Electroimpact: Engineers Shaping Aerospace Excellence

Electroimpact Inc.’s engineers do more than draft concept drawings – they guide every aspect of the products they work on.

“What sets us apart is being the ulti­mate engineers’ company,” says Ben Hempstead, a mechanical engineering lead. “Of our 431 employees, 352 are engineers. Their responsibility is from concept design through calculation, analysis, simulation, draft­ing, purchasing, assembly, de­bug, testing, shipping, installation, final acceptance and factory support.”

The  Mukilteo, Wash.-based company eschews a traditional business model by omitting purchasing, quality control and other departments, giving engineers complete vertical control of their work. Each engineer is responsible for a particular component used within the company’s aircraft part tooling machines. El­ec­troimpact also em­ploys a staff of machinists and a small number of managers.

Giving engineers full control and support to order components as well as test and support the machines they produce allows for full accountability and cost-effective operations. “From the management perspective, if the component doesn’t work, we only need to find one person,” Hempstead says. “From an employee perspective, when it works, one person gets all the credit and understands 100 percent of the technology.

“Since our engineers have all this authority and responsibility, we work hard to minimize any barriers they are going to see during the process. If an engineer needs a faster computer, we will buy one, and if they need a part they can get on the phone and order it themselves,” he adds. “Every­one is empowered to do their jobs, and we hire very smart people.”

Offering Solutions

This engineer-driven philosophy was established by President Peter Zieve, who founded Electro­impact in 1986 after receiving a doctorate in mech­anical engineering from the Uni­versity of Washington. It is marking its 25th anniversary this year.

Electroimpact is a premier supplier of automated equipment for the global aircraft industry, with customers including Airbus, Boeing, Kawasaki Heavy Industries, Spirit Aerospace, Northrop-Grumman, Vought, Israeli Aircraft Industries and Xi’an Aircraft. Its products include wing panel and spar machines, CNC drilling mach­ines, aircraft assembly fixtures and custom equipment.

Electroimpact also recently established an automatic fiber placement division. The division produces mach­ines used to place carbon fibers to produce aircraft fuselage parts.  The company also produces a line of highly accurate and capable robotic systems.

Electroimpact also functions as a super-integrator able to help clients determine the mach­ines and jigs they need for manufacturing plants.

The company focuses its efforts on providing turnkey solutions to its clients, an approach that has given it double-digit growth in each of the last nine years. “We are the highest value supplier on the market,” Hemp­stead says, noting the company is able to offer machines on a quick turnaround and with lower backend costs than its competitors.

‘Highly Capable Suppliers’

The company assembles the majority of its machines in a 36,000-square-foot facility in Mukilteo. Electro­im­pact also operates facilities in Australia and the United Kingdom.

The Mukilteo headquarters facility features a milling machine and four 32-ton overhead cranes used to produce large pieces of machinery.

Electroimpact is ISO9001 and AS9100 – the aerospace standard – certified. The company was also recently invited by Boeing to a supplier conference as one of its top 500 suppliers out of 28,000 total companies that supply the aerospace giant.

The company orders the parts needed for its products through a purchasing database that includes its vendor information. Parts are ordered on an as-needed basis.

“While we are a highly capable supplier, we rely on highly capable suppliers to us,” Hempstead says, citing vendors Farwest Steel and SMC in particular. In addition to parts, vendors such as SMC provide the company with product information in lieu of a purchasing department.

“We rely on our vendors to bring us new and good information they think applies to our products and to keep us up to date on new products applicable to our business,” he adds.