Their grandfather, Theodore Dolhun, started Wisconsin Steel Industries in 1939, and the family has been involved in heat treating for three generations. Their father, Ted, continued the tradition until his recent retirement, and both of the “boys” have been active a long time. They began Complete Heat Treating in 2007 as a separate entity and run it with their mother, Chris Dolhun.
Both Wisconsin Steel and Complete Heat Treating run commercial heat-treating operations serving regional manufacturers in the mining, construction, wind-energy, rail, government-contract, medical, off-road and agricultural-equipment industries. They also serve companies as far away as Brazil. Combined, the businesses employ approximately 50 people at the two facilities, processing materials such as 4140 and 4340 steel in the forms of castings and forgings up to 100,000 pounds as well as fabrications and some aluminum parts.
Never ones to rest on their laurels, however, T.J. and Jake have been making significant improvements in their operations, especially on the technology side. They use a proprietary software system to operate their furnaces, they have incorporated a number of green initiatives into the business operation and, about a year ago, they switched their polymer quenchant supplier to the originator of that chemistry, Elkhorn, Wis.-based Tenaxol.
Wisconsin Steel and Complete Heat Treating run a total of 13 open-fire car-bottom and feed furnaces with capacities up to 1,000,000 pounds and workspaces up to 52 feet long x 20 feet wide x 16 feet high. Quench tanks at the facilities range up to 40,000 gallons.
Typically, hardness and mechanical specifications are supplied by the customers, and the metallurgists and chemists in the labs at these facilities work to determine the optimum processing conditions. Wisconsin Steel is rated to the GE Nuclear standards, while Complete Heat Treating recently received its ISO 9001:2008 certification.
Many value-added secondary services are supplied here, including machining, straightening, roto-blasting, saw cutting and metal coating.
The quenching operations at Complete Heat Treating were a particular challenge, owing to the large parts processed, the dwell times in the quench tanks and the recurring problems of concentration flux and, most notably, foaming and drag-out. As T.J. explained, “We were having a lot of problems on one part – a spun metal with thin but substantial surface area and a rimmed edge. The drag-out and the excessive foaming were causing us to rework parts to hit the spec. There were shipping delays, and we were struggling to hold the concentrations in the tanks for any extended period.”
Jacob said, “We had been talking to Tenaxol about their anti-foaming products and, despite some cost differences with our then-current supplier, we agreed to testing. Although we were not a customer, the Tenaxol team really went the extra mile to give us the best results their lab could suggest.”
As a result, Tenaxol Quench 2500 Ultra polymer quenchant with a non-nitrite corrosion inhibitor, defoamer and biocide was purchased. According to the Dolhun brothers, the results have been outstanding.
“We no longer have consistency issues, the percentages stay in line, plus we can vary the temperatures in the tanks without compromising performance,” said T.J.. “That opens more opportunities for new business, and it’s been working very well.”
Complete Heat Treating is currently on a record sales pace, with more customers and much faster throughput, boasting a 25% increase in sales and working capacity today. On that spun metal part, for example, T.J. said, “We went from two weeks with a lot of rework to two days on a typical batch.” Jacob added, “The savings in staged deliveries alone run to thousands of dollars each time.”
Complete Heat Treating is now able to process a wider range of materials as a result of using Tenaxol quenchants, according to the brothers, who credit Jim Harrison, Tenaxol CEO, and his team of chemists and metallurgists with much of the significant improvement in their processing scenario.
Describing the situation when the previous quenchant vendor was used, “On that spun metal part, for example, our stacker crane would come out of the tank, full of foam. It looked like a bubble bath,” Jacob joked. T.J. further noted the drain-off of the Tenaxol product allowed the parts to enter the tempering furnace much faster, avoiding excess cooling of the surface area.
The customer for this job, Rich Prescott of Glenn Metalcraft (Princeton, Minn.), echoed the Dolhun’s sentiments. “The turnaround time has been super,” Prescott said. “They made great improvement in their deliveries to us over the last year, and that’s helped us satisfy our customers faster.”
“This anti-foaming agent in the Tenaxol product has literally changed our shop,” T.J. concluded. Jacob also cited the supplier’s customer service. “We get help from their lab on a regular basis, including water testing and support documentation, which is necessary for the PPAP requirements of several customers. Jim (Harrison) and his team did a lot of testing for us before making their final recommendations, and they continue to help us fine-tune our operation.”
Jacob added that Tenaxol’s involvement with the Metal Treating Institute (MTI) was important. “This supplier supports our industry, and that meant a lot to us,” Jacob said.
Complete Heat Treating has expanded its purchases of products to include various greases and lubricants from Tenaxol, which is part of the Chemtool family of companies, a wide-ranging industry supplier of myriad lubricant, cleaning and metal-cutting fluid products.