Bringing New Life to the Trade
Family-run Dynomax Inc. was founded by Dr. Richard Zic, and it has grown from its early beginnings in a Chicago basement to become a multi-faceted manufacturing and engineering company and one of the largest original equipment manufacturers for machine tool spindles in North America.
Dynomax Inc. presently has eight facilities and half a million feet of production space, and it takes great pride in the work it does. “We have several different business units where we do machine tool spindles – one of our product lines,” says Mark Zic, business development manager of Dynomax Inc. and son of its founder, Dr. Richard Zic. “We also offer service and support for other people’s manufacturing equipment.”
Dynomax Inc. also provides custom injection molding, metal finishing, engineering services and precision machining. “We have anything from micro-miniature, small medical-type parts, all the way up to large aerostructures,” says Zic.
However, what really sets Dynomax Inc. apart is how it can get most of its work done in-house. “Because of the fact that we’re vertical and that we design, develop and maintain all products in-house, there are very few things that we actually have to go outside for,” says Zic. “Pretty much all areas of engineering specialization exist inside of Dynomax Inc. Whether it’s mechanical, electrical, or chemical, we have it internally.”
One of Dynomax Inc.’s challenges, however, is finding skilled metalworkers. “To some, manufacturing is perceived as a dying trade. It’s shrinking, and there’s a huge gap. A lot of the workers who are presently very skilled at metalworking, are getting ready to retire, and there’s not really a crop of people in back of them,” says Zic.
Because it is so competitive and hard to find skilled metal workers, Dynomax Inc. has instituted an apprenticeship program that it markets to local high schools. The apprenticeship program is attracting a new generation to the trade of metalworking.
“We’re pulling in kids. We’re hosting facility tours, bringing these kids by and talking to their guidance counselors,” says Zic. “For some of these kids, they’re mechanically inclined but have no interest in learning accounting or finance, or things like that. So, we put them into an apprenticeship program. We train them; we pay them; we have them here forty hours a week where they’re getting on-the-job training.”
Dynomax Inc. has also developed a community college curriculum with some of the local schools. “They learn to prepare proper shop notes and reviews for their employees and things like that,” says Zic. “There is nothing wrong with learning a trade. Not everyone is interested in going to university or college. And there are other things you can do to make an honest living.”
The program is geared toward high school graduates, and even though the company has occasionally employed high school students, it does not typically do so. “We’re interested in the kids that are graduating high school but are choosing not to go to college,” says Zic. “It’s very important that they work here forty hours a week because they want to get paid. They want to make real money. We don’t have them here as unpaid interns or unpaid apprentices. We actually pay them a good, decent enough starting salary, and then, when they graduate, they know exactly what they’re going into.”
At the end of the apprenticeship program, if apprentices obtain a certain grade point average and show good performance while training, they are guaranteed a job where they start at level two instead of level one, in whatever area of the company it is that they went into.
“They are immediately making a real salary,” says Zic. “They don’t have to worry about bouncing from place to place, trying to craft their own education and then perhaps, not really learning the right things to do in manufacturing.”
One of Dynomax Inc.’s recent benchmarks is its addition of a 230,000-square-foot facility adjacent to its corporate headquarters. “We’re slowly moving toward creating a corporate campus, and we’re bringing more and more people into one location,” says Zic.
“It really gets us working together with added benefits and synergy from having different trades closer to each other. Beforehand, we had a lot of the trades separated from building to building. Now, we’re bringing those trades closer together and finding that there is crossover. For example, a tooling person that does something for the plastic side of the business may actually help with a problem in the air space side, simply because that person approaches the problem in a different way. It’s like having a fresh pair of eyes.”
Dynomax Inc. knows it is important to have a high-quality product that is globally competitive. “It’s always about keeping in mind the customers’ wants and needs and taking care of the customer,” says Zic. “If you listen to your customers and give them what they want, you’ll always be successful.”
When it comes to marketing, Dynomax Inc. has a hands-on approach. “We use some social media, between Twitter, Facebook and blog postings, but we prefer being out there with customers,” says Zic. “We like to say ‘You’re not going to meet a new customer in the office.’ So, we like to go to trade shows and really talk to customers and understand what their pinch-points are. We like to have that dialogue, put a face to the name and really build that relationship.”
“Considering how the aerospace business development cycle is so long, and even in other businesses (for example, spindles and plastics), someone is trusting you to a large program, where you can easily shut it down if you don’t do it right. So you have to have that personal relationship there so they get to know you and you earn their trust.”
Dynomax Inc. plans ongoing growth and expansion of its aerostructures division. “Right now, we’re looking at larger assemblies. We have the ability to make the parts. We have the ability to finish the parts with surface treatments – anodizing, passivation, painting,” says Zic.
“We are doing assembly – riveting and structural. But now the goal is to go larger – larger assemblies – and then, perhaps, in the five-year horizon, start looking into also bringing in composite structure, where we’re doing integrated metallic composites all together.”
“That’s where you see a lot of aircraft programs going. They’re adding composites for strength, lightweight ability and fuel reduction. So, it’s most likely only a matter of time before Dynomax Inc. enters the composites market.”
As Dynomax Inc. continues to secure long-term agreements with customers, add to its product line, increase sales presence and show positive growth, the goal is to double in size eventually. “Commercial aerospace is a very large growth market right now, and we’re well established in it,” says Zic.