Co-founder and CEO Bill Burmeister’s full-service CNC machine shop is JCP Certified, SAM registered, ITAR compliant, and eager to re-enter the field of defense contracting.
Burmeister and co-founding partner Wade Carbone worked together at a medical equipment company for a decade-and-a-half before buying out the machining capacity of their employer and launching Renaissance Precision Manufacturing.
Burmeister says, “I was the assembly manager, and [Wade] was the production manager in the machine shop. We had a lot of opportunities to do additional side work; there were a lot of people that were approaching us to have parts machined. We talked to the owner, and he said he didn’t really want to be in the machine shop business. He wanted to be in the medical valve manufacturing business. So, he didn’t really need a machine shop, he just needed to have parts made. He said he’d sell us the equipment if we’d keep making parts for him. So, that’s what we did, and we’ve been supplying them since then.”
In addition to medical device manufacturers, Renaissance Precision Manufacturing serves a variety of other industries, with one notable exception. “We’ve deliberately stayed out of the Silicon Valley tech industry,” Burmeister says, “even though it’s basically right down the street from us, because we had seen a few other shops go under. They would get big contracts from these guys, and things would change, then they would drop them. They put all their eggs in one basket with the Silicon Valley guys, and when things got slim, they couldn’t handle it.”
Burmeister and Carbone stayed “hands-on” in the machine shop for some time, even after hiring additional employees as the business grew. Technological improvements and added capacity have made that less necessary in recent years, although they are still ready to step in to keep production moving nights and weekends when the deadlines demand it.
Nearly all of Renaissance Precision Manufacturing’s customers are located within a 20-mile radius of their shop, and most have come to them through previous relationships, word-of-mouth, and the company’s website, without much in the way of active outside sales efforts. The fact that most customers are in the local area allows personal service and attentiveness that further enhances the provider-client bond. Additionally, the company’s experience and expertise allows it to provide useful advice to customers on finding the most efficient manufacturing designs for their products.
The shop is able to handle just about all the machining needs demanded by its customers, but services like heat treating, plating, and the occasional precision grinding work are outsourced. Although some of the sources for outside work have disappeared over the years, Burmeister is happy with their current providers.
He says, “We work with some that supply us with pretty good services like picking up and delivering. That’s pretty important because we can continue to work without sending somebody out. That kind of work, like the plating, is away from our area because of the environmental restrictions. Here in the Bay Area, they don’t like to have a lot of plating industries and things like that, so they can be located 40 or 50 or even 100 miles away from us. When they come by and pick up and deliver back to us, it can be a great service to us.”
The company has benefitted from good employee retention, but that can be a double-edged sword. Burmeister says, “We’ve got some employees that have been with us for 15 or 20 years, and that’s kind of a liability for us right now. I’ve got three employees that are at retirement age, and we’ve got to look at replacing them if we want to continue in the same capacity, and that’s not an easy thing to do. And Wade and I are getting on in years, as well, so we’re always looking for someone who might want to take over, because we don’t have anyone in our families that would take over when we retire. We’re always looking for that energetic young person that might want to work their way into ownership, but often they’re energetic and young, but they want to go on and try other things.”
Raw materials, in the form of steel, aluminum, and plastics that the company uses, have suffered from availability issues and price increases over the last few years, and Renaissance has done its best to accommodate customers’ needs for turnaround and costs. In some cases, they’ve had to work with customers to find different materials to satisfy their specifications because the original material was simply not available. In other cases, they’ve had to put in much larger than normal material orders to their suppliers, for use over longer periods, so that suppliers were willing to produce it. Pricing has stabilized a bit recently, but delivery times are still often lengthened, as compared to previous years.
Challenges: The biggest challenge right now relates to finding quality employees to carry on the company’s work as older workers retire.
Opportunities: With space to expand, the company is looking at possibly investing in equipment to perform some of the services they currently have to send out for when the demands justify it. “We’re also looking into 3D printing and all the new technologies,” Burmeister says, “and maybe someday we’ll move into some of that.”
Needs. Renaissance Precision Manufacturing also needs to complete current assessments for security and cyber-security. They would like to reenter the field of defense contracting to further expand their customer base.