Antron Engineering & Machine Co. Inc. in Bellingham is one of those companies that does it all.
The variety of things the 80-employee company does is almost unbelievable until you step onto the shop floor. It is positively bursting at the seams. There are some 30 CNC machines, lathes, screw machines and tumblers. There's an electrical testing room, a quality control room, a prototype area and some storage. They make everything from motorcycle parts to scientific instruments. And they do their own custom labeling, shrink-wrapping and assembly, too.
The 20,000 square feet of manufacturing space is so full, the company is considering ripping the back wall off the place and adding another 10,000 square feet.
Filling a 30,000-square-foot facility seems easier when you hear about how Antron works.
The company started as a machine shop in the Bellingham basement of President Anthony Denietolis. He and John Kauker, the company's vice president, worked there for a little while before moving to old mill space elsewhere in Bellingham.
Antron has always owned the space it's occupied, it's never leased.
"Leasing is not good for machine shops or heavy manufacturing," Kauker said. "I don't want to pick up 40 CNCs and drive them across town to save $1 per square foot."
Without landlord disputes hanging over the company's head, Antron Engineering can concentrate on innovation, design and execution.
"Tony can design anything," Kauker said when I visited recently. And that versatility brought the company from milling, turning and screw machining into other areas. Soon, Antron was doing finish work and welding. And not long after that, it began doing electro-mechanical assemblies, contract manufacturing and laser engraving.
But before adopting a new method or technology, the company asks itself, "Will it help the shop? Will it fuel the shop?" Kauker said. "You aim for work that is complementary. In 1985, we were just a machine shop, but customers kept asking us, 'Can you put this together?' then it was, 'Can you put a circuit board in this, can you put a wiring harness in it?' "
Saying yes to those questions gave Antron insight into what's important to its customers, Kauker said.
For example, if a camera manufacturer can focus on designing a new lens rather than on hiring a new machinist or making sure its lenses are shipped on time, it can innovate more and grow faster.
That's a big part of how the company can machine crank covers for an aftermarket motorcycle parts company, highly technical parts for the defense industry, mounts for high-end video cameras used on the sidelines at pro football games and components for medical devices and scientific instruments.
Companies get "stuck in their niche a lot of times. The easiest thing you can ask a buyer is 'What are you having trouble with?' " Kauker said. "Literally, just ask the customer, and once you get one, it's a no-brainer, that customer just says, 'Ask Antron.' "
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