Industry: Electronics & Aerospace
Products: Precision molded electrical connectors
CEO Theresa Padilla rose from the factory floor to run this top supplier to the military
Founded by Ray LaPorte in 1951, Rakar began as a small plastic molding company and became one the largest suppliers of electrical connectors and insulators for the U.S. Military. It’s success also includes the fact that its current CEO Theresa Padilla, began working at the company as a press operator.
Padilla moved from Mexico to the United States in 1977 and began working at Rakar in 1980. Over the years, she learned the various manufacturing processes in the business and ultimately rose into management with first-hand knowledge and managerial skills, which ultimately led her to the head of the company.
Her 36-year-long journey included being instrumental in achieving the company’s ISO certifications in 2015, for the first time in its history. "The company has always been known for high quality, precision-engineered components, so we’ve always had the quality," says Padilla. "We’ve been able to work for all the top aerospace companies ever since we started in the early fifties, so we are considered to be an OE-type of supplier for several decades. We are a full-service company. We do everything, the engineering, secondary operations, logistics, materials, and certifications."
Rakar was a family business under its original owners, and continues that way today, as Padilla’s son Diego, is now the company’s Chief Communications and Strategy Officer who helps get the word out about the company’s qualifications and capabilities.
With a long history as a military subcontractor, the company achieved new certifications and are pursuing additional ones, which will allow them to become a first-tier supplier. This enables them to deal directly with companies like Boeing, Northrop, Raytheon and more on defense, aerospace, medical, and commercial contracts.
The company’s long history of high-quality work in these demanding industries is key to their sales efforts in expanding their markets. "The level of automation at this point is still low," says Padilla. "Our projects primarily demand a hands-on process with an operator inspecting the parts and cleaning them while they’re still in the press, before moving forward to our QC department." The company is in the process of investigating what areas of their methods can be automated in order to make operations more efficient. The majority of their products, however, will likely remain dependent on its present manufacturing techniques in order to achieve the necessary quality standards. Some of the original equipment was built by LaPorte, which is still in use today due to their unique capabilities in meeting the client’s needs.
Workers at Rakar generally have long tenures with the company and have up to a two-year training period to reach the proficiency levels needed to turn out the kind of quality products the business has become known for. Because of this, the company enjoys a steady workflow and little competition in its market. Combining those facts with the company’s long, successful history, ownership of the facility and equipment, and smart cash management, mean that cash-flow problems are not normally an issue for the company.
Padilla’s emphasis on excellence has not only been in manufacturing processes, but also in customer service. "We’re here, answering our phones, answering e-mails, and reaching out to our clients, letting them know what may or may not work for us," says Padilla. "We are thankful to them, and we’re always wanting to be challenged by more complex projects. We will literally do whatever it is that is required of us because we know that when you are working on projects that are for aerospace, or our nation’s defense, you have to go that extra mile. I think our clients have come to expect that from us."
Challenges: "We need to look forward to technology, making changes for innovation for the business," says Padilla. "We look to new procedures and equipment to make it the next step."
Opportunities: "The new generation is used to one-click technology, and we’re actually working on a software project that is going to allow anyone, anywhere in the world the ability to upload their drawings, order a prototype, order a mold, and get it all made with one-click shopping," says Padilla. The company is looking to put its nearly seventy years of experience and knowledge into an app that will simplify and speed orders for its clients, and drastically change the landscape of designing and building products.
Needs: To continue maintaining the quality, customer satisfaction, and innovation that has allowed the company to succeed for decades.