With more than 100 years behind us, Hobson & Motzer has a rich history as a local Connecticut business and manufacturer. What began as a two-man tool and die shop has stood the test of time through recessions, wars, and economic busts and booms, to major technological innovations and some of mankind’s greatest achievements. Through it all, Hobson & Motzer has endured—changing, adapting, and growing into the business that stands before us today.
In 1912, Alfred H. Motzer and Harold C. Hobson nailed a sign on the side of a barn in Meriden, CT and opened shop. What made their business unique was their innovative style, passion for precision, and quality work. Both were fine craftsmen.
It was this early reputation that pushed increasingly challenging work toward Hobson & Motzer. Fueled by WWI, in 1917 the company was awarded a subcontract for Marlin Firearms. This temporarily brought the employee count up to 28 people. It would be some years until the company would again have as many employees, but it was clear Hobson & Motzer brought something special to the marketplace.
Preparing for the Future
By 1938, a young Alfred E. Motzer joined the company. He learned the trade from the ground up as an apprentice, like many before him. (Proudly, we still have an active apprentice program in place.) By 1948, continued growth brought with it the construction of a brand-new plant, a move that brought Hobson & Motzer to Wallingford, CT for the first time. In the years that followed, A. E. Motzer would take a more prominent role in the company. While the driving force behind the company’s success remained the quality and technical skill of work performed at Hobson & Motzer, the 1950s gave way to new materials and technologies that moved manufacturing forward as a whole. It was A.E. Motzer’s spirit of innovation that led to his 1955 “Pursuit of Excellence Strategy.” This was a bold step forward that revitalized the shop, bringing in advanced equipment and new methodologies. The end game was to develop capabilities well above and beyond those which were commonplace in the market.
The Tool and Die Renaissance
In the 1960s and into the early 70s, tool and die manufacturing underwent a renaissance of its own in design, die construction, methods, and processes. Always innovative, Hobson & Motzer led the way designing and building more complex tools and progressive dies, producing tools for parts that many competitors suggested were impossible to stamp. Work arrived as a result of our innovation and capability. By the late 60s, Hobson & Motzer had moved, or perhaps was pushed, to include metal stamping in our offerings. This occurred when we were able to run a progressive die much better than the customer we built it for. In fact, we took on all their stamping work. In fairness, it was a natural progression for Hobson & Motzer, given the complexities of the tools being produced here.
In the mid to late 70s, Hobson & Motzer emerged an industry leader in coining operations, where metal is flowed at room temperature, rather than cut or bent. These foundations led to coining of skin-stapling components in the mid 80s. The successes with difficult skin-stapling parts led to the opportunity to coin our first staple forming pockets for various surgical devices. The first parts with these features were short anvils, which were produced in progressive dies.
New Technologies Tackling the Impossible
Through the 1970s, momentum continued as Hobson & Motzer gained recognition for adapting new technologies and solving seemingly impossible problems. Several projects tackled by Hobson & Motzer were highlighted in trade magazines and won design awards. It was in this era that Hobson & Motzer was referred to Stanley Works of New Britain by the Minster Machine Company. An engineer named Frank Dworak was in charge of a project to modernize the manufacture of surform blades. Mr. Motzer and Frank developed a synergy in working through the project, and he came on board shortly thereafter, ultimately coming to own the company and succeeding Alfred E. Motzer.
The EDM Leap
In the early 80s, die-making technology took another great leap forward with the advent of wire electrical discharge machining (EDM). The technology made it possible to cut intricate shapes precisely so dies could be made in one piece and more complex shapes were possible. Hobson & Motzer was again a leader in adapting die construction to this new technology.
Bursting at the Seams and Growing
In 1986, the Wallingford plant was bursting at the seams. The Durham building was purchased to be the new pressroom. Shortly thereafter, the first addition was put in place to house the administrative functions.
The Durham plant became company headquarters. There have been several more additions to the building since then. In the late 80s, the workforce consisted of about 60 employees.
Hobson & Motzer was operating out of two locations: the 12,000-square-foot shop in Wallingford and the plant in Durham, which was about the same size. To put things in perspective, U.S. manufacturing employment from 1976 to 2018 dropped about 40 percent. During this time period, Hobson & Motzer increased its workforce twentyfold!
Medical Device Expertise
With our growing reputation in the medical device market, Hobson & Motzer was approached to make critical components for surgical stapling devices. Two other companies were tooled up and making them, but struggling greatly to meet production and quality requirements. These projects changed the scope of the business in terms of press capacity, engineering capabilities, employment, and size. This set the tone for the more recent era of Hobson & Motzer. Once we mastered production of these components, all of the competitors were eventually put out of the business. Our expertise in surgical stapling led the way to the endoscopic stapling devices in the mid 90s, another complex assembly that a competitor struggled with for two years before Hobson & Motzer was called in to help. We added production CNC machining and laser welding to our production processes to make them.
Next Generation Stapling Instruments
Based on our impeccable quality, delivery, and performance levels with stapling anvils, we were given the opportunity to work with the customer to develop their next generation of stapling instrument. This fueled what was the fourth and final addition to the Durham facility, bringing the plant to 75,000 square feet. The program pushed us to develop a great deal more expertise in production machining, laser welding, and automation. It marks the largest investment in company history. We now have more CNC machines than production presses.
Advanced Manufacturing Center
Maintaining course, our next leap forward arrived with the Wallingford plant, our Advanced Manufacturing Center. This state-of-the-art facility is where Hobson & Motzer will house future generations of technology, which already includes precision electro-chemical machining (PECM). There is no limit to what the future holds for Hobson & Motzer as we lay the foundation for the next chapter.