For Tier One LLC, being a contract manufacturer does not mean merely building a product based on a customer’s blueprint. “We believe in working together with customers as opposed to a ‘here’s a print, make this’ philosophy,” says Rick Hall, one of three principals at the Newtown, Conn.-based company.
The company takes what it terms as a “customer-intimate” strategy with its clients, which include many Fortune 500 companies. “The best fit for us are customers who are looking for a partner to develop or improve on the manufacturability of the design,” Principal Joe Young says. “Although we can make recommendations, they need to be receptive to change and work with us on what will and will not work for their application to benefit the most from the relationship.”
One of the company’s customers recently sought it out for assistance with an assembly for a medical instrument. The client was encountering a high failure rate with the assembly, which consisted of six different parts. Tier One worked with the company’s engineering group to manufacture the parts to specific regions of the tolerance, ultimately making them more effective within the assembly process, Principal Mike Iassogna notes.
Tier One specializes in machining and assembly solutions for function-critical, highly engineered parts and assemblies, Young notes. The company works in the life science research, and clinical and medical product fields, as well as a host of others. Tier One is pursuing AS-9100 certification, which would allow it to expand into the aerospace sector.
The company’s customer-intimate strategy includes incorporating clients’ needs into its manufacturing planning process. Tier One uses a kanban pull system and other lean techniques to ensure its customers receive the components they need on a timely basis.
Tier One’s manufacturing processes include conventional machining using three-axis CNC lathes using Okuma machines and three-, four- and five-axis CNC mills using Mazak and Matsuura machines; Swiss and mill-turn machining using Citizen Swiss machines and Tsugami and Okuma mill-turns; electromechanical assembly and function testing; and special processes including EDM machining.
Suppliers play an important role throughout the company’s manufacturing process. Tier One tracks supplier performance through “score cards” and manages priorities and delivery dates through electronic tracking.
Tier One’s manufacturing processes and close relationships with suppliers and customers alike make it an ideal partner for other manufacturer’s looking for a production partner. “Outsourcing can have a major impact on our customer’s bottom line with inventory reduction, increased capacity in manpower, equipment and space for new or alternative product line, and [also] save them the capital expenditure they may have to make otherwise,” Young says.
Tier One formed in 2003 after Young, Iassogna and Hall acquired the Newtown, Conn., machining and assembly facility from former owner Kendro Laboratory Products, which decided to outsource its medical product manufacturing capabilities.
“When we started the business, we were fortunate that the majority of the employees who were here came along for the ride,” Young says. “That allowed us to come up to speed immediately, instead of taking years to develop and acquire that talent.”
Tier One’s workforce has an average 25 years of machining experience. The company develops new talent through its on-the-job training program, and also has registered apprenticeship programs for machining and machine maintenance certified by Connecticut.