IMEC, located at 1716 N. Ninth St., recently observed its 30th anniversary in making and marketing precision sheet metal fabrication and machined parts.
Started by Dan Conner, the business opened during the recession in 1982, totaling $200 in sales in the final two months of that year.
The business started out in a building measuring 40 feet by 75 feet, with no insulation, lights or heating. But Conner had a dream, and with his wife, Charlotte, got busy and started building their future.
"We started in a building with all manual equipment," Conner said. "I spent a lot of that first year traveling, and by the end of 1983, we had four employees.
Many changes in the industry have taken place over the years, and IMEC has adapted to those changes well.
"We have over 60,000 square feet and use automated equipment that measures and drills each hole, a laser cutting machine and automated material handling systems," Conner said. "It sounds astounding, but we're using robots to weld and load materials. It allows us to manufacture in smaller quantities at a lower price."
That's why the company has some prestigious clients, including a contract to build battery housings for the United States Army's B-52 bomber.
"We also make oxygen mask compartments for other types of aircraft," Conner said, "and several other styles of battery housings for aircraft."
Each batch of parts is subject to stringent quality control inspections, which are documented and provided to the customer upon request.
The process used to make precision parts is somewhat mind-boggling, with the customer having to first imagine and design the part either flat or on a 3D file that can be "taken down" to form a horizontal pattern.
"It's pretty amazing what we can do digitally," added Mark Conner, sales and marketing manager. "What's fun about working here is we open the [computer] file and two weeks later, we have a finished part that matches that file."
Turning the customer's vision into reality is the work of three dedicated computer technicians, who write specific programs for the automated machinery.
"We drill one hole at a time and make one punch at a time, while the part is flat," Dan said. "Then we bend the metal and complete whatever other operations are required."
The company has also started promoting value-added components, not only making the metal housings but purchasing and installing some of the fuses, mother boards or other parts as well.
"For example, this fuse box is one we manufactured here," Dan said, "but we purchased the fuses from our customer, install them, put their name on the product and ship it out."
"That's how much our customers trust us," added Mark.
"Even though some of our customers started ordering parts from China, they didn't have the same quality, and some of those customers are returning to us," said Dan.
Attention to detail, prompt service and customer satisfaction are the keys to IMEC's success.
"We follow the basic philosophy upon which IMEC was founded: controlled growth, providing close tolerance machined and sheet metal parts; and most importantly, taking pride in what we do," said Eric Merriman, plant manager. "We just use bigger and fancier equipment now."
"We focus on building parts and assemblies that will last, that will endure," Dan said. "Just like with or business."