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Growth Manufacturing Case Study

Precision Engineering Inc. Achieves AS9100C Certification and Expands Into New Markets

Precision Engineering Inc. (PEI), an Uxbridge, Massachusetts-based contract manufacturer specializing in custom metal components, enclosures, and electro-mechanical assemblies, resolved to approach growth strategically. Primarily serving original equipment manufacturers (OEMs), the senior management team understood that, in order to increase sales, expand their market base, and ultimately grow their company, they needed to continually develop internal and external processes – thereby becoming more competitive and providing more value to all of their customers.

The company has been ISO 9001 and ISO 14001 certified for many years. But the PEI executive team wanted even stricter control on the Quality Management System (QMS) to better serve existing customers, while simultaneously opening PEI to new markets. With many jobs already requiring aerospace-type standards of excellence and some customers bridging both the commercial and the aerospace/military sectors, obtaining additional certification to AS9100 was the logical choice.

Once a plan was in place, the question became how to achieve AS9100 certification in a manner that enhanced and developed the current QMS, both cost-effectively and without "making everybody crazy." Enter the Massachusetts Manufacturing Extension Partnership (MassMEP) – a collaborative center dedicated to helping Massachusetts manufacturers meet the challenges of competing in an ever-changing economy.

Several years ago, PEI President Liora Stone met MassMEP Project Manager Mike Thompson at an event hosted by MassMEP at EMC2 Corporation.  Since then, Mike and Liora have remained in close collaboration, bringing MassMEP-sponsored process-improvement programs to PEI, such as "Principles of Lean Manufacturing." 

"It was a natural decision to call Mike, when we were developing the growth strategy and determining which process-improvement direction to take," said Liora Stone in a recent interview.

The Path to Certification
Mike worked with Liora and her team to not only decide on AS9100 certification but to implement the process, achieve successful AS 9100C certification, renew existing ISO certifications, and find assistance in financing the project.

AS9100 incorporates all the elements of ISO 9001 plus additional elements unique to the aerospace industry. One of the important features of AS9100 is the resurrection of some critical elements of the MIL-Q military specification. The standard was developed as a way to reduce defects in the supplier chain; continually improve quality; boost customer satisfaction; and considerably reduce the number of hours spent on audits, requirements, and documentation. Instead of having to comply with many differing quality requirements and standards for each customer, aerospace industry suppliers and subcontractors now have a single aerospace standard that is accepted across the board.

Since Precision Engineering was already certified to ISO 9001:2008 and ISO 14001:2004, there were baseline quality and environmental protocols in place; and employees were routinely focused on continual improvement and customer satisfaction.  During the AS9100 certification process, MassMEP partner-consultants further trained employees and helped PEI take their existing processes and procedures to a higher level. These enhancements included developing additional risk assessment and risk management tools, and interconnecting the entire Quality and Environmental management systems to promote an efficient method without duplication of efforts caused by competing standards.

With the growth of the QMS into a strong customer-focused foundation, PEI management decided that the time was right for other investments, as well.  Since achieving certification to AS9100C and renewing certifications to ISO 9001:2008 and ISO 14001:2004, Precision Engineering has:

  • Upgraded their computerized ERP/MRP system,
  • Purchased an additional laser cutting system;
  • Worked with a customer to become a UL manufacturing site, and
  • Increased their skilled workforce by 20%.

Better Serving Customer Needs
The installation of an additional Amada laser cutting system, which is able to cut metal up to 1" thick, has enabled PEI to simultaneously increase capabilities and capacity. This relieves pressure on existing laser and punching equipment and supports meeting customer delivery requirements.

With AS9100’s strong focus on the supply chain, the new ERP/MRP system’s greater computing and reporting capabilities will not only improve workflow, but will help PEI better manage their own purchasing system and supplier chain – to better anticipate and serve customer needs.

Additionally, PEI is investing in virtual computers at every production workstation.  The upgrade to a paperless system will not only provide up-to-the-minute information to every employee, but it will go far in helping PEI to meet its environmental sustainability goals.

Liora states, "Certification to AS9100C has opened doors for Precision Engineering. Management is already seeing an increase in sales of approximately 15%; and with the increased work, which results in increased opportunities for hiring workers to fill the various skilled jobs – from administration to production."

Precision Engineering is committed to "Made in USA."  As a contract manufacturer, the PEI team understands that they are an arm of their customers’ production processes and a customer’s reputation relies partly on the quality of PEI’s work.  So, strong partnerships with customers are valued and developed.

So are strong partnerships with organizations like MassMEP. Together, they create a powerful team for competing globally… to keep manufacturing locally.