Lake Forest, California
Industry: Contract Manufacturing
Products: Product development and contract manufacturing services
Founder and CEO Hunt Dabney is guiding the product development company into more manufacturing for its medical and aerospace clients.
Over the last 35 years, Dabney has grown HDA Technology from a one-man consultancy to a 16-employee firm with a pair of strong suits. "On one level, we are accomplished at solving problems, and, on another, we do an exceptional job of helping push products to pass regulatory compliance," says Dabney. "We are also good at high- and low-power radio frequency development and motion-control technology."
At the nexus of these diverse skill sets, the medical industry is the company's primary market. "We design medical devices that are reliant on electronics, such as laboratory instruments for treating medical conditions," says Dabney. "We build devices that are used in various neurological procedures." HDA has also developed medical devices for clinical trials or "trial runs," and they are FDA-registered to manufacture medical products.
To set the company apart, Dabney says he prefers to invest in laboratory equipment and focus on low-volume manufacturing, and a substantial portion of its high-volume work is contracted out to partners. "Internally, we provide a much higher level of technical testing, and the value is in having the highly technical people designing the medical, aerospace, and industrial instruments," says Dabney. "We're well-equipped on the engineering side, more so than our competition."
According to Dabney, HDA Technology has multinational customers like Medtronic, C.R. Bard, and B/E Aerospace (part of Rockwell Collins). "We also work with small startup companies, the most recent one being a company called Game Ready, a manufacturer of injury recovery systems," he adds.
The company moved from Irvine to Lake Forest in 2016. "The move enhanced our ability to respond to changes in our market," says Dabney. "Our laboratory is currently in a climate-controlled area. The new location is much more vibrant, bright, and comfortable."
While HDA primarily focuses on product development, the market is growing on the manufacturing side. "By making the move, we focused on increasing our capacity to support people, and we are actively looking for work in our extra space," says Dabney. "Previously, if we had gotten extra work, we wouldn't have known where to put it."
He adds, "The manufacturing side is not highly automated because most of what we do is low-volume, requiring a higher skill set. It's common in medical devices for the durable electronics to be in low production. We are in the business of durable goods, not the disposable goods. It doesn't make sense to invest in high levels of automation. We're more interested in building something perfectly, and are therefore more focused on absolute quality."
Most of HDA's supply sources are domestic and Dabney says he likes to keep it that way as much as possible. "We work with local California communities to populate circuit boards, and we use local laboratories quite often for testing," says Dabney. "Some things, such as electronic distributors, however, get sourced overseas because they are not readily available here in the United States. We try to find the parts that we need, and at times, we have to source them overseas."
The company's certifications of ISO 13485 (standardized quality management system for medical devices) and AS9100 (standardized quality management system for the aerospace industry) help win both design and manufacturing projects.
"We are always striving to thrive more," says Dabney. "We are not turning business away. In fact, we have the capacity which we would like to fill. HDA has been here for 35 years and keeps moving along comfortably. Business is good, but could always improve."
Challenges: Market penetration. "We aren't a large firm, so there is a limit to the number of programs we can run," says GM Jon Schmidt. "Firms like us go in and out of being in a marketing phase. I've spoken with friends who own similar firms who agree that at times, you get too busy to take anything else on. You start finishing programs, then you are back to marketing again. We are working to improve in this area."
Opportunities: "In terms of startup companies, the medical industry peaked last year," says Dabney. "It's interesting to support people as their products are going into clinical trials. We have companies that we work with where we manufactured a product for them 10 years ago, then they'll get acquired and the new owner will not retain the information needed to manufacture the same product. Then, those companies will ask us to build the product back up. We have good record retention and can always help in this area."
Needs: Qualified software, electrical, and mechanical engineers with medical and/or aerospace industry experience. "We always want to network with other companies," adds Schmidt.