Business & Industry Editorial Feature

Born tough, this Hastings-based die caster seems impervious to economic upheavel and war

From a political and ideological standpoint, starting up a new business in the mid-1970s may have seemed as sensible as building a glass house in Parkfield, California, home of the San Andreas earthquake: on August 9, 1974, President Richard Nixon resigned after a prolonged struggle with Watergate.

"Our long national nightmare is over," said Gerald Ford after taking the oath of office, "our Constitution works."

For a decade napalmed jungles and carpet bombing had ripped through many American minds, and Ford, having replaced a tax-evading Spiro Agnew in 1973 as Vice President, witnessed in his ninth month of presidential labor the falling of Saigon and with it a few impervious dreams of political and entrepreneurial stability in the United States. Yet, as witnessed after the Kennedy Assassination of '63 and the recent horrific attack on the World Trade Center towers, American resolve rekindled the flame of democratic passion it was most famous for in Boston in 1775 and Pearl Harbor in 1941.

When Apples were still food

In April of 1976, Steven Wozniak and Steven Jobs scrambled to sell the first fruits of their labor, the Apple computer. The previous year George and Elisabeth Hasley began to mold an aluminum die casting business inside a 14,000-square-foot building-two examples of how the sowing of small seeds should never be underestimated.

"Even in the beginning," Hasley said, "we knew we didn't want to turn out castings like everyone else-we just didn't want to wear out equipment. Building customers was what we aimed at from the start." That said, the company has produced more than 25 million pounds of castings the past two and a half decades.

Over the years the Hasleys and NAC have kept their word; they don't turn out castings like everyone else and they treat their employees and customers the way they want to be treated themselves. And the company's growth hasn't affected the in-house policy of giving the customer customized castings at a fair price along with a delivery date that may as well be carved in stone. All one has to do is read the NAC mission statement:
"Our mission as a custom aluminum die caster is to earn a profit and build our future by providing our OEM customers competitively priced, high-quality die castings that are produced to the customers exacting specifications and delivered on schedule."

More Space, More Machines

Today the company operates amid 77,000 square feet that's housed with an army of die casting machines, hydraulic trim presses, melting and holding furnaces, spindle gang drills, tapping machines, drill presses, finishing mills, machining and turning center, lathes and coordinate measuring machines. The company also uses an array of CAD/CAM programs to develop molds, machine setups as well as in other production processes.

Two special "weapons" the company keeps in its arsenal in the war to expand customer service are Loctite© impregnation and real-time X-rays.

"Inspecting with the X-rays," Hasley said, "amounts to looking inside castings in a nondestructive way via images on a TV screen for porosity and other possible flaws. Some castings demand 100 percent inspection."

The company's Loctite Impregnation Center is a little more complicated. In layman's terms it's the station where castings with porosity are submerged into a viscid, anaerobic resin (not so unlike super glue) where the forming of a vacuum occurs. The microscopic holes in the casting will have "sucked" the resin into the casting and once the casting is rinsed and allowed to dry, the resin hardens and seals any potential fluid from leaking out, especially when the casting is exposed to pressure. "We believe our machining capabilities, our Impregnation Center and our quality tends to draw customers to us," Hasley said. "Once that occurs, they soon find out about our favorable pricing and our living up to timely deliveries."

Certified for Growth

Last June, the company became QS 9000, ISO 9002 certified.

"We decided to go with the QS 9000, which is a more stringent automotive standard," Hasley said. "We did that hoping it would differentiate us a little more, make us more distinct."

As far as expansion, Hasley's quick to point out that it's already part of the game plan. "We're looking at further expanding our customer base, and we've already begun doing that. Our future plans include more equipment improvements and keeping our nose to the grindstone here in Hastings."

That grindstone just got harder to move. Due to the recent tragedy in New York, global enterprise has experienced a serious hiccup. "Our competitors are global companies," Hasley said. "After the recent tragedy, businesses are now re-evaluating their supply lines-what seemed simple once now needs rethinking.

"What we don't do is sell a commodity, so to speak. Mold designs may take up to four or five months, maybe longer. So if you have a supplier oversees you can't just pickup and go elsewhere. Probably today more than ever companies are evaluating the marriage of their unsecured supply lines." Two relationships that contributed to the success of the company are its quality employees and loyal customers, customers who have always known what to expect from their Hastings supplier.

"I would like to think we stand out as a value added supplier of die castings," Hasley said. "Dock to stock so to speak. We're not just heavily involved in die casting; we've taken the full-service approach to business. It's what our customers expect and deserve."

Hastings-based Nebraska Aluminum Castings is located 15 miles south of Interstate 80. The city offers a commerically served regional airport, dockside rail service and several trucking lines.