MINEVILLE — Linda Witherbee picks up a finely machined part for a piece of aerospace equipment and reaches for a micrometer caliper.
The burnished metal housing has just been turned out on Pre-Tech Precision Machining’s $500,000 Akuma horizontal milling machine.
Holding the part under a magnifying stand, Witherbee, a Moriah resident, checks every tolerance, some of which are many times thinner than a human hair.
“We’re first eyes for inspection,” she said. “The first look is the most critical. It’s all a team effort to work here.”
Strict measurements required
Aerospace machining requires the strictest tolerances in the manufacturing industry, typically 0.006 microns, which is why Pre-Tech operates a specialized inspection department. A human hair is about 50 microns in diameter.
Located in the Moriah Commerce Park on Plank Road in Mineville, Pre-Tech has been turning out precision parts for the aerospace and bio-medical industries in that location since 1998. When it opened, the plant had six workers — it now has 22 employees working two shifts, with 19 of them residing in Moriah or Port Henry. The others live in Ticonderoga, Elizabethtown and Wadhams.
“We’re a production shop,” Plant Manager James Kahler said. “We do manufacturing and quality control of parts.”
The firm also has a shipping and manufacturing facility in Williston’s (Vt.) Blair Park, where it all started in 1985.
Pre-Tech received coveted AS9100C certification last year for confirming to the Aerospace and Defense Quality Management System International Standard.
“It’s confirmation of quality, that we’re doing things the right way,” Kahler said. “You have to be at a certain stage of certification. It will open doors for companies to come in here (with contracts).”
More jobs possible
He said Pre-Tech employees don’t have to be college graduates.
“We need more of those with a trade-school education. The area has a lot of people with mechanical, artistic and math skills. Three-dimensional machining is our model. You have to be able to visualize what you’re doing.”
He said Pre-Tech doesn’t have any job openings at present, but may be adding jobs as it wins new contracts.
“We want to expand for the future. We hope the AS9100C certification opens new avenues in the medical field.”
He said Pre-Tech has a wide group of aerospace contracts now.
“Ninety percent of what we make flies. It goes in something that flies. On any given day, a dozen jobs are being worked on.”
Because most of their work is for government and commercial aerospace industries, they can’t discuss specific products or customers, Kahler said.
They’re continually bidding on new contracts for Pre-Tech, he said.
“You perfect your process to be the best. Everyone was trained here. Some of our young people have the best skills you can imagine.”
Machine was key
The Akuma machine enabled them to get a significant aerospace contract, Kahler said.
“We bought it to get the contract. It can run continuously. Eventually we’ll set it up so it will be turning out parts when no one is here.”
Right now, the machine is fabricating electronics housings for an aerospace application.
Ron Hayford of Port Henry is fabricating parts in another section of the plant.
“Once you grasp it, it’s great,” he said of the work. “I love it here.”
Quality control at Pre-Tech is handled by John Defelice.
“It requires a lot of inspecting,” he said, using a Tesa Micro-Hite that does three-dimensional measurement scanning of parts. “Some items have 15 or 16 pages of specifications. You inspect and inspect and inspect. There’s a lot of paperwork.”
But the attention to detail pays off, Kahler said.
“In 2011, we received the national Supplier of the Year award from a Fortune 500 company we do work for. It was based on performance excellence. Quality is our highest priority. We pride ourselves on producing high-quality parts that meet or exceed a customer’s requirements.”
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