MINSTER — On the 50th anniversary of Progress Tool and Stamping of Minster, Friday, July 27, both founder Lee Westerheide and co-owner son Brian Westerheide agreed their company’s success is due to dedication to their craft as well as to their community.
As testiment to their integration in the community, Brian said, “We still have many of the same customers since we began in 1968, including Midmark.” He also said they do tool and die work for Sidney-based American Trim, which makes parts for the aeronautic and auto industries. Over the years, their customers have included Whirlpool, Honda, and Harley Davidson. “We also buy supplies locally whenever possible,” said Brian.
The company as been at its current location just south of Dannon on state Route 66 since 1978.
Said Lee, “After starting the business in my garage, in 1968 we took over a third of the building now occupied by Precision Strip.” Lee said they landed several big accounts almost immediately, “because we were cheap.”
Lee, with more than 70 years’ experience, said he has seen great changes in how they make the tools needed to create today’s machinery.
“The biggest change was the computer,” he said. Brian agreed.
“Our company tries to keep up with the latest in computer numerical control (CNC) equipment,” he said.
For example, in late 2017, their company purchased a 5 Axis Waterjet system, which uses 94,000 psi of water and garnet sand to cut metal up to a 90-degree angle.
Said Brian, “This way of cutting metal does not heat it.” He said this eliminates the need for a process called annealing, which returns the metal to its original molecular properties. “This saves time and money for the purchaser.”
The company has never had a sales force, depending on word of mouth for its business.
Lee still works five to six hours a day with customers. Brian runs the day-to-day operations. They see only positive progress for the next 50 years.
“Our biggest obstacle to doing more business is finding new employees,” said Brian. Many members of their 15-member labor force have been with the company for more than 25 years.
The writer is a regular contributor to the Sidney Daily News.