St. George, Utah
President Kevin Ganowsky sidestepped the Great Recession with innovative solenoids and valves for aerospace and other markets.
Ray and Melzie Ganowsky, Kevin's parents, started RAM in a St. George garage with a single part Ray developed for Kohler Engines.
"They asked him how much it would cost to start producing it," says Kevin. "He gave them a number, they gave him the money, and RAM was born." The name? An acronym for Ray and Melzie.
Then 12 years old, Kevin started working for his folks on day one and helped make more than 100,000 units in the garage before RAM graduated to a 1,000-square-foot facility in 1976. After college, he started the company's valve division in 1988.
Today the company occupies 60,000 square feet and is the seventh largest employer in Southern Utah, but the mindset remains the same as the beginning, says Kevin. "It's an engineering company first."
RAM specializes in solenoids and solenoid valves for fuel and landing gear systems for both airplanes and spacecraft, and its footprint that spans all of the top aerospace manufacturers. "Just about every aircraft in the sky we have a component on," he explains. "We were on the Space Shuttle in 1978."
And RAM's skill set continues to be a great match for customers like SpaceX and Aerojet Rocketdyne. "We strive to be in the 21st century in terms of manufacturing."
Heat resistance is sweet spot. "Right now, our engineering team is on the cutting edge for high-temperature applications for jet engines," touts Kevin, citing thresholds of 1,200 degrees F for valves and 600 degrees F for solenoids.
With an in-house CNC shop and a full-time Lean team, the company makes half its parts and outsources the other half, but does all of the plating and other treatments itself. "We do a lot of different processes," Kevin says. "We try to do it all in-house because it streamlines everything."
RAM strives to balance its business between higher-volume aerospace customers and the engineering-heavy, low-volume space industry, Kevin adds. The company is also moving into the industrial market with servo and proportional valves and does a little bit of business in medical. "We've been expanding our market base and our customer base."
The strategy for diversification is helping the bottom line. Kevin took over as president in 2008 and has guided the company to average annual growth rate of 9 percent in the tough economic years since. "In 2009, we were still hiring and growing," he says.
The plan is to double the facility to 120,000 square feet in 2016 to accommodate "huge growth" in 2017 making parts for such planes as the Boeing 787 and the Airbus A350.
For such marquee projects, "It takes five years to get qualified on an engine," explains Kevin. "Then you're the go-to for that engine. We're going to be on those planes for 35 years."
That means Ganowsky is anticipating RAM to grow to 300 employees by 2020 and 400-plus by 2025 as annual growth increases to well above 9 percent. "We can see that forecast," he says.
Challenges: "Skilled labor is a big thing," says Kevin. "St. George is a tough market. When the housing industry is booming, it's difficult." He says RAM focuses both on training and recruiting talent from out of the area.
Opportunities: The industrial market and parts for commercial satellites. "It's just grown by leaps and bounds," Kevin says of the latter.
Needs: "When you're planning to double in 10 years, you obviously have equipment, facility, and employment needs," says Kevin. "It's very exciting."