Alexander, AR

For fifty-five years, Power Technology Incorporated has been a leader in developing and manufacturing lasers for just about any imaginable use, and that knowledge and experience keep them at the top of their field.

With more than twenty-six years at the company, Co-CEO Walter Burgess has been an important part of that success, and as the son of founder Tom Burgess, he knows the history of the business, as well. With a background in defense electronics and semiconductor work, the founder created a greatly improved, much smaller, longer-lasting, laser power supply on his kitchen table for a local business, and Power Technology Inc. was born. The company quickly grew as it pioneered new types of laser technology, and broadened the myriad of uses of lasers in a variety of industries.

Helium-neon gas lasers were the original product manufactured by Power Technology, and they still make an updated version of that product, along with about a dozen varieties of semiconductor lasers, and in recent years, crystal-based lasers. The laser modules the company produces include the electronics, the light-emitting diode, and optics, and these days, lasers of different sizes and types have an amazing array of uses. From low-powered units used in laser pointers to hundreds of watts of optical energy to cut or weld, and anything in between; Power Technology has it all covered. 

Flexibility has enabled global growth

Burgess says the top industry areas for them are bio-medical, defense, and the semiconductor inspection markets, and within those classifications, there are a wide variety of specific uses their lasers are put to. Power Technology concentrates on the precision and extreme-precision market, with production quantities varying from prototype up to about 10,000, as larger runs are usually done off-shore. He says, “We know we can’t fight a low-cost battle with Asia, and China specifically, and so we have tailored the markets that we pursue into those that pay the most for lasers, rather than those that pay the least. Other companies are structured toward those bigger volumes, just doing the same thing over and over again, but our team is really good at shifting gears fast and moving on to the next project. It’s one of the areas where our team excels. They’re really good at a high-mix manufacturing environment.”  

Power Technology also has a wide-ranging customer base for its products with an export portfolio averaging 35 countries per year, in addition to their domestic sales. That export success has also garnered multiple state and federal recognition awards for them. “We have a long-standing history of working globally,” says Burgess. “We have about a dozen international distributors. Export is probably about 25 percent of what we do.”  

Dedicated expertise ensures client loyalty

Sales are mostly direct to the OEM end users of their products, and in the case of a particular cancer detection laser for a medical industry client, the Co-CEO says they have actually built their machine around Power Technology’s high-precision product. “It speaks the computer’s language, the micro-processors talk back and forth to each other, and so they’ve integrated so deeply with us that there’s not another manufacturer out there that can just come in and replace us,” says Burgess. “We’re looking for that level of cooperation from our customers and their engineers.” The sales team members each have specific industries they concentrate on, allowing the company to develop subject matter experts that their customers can rely on for advice. 

The materials and components needed for manufacturing are various metals, lenses, and electronics, and the company keeps a broad base of suppliers in order to avoid potential availability problems. For a number of years, Russia and Belarus were a major supply source for some components, but Russian actions over the last few years have prevented continuing that business relationship.

In-house production ensures consistency

At its 25,000-square-foot facility, Power Technology machines its own metal products, constructs its own circuit boards, and does its own automated and hand assemblies, so they have very little reliance on outside services to manufacture its final products. Worker training is an important part of the company’s success story, and they usually can take in new employees at multiple skill levels. The local aerospace companies in central Arkansas provide a fertile pool of skilled workers when needed for higher-level engineering positions.  

Burgess credits an important part of their success to the company operating as a privately held corporation, and therefore able to pursue whatever work they see as lucrative, rather than being driven by stockholder share prices for ultra-high volume. He also credits the Arkansas location as a big benefit, not only from the standpoint of availability of skilled, hard-working, long-term employees, but also for the reasonable cost of living, and just doing business, when compared to more expensive places like California. He also gives credit to Arkansas Manufacturing Solutions, an affiliate of the Manufacturing Extension Partnership (MEP) and National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST), for help with not only training and advice but also assistance with ISO 9000 certifications.

The future is laser-bright

Looking toward the future, Power Technology will be expanding the available wavelengths of lasers it offers, which in turn will provide even more possibilities for the use of its lasers. They are also moving into new high-powered, clear-cut, blue lasers for cutting and welding copper and gold materials, and that physically larger product will likely entail a need for expansion of their manufacturing facility.

With more than a half-century of expertise, Power Technology Incorporated is showing no sign of slowing down in its efforts to advance lasers and their usage. You might say they’re “laser-focused” on creating better and better products, with an even broader range of capabilities.