Manufacturers of the Year

Bill Virgin |   June 2011   |  FROM THE PRINT EDITION
Hayley Young


The company is seeking more growth. With the exploding demand for wireless devices and consumer, automotive and industrial electronics, and all the programmable circuits within them, Data I/O figures that need will translate into more demand for its products. The marketing pitch to electronics manufacturers: Data I/O’s devices are equipped to handle the large files that are loaded onto handheld gadgets, and its proprietary designs will protect them from malware or theft of intellectual property.

This year, Data I/O plans to roll out a new software product and to boost revenue above and beyond recovery levels. In fact, CEO Fred Hume says the business might even consider acquisitions to achieve its goal. Toward that end, it has hired an investment banking firm to advise on strategic alternatives.

Large Company
Heath Tecna, Bellingham

CEO Richard Ballantyne, center foreground, with members of the Heath Tecna management team, photographed by Hayley Young

Heath Tecna, founded in the 1950s, makes the stuff on the inside of planes that most passengers never think about, but would certainly notice if it weren’t there: ceiling and floor panels, storage bins, closets, lavatories, galleys. And it doesn’t just make the stuff. It provides airlines and aircraft manufacturers with engineering services for designing the interiors of new planes or reconfiguring existing aircraft.

Heath Tecna has jumped from 285 employees in April 2010 to more than 600 now after winning the interior-package contract for a new Mitsubishi regional jet and landing other contracts with international airlines (adding $40 million in export sales in 2010). But it did more than throw additional bodies into the labor pool. It worked with Impact Washington, state government programs and Bellingham Technical College to set up an accelerated hiring and training program.

The company also placed major emphasis on lean operating principles, which shortened the time needed to build interior components, reduced the space needed for production and improved quality. Next up: moves to minimize material waste and energy consumption.

For Mitsubishi, Heath Tecna will develop and supply interiors and furnishings for the new jet, design and fabricate flight deck and cargo compartment linings, and manage the integration of other components, including water, waste and vacuum systems, crew seating and escape slides. This year, the company also will unveil interior upgrades for existing Boeing 737s and 757s.

Honorable Mention:
Bruker Elemental, Kennewick

How do you know what percentages of what metals are in a part? Hold a Bruker analyzer up to it. There’s a lot of technology behind such a seemingly simple approach. The devices from Bruker Elemental’s handheld business unit use a low-level X-ray beam to read the signatures of the specific elements in whatever is being studied. Applications include identifying metal alloys, determining the content of metal scrap, environmental analysis, mining, even art and archaeology. Started in 2000 as Keymaster Technologies, the company was acquired by the German company Bruker in 2006. Revenue and employment are growing, thanks in part to overseas sales, representing more than half of Bruker’s total handheld business.

Honorable Mention:
C.C. Filson, Seattle

C.C. Filson is a small company with an outsize reputation in the outdoor-apparel sector because of the sturdiness of its products. But Filson didn’t get to be more than 100 years old by resisting change. Among its alterations: moving to web-based sales, setting up a program to pair experienced sewers to train new hires, cutting waste by allowing customers to receive shipments in used boxes and collaborating with Levi’s on new products. For Filson, those innovations have meant revenue and employment growth; these developments allowed the company to continue making its products domestically.

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