In last month's column I described some basic steps to follow when starting a new manufacturing business. First, you need to understand the risks associated with starting any new business. Once you are comfortable with managing those risks, you should develop a business plan to assist you in moving forward with your new business.
This month, I begin a series of columns featuring owners of small manufacturing businesses. These owners have some interesting things to say about how they started their companies. In this column, I introduce Charles Wright, president of Wright Precision in Oroville, California. In my interview with Mr. Wright, he discusses how he started and grew his machine shop.
“Wright Precision Inc., has been in business since 1985,” Mr. Wright says. “I started by subcontracting machining work for a company and getting paid by the part. This lasted until 1987, when I moved to Oroville, California, and purchased my own CNC equipment. I continued to work for that same company but now had to find other customers so I could keep my machines running.
“My customers are mainly in the electronic industry, producing highly complex products such as lasers. I also machine parts used in sophisticated medical equipment. The parts I produce today all have one thing in common—they are small and have very close tolerances.
“Many factors have contributed to the growth of the company. If I had to select the main ones, they would be a dedication to on-time deliveries and being fair and honest with my customers.”
Mr. Wright mentioned that the company has many repeat customers for this reason. “Customers return to us for business because we meet their delivery schedules,” he says. “We do not want to be the reason our customers cannot meet their delivery schedules, and so we go to great lengths to get the parts to them when they need them. We also realize that it's not just about delivering parts on time. We must also offer quality parts at a reasonable price if we want our customers to keep coming back to us.”
When asked about implementing the latest technological advancements in his shop, Mr. Wright says, “We don't necessarily think of ourselves as a high tech shop, although we do try to stay on top of the latest advances in machining. We recently acquired a laptop computer and CNC programming software that lets us write programs at the machine then download them directly onto any of our CNC machines.
“We knew we had to start programming our CNC equipment off-line, so we didn't tie up the machine during the programming process. There are many alternative ways of doing this, but we felt using the laptop and simply transporting it from machine to machine was an easy way to accomplish this, and with the cost of laptops coming down, it was also an economical solution. This has reduced our CNC machine downtime and improved our entire programming system.”
Mr. Wright says long hours, determination and not being afraid to spend money to make money have all contributed to his company's success. “These factors apply regardless of business cycles and are essential to any company that wants to prosper and not just survive,” he says.
“One of the biggest trends I see today not only affects manufacturing, but almost any type of business. Young people no longer seem willing to learn a trade. This makes it harder to find machinists, or even people with a basic interest and understanding of manufacturing. I am not sure if this trend can be reversed, but all of us involved in manufacturing businesses have to do something to make the trade more interesting to young people.”
Mr. Wright says others in the trade must show young people that they can make a good living in manufacturing and do interesting work. “I certainly can point to myself as an example of this,” he says.
Charles Wright represents just one of many who had a dream of starting a manufacturing business. When the opportunity came, Mr. Wright was able to take advantage of it and has guided Wright Precision to a 15-year record of success. His dedication to satisfying the needs of his customers will surely lead Wright Precision to another 15 years (or more) of success.