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Penn United Technologies

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From automotive to aerospace, American manufacturing companies supply many of the products and parts that keep our world moving. Here, Jim McKain, SPHR, HR manager for Penn United Technologies, a high-precision manufacturing solutions provider headquartered in Cabot, Pennsylvania, discusses the company’s impact on the transportation market and beyond.

Penn United has been a major manufacturer in Western Pennsylvania since 1971. How would you best describe the company in size and scope, and where it is today?
We are an employee-owned precision manufacturing solutions provider that has grown organically from 500 to 675 employee owners over the past couple years. Our recent acquisition of Quala-Die Inc. in St. Marys, Pa., brings our total staffing count to 775. We continue to expand our offerings, and we are always looking for our next acquisition opportunity.

What types of manufacturing solutions do you provide and what markets do they serve?
Solutions include our original core competency of tool and die design, prototyping and manufacturing, which led us into stamping, electroplating, assembly and a host of related offerings. We are a significant market force
in the tungsten carbide and silicon carbide market via an acquisition we made over two decades ago. That business has now grown to over half of our business today. Our Quala-Die division is a leading producer of tooling for the powdered compaction tooling industry.

This past year, we also started a strategic partnership to develop additive manufacturing capabilities, and we see that as a key innovation opportunity for our future.

We serve the transportation and aerospace industries extensively, and also have significant offerings in the defense, energy, oil and gas, medical, fluid handling, electronics and telecommunications, and nuclear, just to name a few.

In the area of transportation, tell us about Penn United’s contributions to the automotive and aerospace markets.
We provide electrical conductivity solutions for the automotive market. The electrical content in the average car has risen drastically over the past decade and will continue to do so for the foreseeable future. The average new car today has over a hundred times more computing power than NASA had on the Apollo 11 when Neil and Buzz landed on the moon! Industry experts say the traditional 12-volt automotive electrical system will be replaced by a 48-volt system in the decade ahead, and we will play a part of that conversion. We also make components and provide services for the electric and autonomous car markets.

In the aerospace market, we are leading innovation in the jet engine market place where we have a back log that will keep us busy for the next several years. We have strong partnerships in place for the long term.

What distinguishes Penn United from its competitors?
The first two keys run hand-in-hand; employee ownership and culture. We are only a few percentage points away from being 100-percent employee owned. That means everyone in our workforce from the food service assistant to the president/CEO owns stock in our company. Every year, every employee is given shares of stock equal to 5 percent of their gross earnings. The stock is deferred compensation and is put into a trust account to provide for the retirement of our workforce. In addition to the stock, we have a very unique monthly profit-sharing bonus that pays a portion of our monthly profits back to our workforce. This gives our workforce an amazing focus on the bottom line profitability of our company because they know it will come back to them in the form of their monthly profit sharing! The innovation and continuous improvement that is driven by this culture alone is truly amazing. Our workforce is motivated to achieve the same outcome; serve our customers and drive down costs.

In addition to receiving accolades from Best Places to Work, we also recently earned the Apprenticeship of the Year Award from the state of Pennsylvania. We currently have more than 100 full-time employee owners enrolled in apprenticeship classes in our onsite 17,000-square-foot L.I.G.H.T. (Learning Institute for Growth in High Technology) training facility.

What is the outlook for Penn United in the long term? “The future’s so bright, I gotta wear shades!”
Despite our vision and strategic planning efforts, 10 years ago we never could have predicted where we are today. It’s safe to say the next 10 years will be the same. We will have a strategic plan, but we will remain agile enough to adapt and entrepreneurial enough to invest in the future of our brand.