Tooling around the Hansen family's 100-year legacy
Think about all the Tesla automobiles you see driving around the Chicago suburbs. Or the WeatherTech floor mats inside of them.
Maybe you're in a convenience store, enjoying an ICEE, or watching the launch of the latest SpaceX space transportation vehicle on TV.
In each case you've seen the results of Prospect Heights-based Platinum Tooling Technologies handiwork. The company is the North American importer and distributor of machine tool accessories from Heimatec, Henninger, Tecnicrafts and AMF Tooling.
Platinum Tooling's president and chief operating officer is Preben Hansen, whose family is celebrating 100 years working in the metal cutting and machine tool accessory market. The Chicago suburbs offer his company many advantages.
"We're in the middle of the country, and we can get anywhere in North America from here, when we have to go see customers, and it's quick and easy to ship," Hansen said. "We also have a lot of customers in the Chicago area. The Midwest has been the strongest part of our business."
Hansen's grandfather, Louis Eckart Hansen, began the family legacy in the early 1900s in the Danish Navy as a machinist in a repair facility. His son, Svend Eckart Hansen, honed his skills under his father's guidance and then emigrated with his family, including young Preben, to Chicago in 1958. Svend started his career as a machinist and concluded it in the 1990s as a master toolmaker.
Preben Hansen, meanwhile, earned a degree in engineering from the University of Illinois-Chicago and worked building custom machinery before heading into sales at several companies.
In 2010 Preben began working with Heimatec GmbH, and Platinum Tooling purchased that company in 2018. That was the same year the fourth generation of Hansens entered the family profession -- Preben's son, Luke, who accepted a position at Platinum Tooling as a technical sales specialist after a hitch in the Army.
"The legacy is something I think about," Luke Hansen said, "but the most interesting thing is all the different parts made with our tools."
And how. Platinum Tooling imports machine tool accessories made with bearings and gears that are roughly 25 pounds. Those products are then purchased by its customers, who make precision parts for their products.
The roster of end users that employ products like connectors, gears and pumps is nothing less than impressive. That includes Google and Facebook, which use parts made for their autonomous vehicles, jewelry maker Tiffany, the U.S. military, and the medical industry. A customer in Rockford even produces gears that are on the current Mars Rover.
But that's not all.
"The toy industry needs prototypes to be made, molds to be produced," he offered as one example. "Molds are produced on machine tools. We make parts to make machines that make hot dogs. We sold to the company that makes machines that made Frito's.
Preben Hansen said that early on in his career, he learned that machine tooling was the kind of business that can support a family. That's the basis of the pitch he made to his son when he was considering a position with Platinum Tooling.
"The counsel I gave him is, this is a really interesting business and I've supported my family forever, and I think you can do that, too," he said. "It might be something to consider for a long-term career.