Braintree grad Hess Industries serves tool and die clients worldwide

January 13, 2020
by Katie Ellington, Richland Source

It’s easy to take for granted the numerous metal products around us. Phone chargers, pots and pans, door hinges are all so ubiquitous, it would be easy to assume they are near-effortless to make.
Yet all of these products owe their existence to the tool and die makers. They manufacture the equipment that is foundational to mass production -- the tools, molds and stamp dies used by other manufacturers to make goods. Any object that’s been cut, formed, shaped or molded out of sheet metal was made with tools and dies. Inside Hess Industries Ltd., a tool and die shop in Mansfield, workers program machines to mill and heat treat metal, grind it down and meticulously slice it with electrically charged wires. Sometimes the products are large, other times they’re no bigger than a pinkie finger. In tool and die, precision is the name of the game -- employees are working with measurements as fine as 1/30th of a human hair.Modern tool and die workers are skilled technicians, who are constantly learning and adapting to the industry’s latest technology. Coding, programming and virtual design have become essential skill sets.“Today's tool and die shops are not your grandfather’s machine shop,” said Mark Hess, who founded Hess Industries in 2000. “They are technical centers that use state-of-the-art machinery throughout the entire facility.”At the turn of the century, experts warned that the tool and die sector was dying. Hess Industries is a prime example that the opposite is true. Tool and die is not dying. It’s evolving.
Hess defied industry trends when he opened his own tool and die business 20 years ago. Looking back, he describes it as a call from God.“I had to really lean into my faith,” Hess said. “There was a huge risk that we could lose it all, but I really felt led by God and knew that he would take care of us through the thick and thin.”Hess and his wife Pam sold their home and put all their personal equity into the business. Hess Industries opened in June 1999 in a rented workspace inside Braintree. The company remained steady as the recession took its toll on the manufacturing industry. Hess believes staying ahead of the technological curve was a key factor in his business' survival. “A lot of tool and die shops went out of business in 2008 because they didn’t grasp the modern tech,” Hess said. “We were able to thrive through all that. It wasn’t easy.”While some tool and die shops were resistant to changes within the industry, Hess Industries was an early adopter of computer-aided drafting (CAD) and computer-aided manufacturing (CAM) technologies. “What Mark does is he embraces new technology to try to always stay ahead of the curve. He was always up to speed on what the newest technology was,” said Tom Hutchison, Hess' business partner and president of Hutchison Tool Sales.“When I look at the future of tool and die, I see more technology used to build the tooling,” Hess said. “In a way, it’s kind of less craftsmanship, but in another way it’s a different way of being a craftsmen and doing it in a 3D virtual world.” Hess Industries integrated 3D solid modeling into its operations in 2002.“We were one of the first to really get into the 3D world,” he added. “Most tool shops that are in business right now have either made the plunge into the 3D world or are making it now.”

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