Industry: Contract Manufacturing
Products: Machined parts
General Manager Timo Lunceford is guiding the machine shop to success in the medical industry through precision and innovation.
Swiss Productions has been a family-owned and -operated machining business that spawned from WV Enterprises, which launched in the 1960s. "WV Enterprises was the acronym for William and Vera, and they were the founders of the business," says Lunceford. "When they split up, William took WV Enterprises, and Vera took the other part of it and started Swiss Productions in 1982."
The company has clients in a variety of industries, but according to Lunceford, the medical side is the strongest. "The most amount of work for us comes from the medical industry," says Lunceford. "It accounts for 60 percent of our business. We are always trying to evolve with the industry and help with research and development, and are able to provide our customers with service that keeps them ahead of the curve."
Swiss Productions has changed its focus as it has grown. "When I started here 29 years ago, the majority of our work was in telecommunications, making insulators," he says. "We only had 12 or 13 machines. When that market started slowing, the medical industry was starting to pick up for us. We would create washers, syringe tips, and end caps, but we never really got into the intricate part of the medical field until we started gaining more knowledge in it, and incorporating it into our machining abilities. We invested in new equipment and adapting with that. Now we're in a 25,000-square-foot facility with 48 screw machines to handle that part of the business, plus a whole secondary milling operation."
According to Lunceford, the company's growth in sales is through a combination of reputation and its own efforts. "We do a lot of advertising on our social media pages, and I attend medical device shows, and electronics shows," says Lunceford. "We're also out there in word of mouth and are considered one of the top screw machine shops on the West Coast. If you were to contact any of the medical device companies that do a lot of syringes, pumps and valves, every single one of those companies would know Swiss Productions, because we provide all of them with their syringe components."
Swiss Productions has customers all around the world for both component parts and complete assemblies, and performs short and long production runs. "One of the things that makes us stand out is that we like to machine the components, the assemblies, or the parts, that nobody else wants to when it comes to plastic screw machine parts," says Lunceford. "Our niche is turned plastic components, holding 0.2 to 0.3 on plastic, which is really hard. We also machine our syringe tips in a way that nobody else knows how, and we've got a really good corner on that market." About 70 percent of the company's work is on plastic, with remainder being metal, and the vast majority of the materials are sourced in the U.S.
Challenges: According to Lunceford, the company is trying to hire more staff as the workload increases, and finding the right people is a challenge.
The company's biggest staffing difficulty is in finding people to work on its second shift. "A lot of people don't want to work nights because they have families," says Lunceford. "We have employees who have been with us for 10, 20, and 30 or more years. We train the majority of people here, most of which did not start with any machining knowledge. I came here from the construction industry at age 20, knew nothing about machining, and worked my way up to the top. We take care of our people, because they are the business."
"We like to train people the way we want them to work," says Lunceford. "We like to teach set-up and machining our way. That makes us more efficient, rather than someone coming in and saying 'this how I've always done it.' We will learn from them, and incorporate their knowledge, but we have our own way of doing things."
Opportunities: "We're working with some of our long-term customers with assemblies for the tubing and nut connectors," says Lunceford. "We're about to take over more of that, and we see a lot of potential growth. It doesn't take a lot of manpower or machining time, it's just cutting tubes and assembling to the connectors, and that's going to be really big for us this year. A lot of customers are now asking for turnkey products. They're realizing that getting five components from us, then having to assemble it themselves, is costing more than having us just ship them the completed part."
Needs: More automation to increase efficiency. "We're not replacing any employees," says Lunceford. "We're just freeing them up to do more things that the robots cannot do."