Custom plastics and metal processor Altek Inc. of Liberty Lake, Wash., is evolving into a contract manufacturer.
Altek, which employs 167, has invested $2 million in a flexible manufacturing system, injection molding automation and process technologies to differentiate Altek in the arduous Pacific Northwest region.
Other steps - diversifying its customer base and upgrading financial controls - ``simply keep us stable and out of hardship,'' said Michael Marzetta, president since July and with the company since 1996. Khaja Ansari joined Altek as vice president of operations in May 2001, bringing work experience from major contract manufacturers.
``We felt that the market dictated further diversification and integration,'' Marzetta said. ``Companies that do not continue to add more value to the customer will see margins erode as more and more competition emerges into the component and commodity portions of the business.''
In late 2000, one telecommunications customer represented more than 25 percent of Altek's annualized sales. Understanding its vulnerability, the company adopted an aggressive marketing strategy to reduce risk. The same customer accounts now for less than 5 percent of sales - which have grown overall.
Last year Altek had sales of $18.5 million; molding-related services accounted for about 51 percent. At 37 percent, machining was split between engineering thermoplastics and metals, while tooling and engineering represented 12 percent. Marzetta envisions sales exceeding $20 million this year.
Altek employs 150 in a 150,000-square-foot facility. It has four toolmakers and operates 32 injection molding machines with clamping forces of 28-880 tons. Most machines are 5-7 years old.
Capabilities include overmolding, insert molding, gas-assist and structural foam processes and services such as painting, electromechanical-interference shielding and part marking.
In addition to telecommunications, the company serves medical equipment, computer and instrumentation markets. Altek also does some of its production machining in a 20,000-square-foot facility in Portland, Ore., that employs 17.
On May 3, Altek was named Company of the Year by the Educational Society for Resource Management's Northwest Inland Empire chapter. The firm has been ISO 9001-certified since November 2001.
Within the region, Altek's improvement is countercyclical. Numerous original equipment manufacturers have moved work to Mexico and Asia, and about a dozen plastics processors have closed or consolidated plants.
Marzetta's father, Allan, started the business as a tool and die shop in his Otis Orchards, Wash., garage in 1976 and continues as chairman and chief executive officer.