Co-founders Naum and Maya Royberg see automation and integrated engineering as the keys to modern manufacturing.
The Roybergs came to the United States in 1978 after living as refugees in Rome for seven years. “We came from the former U.S.S.R., from Kyiv, Ukraine,” says Maya.
Naum started working at a tool and die shop when he was 14, then later earned a college degree in metallurgy and continued working in manufacturing. Once the Roybergs settled in San Antonio, he resumed his career.
“He started at a machine shop, working on a bench,” says Maya. “Immediately after he started working, 20 minutes later, the supervisor saw his capacity, and even though he didn’t speak the language, they increased his salary.”
Naum quickly ascended to supervisor, but the company relocated to California in the mid-1980s. The Roybergs remained in Texas. “At this point, we didn’t really want to move anywhere,” says Maya. “We adopted San Antonio as our home.”
That led to the founding of what is now Precision Group in 1985. Launched in the Roybergs’ garage, the company has grown its footprint to four plants — two in Texas and two in Mexico — with 60,000 square feet and 90 employees between them.
After a focus on the automotive market, the company has expanded into the medical, aerospace, and consumer electronics industries over the years. “We decided to diversify, because we didn’t want to keep all our eggs in one basket,” says Maya.”With high-end engineering and sophisticated equipment, we pretty much can accommodate any industry.”
Today, the Precision Group counts such Fortune 500 companies as Thermo Fisher, Corning, and 3M among its customers. “We have molding that supports our tooling, and vice versa,” says Maya.
The company began with tooling and expanded into molding in 1999 to offer turnkey services to clients. In-house capabilities include injection molding, tooling, laser welding, and machining. “Now we have a concept from idea to design to mold build to production to final products out the door,” says Maya.
That all starts with “very strong engineering,” she continues. “For years, we have developed a concept that engineering is the brain and support for the whole company.”
Precision Group leverages IT in a big way. That started when the company was supplying a subsidiary of General Motors in the 1980s. GM required the company install Unigraphics software for 3D modeling. The company now has 12 Unigraphics stations across its four facilities, and all employees are trained to use the software.
“When I started, there was nothing,” says Naum. “Now, everything is going on the CAD/CAM.”
He adds, “I’m in the old school. When you designed a tool, you had everything in your head, you had the 3D design in your head. Now, you can see it on the screen, you can manipulate it, you can see cross-sections, you can do whatever you want. It’s very, very powerful.”
The company also utilizes Moldflow to virtually test plastics before going into production. “It simulates how plastic is flowing in a tool and can predict a lot of possibilities,” says Naum. “You can catch mistakes from the beginning.”
Precision Group runs molding machines ranging in power from 55 tons to 610 tons for three shifts, five or six days a week. The plants in Reynosa and Monterrey, Mexico, are focused on molding, while most tooling is accomplished in Texas at company facilities in San Antonio and La Feria.
“On the tooling side, we are 24/7 pretty much, because we are now building lots of new tools, but modifications and repairs are very, very important as well,” says Maya, noting that the company is training workers in Mexico to build tools in response to the demand.
Precision Group weathered the COVID-19 pandemic well as an essential supplier. “Our growth has been tremendous,” says Maya. “In three short years[ 2018 to 2020], we doubled the size of the company.”
Challenges: “Supply chain is very difficult,” says Maya, noting that resin and steel prices have skyrocketed for the company.
Competing with pricing from injection molders in China has also been challenging, adds Naum. “It’s very hard to beat China, so we try to do whatever we can.”
Opportunities: Reshoring from China. “People want to start producing in the U.S., which is very exciting for us, because manufacturing will grow,” says Maya. For tooling, she adds, “We have an advantage, because we started Reynosa back in 1995, so we already have employees trained at a certain level. In Monterrey, we started a year ago and our team is learning very quickly.”
“I see lots of people started cutting molds in the U.S., because China is getting more and more difficult to even get quotes from over there,” says Naum. “Politically, you don’t know what’s going to happen tomorrow, and everybody is worried about the future.”
“We’re trying to develop more customers in biomed,” adds Maya. Medical devices can come from small startups “and grow to something very big,” she says. “This is what we’re concentrating our marketing and development efforts on right now.”
Needs: More space and employees. Precision Group is building additional storage space in San Antonio in order to expand its production floor, and a client is requiring that the company add a cleanroom.
“In our company, we train our own people and have very low turnover,” says Maya. “Some of them came to work for us at the beginning when we opened our doors, and they’re still here.”
That said, recruitment and hiring has proven increasingly difficult in recent years. “For the longest time, it was: Find a toolmaker. Training a toolmaker is a tedious process, so we decided to go more with sophisticated, computerized equipment. . . . Machines are so powerful that I don’t need many employees.”
“We made a deal with a high school in San Antonio, and they come in for a couple hours almost every day,” adds Naum. “These kids, after they finish school, we try to develop them as toolmakers, because there are practically no toolmakers available.”