Auction Blog: Hardinge Cleaning House

Go Industry is handling an online sale expiring July 24, for Hardinge Corporation.

Hardinge appears to be cleaning house up in Canada at the site of their former distributor in Ontario, Darbert Machinery of Mississauga. Hardinge has opted to handle the distribution of its products in Canada themselves.

In Elmira the company is selling three CNC Swiss type lathes, a 25mm and two 16mm new in the mid 1990s. Hardinge brought in a private label Tsugami Swiss type for a few years but never made the commitment to go into the sliding headstocks in a big way. Had they made the push at that time, with their broad distribution, Hardinge might be a player today in an active part of the CNC world. One of many blown opportunities of the Pat Ervin regime in Elmira.

Rick Simons has recently taken the reins at Hardinge. This auction is a small reminder to the machining community in North America that the game is changing for the old builder.

Question: Do you think it’s too late for Hardinge to develope its own CNC Swiss?

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2 thoughts on “Auction Blog: Hardinge Cleaning House

  1. Dan Murphy

    I believe the answer to the question is; no it’s not too late for Hardinge to develop their own Swiss type CNC lathe. But the better question would be, “Is it worthwhile?”

    The alliance between Tsugami and Hardinge was forged in a far different climate than exists today. At the time the US was engaged in protectionist trade policies to help save the foundering domestic machine tool industry. The end result was the voluntary restraint agreements (VRA’s) between the US and several countires, most notably Japan. Despite the fact that there were no US machine tool builders producing CNC Swiss type lathes, Swiss types were not exempted from the VRA.

    In the case of Tsugami/Rem Sales we had just introduced the first Tsugami built CNC Swiss into the US market a couple years prior to the VRA’s and as such we had far fewer licences than did Citizen and Star. Tsugami found themselves being outsold, as best as I can recall, at a ration of something like 10 to 1. We made continuous attempts to gain more licences but were not succsessful.

    For both Tsugami and Hardinge the deal made sense. Tsugami stood to get a bigger piece of the pie and Hardinge no doubt noticed that small diameter bar work was increasingly being run on CNC Swiss types rather than the 5c collet type lathes that they were famous for building. The alliance meant that Tsugami could avoid the expense and risk of buiding a plant in the US as builders like Okuma did. Hardinge saved the R&D cost of developing their own machine.

    Designing, building and marketing a new CNC Swiss type lathe is a capital intensive endeavor. Customers of CNC Swiss type lathes are intensely loyal to their chosen brand. More so than any other type of equipment that I’m aware of. Tsugami/Rem Sales struggle every day to gain market share and I feel the task is all the more difficult due to the fact that for seven years we were not allowed to freely compete due to the VRA’s. There is little doubt those “VRA” years were the ones where CNC Swiss began to take a foothold in this country.

    In the end Hardinge would need to hit a homerun right out of the gate to stand any chance. So to answer the question of whether it would be worthwhile for Hardinge to build a CNC Swiss would depend on their commitment to that market segment. They would need to hire and retain some folks with CNC Swiss expertise and market knowledge, they would need to commit a fair amount of money to developing a competitive “world beater” Swiss that would give incentive to shop owners to switch brands. And most importantly they would need a focused sales and support effort. All this adds up to a considerable investment to make in what is a small market niche in the overall scheme of things.

  2. Jake

    Actually, hardinge did have their own Swiss style lathe. The original Hardinge Swiss was built on a tsugami base. Hardinge bought a certain number of tsugami bases and also had access to tsugami patents. After the requisite number of “tsugami/hardinge” swiss machines were built hardinge was able to release their own Swiss lathes. These were called the SN series, sold in a 16mm, 20mm and 25mm bores. They were hardinge engineered, Hardinge manufactured,and Hardinge supported. They were also engineered and released while Bob Again not Pat Ervin was CEO. I worked for hardinge for 12 years most of them as a service engineer and installed a lot of these machines. They weren’t the greatest Swiss lathes (citizen and star had the market cornered on that) but at the time Hardinge support was second to none and that alone sold a lot of equipment in that era.


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