Manufacturing Technology Inc.

Manufacturing Technology Inc.

Ted Ciesielski, vice president of marketing

Fort Walton
Beach, Fla.
$42.376 million

It took four years and an intensive audit in which everyone from the floor crew to the company president was interviewed. But it was worth it. In November 1996, 380-employee Manufacturing Technology Inc. joined the ranks of the "big boys'' when what was then St. Louis-based McDonnell Douglas Corp. awarded the company Gold Preferred Supplier status.

Only eight of 604 preferred suppliers for McDonnell Douglas, which has since merged with and taken on the name of Seattle-based Boeing Co., have been named as a gold status supplier. With 98 percent of Manufacturing Technology's sales coming from Department of Defense-related work, its relationship with Boeing has built up to $4.5 million in annual sales.

"It's like the Olympics,'' explained Ted Ciesielski, vice president of marketing for Fort Walton Beach, Fla.-based MTI, which posted $64 million in annual revenues last year. "First you have to get accepted into the system. Then you have to get a bronze, then a silver. Then you go for the gold.'' The gold status designates the company as a first-priority choice vendor for Boeing purchasers, as the company seeks to narrow the number of businesses it gets supplies from to a pool of high-quality, dependable vendors.

This sort of success has landed Manufacturing Technology at No. 9 on Washington Technology's top 10 list of 8(a) contractors in the IT federal government marketplace. Even more significantly, the company graduated from the 8(a) program in September 1996 after the standard nine-year stay.

"We're in good shape to graduate,'' Ciesielski said. "It's a tribute to the management and the people who work here. We're a very cost-effective company. We're competitive and affordable. We make our customers successful. When you give us a contract, we do what it takes.''

In 1996, Inc. magazine ranked the company 130th on its annual list of the 500 fastest growing private companies in America. The company is adding two facilities to its headquarters that will add 24,000 square feet to the plant for a total of 58,000 square feet.

It's bread and butter is defense electronics equipment, specifically avionics - the air data sensors, aircraft maintenance indicators, simulators, navigational tools, testing equipment and other products that provide the infrastructure for military aircraft. Started in 1984 by President and CEO Paul Hsu with six employees, the company will design the products, build them and do everything in between, company officials say.

Manufacturing Technology's other supply customer base includes Minneapolis-based Honeywell Inc. and Bethesda, Md.-based Lockheed Martin Corp.

It also serves as a prime contractor on a number of Defense-related vehicles. Most significantly, in 1992, the company landed a five-year, $42 million contract to provide Russian radar equipment at the Navy's Echo Range in the China Lake Desert in California. The equipment is used to test U.S. Defense planes against enemy countermeasures. Manufacturing Technology manages and operates the site.

"If something goes wrong with the gear, we fix it,'' Ciesielski said. "If we need to buy something from the Russians, we buy it.''

While the Defense Department has been downsizing, Manufacturing Technology officials feel that changes in the defense industry will only help it grow. With mergers and acquisitions grabbing headlines, the company is betting that the shrinking base of competition will make its close alignment with McDonnell Douglas/Boeing and Lockheed Martin look like a wise move.

"We're aligned with two of the major and final companies that are left,'' Ciesielski said. "And we do well by them.''

Hank Princivalli, a principal engineer at Boeing who served as a team leader for Manufacturing Technology in Boeing's mentor program, said the company is the only 8(a) to get gold vendor status. (The company declined to name the other seven.)

Gold status is so competitive that it requires the vendor to get perfect scores for a year in quality and delivery categories. This means that out of the 2,500 annual shipments Manufacturing Technology has made, every one arrived without defects and was able to be installed on aircraft with no problems.

"It's rather an honor for them,'' Princivalli said. "A lot of hard work went into it.''

-Dennis McCafferty

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