Owner/Machinist Carlton Whitehead sees an opportunity to grow his machine shop’s prototyping business while simultaneously moving into higher-volume manufacturing.
Working in job shops since the early 2000s, Whitehead says he brings a ground-level perspective to Per Revolution Machining. As a machinist himself, he understands the ins and outs of the trade, and he sees that as a big differentiator.
“I came from aerospace machine shops,” he explains. “I wanted to do things differently. There was a specific way machinists are treated, and a lot of shops in the Denver area are not owned by machinists.”
Whitehead started out with a single CNC machine in his home garage in 2017, where he worked until 2019. Now based in a 2,500-square-foot shop on the northern fringes of Denver, Per Revolution offers CNC machining on a pair of mills and a pair of lathes. “I can do everything from prototyping to large runs of parts,” says Whitehead.
ITAR registration allows for a focus on aerospace and defense, but Per Revolution has manufacturer clients in medical imaging, supercomputing, and other industries as well. “It’s mainly high-precision,” says Whitehead. “A lot of my customers require a lot of precision. My machines hold really great tolerances.”
In 2018, Whitehead brought on a lathe specialist to help with the increasing workload. “He worked at a previous shop I did a lot of work with, and that owner retired and shut his machine shop down. I knew what he could do and we got along really well, so it made sense to have him come along.”
The emphasis on defense-related projects dovetails into Whitehead’s background. “I’m a Marine Corps vet,” he says. “I was a machine gunner in the Marine Corps.”
An early project at Per Revolution leveraged this experience with a client who was developing machine gun mounts that could handle both the M240 and the M249 on a variety of different vehicles.
Whitehead says a collaborative approach led to a better product. “The engineer, me, and the owner of the company, working together, we were able to make a machine gun mount that specifically mounts to both of those machine guns and has multiple axis points and can be fitted, whether it’s Humvees or it’s side-by-sides or it’s helicopters, on multiple different types of vehicles that the military uses.”
The client successfully won a military contract for the mounts, says Whitehead.
Per Revolution doubled its sales annually in its first years, and has settled in at about a 30 percent growth clip since 2020. Whitehead says he remains focused on customer communication and rapid — typically two to three weeks, and “sometimes even faster” — turnaround times.
Challenges: “There’s been a really big challenge in finding materials,” says Whitehead. “A lot of the difficulty has been in finding certain amounts of stainless steel that are DFARS and certified materials.”
Opportunities: “I love doing the prototyping — that’s kind of my niche — but I hope to one day move out of that area and move a little bit more into some production-style jobs that have large quantities,” says Whitehead. “That way, I don’t have to rely on such specialty machinists.”
Such jobs are increasingly available, he adds, due in large part to reshoring, but one key with higher-volume work is “not having to design extravagant fixturing to make parts,” he notes.
Needs: “Another me,” says Whitehead. “I’ve been looking for the right fit for a third person for a while. Right now, I’m working 12-hour days, 16-hour days to just even keep up. I’m picky — I want to find the right person.” The plan also includes a third mill — likely a 5-axis model — in tandem with that third employee.
Whitehead says he wants to build a machinist-friendly culture as the company grows: “I want them to be happy where they work. I don’t want people to feel like they need to look for another job or be insecure about their job.”