By Becky Hurley | Apr 21, 2015
Colorado Springs, Colorado
Executive Team: Bob Wolski (Chairman & CEO); Tony Feltman (President & COO); Chad Koldenhoven (Mfg. Engineering Mgr); Troy Koldenhoven (Machine Shop Manager); Rick Lollar (Operations Mgr) and Kimball Edwards (CTO)
Employees: 25 (plus seasonal employees)
Whether it's components for NASA's Orion spacecraft and hypersonic vehicles or a custom designed and fabricated part for a commercial operation, Spire-EMS specializes in what Wolski and Feltman call "concept-to-customer" engineering and manufacturing.
"Precision manufacturing and engineering design is what we do," Wolski says. "We take a new project and collaborate with our customers to build, test and refine it for best-in-class results."
Those clients include a broad array of industries including aerospace/defense, automated material handling, computing or data storage, medical/healthcare and alternative/renewable energy. Names like Boeing, Exelis, Danetics, Cessna/Textron, and Agilent top the list. Strategic supplier Diamond Materials Technologies and strategic partners Vergent Products (Loveland, Colorado) and EWI (Columbus, Ohio) provide key project support.
All engineering and manufacturing -- from design concept through piece-parts, component assemblies, final assembly, and test -- is done in-house. High-precision equipment resources includes 3D scanning and printing, multi-axis CNC turning, milling, grinding, and EDM. Defense and aerospace clients also rely on the company's digital age Model Based Design (MBD) and Model Based Engineering (MBE) for highly complex machining, assembly, testing, and product refinement.
"We try to use local and state resources for secondary processes like heat-treating, metal finishing, and plating," Wolski explains.
The result: Spire-EMS has found a sweet spot in a highly competitive marketplace. The operation's strategic plan calls for revenues and employment to triple in the next three to five years. To ensure success, Wolski and Feltman are proactive in local, regional, state, and federal initiatives to advance manufacturing and technology as well as more general economic and workforce development.
Their focus areas include Digital Manufacturing and Design Innovation (DMDI), Defense Military Adjustment, and "Smart Corridor" Colorado Blueprint programs -- all designed to help small business become more efficient, to get products quicker to market and to be more profitable.
"We were the only Colorado based company to respond to the first federal and state RFPs for DMDI," Feltman says, adding that such projects are a conduit to increased global competitiveness and sustainable growth.
"Our goal is to help integrate Colorado's industrial supply chain -- to be scalable, flexible, and more synergetic, offering affordable pricing -- comparable to an Amazon-like distribution center, but for smaller companies," he adds.
Because Spire-EMS works closely with both the DoD and private sector partners, the owners decline to discuss suppliers and raw materials used in some components. They do, however, credit new digital tools that enable Spire-EMS to create "distinguished front-end manufacturing solutions" which have increased the operation's success rate for winning government contracts.
NASA's Jet Propulsion Lab, for example, designed the Orion spacecraft to get to Mars -- but couldn't create and produce some key components in-house. "We were able to build an interface that allowed them to get it done, that spec'd the necessary tolerances, dimensions, and design criteria," Wolski says.
Challenges: Both owners say it's tough to see RFP opportunities missed because of a lack of skilled workers. "After a decline in the number of degreed engineers, we're devoting extra resources to on-the-job training and in-house education subsidies via online training. We have six interns ready to join the team from Colorado School of Mines and CSU," Feltman says.
Opportunities: "It's industry and business community collaboration that pay the greatest long-term dividends. We get referrals from the (Colorado Springs Regional) Business Alliance, our customers and the DoD because they recognize our passion, talent, and desire to better our community," Wolski says. TAs a region, Southern Colorado has continued to retain top technologists and attract top talent, he adds. "Working together, we can regain our reputation as Silicon Mountain."
Needs: In addition to active participation in government and defense industry programs, Spire-EMS is building its talent pool and hopes to promote from within. "One of our best employees went from machinist to engineer in two years," Wolski says. "Our employees are passionate about their work and our company."