Tucson, Arizona

President Don Theriault’s company, Industrial Tool, Die & Engineering is attracting the attention of Tier One and Tier Two aerospace OEMs with its focus on customer service and continual process improvement.

Founded 50 years ago by Theriault’s father, Industrial Tool, Die & Engineering (or ITDE), has traversed a number of industries over the past five decades. Though the company’s initial focus was within the mining industry, its customer base is now comprised mainly of military and commercial aerospace manufacturers including Boeing, Airbus, Honeywell, Raytheon, and Parker Aerospace.

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Photos Jonathan Castner

Theriault, who worked in the restaurant business for a while in his younger years before returning to ITDE, says that the ever-changing variety manufacturing offers is ultimately what drew him back to the family-owned business. “Every day is a new day here,” he explains. “Sure, there are frustrations. But I love the industry. I love the challenge, and I try to promote that with my people, too.”

Theriault’s team is known for their unparalleled attention to detail and the customer service they provide. “We get a lot of feedback from our customers on this,” he continues. “[They appreciate] how we manage our deliveries, how we do feedback to customers if there are issues, how we collaborate with the customer on new designs to make a part manufacturable. I think our sweet spot, so to speak, is in customer service as well as more complex parts.”

With an extensive list of certifications and registrations — including ISO 9001:2015, AS9100D, and ITAR — the company is also DFARS 252.204-7012 and NIST SP 800-171 compliant. Utilization of 6 Sigma methodologies enables the ITDE team to maintain an impressive on-time delivery rate average of 98 percent.

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“Those kind of numbers are hard to achieve,” Theriault says, “but with customer interaction, it’s possible. If a customer reschedules one part, we start working on a different one — and we satisfy the customers that way. We always do cause corrective action for rejects, and continuously do process improvements. We’re always measuring ourselves [to determine] whether we’re getting better or worse.”

With more than 100 machines in the company’s 30,000-square-foot workspace, ITDE provides customers with manufacturing engineering, parts prototyping, and contract production services utilizing Gibbs 5-Axis CAM and Solidworks software, CNC lathes, 7-axis multitasking machines, ITAR laser marking, and EDM machining. The team can manufacture parts from aluminum, magnesium, stainless steel, titanium, and nickel alloys as well as more exotic, high-temp materials such as tungsten — all sourced from the U.S. or allied countries.

Challenges: While some businesses have struggled throughout the COVID-19 pandemic, Theriault says that ITDE enjoyed “the best year we ever had in our 50-year history” in 2020. However, he notes that 2021 and 2022 have been another story. “We’re down about 10 percent in 2021 from 2020,” he continues. “And in 2022, we’re down another 10 percent from 2021. Those are the two challenging years for us.”

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Theriault cites a slowdown in aerospace business as the culprit. “On the military side, it hasn’t really slowed down,” he adds. “But on the commercial side, it has really dropped off. Some of that is coming around now with more flights happening and more aircraft shipping.”

Opportunities: Theriault sees a new awareness of the need for back-up suppliers amongst OEMs as the biggest opportunity for ITDE today.

“Tier Ones have relooked at their supply base to try to see why they’ve had so many disruptions,” he continues. “A lot of it might be from being stuff that was offshored. Or even stuff that was made in the U.S. that didn’t have a second source ready to go at a moment’s notice to produce the parts. Aerospace parts are long lead items, be it the materials or the processes involved. It’s not like you can flip a switch and get parts tomorrow. Some of our larger OEM customers have decided to [invest in] second sourcing options.”

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Needs: “An experienced workforce,” Theriault says of his company’s needs. “I believe that will be ongoing for quite some time. But we’re really involved in workforce development with our local group, the Southern Arizona Manufacturing Partners.”

Theriault explains that though the COVID-19 pandemic put a damper on the SAMP’s workforce development partnerships the last two years, the group is now renewing its efforts to recruit recent high school graduates into 16-week internships with area manufacturers as well guide them into associate degree programs in manufacturing at Pima Community College in Tucson.

“Now the numbers of students coming out of these programs with some experience is much better,” he adds.