Colorado Springs, Colorado
Industry: Contract Manufacturing
Products: Machined parts
It's been a long and difficult road for President/Owner Nona Womack, but she believes her job shop has turned a corner.
Though Absolute Machine officially has only been around since 2004, Womack started in the machine shop business with her husband, Ed, more than 40 years ago.
Though they had different businesses over the years, including an air purifier company and a modular fixturing one, "we've always been a job shop in addition to whatever other product we had," Womack says. The formation of Absolute Machine was basically just a name change, she says.
Working with her husband was "awesome," she says. "People liked him. He ran the shop and I took care of the office and the gofer work, and it worked out really well."
But Ed died in late 1992. "I've struggled ever since to go on without him," Womack says.
The industry is a male-dominated one, so there was "the good old boys network" to break into, she says. "People thought, well, she's a woman, she doesn't know anything about this business." The company was also in debt when her husband died.
"But I had faith in the company and what it could do given the right people," Womack says. "So I hung in there, and now it has turned around, and now it is profitable."
The business model is a simple one. "We are what they call a job shop," Womack says. Orders range in units "anywhere from one to 100, or even 1,000. We normally don't run much in the hundreds, but we're absolutely set up to do that." Absolute Machine also works with a variety of materials, she says, from plastics to alloys to exotic materials.
Absolute Machine and its previous incarnations have produced parts for sectors including automotive, aerospace, computers, food processing, medical and "just about any industry you could name," Womack says. She has bought several new machines in the last few years, such as a water jet, to increase the company's capabilities.
The company also upgraded its accounting system and secured ISO 9001 certification. It's now working on AS9100 certification so it can do more work for the aerospace industry. "We should obtain it by the end of this year," Womack says.
Challenges: "Over the years, it's always the same challenge: It's personnel," Womack says. "It's harder and harder to find people that, No. 1, want to work, and No. 2, know how to work."
It's particularly challenging for a job shop like hers where variety is the norm, Womack says. "It's a new world every day just about, so you need somebody who's versatile. They can't just be a mill operator or a lathe operator. They have to go from one to another, and from a manual machine to a CNC."
Opportunities: "We've made several contacts with companies recently that say they're looking for new vendors, so we anticipate more growth this year," Womack says.
Among sectors that hold promise, "I'm told the gas and oil industry is still a good one. Mining is another area that we haven't really touched heavily, so that's another area we're wanting to look that. Outside of that, we really do close-tolerance, precision work, so anyone who has that kind of a need, we can handle that for them."
Needs: Marketing is an area that the company lacks. "We don't have a salesperson; my late husband was the salesperson," Womack says. "Basically our business is word of mouth."
There's also Absolute Machine's website and Womack is working on getting involved on social media such as LinkedIn, "and making calls when we hear of work available. We have some primary customers, but they ebb and flow also, so we're looking, of course, to maintain a more regular workload."