Founder Dan Austin’s contract manufacturer is targeting growth in aerospace and defense — thanks in part to the continued evolution of welding technology.
The son of a metal fabricator, Austin learned the tricks of the welding trade early on and began parlaying them into a source of income while still in college.
“During one semester, I decided to go out to a couple of shops I hear may need some welding help,” Austin says. “But they wouldn’t give me any work because they didn’t trust anyone with their equipment [without a referral]. So, I decided to take a break from my classes, and during that time, word got around that I was doing plastic injection mold repair — microscopic welding. Suddenly, the people that wouldn’t give me work were asking me to repair their molds.”
Austin’s business kept rolling — but not without its share of challenges to navigate. Despite a demand for his services, Austin struggled to bring others into the fold who could replicate his welding expertise.
“I developed a welding skill — which I mostly did in the beginning — that was difficult to re-create with others,” he says. “After about five years, I was able to afford some machining equipment — a mill, a miniature lathe — and was able to get dependable help on that. Once I started doing more of the machining, I was able to build a team and begin expanding from there.”
Today, more than 40 years since he started B&D Precision, Austin and his company are among the most sought-after players in the industry — both as a result of his proprietary welding methodology and his team’s slick machining capabilities. Their customers include manufacturers in the military and aerospace, medical and dental, automobile, eyewear, irrigation, consumer, and even packaging industries.
Austin notes that the evolution of welding technology — including better tooling power — has resulted in increasingly better jobs and opportunities. “The welding equipment power supplies have been refined throughout the industry which has helped,” he says. “The availability of microscopic welding wires and all of the tool skills available have been refined, and it used to be only large aerospace companies that could have a laser welder.”
Additionally, the company’s capacity to meet its customers’ needs has grown significantly since the 1980s when Austin was, for better or worse, a one-man show.
“We have a team of two or three employees that are able to define the customer’s needs — oftentimes, even better than the customer can,” says Austin. “We also have software systems that help chart projects and keep it accessible at all times. A customer can call at any time and grab an update on their project.”
B&D Precision’s 8,000-square-foot manufacturing space includes a precision grinding room — which consists of OD and ID grinders, jig grinders, and surface grinders– a CNC lathe service, a CNC mill, and laser welding repair and microscopic TIG welding. With so much automation available, Austin says he would even entertain the idea of robotic welding, should the right work come along.
Challenges: One of the company’s great challenges is perfecting its operating systems — a task Austin and his team began tackling during the pandemic. “We’ve implemented systems in the past that seem to just fade away after time,” he says. “Often, we lose focus on our systems, but we now have a shop manual with these systems written out, and we are trying to ensure that we’re implementing them accordingly. The pandemic really gave us the time to move in a more organized direction.”
Opportunities: As a result of its growth, B&D Precision has been able to bring two new project managers into the fold — thus improving its ability to keep up with the paperwork-heavy demands of working within the military and aerospace industries.
“The military and aerospace projects have been promising,” Austin says. “Because of the typical paperwork involved in each field, in the past, I wasn’t willing to fully pursue either. But now that I have two new project managers that are able to stay on top of the requirements, we’ve been able to take those projects on, which has been very exciting.”
Needs: Stronger communication between all parties involved to ensure sustained efficiency.
“Sometimes, we get wrapped up in a lot of inefficient movement,” says Austin. “Because we’re all so busy, it’s easy to lose track of how and why we’re moving the way that we are. But if we just stop and look at why we’re all so busy, it’s easier to notice the inefficient and lost motion throughout. For a few hours each week, I analyze and try to pinpoint where we could be better.”