An Interview with Ernie Hoffmann President of W & H Stampings
About Ernie Hoffmann
Ernie Hoffmann’s family emigrated to the U.S. from his native Berlin, Germany when he was an infant. He remembers, as a boy, watching the limousines that would come to pick up his father in the morning to take him to work. His father, you see, was a talented upholsterer, and the limousines belonged to his celebrity clientele, the likes of George Raft and Leo Derocher, who valued his expertise and fine craftsmanship. Ernie is the middle of three children, not unusual, you would think. However, he and his older sister were both born within the same week in February, and both in a Leap Year. If that’s not remarkable enough, we should add that his younger sister shares this birthday novelty. She was also born within that same February week, and, that’s right, in Leap Year, eight years later. The Hoffmann family lived in various parts of New York City, where Ernie attended elementary school until 1939.
I became involved with the HIA-LI when it first began,” he said. “I thought it was a good idea because we were in a huge industrial park and coming together would afford us certain amount of clout in solving problems.” Has it met his expectations? “Absolutely,” he responded. “The HIA-LI gets things done.”
Tell us how you started.
W &H Machine and Tool Co. Inc. as it was originally known came into being on September 18, 1956. When my good friend and co-worker Bob Williams and I put up $375.00 each for starters to purchase a used Drill Press and Lathe.
Our thinking was that if we could earn money for our boss, we could do it for ourselves. We assembled old nuts and bolts; bench vine, and hand tools we had in the basement and garage.
Our first job working nights and weekends were tools and parts for ladies pocketbook frames, special wrench for a Buick Dealer 35mm slides and tray parts, if you can remember them, fixtures used for making Grumman parts for a shop just down the block.
We started in a small store on Grand Street off Jamaica Avenue, Brooklyn, then moved to a two car garage on Wykoff Avenue, Brooklyn/Queens, then across the street to a modified three car garage. Thereafter, to a 5,000 square foot building in Floral park.
What was a turning point for your company?
In 1968, we moved to Hauppauge, Long Island in a 15,000 ft. building built to suit with a lease/buy option. To buy the building between the 5th and 10th year. Being the building price was set at the time of the lease signing, and how the economy and workload increased we could not wait to purchase the building. On the first of the 5th year. In our travels we borrowed $1,000.00 then $10,000.00 then $100,000.00 and lastly 1.2 million dollars to add 18,000 sq. feet to the original 15,000 square feet all fully air conditioned and heated for our presently 27 employees.
In that last loan we also purchased a 250,000 fine banking press which if it had to be replaced today, 25 years later you would be looking at over a million dollars.
What is your philosophy at W & H Stampings?
We have over 100 customers and go by the 20/80 rule that’s 80% of your business comes from 20% of your customers. No job has been too small. We even helped an older lady to purchase and install a storm door at no charge, but that was through Rotary, community service.
We also belong to the HIA-LI and made great strides for the Hauppauge Industrial Park members. On the top of my list was the exit and entrance from our Industrial Park to the Northern State Parkway. We actually voted to tax ourselves to accomplish this traffic relieving deed. One other favored accomplishment was to create a child care center in the park.
Tell us about your company’s profile today.
W&H Stampings, Inc. had a name change because of our venture into stampings and fine edge blanking. We took noted that one of our customers in stampings said,”You
know Ernie, since W&H has been building dies for us, we really have been making money.” Enough said.
Over the years and paid back loans we have over 30 Conventional Stamping pressed up to 100 tons and 7 fine blanking presses up to 250 tons. We also do Electrical Discharge Machining also known as EDM with accuracy of .0001/inch and better, works on any electrically conductive material submerged in deionized water.
Inspection Equipment: Keyonce which can inspect parts 100x faster and more accurate than any operator plus printed read outs.
One very sad note at this time is that my partner Bob Williams succumbed to Kreuzfeld/Jacob disease better known as mad cow Disease, on September 16, 1995. Fortunately, we had a buy-sell agreement in place for the business. For the real estate my partners’s wife requested a buy-out to be paid off.
What we make is parts for arming devices to protect our own artillery gun crews, from shells exploding in the cannon as you might have seen in WW1 and WW2. Parts for military fuzes and commercial household(circuit breaker) fuses; Gun parts; W.R. Case(Collectible) knife blades; Night vision parts; relay parts for commercial and military aircraft; computer parts; contact parts; laminations for starting motors for Helicopters; camera parts; some automotive etc. All in all we have made over a thousand different parts for different occasions over the 59 years in business. For one particular military fuze we made 60,000,000 pcs of 5 different items. Our government paid Taiwan to buy from W&H a turnkey operation for the above re-modified parts.
We belong to several trade associations which became very helpful, such as: National tand Machining Association; precision Metalforming Association (20 years Board Member); National Defense Industrial Association (board member still); Society of mechanical Engineers (Sr. Member); HIA-LI (Board Member Still).
For more information on Ernie Hoffmann or W & H Stampings, visit www.whstamp.com or call (631)-234-6161