Oct 28, 2013
Colorado Springs, Colorado
Milling, lathe, screw, tumbling
By Becky Hurley
One step inside JPM Prototype & Mfg., Inc. CNC machining facility is all it takes to realize technology has eclipsed granddad’s manual machining, soldering, grinding or welding bench.
Today’s machining operation presents more like a high-tech clean room – or a laboratory out of a James Bond thriller.
JPM began as a basement operation in CEO and President Dave Jeffrey’s home 14 years ago. Eventually the plant moved to 3,000 square feet of industrial space, then to its present convenient 18,000-square-foot location next door to clients like Western Forge.
When Jeffrey left a former employer (Entegris) and opened his own shop, his former colleagues offered to refer him business. Over the years, client referrals continued to grow.
“I haven’t had to spend more than maybe $1,000 on marketing since we opened,” he says.
The company operates two shifts a day. He’d like to add a third – and has the work, but hasn’t been able to find the skilled people to staff it. That’s not unusual he notes, adding that there are as many as 600,000 to 2 million nationwide manufacturing jobs today that go unfilled due to a lack of trained workers.
Jeffrey started his business with 85 percent prototype development and 15 percent manufacturing. “Today it has turned out to be the opposite,” he says, noting that since 1999 JPM has generated most of its revenues from metal, plastic and anodized product manufacturing.
He’s invested much of that revenue back into the business as growing medical equipment (micro-machining), defense and specialty firearm parts orders require increasing production capacity and efficiency.
Large American, Swiss and Japanese -engineered machines require human loading and input, but outputs are automated. One specialized “Pallet Pool” robotic unit was recently purchased to machine and manufacture components automatically for high production needs. Another piece of equipment Jeffrey calls his “Mercedes,” incorporates precise engineering and is programmed to electronically machine special firearms and other components to precise tolerances.
On a facility tour, manager Shawn Walker gets a laugh out of Jeffrey when he says the company’s motto is “We make anything for money as long as it’s ethical and legal.”
When he’s not on the job, Jeffrey has been actively involved with Pikes Peak Community College as an advisor on curriculum development. The institution was just awarded a state workforce development grant for $2.5 million to train a skilled workforce for jobs in manufacturing and construction.
“I’m helping with curriculum development for jobs in machining and manufacturing– and have even considered teaching as an adjunct professor,” he says. “There’s great opportunity here in Colorado Springs; right now the workforce pool just isn’t there.”
Challenges: Juggling the responsibilities of being an employer meeting our customers’ needs. “There’s so much work out there, but finding and keeping motivated talent is a big challenge. We may also need to expand our facility in the next few years.”
Opportunity: “It’s unlimited in this industry. I’m excited about local initiatives like a new trade school in one of our school districts that is working to prepare students for skilled positions. I think there’s been a stigma in the past around machining and manufacturing, but that’s where many of the futures’ good jobs will be. Another growing opportunity lies in new business areas such as producing parts for a drone manufacturer as well as for the firearms industry.”
Needs: More skilled workers. “There’s such a demand for machine shops. We’re all busy and have to turn jobs down. “