CompanyWeek profiled more than 200 manufacturers in 2021, most of them based in the four states where we publish regular e-publications: Colorado, Utah, California, and — as of November 2021 — Texas. Of those, these 20 profiles stand out for a variety of different reasons: Some are industry leaders, others are trying to disrupt markets, and others yet are rethinking manufacturing and ignoring the status quo.
For a recap of the last 12 months in manufacturing, these stories are a great place to start.
Using algae-derived oils as the building blocks for better materials, Checkerspot aims to upend the supply chain with sustainable innovation. CEO Charles Dimmler sees a global market of manufacturers of all kinds, but the company started its own ski brand — Utah-based WNDR Alpine — to showcase the performance of its polyurethane alternative.
Read the profile (Jan. 2021): https://companyweek.com/article/checkerspot
Jacquard Inkjet Fabric Systems (Healdsburg)
The company is a leader in the market for inkjet-ready coated fabrics, supplying artists, small and mid-sized businesses, and big apparel brands. “We produce fabrics that can be printed on any inkjet printer,” President Hunter Ellis told CompanyWeek contributor Glen Martin earlier in the year. “That’s our main selling point. No specialty printers are needed.”
Read the profile (July 2021): https://companyweek.com/article/jacquard-inkjet-fabric-systems
Before the Butcher (San Diego / Irvine)
Angela Rose, CompanyWeek‘s California editor, profiled the manufacturer of plant-based protein alternatives to meat when the company was in the midst of building a new 30,000-square-foot plant in San Diego. “Once we’re up and running, we will have 20 million-plus pounds per year capacity out of that facility alone,” said founder Danny O’Malley.
Read the profile (Aug. 2021): https://companyweek.com/article/before-the-butcher
Morf3D (El Segundo)
CEO Ivan Madera has fostered the company as a production partner specializing in additive manufacturing for aerospace companies. As the industry gravitates to additive’s many features and benefits, Madera said the rising tide lifts all boats. “We continue to certify components, but we also view production as an expansion of our certification services,” he explained to CompanyWeek contributor Glen Martin. “As an industry, we need to standardize processes, and that’s not a simple thing to do by any evaluation.”
Read the profile (Oct. 2021): https://companyweek.com/article/morf3d
The startup is working to produce honey via a fermentation process, without the help of bees. When editor Angela Rose interviewed CEO Darko Mandich, he said the company was aiming to start producing 40,000 pounds of bee-free honey daily sometime in 2022.
Bees are critical to the health of the planet, he added. “If we lose them, it will be looking like the surface of Mars. But that’s pressure for us to work as hard as possible to replace every pound of honey that’s coming from commercial beekeeping with honey that is produced using science so that wild and native bee species are not pushed back any further.”
Read the profile (Nov. 2021): https://companyweek.com/article/melibio
Bloomer Trailers (Salado)
Founder Randy Bloomer saw an opening for a better horse trailer, and went after it with gusto upon launching his eponymous manufacturer in 1998. R&D has guided the company since day one, and that has sometimes involved Bloomer getting his boots dirty. “We found this stuff out by riding in the back of a trailer, personally doing it,” said Bloomer in the interview.
Read the profile (Nov. 2021): https://companyweek.com/article/bloomer-trailers
The company’s communications infrastructure is bringing a cellular model to satellite communications technology, with staggering results a cost that’s just 10 percent that of legacy technology. “The cost of infrastructure — everything you can imagine from cell towers to electronic equipment to antennas, everything — there’s a [metric of] dollars per bit of information,” said CEO Shey Sabripour. “I think these technologies will drastically reduce the cost.”
Read the profile (Nov. 2021): https://companyweek.com/article/cesiumastro
Real Ale Brewing Company (Blanco)
President Brad Farbstein’s career is a microcosm of the craft brewing industry. After his early days as a sales rep, he bought Real Ale in 1998 with his life savings, when annual production was around 300 barrels. Nearly a quarter-century later, the company is brewing more than 50,000 barrels a year, with plenty of room to grow: The brewhouse’s capacity is 250,000 barrels.
Read the profile (Nov. 2021): https://companyweek.com/article/real-ale-brewing-company
Whiting Farms (Delta)
Tom Whiting launched his feather supplier for the fly-fishing industry in the late 1980s. His 27-acre ranch is now home to about 75,000 chickens at any given time, as Whiting Farms supplies about 80 percent of the feathers for dry flies.
Read the profile (Jan. 2021): https://companyweek.com/article/whiting-farms
Big Metal Additive (Denver)
As the company’s name implies, founder Slade Gardner’s company makes additive manufacturing technology that’s designed to print big metal parts — parts as big as a car — that are often better than those made with legacy processes.
From the interview: “There are some structures that casting just can’t do and welded assembly just can’t do, and a lot of these advanced design software packages and advanced design technologies, they create geometries that look more like a dinosaur skeleton than a stick-and-plate engineer’s design. Those kinds of geometries, you almost need additive manufacturing to build them.”
