Everything is bigger in Texas, and come February 2012, Tomball-based Hole Specialists will be bigger after it moves into a 25,800 sq. ft. expansion. In the meantime, however, new customers have pushed the company to put newly acquired machine tools into production well in advance, as word gets around about the company's new capabilities for making larger, deeper, straighter holes in massive industrial components. "We added several customers per week in October as word spread about our new capabilities, so we've shoehorned our new equipment into our existing plant, added employees, and everyone's pitching in to meet our deadlines," said Larry Robinson, president of Hole Specialists.
As its name implies, Hole Specialists is an operation that can produce deep, round, straight holes in heavy industrial components. The company's traditional customers have been high-end offshore drillers, and when government restrictions diminished offshore business, the land drilling sector picked up the slack almost immediately. "Our offshore business is starting to pick up again, but we've seen a big chunk of new business come from the land drilling sector," said Robinson. "Defense and aerospace have also been strong for us recently."
As part of its $3.5 million expansion, Hole Specialists has added OD/ID turning and pull boring to its list of core capabilities that includes: CNC gun drilling, deep hole drilling, reaming, counter rotating and various honing services. The company has increased its hole drilling capacity to 20 feet in length by 8 inches diameter. It can now also handle turning on lengths up to 20 feet and pull boring jobs between two inches and 7 3/8 inches diameter up to 20-ft. lengths. New equipment includes seven lathes and three heavy-duty Sunnen honing machines that provide a honing capacity of 18.75-inches diameter and 25-foot stroke. Honing capacity will increase to 24-inch diameter and 30-foot lengths with the addition of a Sunnen HTG machine in February, and a new 6-meter drilling/pull boring machine will be delivered next April.
The new equipment allows Hole Specialists to meet the most exotic needs of new and current customers, and many of the requests are not for your average holes. "We've got one project that is a 25-foot long workpiece and we're going in a foot at each end, bottle honing and removing an inch of stock off the diameter," said Robinson. "Another is a 4.25-inch diameter, 10-foot long off-center hole that can't be bored, so we're enlarging the gun-drilled hole 1.6 inches with a hone."
With new machines and new customers comes the need for additional employees, so Hole Specialists has added 26 new staff members this year, with an additional 6-10 positions to be filled. "We're pretty selective with our new hires due to our work being highly specialized," said Robinson. "We also invest heavily in training for everyone we bring on, even if they have a hole drilling background, because we do things differently here."
Until the expansion is complete, all available hands are keeping the projects flowing. "We've got four guys who do nothing but transfer work in and out of the shop all day because we don't have enough floor space to accommodate both the workpieces and the new machines," added Robinson. "We're really looking forward to completion of the expansion."