There is no one roadmap to becoming an entrepreneur, or in the case of Austin Hall, a co-owner of a manufacturing start-up. Austin is president and CEO of HDH Manufacturing, a job shop in Indianapolis in partnership with his brother, Gabe, and their friend, Roger Dettmering—the namesake of HDH.
Austin got his start in manufacturing working during summers in a small job shop. Austin started out assembling parts, sawing material, and doing anything else that needed to be done around the shop. With his strong work ethic and desire to learn, he quickly picked up more skilled tasks, including running the machines. Having taken a real interest in machining, Austin put himself through a two-year associates program at Ivy Tech. After some formal training at Ivy Tech, Austin became one of the shop’s CNC programmers and manager of the night shift.
In addition to starting his own business, Austin has been an adjunct professor at Ivy Tech since the fall of 2013, teaching a class called interactive CNC for which he created his own curriculum. His curriculum is designed to introduce students to advanced manufacturing techniques and applications in a shop environment to give students a real world perspective of manufacturing. For the final exam, students have to design their own part, draw it up in CAD, formulate a work flow process, document the setup process, and program, produce, and quality control the part.
In high school, Austin had an aptitude for science and geometry, and took two years of calculus and physics. What really motivated him were two competitions that he took part in. During his senior year, Austin participated in the rocketry team in the national Team America Rocketry Challenge (TARC). His team didn’t win a place in the nationals, but in another national competition, The NASA Student Launch Initiative, his team was invited to launch their rocket at the US Space and Rocket Center in Huntsville, AL. Austin was the payload supervisor on a project that took eight months to design, build, and launch.
“In Huntsville, there was so much to see relating to manufacturing components for the space station. It was truly amazing,” he said. “It really inspired me to pursue something in the field of manufacturing.”
In February of 2015, after seven years of running the night shift at the job shop, the owner of the job shop decided to close down the business due to a downturn in the economy and the oil industry. Austin was night shift supervisor, Gabe was the day shift supervisor and shop floor manager, and Roger was the weekend supervisor. When the owner decided to shut down permanently, the three decided to partner together and form their own company.
Fortunately, the shop’s owner said they could use the shop’s equipment till he was able to auction off the assets, paying only rent and utilities. That period stretched out to several months, during which time the three partners were able to accumulate savings that would be used to finance their operations. At the auction they were able to purchase much of the equipment and tooling they needed for their own shop. In their first year of operations they were subsequently able to finance a new mill (Hurco VM20i) and a new lathe (Hurco TMM8).
After a successful first year, Austin says he is excited for the future of his company.
This article was first published in the July 2016 edition of Manufacturing Engineering magazine. Read all of the 2016 30 Under 30 Profiles as a PDF.