Just as it was moving into a larger facility that would allow it to double in size, Mar-Tek Industries Inc. was notified that it won the Blue Chip Enterprise Initiative Award, sponsored in part by the Chamber of Commerce. Mar-Tek is an Englewood, Colo.-based plastics and metal fabricator of parts for the aerospace, telecommunications, medical and gasoline pump industries, and provides secondary services such as graphic screen printing.
The company operates from its newly leased, 17,000-square-foot facility and employs 43. President and owner Irene J. Smith expects the company to grow to $3.8 million in sales this year from $3.2 million last year.
The company was notified late last year of its selection for the chamber award. Smith said she likes the wording on the award, that the winning companies were those that ``decided to succeed.''
``That was definitely true in my case,'' Smith said. ``It wasn't an attitude that I'd go into business and see if this works. I decided I'd make this work.''
Smith attributes the success of Mar-Tek, which has grown every year since its founding in 1987, to all the people working together as a team, and learning to operate smarter and more efficiently as industry changes.
``Suppliers are being beat black and blue these days, but it's also causing manufacturing to evolve to a whole different level of quality,'' she said.
``Quality control as we've known it in the past is nonexistent today,'' she said, adding that many original equipment makers have eliminated in-house inspection of incoming parts.
Vendors are graded on their performance history and whether they are ISO 9000 certified.
On the purchasing side, Smith sees more of the management of components being pushed onto suppliers. New programs put the onus on the supplier to know when to ship.
There is even a system called the ``bread man'' system, in which the supplier goes to the customer and checks the parts bins. If inventory for a particular part is at a specific, predetermined level, the supplier fills the bin back to the level necessary.
``It all boils down to basically the same thing,'' said Smith. ``We're being asked to take more of the responsibility while at the same time reduce costs.''
Mar-Tek expects to have ISO 9001 certification by year's end.
``We had to become certified in order to qualify for AT&T's gold lever supplier status,'' Smith said.
Mar-Tek supplies AT&T as well as Lucent Technologies Inc., the telephone equipment business spun off by AT&T.
Smith, who describes herself as an ``entrepreneur since 1969,'' said part of her strategy for growth has been to do business with only large corporations despite the added demands they place on even small suppliers.
``That's just the niche of the business I've chosen,'' she said. ``We do very tight-tolerance, precision work. Besides, they also pay their bills.''
Smith said being a female entrepreneur has not always been easy.
When she started Mar-Tek, she said, it took her two years to find a bank willing to work with a woman.