Mathematician’s Talent Adds Up To Customer Savings

John H
John with his Nonlinear Perpendicular Least Squared Line Formula

John Hanenburg, Wyoming Machine’s cost estimator and manufacturing engineer, developed a proclivity for math at an early age—very early. As he explains it, “My mom told me that one day when I was three years old I was staring at a calendar. After a while I looked at her and asked, ‘is the next number [on the calendar] 32?’”…Yes: solving his first math problem at age three.

So it’s no surprise that John excelled in math throughout school, as well as when a mathematics and industrial engineering major at St. Cloud State University. Interestingly, throughout college (and high school) John took extra math classes to, as he says, “keep my grades up.” Math comes that naturally to him. He graduated from SCSU in 1978.

Although (unfortunately) many don’t associate math with creativity—John has always taken, as he calls it, “a clever” approach to math. One of his favorite school activities was to deduce related math ideas—beyond the teacher’s, or the text book’s, math idea. John did this regularly in math classes. In fact, on occasion professors would ask John, after presenting an idea to the class, “John, do you have any insights to add?” And John, of course, did.

Not surprisingly, this math guru has taken the same approach to estimating at WMI. Cost estimating is, indeed, all about math. It’s also all about finding the most effective and efficient approach to creating a part.

No doubt, purchasers and engineers want quotes fast and flawless. That’s why WMI customers highly value WMI’s quote turnaround time and accuracy—all made possible by John’s system and WMI’s teamwork approach. From his system, to engineers, shop floor technicians and many more at Wyoming Machine, all contribute to better parts at a lower cost for customers.

Imagine the endless array of options considered when manufacturing a part. John notes that, theoretically, there are an infinite number of variables. There are choices involving processes like shearing, lasering, punching, forming, rolling, hardware assembling, sawing, machining and welding. And thereafter, there are many choices for how a specific process will be performed. As John says, “You need to consider as many factors as possible to have the estimate as accurate as possible.” For example, here are the factors John uses to estimate just the forming process:

Material thickness, size of part, number of bends, number of bend radii, number of operators, bands 90-130, ends nonsquare to back stop, bends with gooseneck, bends with tip-up punch, bends with window punch, bends with risers, bends with special forming of offset dies, bends with Tuff Brake lining film, dimensions with tolerances of .029-.020, dimensions with tolerances of .019-.010, bends with lift 49”-72”. Bends with lift 72” to 96”, bends with lift 96” to 120”, bends with backup strip, number of hems or bends 130-180, number of open hems, number of back bends.

That’s 22 considerations for forming/bending, alone, and they’re all critical to the estimate. Mind-blowing? All in a day’s work for John.

It‘s easy to see why John wanted a faster, more accurate way to estimate projects, beyond what the old hard-copy template or a traditional spreadsheet offer. (Of course it didn’t hurt that it was another chance to apply his creativity.) Over the course of 20 years or so, John developed a proprietary template with a set of standards that made estimating at least three times faster, while reducing the margin for error many times over. John’s system simplifies even the most detailed custom orders, for which Wyoming Machine is so well-known.

Wyoming Machine Co-President Traci Tapani sees additional benefits: “John and his math ability have helped bring consistency to Wyoming Machine’s estimating process. Results are consistent from one estimator to another and new employees can be trained faster and easier than in the past.”

John’s math isn’t limited to his occupation. For him, it’s a passion. He has been a member of the Math Association of America—North Central Section. Although the association consists primarily of math professors, John has presented papers at their conferences, including his first while a student at SCSU. And it doesn’t stop there.

On Feb. 8 John gave a presentation at SCSU on how he uses math as an estimator. He addressed a group of 30-plus mathematicians and an engineer—mostly professors. The title is innocent enough, “Creative Mathematical Solutions in a Manufacturing Environment.” It’s the abstract that reveals his depth:  “…Often, a least squared polynomial is not a good enough solution. I will present a couple methods that I use to generate Exponential or Power approximating equations. Also, how I generate Weighted Least Squared approximating equations and Perpendicular Least Squared approximating equations…”

Old Man John
Never underestimate an old man with a mathematics degree.

Whatever formula John is using, it’s clear that he’s got a formula for success and is a highly valued employee. According to Lori Tapani, WMI Co-President, “John is a fascinating human! Most people look at a math problem and think, “what’s the formula for that?” John looks at a given formula, dissects it to determine what is working and what isn’t, and then develops a whole new formula that is better than the original. One Friday John came to work wearing a t-shirt that said, ‘Never underestimate an old man with a mathematics degree’ – 100% truth.”

John and his wife, Susan, live outside Stacy. They have two adult children, Michelle and Eric.


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