By Eric Peterson | Sep 08, 2020
CNC machining, stamping, and metal fabrication services
Metalcraft Industries originated as the Colorado location for New York-based Genesee Metal Stampings. "At one point, we had grown to about six locations nationwide, about 250 employees total," says Caschette.
In 2000, Metalcraft split off as a separate company, and it now has locations in Colorado and Washington State.
Caschette started at Metalcraft in 1999 after he graduated from Colorado State University and became the company's president in 2015. "I started as a tool and die apprentice here and just worked through the ranks," he says.
Metalcraft has broadened its capabilities with acquisitions. "The company started as a captive metal stamper to Eastman Kodak in Rochester. . . . so really our roots are in tool and die metal stamping," says Caschette. "Over the decades, we added other capabilities at other locations. In Colorado specifically, we were metal stamping exclusively until 1997, then we actually acquired the sheet metal shop from a customer of ours at the time, so that's how the company expanded into precision sheet metal as well."
In 2011, the acquisition of Collins Machine & Manufacturing added CNC capabilities to complement stamping and sheet metal fabrication. "It's really a diversification of services," says Caschette. "Equipment and capabilities are really the focus."
The strategy allows the company to expand business with customers as well as scale quantities with growth. Caschette says it allows customers to consolidate from three or four vendors to one: Metalcraft.
Explains Caschette: "What we found prior to some of the acquisitions and diversification, if you had a sheet metal part, you likely had machined parts. If you had machined parts, you likely had sheet metal parts. And as your product matured and grew in volume and quantities, the stamping started to become a really cost-effective option to keep up with the growth curve and to lower product costs. So I wouldn't say [Metalcraft's strategy] is specific to an industry, but more helpful to the maturity of a product and an organization."
He continues, "We can start with a napkin and design for manufacturability, get them through some prototypes, get them through some beta runs, and then start to use the diversity of equipment to find the right processes to drive costs down and keep up with that growth curve."
Caschette points to a case study of a bracket for a sheet metal customer. "There was more scrap removal than the finished part weighed, and wwe converted it from a CNC-machined component to a progressive die," he says. "There was significant savings within a couple years just by building a tool." The end result: 74 percent savings on the part.
"Being able to innovate out of structured processes -- because of the equipment we have -- allows us to innovate for customers," says Caschette. "We've really seen our growth come out of that diversity."
The company now operates from a 68,000-square-foot shop in Westminster. "It's a single facility where we have all three of the disciplines -- stamping, sheet metal, and machining -- all under one roof," says Caschette. "We have in-house powder coating."
The ISO-certified, ITAR-registered company has grown its footprint in aerospace since becoming an independent business. Acquired in 2014, the five-employee CNC machine shop in Marysville, Washington, focuses almost exclusively on aerospace.
Beyond that, Caschette says the company isn't focused on a particular industry as much as it is on individual customers, about half of whom are based in Colorado.
"In Colorado, we're really unique in that we have a diverse set of industries," says Caschette. "We're not like Detroit with automotive or Seattle with aerospace. Where we see strength is in the diversity of our equipment and capabilities, offering customers a lot of services rather than a hyper-specialized shop with metal stamping only or CNC machining only."
Metalcraft moved the parts of one customer, a Boulder-based LED lighting supplier, from extrusion to progressive dies to keep up with an increase in volume to 50,000 parts per week. "There was no way through the old processes without buying hundreds of CNC machines that we could have kept up with their growth had we not moved to progressive dies," says Caschette.
Such improvements often result from site visits, he says. "We really encourage our customers to visit our facility and walk our shop floor as often as possible. They almost always see a process or a similar metalworking operation that would benefit them, and in turn we like to visit our customers and their shop floors as often as possible, talk to their technicians, talk to their engineers. We always find a process improvement that will either improve quality or drive costs down."
Metalcraft's supply chain is largely Colorado metal vendors, as well as coil for stamping from the Rust Belt. Metalcraft also works with Nomex Honeycomb for aerospace and other applications.
Sales have doubled in the past five years, says Caschette, and the growth rate only accelerated with COVID-19. "We've seen a tremendous amount of growth in outdoor recreation products because of COVID and because of diversity in equipment. Even our customers are completely blown away by the growth they've seen. They weren't anticipating that at all."
One "was evaluating moving their product overseas, and they decided to keep it here with us," he adds.
Profits have been heavily reinvested into the company. "Capex is a large component of our budget every year," says Caschette, pointing to automation as a key area of investment.
"We really like to consider ourselves a 70-year-old startup," he notes. "What worked in the past likely no longer applies, so we're kind of rewriting our own book."
Challenges: "Managing rapid growth has a unique set of challenges, from the training of your current employees to finding new, energetic, and innovative talent," says Caschette. "I see challenges in the integration of automation and cobots, and the skill sets required to drive that innovation."
Opportunities: "Obviously, there's a lot of interest in reshoring. There was even before COVID a lot of interest in that."
Caschette also sees an opportunity to broaden the company's capabilities. "We're looking towards growth as a true contract manufacturer, meaning managing the supply chain for components like electronics and wiring harnesses, plastics and injection molding, die casting, and then offering advanced assembly, and starting to pivot and add on to just metal manufacturing."
He adds, "We've seen a real interest from some strategic customers in our manufacturing and stocking agreements. Essentially, we hold product for them. It allows for a quicker response, better pricing, and mitigates the fluctuations in their business and ours. . . . It allows us to backfill slow times and even run larger-quantity runs."
"The Colorado supply chain is still growing," he says. "There's processes that are readily available throughout the U.S. that maybe there aren't a lot of good or large vendors that offer unique processes. We're interested in exploring that with them. . . . We're always looking at investing with our customers in new capex. Maybe they have a need for a process that's not really available? We're willing to talk through that and maybe invest with them."
Needs: Talent. "I could still hire quite a few people," says Caschette. "We don't hire specific skill sets. People come with skill sets, but we hire manufacturing technicians. Because we have that highly diverse and constantly changing product mix on the floor, our technicians move to wherever the bottlenecks are. We don't necessarily hire a press brake operator or a welder, but we hire guys who have those skill sets and will typically do that a lot of the time, but they go where our customers need them."
Caschette also says that Colorado leaders need to recognize manufacturing and its importance to the state's economy. "I think we have a need for Colorado local lawmakers -- city, county, and state level -- to recognize manufacturing as a strong industry for this region," he says. "Pivot away from tourism and the focus on tech and biomed. We're centrally located, we've got a really strong entrepreneurial and inventor mindset here in Colorado, but I don't think we get the same support or interest that tech or biomed seem to get. We've been one of the strongest industries through COVID, manufacturing itself, and we see tremendous opportunity as the world reevaluates supply chains and total cost of ownership for importing. So I think that support in training dollars and tax structure to allow us to be and remain a competitive manufacturing region is critical."