Garden Grove, CA
Industry: Contract Manufacturing
Products: Metal Parts
Photos Ashley Horne
Carlos Danze’s diversified contract manufacturer eyes the future as it invests today to keep customers on the leading edge.
In 1982, Carlos Danze was a tool and die maker for a company manufacturing crash test dummies. He saw his employer outsourcing the machine work and decided to set up some equipment in his garage, and started Innovative Metal Designs to get the business.
Since then, the company has grown and diversified. Danze is now semi-retired while his son Marcelo, a twenty-five-year employee, is now president and CEO. "My dad is a very smart and talented tool and die maker with great ideas on how to manufacture parts,” says Danze. “He was my teacher and my mentor."
The company has since grown into three entities in order to handle the various markets they serve. The original Innovative Metal Designs (IMD) is focused on machining parts. IMD Fabrication produces sheet-metal work. And Assault Industries, the company’s private-label brand, focuses on the powersports market. The company’s sweep of services includes prototyping and short and long-run production, as well as a manufactured-to-packaged, consumer-ready line. "That’s what separates us from most other machine shops," says Danze. "We can offer a turnkey product because we have the capability and the know-how."
Danze also attributes success to a deep connection with customers, often a calling card of successful contract manufacturers. "Innovative Metal Designs has never had a salesperson," says Danze. "We’ve always grown just by word of mouth, and continue to grow by word of mouth."
Danze sees automation on the horizon. "We are definitely interested in that for the future. I’ve seen a lot of these robotic arms and parts changers that are pretty impressive," says Danze.
But today, Danze is focused on meeting current demand for quality services. "We source materials per our customer’s requirements. For aerospace products, we’re using domestic mills. For more of the commercial side of things, our customers are looking for better margins so we’ll source imported materials," explains Danze. "If customers require wider margins and U.S.A.-made products aren’t important to them, we are able to go overseas and source products. We keep that open as a backup. Obviously, we prefer to keep our CNC machines here busy and keep the jobs in our shop. We want to be able to reach out to every kind of customer. Whether they need a turn-key product, or one made as cheap as possible because there’s too much competition, or even an American-made, tight tolerance, quality oriented product, we can react quickly for them."
In the end it comes back to relationships. "A handshake means so much," says Danze. "Being honest and upfront with your customer will always go so much farther than anything else. That’s something that my dad taught me. I can look in the mirror and know that I’m doing everything correctly, and I’m not lying to customers. We’re giving them the best prices we can, and we’re being honest with them. I think that’s what kept us in business for so long."
Challenges: "The challenge I see is that we’re always competing against smaller companies that maybe aren’t using an ISO quality system or who aren’t following all the regulations and laws," says Danze. "For us, it’s always hard because we’ve got such a big overhead and unfortunately, our customers are always looking for the lowest priced product. We’ve got the resources and equipment to do pretty much anything, so our overhead is more than a little mom and pop shop. We’re always looking to streamline our processes, and we’re looking into robotics to try to cut down our overhead, and other new technology to try to make the products come out of the machines faster."
Needs: To stay competitive -- offering overseas options for materials and completed parts for cost-driven customers, while maintaining expansive, high-quality domestic capabilities.
Opportunities: Danze says the company’s biggest opportunity for growth is in off-road and motorcycle markets, the focus of its Assault Industries arm. He anticipates doubling the size of their facility and adding both products and services to that part of the business.