Recent winner of the Arizona Manufacturers Council’s Excellence in Innovation Award, President Scott Heiling’s automation manufacturer continues along a virtually unstoppable growth trajectory.
Heitek Automation was founded upon a very simple principle: the world can be made better through automation. Launched in 2000 by Dan Heiling, Scott’s brother, the Arizona headquartered business started as a distributor of pneumatic parts — though it quickly became evident that the company was primed for even more than that. Within the first decade of its existence, Heitek Automation not only expanded its distribution capabilities, but also added in-house engineering, design, consulting, and manufacturing departments to its name.
Scott joined the company as president in the early 2010s to oversee business finances, operations, accounting, customer service, shipping and receiving, manufacturing, and quality assurance. Over the years, Heitek’s staff has grown from a mere three employees to a whopping 125. Every bit of the company’s evolution has served to further its original goal.
“We exist to serve the underserved markets,” Scott says. “If there is a market that isn’t being served properly in the automation market, we’ll examine it and ask ourselves, ‘How can we get in there and actually provide a strong service for that?'”
Heitek’s hybrid business model is broken down into two primary sections: wholesale distribution and manufacturing. They have distribution partnerships with brands like Siemens, Festo, and Nexen, and they focus on manufacturing industrial control and automation products used either by machine builders for automating processes or end users.
“Because we have direct access to these products from the manufacturers, we have found it to be a competitive advantage for us to integrate these items together in a complete package and sell them to machine builders or end users as a complete system,” says Scott.
Heitek Automation has been so successful at this hybrid business model that in October 2022, they won the Excellence in Innovation Award from the Arizona Manufacturers Council.
“It was a huge honor for us to win that award; we were not expecting it,” Scott says. “I think the reason we were up for this award is that we’re a very fast-growing company, and we’re adopting a lot of technologies, and we implement innovation in our manufacturing. We’re not afraid to try things and to fail. We believe strongly in adopting new technologies to stay relevant. Winning the award was very gratifying and very affirming that what we’re doing is being recognized and is making a difference.”
In addition to manufacturing locations in Golden, Colorado, and Albuquerque, New Mexico, Heitek Automation recently moved its headquarters into a new 42,000-square-foot space in Phoenix, Arizona — an upgrade sure to increase its manufacturing capacity.
“We only had 18,000 square feet in our previous [Arizona] facility, and we just outgrew the space,” says Scott. “We needed room to expand our operations, so we moved this past summer, and we hope it will be able to support our expansion for the next five to 10 years.”
Challenges: A significant issue Heitek Automation and many other manufacturers are facing is the shortage of employees ready and available to jump into work. A number of reasons — some pertaining to the manufacturing industry at large, and some pertaining to a remarkably low unemployment rate — have left the cupboard bare, so to speak.
“There’s definitely a shortage of available workforce,” says Scott. “Things are at an all-time low percentage of unemployment, so it’s very difficult to get employees. We’re taking a look at ourselves in-house to see what we can automate to improve efficiency without having to hire new people.”
Additionally, supply chain issues — one of the consistent, ever-present pandemic challenges — has given Heitek problems as well.
“We can’t get products fast enough, and it’s definitely putting a little bit of a damper on growth — not just for us, but for a lot of other manufacturers and customers,” Scott continues.
Needs: In the world of automation, staying at the forefront of innovation and evolution is paramount to sustained success. Heitek’s circumstances are no different.
“There’s always room for us to improve when it comes to staying ahead of the curve technology-wise,” says Scott. “We’re constantly adapting to new technology that’s always changing and evolving. In the world that we’re living in — in terms of industrial and automation products –people are able to develop things differently and faster than have ever before, and they can do so in so many different ways.”
Opportunities: Heitek’s reach in the southwestern part of the United States is not only ideal as the area continues to grow in population, but also in possibilities of expansion for the company. More people equal more business opportunities.
“I love the area that we’re in,” says Scott. “I think what’s going on with definitely Arizona, Utah, and Colorado — there is a population growth in these areas, where there are people moving in, which attracts companies to move in, too. We’re seeing more and more companies move into our area, which is giving us an opportunity to sell more products as well as to collaborate with other businesses.”