By Becky Hurley | Feb 17, 2015
Colorado Springs, Colorado
For CEO Ken Driscoll and VP Greg Driscoll, investment in state-of-the art equipment has paid rich dividends, for both the company and its customers.
A single source supplier of precision parts to companies for more than 42 years, today's family-owned operation manufactures custom metal products for the energy, aerospace, government, telecommunications, and construction industries.
The production-level job shop's handles everything from long runs -- starting with on-site engineering and prototype design -- to complete product manufacture and distribution. Capabilities include cutting precision components on state-of-the-art laser and waterjet machines, robotic press braking, roll-forming, blanking, punching, assembly, and painting custom parts.
Like many in the fabrication industry, the company has weathered economic highs and lows as well as decades of offshoring. "What we've learned was to diversify -- and to reinvest in our business," says Vice President and second generation owner Greg Driscoll. His father, Ken, is president and CEO.
What started as an electronics sheet metal fab in the 1980s today boasts some of the region's most advanced automated equipment. A newly added roll-forming machine, for example, designed for the company in France was recently installed on-site. Its automated process included feeding flat sheets of metal onto a conveyer which were systematically rolled and punched. The output: fully fashioned rails for a national HVAC company.
That full-service capability played a key role in the company's selection as a subcontractor on one of its biggest jobs ever for the U.S. Army. From 2004 through 2006, Micro Metals "up-armored" -- covered in protective metal -- most of the heavy vehicles shipped overseas to fight the Iraq War. Payroll for that period more than doubled -- from 150 to 400 people.
Driscoll believes ongoing investment in the state of the art equipment is the key to success. This month alone two new automated vertical machining centers and an updated CNC lathe will be installed. "We're looking at a list of maybe 20 machines, deciding which to replace or update," he says.
Managing a huge channel from start to finish frequently includes coordinating with outside companies. Heat treating, for example, is not handled in-house. "We've built close working relationships with other service providers, so we're able handle the entire process and make it seamless for our customers," he says.
Materials, then payroll represent Micro Metals' biggest business costs. But it's the company's engineers, operators, technicians and support staff that have contributed so much to the last three years of "substantial growth," Driscoll points out.
"A lot of our guys are vets. Some have been with us for 20 years or more; some are newer hires. They bring a lot of value -- a good attitude, a willingness to learn and work hard. Our two top engineers today both started work on the floor."
Challenges: "There's not a surplus of young workers out there with high-level skills," notes Driscoll. "Many of our longtime machinists and press brake operators will be retiring. When we're able to find skilled labor, we will invest in and train them."
Opportunities: Driscoll points to the reshoring trend. "From 2000 to 2010, we saw a lot of our customers ship work to China and Mexico but that's changing. I think they're finding the cost comparison no longer favors overseas producers. They look at the cost to manage, logistics and overall quality -- and they're coming back."
Needs: Again, it's finding good folks, Driscoll says. "I went to Europe to buy new equipment a few years ago. They work with young people to bring them into manufacturing – to give them a good career. We need to do more of that."