Made in Milwaukee: Du-well Grinding depends on precision

A major challenge of manufacturing is getting the measurements and tolerances correct down to fractions of an inch.

At Menomonee Falls-based Du-Well Grinding Enterprises Inc., precision is important to its industrial grinding services.

“Gauging and measuring is very important in any manufacturing process,” said Greg Grambow, president of Du-Well. “We miss by a thousandth (of an inch) … you have junk.”

Du-Well, founded in 1951, has 14 employees. It provides a finishing service to equipment manufacturers in the machine parts, agricultural, construction, off road equipment and military industries.

The company acquired another Menomonee Falls grinding shop, Winter’s Grinding, in 2009 and took on five employees while expanding its grinding capabilities.

Du-Well moved its operations in March from a 10,500-square-foot facility at 4115 W. Greenfield Ave. in Milwaukee to its 22,800-square-foot building at W166 N5925 Greenway Circle in Menomonee Falls.

The aim of grinding is to smooth and reduce friction on an existing part’s outer or inner surfaces to an accurate size and finish.

Parts that undergo grinding are made of ductal iron, steel, chrome, ceramics, plastic and rubber. The harder the metal, the longer it takes to grind.

Employees work in a shift rotation that works out to 12 hours of production seven days per week.

The company focuses on cylindrical, surface and blanchard grinding processes.

Du-Well has machinery capable of cylindrical outside diameter, inside diameter and centerless grinding, as well as surface external grinding, Grambow said.

Blanchard, or rotary surface grinding, uses electromagnetic tables that rotate the part one way, while a stone grinding wheel rotates another. A coolant liquid removes particles of material from the part to a certain dimension while keeping it cool.

Du-Well can blanchard grind parts up to 84 inches in diameter and has surface grinding capabilities of up to 36 by 72 inches.

Because the parts must be identical, it’s important to carefully calibrate machines and use certified measuring equipment, like micrometer gauges, to measure diameters, Grambow said.

“A 4-degree temperature change can cause the part to grow or shrink up to two-tenths of a thousandth (of an inch), depending on the material,” he said.

About 90 percent of Du-Well’s business comes from Wisconsin manufacturers, most of them in the Milwaukee area, Grambow said.

Tier two and three manufacturers like Du-Well have been competing in recent years with a global field to provide finishing services to original equipment manufacturers, he said.

While the recession slowed Du-Well down, with 70 percent less business and thousands in training investments lost with laid off workers, Grambow said orders are picking up again. He hopes to soon get back to the 20-employee workforce Du-Well enjoyed back in 2008.

But it’s an investment to teach new employees on the job about the methods of grinding.

“There’s no training for what we do,” Grambow said.

 

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