President Kevin Shipley’s cutting-edge contract manufacturer has its sights set on space after exploring other frontiers over its 25-year history.

Shipley did not launch One Source Manufacturing with its current client base — primarily companies in the semiconductor and aerospace industries — in mind. Rather, his intentions were a bit simpler.

“I didn’t want a boss,” says Shipley. “I never thought this company would get this big. But what I wanted to do was be responsible for myself. I came out of semiconductor, so that’s where we started. From there, we [added] oil and gas for a little while, which was like doing business with a yo-yo. So, we got out.”

Photos Bart Taylor

After expanding into manufacturing for the medical industry for 10 years, Shipley pivoted his company towards aerospace. “[Medical] wasn’t growing for us,” he explains. “It took too much of our resources for 20 percent of our revenue. There were a lot of rules and regulations, and it became more and more expensive to be in that market. It took about two years to get some traction in [aerospace].”

Now, 25 years later, Shipley has worked the majority of the kinks out of One Source Manufacturing’s business model. A key part of the process was getting very specific with the company’s purpose: contract manufacturing of precision machined parts.

“In the semiconductor arena, we make parts for the machines that process semiconductors,” Shipley says. “In the aerospace industry, we’re a contract manufacturer with precision machine components. Our customers are often Fortune 500 companies. We’re a production shop. We’re not a prototype shop. We aren’t a design shop.”

As One Source Manufacturing has evolved over time, so has the technology and equipment it uses. “You look at your cellphone now than what NASA had when they put a man on the moon,” Shipley explains. “That technology has grown within the manufacturing industry too. The metrology tools are way better than they used to be. Machine tools are better. The tooling itself is better. Our precision has gotten better over the years because of the better tooling and machinery and metrology. It’s really quite awesome to see.”

Milling and turning are central to the company’s services, which are housed in a 38,000-square-foot machine shop in Leander. Milling spins the cutting tool against a stationary workpiece, while turning rotates the workpiece against a cutting tool. “In the semiconductor world, everything’s round,” says Shipley. “You have a round part, well that’s turning. But there are a lot of other milling parts. Aerospace is a lot more milling than turning.”

Challenges:
Though One Source Manufacturing specializes in helping send people to space, sending people items overnight has become an unexpectedly challenging aspect of the business as of late.

“In Texas, it used to be that if I sent you a UPS package from Austin to San Antonio overnight, on the ground, you’d get it overnight,” says Shipley. “Now, they guarantee you a week. This is a real challenge for us.”

Opportunities: Shipley sees two big reasons for optimism in his business — the first of which is the turning of the tide for semiconductor production.

“A lot of manufacturing is coming back to the United States,” says Shipley. “A lot of people are realizing that you can’t solely rely on foreign countries to do your manufacturing. We’re seeing that in the semiconductor industry. There are some really good signs in that industry that we’re bringing those jobs back to the United States.”

The second big reason is the commercialization of space.

“The thing about the space market is here in the next two to three weeks, we’re going to have parts [that we made] in space,” says Shipley. “We’ve had parts in sub-space, but we’re going to have parts in deep space. It’s a cool factor when you’re hiring someone. You know this part you’re working on is going to be strapped to a rocket and help people land on the moon.”

Needs:
Shipley cites lackluster skill development and opportunity education as roadblocks holding back manufacturing when compared to other workforce sectors.

“You can make a good living in manufacturing,” says Shipley. “If I had it my way, when kids got out of junior high or eighth grade, they’d go either toward the skills roadmap or an academic roadmap. When you look around, you call an electrician, and I bet you 90 percent of the time that guy will have grey hair. We just need to get these kids involved in the trades. There are a lot of people out there in the trades that make more than those with marketing degrees.”

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