Herman Luchner

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Feature article about Luchner’s history in “San Diego: Coming of Age”
A 2003 Heritage Media Corporation First Edition

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In the years since 1969, when Herman Luchner opened his tool shop in Spring Valley, California, he has guided it through the full spectrum of what a tool and die company can do. At one time or another, Lucher Tool Engineering has designed and built tools that make or handle everything from missiles, munitions, spacecraft hardware and stealth bomber components to consumer products, automotive machinery, mass transit systems, loading equipment and plastic injection molds.

Today, Luchner Tool Engineering is a complete manufacturing and engineering service and certified tool supplier meeting the advanced technological demands of the aerospace industry. One key to the company’s diversified tooling capabilities is the way Luchner has been careful to staff the business with what he considers to be “30 of the best tool and die craftsmen, designers, and administrative personnel to be found anywhere.”

Operating from its 23,000-square-foot plant in a Scripps Ranch eucalyptus grove, Luchner Tool Engineering has found success in the international marketplace by providing better prices, on-time delivery and custom tool services using cutting-edge technology. Approximately half of Luchner’s business is with foreign companies, a fact reflected in the company’s client list, which includes dozens of airlines in Europe, the Middle East, Asia and Latin America as well as the huge European consortium that builds the Airbus jetliners. Domestic customers include numerous U.S. airlines and General Electric, Rohr (now B.F. Goodrich), Solar Turbines, Pratt & Whitney, Boeing/Douglas and United Technologies Chemical Systems (Trident-II rocket motor program).

With the decline in military spending in recent years, Luchner Tool Engineering has changed some of its focus toward manufacturing ground support equipment for commercial aircraft, and that has become a leading source of revenue for the company. Whenever mechanics remove one of a jetliner’s immense engines, the specialized equipment that supports and moves it is probably made by Luchner Tool Engineering.

The company’s tremendous capabilities require immense capital investment in machinery. One glance inside the Luchner shop reveals an astonishing assortment of large and small lathes, electro-discharge cutting machines, mills, jig borers, punch presses, grinders, saws and inspection devices. In temperature- and humidity-controlled rooms around the plant, esotericcomputer-controlled machines hum with the precision and complexity of their tasks. Among the company’s six electro-discharge cutters is the world’s most advanced five-axis, wire-cut, computer-controlled device, capable of manipulating work pieces up to 330 pounds and cutting aerospace materials with an accuracy of plus/minus .0002 inch. The machinery in the plant would satisfy a Star Fleet commander, and at any given moment some of the parts being manufactured here may well be destined for a rocket or aircraft engine.

Herman Luchner, the company’s founder, is a German immigrant who received his early training in mechanical engineering in the old-world apprenticeship-based way. He immigrated to Canada as a young man and made his way to the United States, where he worked in different cities as a tool and die designer and builder. Eventually, Mr. Luchner landed at Rohr Industries and General Dynamics in San Diego, where he was a senior engineer. There, he noticed that every time he needed special tooling, he had to go to a machine shop in Los Angeles or Orange County. “There simply were not any tool and die shops here capable of doing aerospace-type work. I saw the need, so in 1969 I started the forerunner of this company.”

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In a classic example of hard work, determination and skill, Mr. Luchner set about building his enterprise by working evenings and weekends while still a full-time employee at General Dynamics. Cash was tight, so using his vacation time, he visited potential vendors and cajoled them into giving him 60 days to pay for the parts he needed instead of the 30 days that was customary in those days. He rented space, hired part-time workers and gradually built his new company into a thriving subcontractor serving the major players in San Diego’s booming aerospace industry.

Luchner describes his formula for success this way: “I was a good engineer and I was fortunate to surround myself with really good people.” And they are loyal- the average employee has been with Luchner more than 10 years. “I also believe that only practical engineers can come up with the best tooling in the shortest amount of time, so I never hired an engineer who was not well-grounded in the practical side of design. But that wasn’t enough to make a company succeed. Fortunately, my uncle had taught me how to juggle money, which gave me an instinct for business, so I became a good manager.”

In the spirit of a true Renaissance man, Luchner not only predesigned much of both of the company’s two energy-intensive plant layouts, but he predesigned his Escondido home as well. “Most design takes place on computers now, of course, but I sometimes still close a deal based on my sketch of the way I envision a tool. I try to take the bull by the horns, solve whatever the problem is and do it right now.”

old_Aero_picLuchner Tool Engineering is different from most other American tooling manufacturers in that this company has not specialized itself into a limited niche market. To survive during the early days, the company took any job and the versatility that came from the policy continues to be a Luchner touchstone. Another unique aspect of this company is that it conducts its business without a single salesperson. This saves on overhead and contributes to keeping Luchner competitive.

Luchner Tool Engineer has received many accolades, including numerous “Subcontractor of the Year” commendations from all the major aerospace companies.

Continuing a tradition of steady growth, Luchner Tool Engineering increase the plant area of the Scripps Ranch facility while continuing equipment upgrades to remain at the forefront of advanced precision tool making. This way, the company will stay faithful to the founder’s goal of always providing its worldwide customers with quality tooling at competitive prices on schedule.