When It’s Precisely Precision That Matters

Highpoint Tool & Machine
Written by Robert Hoshowsky

A leader in precision machining, Highpoint Tool & Machine specializes in projects requiring tight tolerances for clients in the kind of industries where failure is not an option—aerospace, oil and gas, nuclear, and even components for roller coasters.

Certified in ISO 9001:2015 for quality management systems and AS9100D for aerospace, Highpoint is a trusted OEM provider for the oil and gas industry and second-tier supplier to the aerospace industry, often tackling complex projects other companies cannot handle.

“We tend to do well with the unusual materials that a lot of people don’t like,” says company President, Mark Sippy. “We machine a lot of stainless steels, titanium, aluminum, brass, carbon steel, as well as castings, forgings, and engineered plastics and nylon—just anything that’s a little strange.”

A different mold
Highpoint is based in the borough of Saegertown, Pennsylvania. The area is known for its many mold shops. Owing to this, the company doesn’t make mold parts, focusing instead on providing precision machining for machinery.

“As all the parts we make go into machinery that can have devastating consequences if something goes wrong—if a helicopter or roller coaster crashes, or there is an oil spill or a nuclear reactor melts down, you have a global environmental disaster—documentation and traceability are key,” says Sippy. “We have to follow the rules very closely and document everything.”

Consequently, as can be imagined, Highpoint is adept at and extremely precise with all regulations and traceability requirements.

Staying ahead with technology
Often working with Inconel—a superalloy that can withstand ultra-high temperatures, mechanical loads, and pressure—cast iron, and other unusual materials, Highpoint continuously invests in modern CNC equipment other and high-tech machinery. In recent years, Highpoint acquired a horizontal mill and a live tooling lathe, and carried out a $1.5 million expansion and renovation to its facility, essentially doubling its manufacturing space to 15,000 square feet. And the company expects to take delivery of a $550,000 mill-turn this December.

To ensure operations run smoothly and on schedule, Highpoint Tool & Machine is implementing a new paperless enterprise resource planning (ERP) system and computers at all workstations. “The old system was great, but it was very manual, and we outgrew it,” says Sippy.

To fulfill every client requirement, Highpoint’s equipment includes mill-turns, turning centers, milling centers, grinders, inspection equipment, support equipment, and other machinery. In addition, the company’s proprietary Visual MRP (materials requirements planning) system has earned the company a superior reputation for accuracy and on-time delivery.

Where trust is essential
From prototypes to small production runs and parts machining up to 40 inches or 300 pounds, Highpoint’s skilled machinists can do it all. A specialist in unique parts, Highpoint is trusted by industries where precision and durability are vital.

To date, 40 percent of the company’s work is aerospace, most of that in helicopters. “The name of the game with helicopters is dealing with vibration control and reduction since it’s a very harsh environment,” Sippy explains. “Typically, we look at orders of around 30 or 50 parts, but we also do one-offs,” he shares.

Approximately 35 percent of Highpoint’s business is in oil and gas, with its parts used for natural gas compressor engines or sub-sea oil wells. The remaining 25 percent of the company’s work is in nuclear energy, such as engine parts for backup-cooling systems, and roller coasters. This includes everything from wheel frames—the part that holds the wheel to the bottom of the coaster—to seatbelt brackets, and everything in between.

“Making parts for roller coasters is one of the more glamorous things we do, but it’s not a big chunk of our sales. It always gets the kids’ attention when we tell them who we work for and what parts we make for them,” says Sippy.

Generations of experience
The Sippy family’s involvement in the tool and machine industry goes back decades to when Mark’s grandfather started Sipco, a tool and die shop later run by Mark’s father and uncle. In time, this led to the creation of another company, which became Highpoint in 1993.

“I’m the third generation in manufacturing, but not at Highpoint,” notes Sippy. “My grandfather started Sipco in 1959 and my father and uncle ran that most of their lives. They didn’t buy Highpoint until 2005. I bought out my uncle in 2011, and my father retired in 2019 and I’ll be sole owner soon,” he says.

“Being a small business, we can react quickly and efficiently to our customers’ needs.”

Working with the NTMA
Since the ’50s, the family businesses have been involved with the National Tooling and Machining Association (NTMA); in fact, Mark’s uncle served as National President in the 1990s. Highpoint remains a part of the NTMA to this day, with Mark serving on the board and several committees over the past decade, and currently serving as NWPA (Northwestern Pennsylvania) Chapter President.

Known for its precision work and safety, Highpoint Tool & Machine has regularly won recognition by the NTMA in its Annual Safety Award Survey. “We have consistently won the NTMA Safety Award since its inception in 2010,” Sippy says. “Safety is our highest priority, so it’s nice to get that recognition.”

Highpoint regularly receives the award under the Northwestern Pennsylvania Chapter. Says Sippy, “Our motto is painted right here, on our inside wall: it says ‘Safety, Quality, and Productivity,’ in that order. You can’t cut corners with safety or quality, so that leaves productivity to find our competitive advantage.”

He is also justifiably proud of the company’s standing with OSHA. “We had an OSHA inspection a few years ago and got through it without a fine. I’ve never heard of someone getting through an OSHA inspection without a fine, before or since,” he chuckles.

Concentrated competence
With 36 staff members, the team at Highpoint wears a lot of hats. It includes specialists in quality control and a quality assurance manager who ensures all systems are working and tracks corrective actions and paperwork. The company’s quality control manager takes a hands-on approach to checking parts and submitting first articles to customers.

Rounding out the staff are a controller responsible for Human Resources and employee benefits, an estimator, an operations manager, a plant foreman, a purchasing and scheduling manager—who is also the supply chain manager who handles the many vendors the company uses for outside processes—and, of course, many talented machinists.

Like many other industries, the tool and die machining and manufacturing sector is facing challenges in bringing on new workers. To combat this, Highpoint works with Meadville, Pennsylvania-based Allegheny College—which is becoming involved in manufacturing—and the NTMA, which is involved with local schools.

With plenty of long-standing, established customers, the company, says Sippy, is used to the clients always wanting them to do more. “Our reputation generally does the selling for us,” he says of Highpoint, which doesn’t have outside salespeople. “The industries we serve typically have different cycles, which keeps us healthy when one of them slows down.”

In the future, Highpoint will continue investing in itself, purchasing more equipment and bringing on additional staff to keep up with demand. “We like the markets we’re in, but would like to diversify our customer base within those markets,” says Sippy. “We’re always open to working for different industries as well.”



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