National Technologies invests in growth

National Technologies Inc.

7641 S. 10th St., Oak Creek

Industry: precision CNC and screw machining

Employees: 160

National Technologies Inc. invested $3 million in a 40,000-square-foot addition to its Oak Creek facility last summer because “we were just bursting at the seams,” said president Tom Harrington.

The company, which makes CNC and screw machined metal parts for original equipment manufacturers, is putting the space to good use as OEMs ramp up production.

“Our customers are busy. We do a lot with construction equipment, a lot with engines and hydraulic equipment,” Harrington said. “It just seems like the segment we’re in is very active.”

Much of the heavy equipment being made with National Technologies’ parts is used for infrastructure construction overseas.

National Technologies also makes fluid controls and fuel systems for hydraulic machinery, such as the bucket lifts on construction equipment.

The company has added 30 of its 160 employees since the expansion. They work in two 10-hour shifts, so production is running 24 hours per day Monday through Friday, and usually half a day Saturday for overtime work.

National Technologies also added 20 new machines as part of the investment. There are now about 20 single spindle screw machines and 40 six-cylinder machines, as well as many CNC machine cells.

The screw machines are automated, so each employee works more than one machine.

“Once they’re set up, they run by themselves. All you need to do is keep restocking the bars,” Harrington said.

The company uses brass, steel, aluminum and other metal bar stock to make small to medium-sized parts, ranging from 1/16th of an inch to 18 inches in diameter.

National Technologies was founded in 1959 in a 2,500-square-foot building with two employees. Harrington bought the business from his father in 1980.

Over time, National Technologies has shifted from belt driven machines to automated spindle and CNC machines. As a result, it has expanded its capabilities to include single and multiple spindle screw machining, CNC milling, CNC turning and assembly.

“We’re much more versatile than we used to be. We’re not just a one trick pony,” Harrington said. “The parts we make today are much more sophisticated than the parts we made in ’59.”

The company makes its own cutting tools for production. It also provides machining engineering, quality assurance and value added services like heat treating and painting to customers.

“We don’t make anything until we’ve solved or answered all the questions that might be on a print,” Harrington said.

Making large volumes of small metal parts for OEMs requires efficiency and demonstrated value, Harrington said. National Technologies is competing with a global market of suppliers.

“We’re in a low margin industry and if you price yourself out of that industry, you won’t grow,” he said. “In this business, you need to continue to generate new work.”

So Harrington focuses on estimating and quick quoting, as well as long-term customer relationships.

The company keeps a large inventory on hand to fill customers’ fluctuating and unpredictable part orders.

“For one of our customers alone, we have parts that we’ve made for 50 years and we probably make 10,000 parts for them,” Harrington said. “We’re like a hardware store.”

National had about $22 million in annual revenue last year and expects 15 to 20 percent revenue growth this year.

Harrington already has all of his employees – including administrative employees – complete a Milwaukee Area Technical College certification in plant safety, shop math, measuring and other basic machinist skills.

Recently, the company also teamed up with Second Chance Partners for Education, a program that matches at-risk high school students with manufacturing careers. National Technologies will work with 16 children in an on-site classroom and provide hands-on manufacturing training.

The hope is to create a pipeline of students who could become employees at National Technologies.

“I think we’ll try and find people who want to go into this kind of manufacturing,” Harrington said.

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