Exacto puts the spring in automotive, medical industries

Exacto Spring Corp.
1201 Hickory St., Grafton
Industry: Precision springs
Employees: 150

From your alarm clock to your treadmill and from your car to your lawnmower, there is a good chance Exacto Spring Corp. played a role in it.

“We’re part of everyday life,” said president Greg Heitz. “In everything you’re involved with, there’s usually a spring. We like to say we’re everywhere you are.”

Exacto is a manufacturer of precision springs and wire forms, producing close to 1 billion of them every year.

Springs to be used in an automotive application.

It exclusively made all of the keyboard springs used in the first IBM computers in the ’80s, but today the automotive industry represents half of its business. According to Heitz, a typical American-made car contains nearly 100 Exacto springs.

The medical industry accounts for 25 percent of its business, and it also serves the appliance industry and the military.

“Our niche is we don’t make basic springs,” Heitz said. “We’re in critical applications. A lot of our products will save your life in a car accident or on an operating table.”

Founded in Rockford, Ill., in 1960, Exacto moved to Grafton four years later in order to be closer to its customers. It moved into a 4,000-square-foot facility, which has seen approximately 10 additions over the past 50 years. Today, Exacto occupies two nearby buildings with a total square footage of 125,000, and two years ago it bought a 20,000-square-foot building across the street that is used as a receiving center and storage area.

“We’re maxed out on space here, but the other building has freed up space in here to add equipment and new work cells to keep up with our growth,” Heitz said.

According to Heitz, Exacto’s growth is all organic and is due to new customers, new markets and more involvement in successful applications.

The second generation, family-owned company has experienced growth in all sectors of its business for the past four years. Additionally, the company’s sales have increased by 45 percent since 2009 and by roughly 10 percent since last year.

Exacto, which employs 150, has increased its workforce by 25 percent since 2009. It filled about 10 positions in 2014, and is currently hiring for 10 set-up technicians and inspectors.

It can take up to a couple of years for employees to learn the spring-making process, and all of the company’s employees are trained internally. Right now, Exacto conducts training in the plant, but Heitz said his goal is to create a formal training center in the storage and receiving center building.

Exacto has thousands of part numbers, and all of its products are 100 percent customized. The wires Exacto buys come from all over the world and range in diameter from 0.001-inch (half the thickness of a human hair) to 0.156-inch.”  

The wire is then bent using one of Exacto’s 175 pieces of automated equipment. Each machine makes the spring differently, but all go through a stress relieving oven to retain their tension.

Depending on the complexity of the part, it can take anywhere from an hour to a week to make a spring.

Exacto ships to approximately 20 countries, and has hundreds of customers who make orders for anywhere from one part to 100 million parts. Exacto also offers design assistance.

One of its customers is General Motors, which awarded Exacto its 2014 General Motors Supplier Quality Excellence Award, which recognizes top-performing suppliers that have met a stringent set of quality performance criteria.

Exacto has 175 pieces of automated equipment to make precision springs and wire forms.

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