Read the profile (Feb. 2021): https://companyweek.com/article/big-metal-additive
CEO Kerry Siggins has pushed the manufacturer of waterblast tools towards automation and the Internet of Things in a big way. Case in point: StoneAge’s Sentinel Automation Technology now runs equipment that cleans heat exchangers, with faster and better results. The company plans to integrate Sentinel into other existing tools.
Read the profile (Mar. 2021): https://companyweek.com/article/stone-age
Neota Product Solutions (Loveland)
Founder and CEO Jason Osborne has come up with an approach to metal injection molding that is competitive with CNC machining. He’s scaled up contract manufacturing as part of a turnkey operation that also helps clients with design for manufacturability and prototyping. Neota is also working to change industry perceptions about metal injection molding. “It’s a black art type of thing,” said Osborne during the interview. “We are really trying to change that stigma.”
Read the profile (Apr. 2021): https://companyweek.com/article/neota-product-solutions
MMA Design (Louisville)
President and CEO Mitch Wiens’ aerospace supplier has carved out a niche manufacturing membrane-based antennas and solar arrays for ever-smaller satellites. “Being able to put something that deploys really big but packaging it really small is enabling,” Wiens explained during the call. “Instead of launching a much larger spacecraft that we would have done in the past, we can now put a similar capability on a much smaller vehicle, which brings down cost and allows you to fit more spacecraft on a launch vehicle.”
Read the profile (April 2021): https://companyweek.com/article/mma-design
Fenceline Cider (Mancos)
Sam Perry is breathing new life into ghost orchards in Montezuma County. While Perry planted trees on his own land that should start bearing apples by the middle of the decade, Fenceline is leaning on legacy farmers for a wide range of unique apple varieties in the meantime. “We have the bins and the picking team, and we go around from orchard to orchard basically,” explained Perry.
Read the profile (May 2021): https://companyweek.com/article/fenceline-cider
Victor Guitar (Denver)
CompanyWeek contributor Gregory Daurer’s midyear profile of Edward Victor Dick’s hybrid shop/lutherie/school captures the compelling craft — and the business — of stringed instruments in detail. He’s repaired and built countless guitars and banjos, and even invented a cross between the two: the banjola.
Read the profile (July 2021): https://companyweek.com/article/victor-guitar
Gates Biomanufacturing Facility (Aurora)
Executive Director Matthew Seefeldt, Ph.D., discussed the unique model as a contract manufacturer that supports the needs of researchers and medical practitioners on the CU Anschutz Medical Campus as well as outside clients in the biopharma industry. “There’s a definite financial piece to what we do — we can’t just live off of grants, for lack of a better description,” he said during his interview with CompanyWeek. “But then at the same time, we take that capital we pull in from the external biotechnology companies to make our systems better, then use that to support early-stage development work to get more drugs into the clinic.”
Read the profile (Oct. 2021): https://companyweek.com/article/gates-biomanufacturing-facility
Three generations of the McCloud family work at “VORSHEER complex,” encompassing 18,000 square feet of space and equipped with a plasma cutter, CNC brake, and welding and wood shops. “We try to keep as much manufacturing in-house as we can for one primary reason: We can control quality,” says Steve McCloud, the company’s president.
Read the profile (May 2021): https://companyweek.com/article/vorsheer
Roundy Boots (Toquerville)
Founder and company namesake Don Roundy found his calling making cowboy boots in the mid-1970s. Nearly 50 years later, he’s crafted boots for a long list of ranch hands, wannabes, and celebrities. “It all comes down to craftsmanship,” Roundy told CompanyWeek writer Gregory Daurer. “My business makes them the quality that they used to be in the ’20s, ’30s, and ’40s.”
Read the profile (June 2021): https://companyweek.com/article/roundy-boots
Dustless Technologies (Price)
CEO Spencer Loveless strategized to control the destiny of his vacuum manufacturer’s supply chain by starting a second company, Merit3D, to 3D-print parts for Dustless products in-house. “Our game plan going forward at Dustless is to design all of our new products around additive manufacturing,” Loveless explained during the interview. “We can produce hundreds of thousands of components very quickly without the time frame, the tariffs, the molds, and everything else that comes with outsourcing.”
Read the profile (Aug. 2021): https://companyweek.com/article/dustless-technologies
Alinco Costumes (Murray)
The Allen family business is the go-to manufacturer for NBA mascots. About 70 percent of the league’s teams — including the Phoenix Suns, Utah Jazz, and Denver Nuggets — outfit their mascots with Alinco’s performer-friendly products.
Read the profile (Nov. 2021): https://companyweek.com/article/alinco-costumes
Eric Peterson is editor of CompanyWeek. Contact him at email@example.com.