Jul 13, 2016
Industry: Contract Manufacturing
Products: Machine and fabrication services
When Don Wardle moved to Ogden, Utah from Southern California in the late 1970s, he couldn’t find a job. So he created one. Wardle started JD Machine, a company which manufactures precision machined and fabricated components for the aerospace, medical, and defense industries.
These particular industries are experiencing strong growth in Utah, which allows JD Machine to grow beyond the expectations of its founder.
“It’s worked out really well for us,” says his son, Matt Wardle, who took over the company in 1992. “My father will be 87 years old next month, and he still comes to work every day. He’s still a part of JD Machine.”
Since opening its door in 1979, JD Machine has moved four times to accommodate its growth, but it has chosen to stay in Ogden. The company strives to buy all raw materials and hardware components from local distributors. “It’s great for the local economy, and it really helps us out to have them nearby,” Wardle says.
Wardle believes his distribution of sales are split 50/50: half of his customers are in Utah and the other half extend beyond the state, several are international.
“We serve people coast-to-coast, as well as Europe and Asia. The further the client is from us, the more logistics became a bigger challenge, and international environmental requirements are also a challenge to address as we serve international clients,” Wardle says.
To better serve the needs of his clients, Wardle is anxiously engaged in maintaining a consistent work force. When he noticed how hard it was to find good talent, Wardle started the Northern Utah Chapter of the National Tooling and Machine Association.
The association was recently awarded a grant to begin a marketing campaign to address the availability of apprenticeships. “It is very successful,” Wardle says. “We had over 700 applicants for machinist apprenticeships.” Advertising efforts are focused on high school students. “We want to help them realize what the opportunities are in manufacturing,” Wardle says. “Hopefully they can attend a tech college or they can jump right in through an apprenticeship. The manufacturing industry needs to take more responsibility for the training of our people.”
Challenges: Finding a skilled workforce. “We have a great network for training people through the Utah College of Applied Technology,” Wardle says. “But we still need to help people find out about the jobs and know what opportunities still exist in the manufacturing world.”
Opportunities: Growth. Currently JD Machine is around 170 employees and Wardle sees the possibility for significant growth. “But we don’t want explosive growth. We want growth that makes sense, controlled growth. Growth which allows us to maintain our culture and keep ahold of our quality as we expand,” he said.
Needs: Employees advancing in skills. “As a company, our growth is driven so that our people can advance in their careers. We watch the economy. We watch the market. Our goal is to take advantage of opportunities that come as a result of the skills of our own workforce.”