Precision Fab Inc.
Precision Fab Inc. understands its people and processes keep it strong, so that is where it focuses its investments. By Staci Davidson
When Precision Fab Inc. (PFI) was established in 2003, the company started out working in a retrofitted dairy barn. With its belief that great people and great processes resulted in quality products, the company has since grown to have facilities in Canada, the United States and Mexico, serving customers including most major North American automotive OEMs and tier one suppliers. PFI has become a leading producer of returnable packaging solutions, and continues to achieve immense growth with its dedication to its founding values.
“How we built our business was focusing on being able to handle complex projects and fast timelines, while being nimble and efficient,” says Herbert Hildebrandt, vice president of business development. “With these capabilities, we capitalize on being able to have a lot more volume and delivering jobs in a faster manner.
PFI now is known for efficiently serving the North American automotive, aerospace and material handling industries. The company is known for returnable metal packaging, with its primary product being the returnable metal rack, frequently used by automotive and aerospace clients. It also offers a full line of soft packaging products, such as toes, foam dunnage, textile bags and plastic corrugated containers. Additionally, PFI can provide its customers with a variety of custom metal-processing solutions, such as laser cutting and robotic welding.
“When this company got started, three gentlemen had a vision to create a weld shop and offer custom fabrication,” Hildebrandt explains. “They started seeing a lot of work and grew organically with the right contacts. They grew quite quickly, actually. That is because PFI was built on being efficient and always getting a quality product out on time, as committed.”
The ‘Go Beyond’ Factor
PFI has grown significantly since it was established, which Hildebrandt attributes to the company’s skilled people and quality processes. With its ISO 9001 certification, the company’s processes are well documented and continuous improvement is important.
“It’s always ‘say what you do, do what you say’ here,” Hildebrandt explains. “One of our goals is to under promise but over deliver. This is because it’s more than just keeping customers happy, we want to delight our customers by going the extra mile. We will do whatever it takes to understand what a customer is expecting of us and then go beyond that. The goal is always to not just be another fabrication shop – we do our work in a way that goes beyond the norm.”
He stresses that going beyond the norm wouldn’t be possible without the strengths of PFI’s people. The company has about 220 people across its operation, and Hildebrandt notes that keeping its focus on its people allows PFI to remain at the top of its game.
“When your goal is to be efficient, you have to treat your people really well or you will lose your people,” he says. “We have a really great workforce and we want to keep them with us. You have to treat your people really well to keep your intellectual capital inside the business. We have many employees from when we started about 15 years ago, and that is because we keep our working conditions as good as possible, and as pleasant as possible. That brain trust helps us to excel above others in the industry because there is a lot of experience in what we do in our people.”
With long-term tenures and advanced experience, PFI has developed a strong internal culture, of which Hildebrandt says the company is most proud.
“We work together very closely, and in many ways it’s like a family here,” he explains. “Everyone knows each other and we are very close knit. The company puts a lot of focus on building teams, but we also cross train our employees and promote primarily from within. By promoting from within for management positions, the person naturally fits into the position because they’ve already proven themselves and know the people they will be working with. We’re not introducing new people and new concepts constantly, because that can cause a lot of friction and upheaval. Our culture is much more cohesive, as a result. Our people know what’s happening and how to get ahead if you perform well.”
At the same time, to reflect its belief that “great people and great processes equals quality products,” PFI has invested heavily in its processes during the past three years. Having adopted the lean philosophy that wasteful operations cost a lot of money, the company worked hard to ensure its processes are repeatable, efficient and make the best use of its workforce. Hildebrandt says that a new ERP system and knowing its KPIs have helped PFI enhance its overall operation.
“You can leave a lot of money on the table by not investing in people and processes, and we don’t want to do that,” he says.
PFI aims to grow by 50 percent over the next five years, and its ability to do so has been recognized by Report on Business and Canadian Business magazines, which noted the company’s growth record. It is investing in diversification to develop products that will make it attractive to the energy and agricultural sectors. Hildebrandt notes PFI also has developed some unique products for the aerospace market, and the company is excited to take the strengths it brings to automotive clients to other industries.
At the same time, PFI has seen clients adopting a lot of new technology – such as greater use of RFID tags on containers and more complex systems to achieve greater efficiency. PFI works with them to ensure they have the tools to achieve their goals, and is proactive in its designs to help clients be more productive and efficient. Hildebrandt says PFI’s own investments will enable it to offer clients even more solutions.
“We embarked on an investment spree that we expect to last few more years, such as in robotics and automation,” he says. “We have spent millions on new machinery, starting in 2017 and it will probably go until 2022. We are working on implementing Industry 4.0 so the machines talk to each other, and ensuring we have fully automated processes for what we do. We have great people, and we need automation to do more work efficiently and use our people in the best way possible, especially in light of the labor shortage across North America.
“It’s exciting to make these investments, and you see that trickle down throughout our processes,” he continues. “It’s broadening everyone’s horizons to use technology this way because it’s in ways we’ve never imagined to use it. As a result, there’s an ultra-focus of improvement throughout the organization, and our employees are really involved in keeping this company strong.”