Industry: Industrial & Equipment
Products: Industrial and Artistic Metal Castings
From fine art to aerospace, Masters In Metal balances a specialized workforce to meet the demands of two different metalworking markets
Masters In Metal is a California foundry launched in 2000 that was bought out in 2006 by current vice president Dennis Haddox and his father. The pair had worked for the company previous to the acquisition.
According to Haddox, 75 percent of their business is in mass-producing cast metal parts for industrial and aerospace clients, while the remainder of their work is in custom crafting metal works of art. To do this, the company learned how to balance its skilled workers to service two markets that are seemingly at opposite ends of the spectrum, enabling the company to move people where it needs to in order to fulfill any job that comes in. "The twenty-five percent (artisans) can go toward the seventy-five percent (metal workers) if we need to, but the seventy-five percent really doesn’t flip over to the twenty-five percent," says Haddox.
Though a majority of the industrial products are produced in quantity, Masters In Metal prefers a hands-on methodology in lieu of a dependence on more modern machinery. "Nothing is automated to where you push a button and walk away from it, and you come back and you have a bunch of parts," says Haddox. The method provides the company with a high degree of quality for both fine art and industrial cast products, but it requires a special kind of worker. With other metalworking facilities in the area, some jobs can be filled rather easily, but finding highly skilled craftsman is a challenge.
"It can be more difficult to find the right people because there’s a higher level of skill and talent required," says Haddox. The company’s dual manufacturing approach also applies to its sales force, with the commercial and aerospace work being handled by conventional sales reps, while the custom art side of things is 100 percent word-of-mouth.
Quality and customer service are also keys to success, especially on the fine art side of the business. "We’re able to really take the idea of a project and create a vision, and take the vision and create reality," says Haddox. "We bring that to what the artist and architect had in mind, in the design process." Among the widely varied custom casting work, the company is very proud of the fountains at the World Trade Center Memorial at Ground Zero in New York City. "There were 11,500 castings done for that project," says Haddox.
Creating work that takes time to produce, and getting paid once the job is completed, cash flow for the company can run thin. "We try to spread everything out on long projects," says Haddox.
"We do try to get deposits, sometimes we’ll get progressive payments along the way, but if you’re doing a project of two-hundred or three-hundred thousand dollars, we’re a pretty small company. That can really stretch your cash pretty thin." Despite the pressures, the company has been able to amplify their sales efforts and diversify its product lineup. Because of this, Haddox says the company is looking at 15 percent growth in sales in the coming year.
Needs: To continue expanding the customer base through increased sales efforts and by turning out high-quality products, in both the mass-production parts as well the custom metal projects.
Challenges: "Even if a client tells me they want to start casting with our facility, we’re still looking at six months before we ship our first production order with them," says Haddox. This is part of the challenge of acquiring work shifted from competitors in aerospace and other industries. There’s time invested in creating first article products for testing and evaluation, and delays in moving the necessary tooling. As a result, the company is focusing its sales efforts toward brand new parts for a quicker return on investment.
Opportunities: "We’re trying to start our own product line, because you have better margins and you’re more in control of your own fate," says Haddox. One of the new products is a specialized trailer hitch designed for the military.