Berthoud, Colorado

Serving diverse industries enables founder Aaron Cayce to keep his modern machining facility afloat despite market fluctuations.

Photos Jonathan Castner

After 26 years in machining and manufacturing, working in supervisory and lead positions and establishing multiple machine shops from the ground up, Cayce decided it was time to put that experience to work building his own company when he launched Phoenix Weaponry in 2014. Created to offer custom weapons manufacturing services, the shop quickly attracted the attention of several of Cayce’s former coworkers in aerospace and energy.

“Phoenix Manufacturing and Design, which is a DBA of Phoenix Weaponry, came about by accident as a result,” Cayce recalls. “We split it off as a job shop for customers in the medical, technology, automation, aerospace, automotive, and energy industries. And we can do everything from initial blueprints and models to prototypes, beginning and final production, and even assembly.”

Cayce notes that while many job shops require customers to provide a blueprint for their product, Phoenix Manufacturing and Design’s staff of engineers can expand on anything from a simple napkin sketch to a basic concept to make it producible. “We were already doing that for our own weaponry products,” he continues, “so it was a pretty easy transition to do that for other products as well.”

Located in Berthoud since March 2019, the companies share a 10,000-square-foot space with 1,000 additional square feet on the way. “We’ve done the demolition and we’re building a new mezzanine,” he says. “We’ll be able to slide our new EDMs underneath.”

The additional room is definitely needed, as the shop’s equipment list is expansive and continually evolving. “While most shops may only have one or two of something, we have multiples of every standard shop equipment,” Cayce says. From machining and CNC turning to milling and grinding, “We’re very well equipped to handle whatever our customers need.”

Cayce and his team always use U.S. manufactured metal unless otherwise specified by their customer and have the capability to handle exotic materials including Hastelloy, Inconel, and fiber-reinforced plastics as well. The shop is currently ISO 9001 and AS9100 compliant. “We’re working on certification for ISO and NQA1 for nuclear support,” Cayce adds.

Challenges: “We need more people,” Cayce says. “Finding real machinists is always a problem. We’ll probably need to fill about three more positions this year including machinists, assemblers, and people like that.”

Opportunities: Cayce says Phoenix Manufacturing and Design “took quite a beating” in 2020 with several larger aerospace customers cancelling purchase orders due to the uncertainty of the COVID-19 situation. However, a swell in interest in firearms led to increased work for Phoenix Weaponry, keeping the companies afloat.

He’s now expecting 10 to 20 percent growth this year. “We’re well situated,” he explains. “I hired an operations manager, my personal assistant moved up to being office manager, and we’ve added a couple more people beneath her to help out. We’ve been working on our quality systems and are now at 24-hour turns on quotes. We’re really getting squared away to be faster and more efficient.”

Needs: “Always people and equipment,” Cayce concludes. “It’s all about keeping work flowing through the shop so we can keep money coming in.”