With his quiet confidence, Robbie Buchheit greets me with a smile and a firm handshake in his new office and building just east of Hemingford. He’s humble about his accomplishments, yet like a proud dad, lights up with excitement when asked if I could see the projects they’re currently working on.
He leads me back where his three employees are masterfully working. Teddy Yde is welding on a small project. Dennis Latka is cleaning after wrapping up a project. And Steve Baker is running the machine that creates the pieces.
Steve brings me over and shows me the stack of steel pieces, ready to go into the machine along with the parts that have already come out. He explains the process of each one.
With a plain round piece of metal in his left hand and the finished part in his right hand, he explains that it takes 96 steps and 14 tools to complete this one piece. This machine will have 2 of those pieces done in 20 minutes.
Robbie comes from a line of machinists, fourth-generation to be exact. His dad was a journeyman tool and die maker; his grandfather and great-grandfather were both machinists for the auto industry. “It’s not all that hard to believe seeing as though my parents have roots in the Detroit area. It led me to being raised around that sort of thing, the same as it would be common to find a fourth –generation farmer or rancher in this area.”
“When I graduated high school, I really had no interest in pursuing a traditional four-year degree. I just didn’t see myself in any sort of career that it would have prepared me for. That and thousands of dollars of debt didn’t intrigue me at all. So, I made the decision to attend SCC Milford and obtain an Associate’s Degree in Machine Tool Technology. “
The hands-on type of learning and being able to get out and work in 18 months to earn a living set the stage for a 20+ year career, and now his own business.
“I think I’ve always had the desire to be in business for myself, the level of desire just fluctuated over the years. I think one of the main reasons is the risk, believe it or not. I believe all entrepreneurs must possess somewhat of a gambler’s heart (I can credit my mother for that.) I personally think that it has to do with the unknown potential reward. The other reason was just the desire to do something different and exciting.”
Buchheit Precision started as a machine shop in his garage at his house about 7 years ago, while maintaining his steady, full-time career at Parker. The business kept growing to the point that more space was needed. “The biggest challenge was needing more space, then the demand for time with working a full-time job.”
Those 22 years of experience, coupled with his desire to be an entrepreneur paid off. This year, Robbie was able to make the jump to full-time with Buchheit Precision.
“I would not be where I am now without my previous employment experience. I was able to learn so many things that allow my business to be as diversified as it is. I was able to not only learn, but practice and refine skills such as electronics and automation, hydraulics and pneumatics, mechanical power transmission, millwright type skills, engineering and design, and later on even some supervisory and leadership skills that have been more useful than I’d ever thought. I was also able to obtain OSHA certifications, environmental rules and regulations experience and many other things.”
All of these experiences and skill have enabled Buchheit Precision to serve not only many different customers, but also many customer’s different needs.
Robbie has carved a niche in our area. As he worked with more customers, the needs became clear. “As we went to customer facilities to drop off work, we’d get the ‘wow, I can’t find anybody who knows about that stuff’ and I’d say, ’well, I can do that.’ It kind of grew from that.” The services Buchheit Precision offers locally were previously unavailable to industries in the area due to their rural location. The closest technical support for this type of thing were commonly located in Denver or Omaha. “That’s why this has been successful. There’s not even a place in Rapid that offers the services we do.”
Adding services to fill those needs is when the business really started to take off.
“We like to consider ourselves as a ‘one stop shop’ for industrial customers. We offer CNC and traditional machining and manufacturing, welding and fabrication, system automation and design, industrial maintenance and onsite repair services, fluid power system engineering design and repair, component sales, CAD services, consultation, and technical support. We consider the machine shop as our core business. It’s basically what we started out offering and the customer base that it introduced us to showed us the needs that existed for the other services that we had to offer too. If you need something designed, built, or repaired, chances are we can help.”
As any farmer or business person knows, downtime for repair is what hurts most.
“Sometimes maybe in the past you were forced to buy new equipment because the parts weren’t available. That stuff can be made or reengineered so they can maybe get a lot more life out of their equipment. We also make, repair, or engineer parts that are no longer available from the original manufacturer. We can correct what would otherwise be factory flaws.”
When asked about growth for the future, Robbie envisions growing in all facets and employing more people.
“We are currently adding to our machine shop capacity with the addition of a second, much larger and newer machining center. It’s actually already purchased and should be here by the end of the month so long as the weather and the shipping work out. We also added a large CNC plasma table. It’s a used unit that is in need of some repair and upgrade, but we hope to have it online and in service by the coming spring.”
The skilled crew led by Buchheit consists of Steve Baker, Teddy Yde, and Dennis Latka
Buchheit Precision will host a Meet & Greet on December 3 from 2-4 for the public to come see the new shop and see what they have to offer for our community. A ribbon-cutting will happen at 1:30 on that date. Watch for an Open House in the spring.
There is no doubt we’ll continue to see more Buchheit Precision work in our region for years to come.