Steve Hillard, President & CEO
Aerospace and Defense (A&D) manufacturing is a complex affair. First and foremost, there is no margin for error when it comes to manufacturing sophisticated equipment and parts for the A&D sector. Add to this, the challenges associated with maintaining regulatory compliance and building complex and durable components. Manufacturers in the A&D industry need a reliable partner who understands the nuances of the industry and has the capability to provide robust solutions. Without an experienced manufacturing solution provider, military OEMs have to compromise on quality, which can adversely affect their business reputation and even put lives and national security at risk.
Set against this challenging backdrop, H3 Manufacturing Group has emerged as a manufacturing powerhouse with broad and deep precision manufacturing solutions to accommodate the diverse needs of aerospace and defense OEMs.
The Success Equation: HL + HG = H3
Formed to combine of HL Precision Manufacturing and Hi-Grade Welding & Mfg, H3 Manufacturing Group brings the diverse and powerful capabilities of two leading companies under common ownership and leadership. HL Precision Manufacturing, has over three decades of reputation as a leader in high-quality precision CNC machining, sheet metal fabrication, MIL-spec certified welding and advanced assembly. They are also experts in a plethora of finishing solutions, including powder coating, wet painting, passivation, Restriction of Hazardous Substances (RoHS)-compliant chromate conversion lines, and vibratory bowl finishers. Hi-Grade Welding & Mfg is a premier provider of complicated weldments, with an American Welding Society (AWS) Certified Welding Inspector (CWI) on staff to support its more than 35 skilled welders, custom sheet metal fabrications, supported by laser capabilities, machining, and specialized assemblies. In 2019 the company celebrated 50 years of expertise in manufacturing highly complex weldments and components.
H3 Manufacturing Group combines HL Precision Manufacturing's precision CNC machining, assembly, paint, and powder coating and finishing capabilities with Hi-Grade's laser cutting, fabrication, and complex welding capabilities to deliver a broad range of solutions to a group of aerospace and defense OEMs. “There are several companies that can manufacture simple parts for the defense and aerospace industry. But we pride ourselves in really tackling every complicated area of manufacturing so that our troops remain safe and secure,” says Steve Hillard, President, and CEO of H3 Manufacturing Group.
Standalone manufacturing facilities that focus only on machining parts cannot cater to the requirements such as welding or finishing. This often forces military OEMs to engage with multiple manufacturing solution providers, which can significantly increase the costs and challenges in managing their supply chain.
Furthermore, coordinating with numerous manufacturers can be complicated. H3 Manufacturing Group solves all these quandaries. From big & ugly to small & precise, H3 Manufacturing Group has figured out how to solve the biggest problems in A&D manufacturing. “Our customers are growing, combining, getting larger, and more complex and broader in range, we must do the same to be a true resource to them,” continues Hillard.
Currently, the company has three facilities totaling 165,000 sq ft and nearly 200 highly skilled employees. This allows them to serve extensive clientele from the defense and aerospace sector and address their wider range of demands.
A Unique Approach Powers Complex Manufacturing
“With H3 Manufacturing Group, we have turned into a manufacturing powerhouse," says Hillard. The company is bold in its approach, which helps them stay ahead of competitors in the market. This bold approach spans into areas such as making continuous investments in "leading technologies" and not "bleeding technologies." "We favor impact over impressing," says Christine Juretzko-Suma, Vice President of sales at H3 Manufacturing Group. This extends to "investing in the unseen" or future solutions even before the customers know they need it or ask for it.
H3 Manufacturing Group goes the extra mile to understand the finer details of their clients' projects, such as where and how the equipment/parts in question would be used. "Instead of working just with the blueprints, we always offer our manufacturing engineering expertise to ensure the best product for our customers. While we do not design, we advise them on alternate ways of manufacturing a particular part, suggest cost-saving opportunities, and more successful functionality of end product," says Jeff Hodgson, manufacturing manager at H3 Manufacturing Group. “We obviously start listening. There's often a lot more issues at place than simply what meets the eye on a print that we might receive,” adds Jon Frejd, General Manager at the company.
In one instance, H3 Manufacturing Group was tasked with manufacturing a complicated, small part used in laser-guiding. While many of its competitors failed, H3 Manufacturing Group went beyond just making them. The company reoriented the manufacturing and protective coating processes that not only ensured product quality and durability but also resulted in significant cost-savings.
Program management and on-time delivery are ingrained in H3 Manufacturing Group's undertakings, and quality is a mantra that the company lives by. The company ensures fit, form, and function of all parts before they leave its facilities (in-house inspection for A&D weldments & assemblies) and also provides all necessary documentation. By continually improving its manufacturing capabilities and overall efficiency, H3 Manufacturing Group has achieved the ISO 9001-2015 and AS9100D certifications.
Balancing People, Precision and Purpose
In tandem with its unique offerings, a critical factor that powers H3's success is its dedicated, trained, and highly qualified employees.
"In the defense arena, where maintaining the highest quality is a basic need, it is a challenge to recruit the right talent," says Corrinne Hillard, regional sales manager. As such, H3 Manufacturing Group has innovative measures to recruit and nurture a talented workforce.
"Our motto is People, Precision, Purpose – and we are serving an industry that most certainly demands all three commitments"
The company has designed diverse as well as all-embracing internal training programs to help employees grow, perform better, and be prepared for future challenges. One example is the H3U.0 training program, which is considered as an internal university at H3 Manufacturing Group. Within the H3U.0 program, the company has developed a uniquely designed construct of curriculum with Tooling U-SME—a non-profit educational technology and blended learning organization—to equip its workforce with the skill set that supports the diverse requirements of its clients. "We have a cross-training matrix, which plays a vital role in our growth by letting employees work in multiple areas. Subsequently, our clients need not wait when specialized employees of a particular department are busy; people from other segments can help in that area as well," says Mick Graham, sales engineering and customer solutions manager at H3 Manufacturing Group. This ensures client satisfaction while enhancing the capability to deliver products on time.
H3 Manufacturing Group has also invested significantly in building sound internship programs with local colleges that help them in attracting and acquiring fresh talent. On top of this, many of H3's employees have worked for years in the sector and know precisely the impact of their work on the military and aerospace arena.
Experience, Expertise, Client Engagement
Having such a multi-pronged value proposition, H3 Manufacturing Group has gleaned a legion of satisfied military and aerospace OEM clients. Hillard proudly talks about an instance where H3 manufactured geometrically and functionally complex missile guidance devices. With precision and dedication, H3's capable team produced the first part with very tight tolerances within four months. Few companies across the U.S. have all the requisite solutions and processes to do it, and H3 Manufacturing Group proudly stands in the list.
Backed by many such success stories, H3 Manufacturing Group is set to bolster its market presence. The company will continue to make significant investments in capital equipment and new technologies such as laser cutting, five-axis machining, and robotic controls while building more robust training programs to sharpen the capabilities of its employees. Alongside, H3 has plans to acquire strategic companies that will help them serve its clientele with enhanced capabilities and efficiency.
"Our motto is People, Precision, and Purpose, and we are serving an industry that most certainly demands all three commitments. Hence, it is our humble duty to ensure that we live up to these standards in every way," concludes Hillard.