Location:
Boise, Idaho
Founded:
2002

With new digs on the horizon, the precision machining company continues to add capabilities in response to market demands.

For more than 20 years, CJ Precision Machine — owned by Jerry Whitehead and Carl Engle — has manufactured critical parts across a variety of industries. With services ranging from CNC machining and prototyping to production and assembly, the Boise-based company demonstrates a level of malleability that is uncommon within such specialized manufacturing worlds. Though they can’t quite literally make everything, the company is able to tackle most projects and find the best solution by leaning on its array of equipment and the seasoned veterans operating it.

“There are very few parts we can’t make,” says Sales and Engineering Manager John Ianson. “With the capabilities we have in-house — 5-axis mills, 7-axis lathes — we can support just about any industry. Low quantities, prototypes, large production runs — we provide the whole deal. We’re a full-service CNC chop shop.”

Should CJ Precision turn down a project, it is often a result of the actual size of the part being produced, rather than whether it can or cannot produce it. “We don’t turn very much down, but if we do, it’s usually because someone is asking for a super-large part, which we do have some limitations around,” says Ianson.

As a requirement for its ability to take on so many different types of projects, the members of the team shapeshift on a daily basis.

“We all do a lot of things around here,” says Ianson who, in addition to sales and engineering, also works in marketing. “And one of the most gratifying parts of working at CJ Precision is always learning. I’m getting close to retirement — I’ve been in this trade since I was 20 years old — yet I’m still learning new things. That’s probably the most exciting thing for me: there’s never an end to the learning.”

He adds, “You never really know what or who’s going to walk through our door. We may be working on a part that goes up on a rocket one day, and the next day, we’re talking to an entrepreneur wanting to build the world’s largest bear trap.”

Currently, CJ Precision’s primary markets are the aerospace, motorsports, and firearm components industries, respectively. They also work in the semiconductor, solar, food processing, beverage, automobile, military, and medical worlds. If the project is the right fit, the business is ready and willing to take it on.

In the process of moving into a new location, CJ Precision Machine currently operates out of a shop that is 4,000 square feet and an office of about 380 square feet. At 9,500 square feet of shop and 950 square feet of office space, the company’s new digs are expected to result in business expansion and growth. And with close to 60 different materials suppliers in its roster, CJ Precision Machine has a strong backbone for keeping business humming along.

Photos courtesy CJ Precision Machine

Challenges: Currently, one of CJ Precision’s biggest challenges is producing parts with very little physical room for error. With some projects, the tolerance might be less than under a thousandth of an inch. “Especially in the aerospace world, our tolerance range can be six-tenths of a thousandth on some parts,” says Ianson. “Those are high-risk parts. We’re successful, but those types of parts can be some of our biggest challenges at this time.”

Opportunities: Looking ahead, Ianson sees the new space and its potential as a bit of a launching pad for the next phase of the business — which is expected to be fertile ground for growing and expanding company offerings and its number of employees.

“We’re looking forward to growing the company, adding more people to the mix, and continuing to make it a nice place to work at,” says Ianson. “The owner and I will both be retiring in the next couple of years — we hope — and I’d really like to see this current phase of growth through. But we do have a good group here, and they’re going to be fine without us. Really, it comes down to determining when is the right time to step away.”

Needs: CJ Precision Machine has a very pragmatic approach to addressing company needs: what kind of work is being turned down, what will change that, and is the work in a market they want to work in?

“As far as needs go, looking at it from a sales and growth perspective, I do keep track of jobs that we turn down because we don’t have the capability or equipment to do it,” says Ianson. “And our plan is to acquire that equipment. For example, right now, I’ve turned down a lot of machine work that’s tailored to a lot of screw machines. Internally, we’ve said, ‘Why don’t we get a screw machine?’ We add capability based on what we can’t do and what there seems to be a market for.”

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