This month's column features Larry Kimble, President of Kimble Precision, Inc. (KPI), located in Loveland, Colorado. Larry tells how his initial love for manufacturing led to a commitment to start his own business. The rest, as they say, is history.
"We are a job shop working with several industries," Mr. Kimble says. "The largest we serve is test and measurement, focusing strongly on circuit board test equipment manufacturers.
"Attending a 2-year machine shop program in high school provided the guidance for my career path. Truly enjoying that program, I knew that some day I would have a shop of my own.
"I first started my manufacturing business in May of 1993, under the name Precision Specialties. At the time, I purchased a used vertical machining center and a used milling machine and started making parts in an 800-square-foot shop beside my house. I remember having to sell my 1935 Chevy street rod in order to put three-phase power in the shop. This was the first car I had ever owned, but selling it was a necessary commitment to getting the business going.
"In July 1996, I incorporated and changed the name to Kimble Precision, Inc. I was still working in another job full-time and putting in 100 hours a week. The time had come to leave my full-time job and go for it. I have never looked back. Late in 1996, I expanded the shop to 1,600 square feet and hired my first full-time employee, who is still with me today.
"In July 1998, busting at the seams in the shop and utilizing the two spare bedrooms in my house as the office and design/programming area, we moved to a new 7,600-square-foot facility. We continue to grow and currently have 28 employees on staff."
Mr. Kimble says his company acquired its first customer when he was introduced to an engineer at a major electronics manufacturer. "The engineer and I hit it off, and this was the beginning of our growth. Roughly 70 percent of our business today has, in one way or another, been derived from that initial meeting.
"A key factor for our growth has been service and attention to detail. We provide quick response to our customers' needs and the parts are made right. We also offer special services, such a prototyping and short run production. We work closely with engineers and designers of the parts to assist with manufacturability, as well as involving them as problems are identified."
When asked how the Internet has affected the business, Mr. Kimble says, "E-mail allows us to interface effectively with our customers, whether they are next door, across town or in another country. It allows us to send and receive geometry for parts that we need to machine. Our Web site allows us to provide online pictures and bills of materials of products that we may sell, as well as providing potential customers information about our organization.
"Last but not least, the Internet provides a quick method for us to receive upgrades or patches from our software vendors to allow us to keep our systems up to date."
The next great advances in technology that could help the business include "Adding data collection to our manufacturing floor to allow us to have real-time costing and job status at the click of a mouse," Mr. Kimble says. "E-commerce will allow our customers to order online with immediate feedback as to stock availability."
The way that he makes his business successful, Mr. Kimble says, is "trying to provide an atmosphere for the way I personally would like to be treated, believing in my people and functioning as a team. I have always believed in surrounding myself with talent, and I have. I feel that we have assembled a team that is second to none. The people at KPI make the difference.
"Another key factor has been getting to know the customers and understanding their businesses, to be able to provide more than just machined parts."
For the future, Mr. Kimble says he sees "GROWTH! We experienced growth of 41 percent in 1999 and 60 percent in 2000. We will most likely be building a new facility within the next 24 to 36 months."
Kimble Precision is a fine example of a manufacturer making a commitment to serving the needs of customers. This has led to a successful first 8 years and the promise of many more to come.