Anaheim Precision Manufacturing (APM) is a manufacturing business specializing in the design, development and fabrication of components and assemblies. The industries it serves include aerospace defense and military, commercial-industrial, consumer and retail.
Within APM’s industry, the company is unique due to its one-stop-shop approach. Growth is steady and ongoing, but controlled so as to not take away from customer service. The challenges are many, but as Chief Operating Officer Joe Puccio explains, the company likes and thrives on a challenge.
Joe Puccio’s father started the business about thirty-five years ago as a sheet metal fabrication outfit, and fifteen years ago, it expanded to include machining. Over that time, it has developed into a full service vertical and horizontal milling company. It acquired a turning and grinding house and a painting and coating facility to provide a full range of services.
APM has hired experts for each of its categories of fabrication. “We always keep an expert involved in each area of our organization,” says Joe, emphasizing the importance of ensuring that every field offered by the company is a core competency and not just another process. “We don’t really have one specialization that we do better at than another – we are competent in all of them.”
APM’s abilities shine when it builds a full-scale assembly. Some of its components are lightweight, robust and durable pilot controls with mechanical parts, sheet metal components, machine components or high precision turn components. It performs all necessary processes and delivers one finished product to the customer’s specifications.
“A big push for us is for customers to order higher level assemblies that require some element of all our processes, giving us maximum control over all those things, resulting in a higher quality deliverable.”
This control over every aspect of the build means the ability to shorten lead times with a higher level of quality control as the complete assembly is built at a single facility. If it is an assembly that requires fifty components, APM will process all fifty into one final assembly, with only one inspection cost attached, lowering costs for the client.
APM has two types of customers. One will come to them with a complete design. A quote is developed based on that blueprint and parts are built and assembled as per the client’s requirements. The other type of customer is the one who comes with a need to solve a problem. APM designs and manufactures a component to solve that issue. It is then presented, and the sale is made after the testing is done. At this point, APM owns the design through the life of the program for that particular aircraft.
As for competition, APM finds itself in a unique position of replacing multiple separate vendors. It has competitors on the sheet metal end of the business as well as in machining, turning and grinding and a whole slew of competitors in painting. However, it has no competitors who can offer all services. The more processes it integrates, the fewer rivals can compete. This business model ultimately saves the customer time and money; dealing with fewer outside vendors reduces back and forth delivery time along with fluctuating costs and standards.
When it comes to aerospace industries products – APM’s most important niche – the company tends to deal with, “things that are quite rare, difficult and require some out of the box thinking.”
Solving the difficult problems sometimes involves devising new methods but it has certainly been worth the effort. “We developed a product for one of our customers that has morphed and is now on four of their aircraft. Eventually, it will roll into more and more. It was a very unique problem that we were able to solve using all of our elements.”
One of the main challenges faced by APM has to do with lower volume dock to stock systems where it is expected to build just in time (JIT) at lower volumes while maintaining lower costs. In manufacturing, when dealing with lower volumes, the setup costs and the part prices increase. This forces APM to use standardized setups, tools and turret loads to lower set up costs.
“We are able to still maintain our lower cost and build lower volume, which has always been a challenge. It works because we are a proactive company. We are small enough to be flexible, but we are also able to compete with companies that are three to four times our size, and then we can scale back and compete with companies that are two to three times smaller than us.”
This success is partly due to the compartmentalization of APM. It has each of the processes – the machine shop, sheet metal, turning and dying, painting and assembly facilities – operating nearly autonomously within the company.
APM ships products all over the world. From Poland to India to the US, requests come in from all corners of the planet. Business began to expand beyond American boundaries about ten years ago when its footprint grew in the aerospace industry, and companies around the world saw the value of the products that APM was developing and the innovative techniques being used.
Aerospace is a security sensitive industry that falls under the International Traffic in Arms Regulations (ITAR) and the Export Administration Regulations (EAR). The requirements of these two United States export control groups affect the manufacturing, sales and distribution of technology of companies such as APM. ITAR requirements restrict APM in communicating documents.
“In some of the low-cost countries that we deal with, there are big aerospace organizations that have facilities there that they are shipping to. We have to be really careful about the kind of data we transfer back and forth. We have to make sure that we are authorized to send data back and forth and drawings, so there is a lot of verification.”
Moving forward, APM is working on designing lighter pilot controls. The centre pedestal assembly, between the pilot and co-pilot, contains the throttle levers. One of these pedestal assemblies weighs 15.5 pounds whereas the predecessor to that design weighed 28 pounds. To remove 13 pounds from an aircraft is significant in the aerospace industry. This was accomplished by using a combination of sheet metal elements – where applicable – and machine elements while still meeting the load requirements.
The short term goal of the company is to be always on time with perfect quality results for customers. “That is the carrot that we are always chasing.” For long term goals, APM wants to become more of a product supplier rather than a build-to-print organization.
Currently, it builds about thirty percent of its product, designed to customer specifications. The customer owns the design, but APM owns the manufacturing rights for the life of the component build. The goal is to go from thirty percent over the next five years to sixty percent. Over the next fifteen to twenty years, it should be at one hundred percent.
“Our current business will be our sustainable program, but we are built into the life of the aircraft. We are building the same part over and over again – hopefully on our paper – and then we are supporting our customers in that fashion. Then we will spin off a company to maintain all the build-to-print stuff we are doing today.”
APM wants to maintain its steady twenty-five percent annual growth. It will attempt to spin more of that growth into the sustainable programs that will eventually become two separate companies. “Both of the companies will be about the same size we are today. Ten years from now, we will not have lost that personal touch with our customers because that is the most important thing to us.”