Waterjet Cutting

Assembly required

By Gretchen Salois

A mobile waterjet proves it doesn’t need to be turnkey to get the job done

December 2015 - Consumers can click on an item and have it shipped to their doorstep—the same day in many cases—making an impulse purchase easier than ever. There are, however, some items where a whim won’t work. If you’re unable to attend a trade expo or hop around the country to visit various showrooms, having a serious piece of machinery come to your facility is atypical but well-received.

WardJet, Tallmadge, Ohio, brings its “WardKit On the Go” waterjet cutters to potential customers around the country. “It’s about getting hands on a product they can actually buy,” explains Benjie Massara, WardJet’s business development manager. 

WardJet drives a demonstration waterjet machine from place to place, allowing metal shop operators to inspect and try out the final product—one that they will assemble themselves. There is a turnkey system option but if a customer is willing to put it together, it’ll save them some money. The do-it-yourself approach doesn’t sacrifice capabilities, but the price is compelling. Instead of a $135,000 turnkey 5-ft.-by-5-ft. machine, the WardKit unit—same size—will run customers about $75,000. “You’re getting the exact same machine,” Massara says. “The pump and abrasive system are the same.”

Each WardKit includes five hours of support but also offers packages to help customers perform assembly and calibration. By assembling the waterjet, “you end up knowing every way it ticks, every nut and bolt,” says Massara. 

FFJ 1215 waterjet image1

WardJet drives a demonstration waterjet machine from place to place, allowing metal shop operators to inspect and try out the final product.

The process need not be overwhelming. For $3,000, a customer can move into WardJet’s facility for a week and work side-by-side with WardJet engineers to put their waterjet together. The final two days a technician will work to show the customer how to operate and maintain the pump and train for production cutting.

At the end of the week, the customer can leave with a fully built and calibrated machine. “If someone is weary of constructing the machine, they can come to our facility and spend a week with on-site assistance,” he says. “So instead of the five hours included support, for $3,000 you get 40 hours of in-house help.”

There is no heavy lifting involved because each component weighs, at most, 30 pounds. “Any steps that would involve a crane or equipment besides putting the machine in place is already done for you,” Massara explains. “No one step is overly complicated. If you can follow simple assembly instructions and can handle something as complicated as hooking up a computer or stereo, you should be fine.”


Compared to a turnkey assembly, some waterjet machine users might have a negative association with the idea of a “kit,” worrying that it would not have the same quality or reliability as a turnkey solution. This is not the case with the WardKit as materials and execution of the machine’s construction are manufactured to withstand a rigorous workload. “One of our initial customers commented on how [the WardKit] looked well-made, right down to the stainless steel fasteners,” Massara recalls. “We make workhorses and are an engineering company at heart. Most of our employees have engineering degrees and can handle anything a customer throws at them.” 

The soft launch in 2014 sought to get the concept of a waterjet assembly kit out to the public. “For the last 10 months we’ve been offering the kits mostly by word of mouth,” Massara says. “Pretty much every unit we’ve sold is from word of mouth. People are calling and saying they like WardJet’s technology but it’s out of their price range—so we’re able to offer this lower cost option and bring one to them on location.”

WardJet manufactures each component of its machines from the circuit boards to the software. “We find that our competitors often don’t have that kind of control because they have parts coming from different manufacturers,” Massara says. 

The great appeal lies in the difference in price between a kit and a fully assembled machine. “Most people ask us straight away how there’s a $50,000 difference between the two,” Massara says. “We intentionally priced it so that smaller shops have access.” 

While the intention was to make waterjet cutting technology accessible to smaller shops in particular, Massara says interest from midsize to larger companies looking to add capacity to their shops has been surprising. “We find these larger companies want to add a couple of guys to waterjet operations to open up a new part of their business,” he says. “They [are] tired of outsourcing the same parts to be waterjet cut.”

FFJ 1215 waterjet image2

Network of contributors

A success, the WardKit has taken an unexpected direction. KitTributors have sprung up, service firms that assemble WardKits for cutting operations, charging thousands below the typical $135,000 price tag. “We’ve had some KitTributors make a business out of assembling our WardKit waterjet kits for other people and they’re making a living doing so,” Massara says.

The allure of being a KitTributor is picking up steam as WardJet now wants to sign up at least 20 KitTributors around the country that can set up local assembly service shops. That way, WardJet can foster “closer” relationships.

Not in it to hold anyone captive, Massara says WardJet has always made learning and operating a machine easier by using industry standard G&M code in its software. “Our customers immediately understand what they’re working with and don’t have to learn a new language,” Massara says. “They can do what they need to in the software, edit where they need to and make changes quickly.”

WardKits are giving some job shops an opportunity to add a skill set and drum up new business for work they might not have otherwise performed. One customer that traditionally used CNC routing for parts manufacturing had a goal for integrating certain jobs. “This customer was cutting parts using front and back feed systems to automatically feed material into the machine,” Massara says. “Because our software is so accessible, this customer can interface directly with our system and integrate one of our waterjet kits into their existing line of operation relatively easily.”

A second customer told WardJet that “the only operation in town offering a waterjet cutter ‘charged an arm and a leg,’ so by [installing] his own waterjet, he thought he’d be able to bring that piece of work in-house” and provide local competition for waterjet cutting “at a more reasonable price,” Massara explains. “It’s working out for him and more and more companies are bringing waterjet cutting capabilities in-house.” FFJ



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