Focus on continuous improvement pays off

This article first appeared on Crains Cleveland Business website https://www.crainscleveland.com/manufacturing/focus-continuous-improvement-pays

Midwest Precision makes precision components in all kinds of metals, primarily for the defense and aerospace sectors. Demand for the type of work it does has been growing, said President Wayne Foley.

"So we've been fortunate to have very good customers that we're growing with that have had high expectations that we've lived up to, which has given us more opportunity," Foley said. "And, you know, the future looks very good."

Foley has been with Midwest Precision since 2010, when an investor group to which he belongs purchased the company. Founded in the '50s, the company was originally known as Midwest Screw Products and, later, Midwest Machining Solutions, said program manager Russ Mulh. The most recent name change took place around the time of the acquisition to better fit the work the company was performing. The parts Midwest Precision makes are often complex, Foley explained, held to strict tolerances and requirements.

About three quarters of the company's business is in the defense and aerospace sector, Mulh said. The remainder is highly engineered products for sectors including energy and health/safety.

Over the past eight years, Midwest Precision has tripled its revenue and more than doubled its employee base, Foley said. He declined to share specific revenue numbers, but said the company has between 100 and 125 employees today.

For the most part, Midwest Precision has grown with its existing customer base. It's been lucky enough to be part of "projects and programs that are growing," Foley said.

Last year in particular was a strong one for Midwest Precision. The company grew revenue by double-digit percentages year-over-year, Foley said. He expects 2019 to be strong, as well.

He intends for Midwest Precision to hire more machinists and other shop-floor employees, in addition to people in areas such as engineering and program management.

"The biggest problem is finding the people," Foley said.

The company has focused more on continuous improvement in recent years, making its processes more efficient. It's added robotic loading to its lathes and mills, and "cooling and coolant technology" have allowed it to reduce cycle times, a news release said. The company was always known for quality, Mulh noted, but there's been a stronger focus on continuous improvement since 2010. 

"And I think it's really helped us become a better company," he added.

Foley said he and some others at Midwest Precision who came from larger companies have tried to implement best practices they'd learned. For example, the company has worked to add more unattended manufacturing, which means equipment can keep running between shifts or on weekends. That's made a big difference in the company's competitiveness, he noted.

"We look at a lot of things," Foley said. "We sweat the details."

There's also been a lot of investment in the building in recent years, Mulh said. The release highlighted the addition of inspection and CNC equipment.

Midwest Precision has a sister company, actuation systems firm Kyntronics, that's now located in Solon. The two had been co-located in Eastlake, but Kyntronics moved out in the fall to give Midwest Precision more room to grow, Foley said. The facility at 34700 Lakeland Blvd. is about 40,000 square feet.

Moving Kyntronics gave Midwest Precision room for some new equipment, and the release also mentioned an expected facility expansion in the future. 

Midwest Precision has continued to grow and hire over the years, said Eastlake mayor and safety director Dennis Morley. It brings people into the city, he added, and having the growing company is a boon for tax revenue.

Ultimately, manufacturing is the biggest tax driver for Eastlake, Morley said. Companies have been moving into the city, while those already located there have been expanding.

"Manufacturing in our city keeps growing," he said.