, JUNG, STUDER, SCHAUDT, MIKROSA, WALTER, and EWAG continue to bring innovative new technologies and machine capabilities to the table to help United Grinding’s customers achieve better results than ever before.

Markus Stolmar’s leadership is seen as a critical factor in helping to drive this development. Having led United Grinding North America as its CEO for two years now, he has been with the company for 21 years in various roles; with his wide-ranging knowledge and experience, he has been witnessing the shift in the industry first-hand.

“I am aware of the challenges that the industry is facing, and we are investing in finding solutions suitable for the next stage of development. “UNITED GRINDING is set to be a manufacturing organisation that’s leading the way for the future of our industry,” he affirms.

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