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Manufacturing Industry Person of the Year

FAB Shop Magazine names its Manufacturing Industry Person of the Year. It’s you.

Jeanine Ruppel is the president and owner of Precision Sheet Metal Supply, a fabricating and welding firm specializing in medical, defense and communications work. Although the shop is small, Ruppel is proud of the company’s dedicated crew and loyal customer base.

In 2017, it was Hernán Luis y Prado, founder and CEO of Workshops for Warriors. His organization has trained hundreds of service veterans for well-paying manufacturing careers. The following year, we recognized the CTO and co-founder of Universal Robots, Esben Østergaard, for his pioneering work on collaborative robots. Harry Moser, president of the Reshoring Initiative, took the honors in 2019 for his post-retirement efforts in bringing work back to the United States.

Each year, FAB Shop Magazine is proud to name an individual who’s contributed to our industry in a variety of ways, whether it’s developing technology, making a difference to others or otherwise setting an example for achieving goals. This year, as with everything else, we’ve taken a different track. We wanted to recognize that, given the trifecta of pandemic, political division and civil unrest that all of us have dealt with in 2020, it’s everyone in the industry – from shop owner to shop helper – that deserves a heartfelt round of applause. It’s in that spirit that we’ve rounded up just a few examples of deserving Manufacturing Industry Persons of the Year.

Breaking barriers

Jeanine Ruppel is one such deserving person. While pursuing an accounting degree 20 years ago, life intervened. She was forced to drop out of college and take an office manager position at a small sheet metal shop in Herndon, Va. Ruppel had no manufacturing experience, but learned all she could and, over the years, ended up managing the entire shop. So, when the owner decided to retire several years ago, she stepped up to the plate and bought the company, despite the personal demands of having special needs children at home.

Precision Sheet Metal Supply can supply parts for a variety of applications, including custom racecar components like the one shown here.

Ruppel is now the president and owner of Precision Sheet Metal Supply, a fabricating and welding firm specializing in medical, defense and communications work. The shop is still small – just a dozen employees and 11,000 sq. ft. – but the plan is to relocate within the next few years to expand the business and invest in new equipment.

“There are certain barriers faced by any small business owner,” Ruppel says. “For instance, it doesn’t always make financial sense to run out and get all the ISO and ITAR certifications needed to compete with larger shops, and then there are EPA regulations to contend with, never mind the skilled labor shortage. Still, we have a dedicated crew and a loyal customer base, so I only see these challenges getting easier over time. And from my side, I was happy to buy the company and not see it swallowed up by an outsider.”

Adopting automation

Hesham Hassane of Jamaica, N.Y., has been in the iron and steel fabrication business for more than two decades. He opened Triple H Construction in 2007, primarily doing “light work and small jobs such as steel

Hesham Hassane has been in the fabrication business for more than two decades and opened Triple H Construction in 2007. Over the years, he’s put a focus on modernizing his shop, embracing Industry 4.0 philosophies and investing in cutting-edge equipment.

railings, stairs and canopies.” That all began to change after a winning bid with a public agency, followed by work with the New York Housing Authority and the Metropolitan Transportation Authority (MTA). Demand grew to the point that Hassane spun off a separate company – Afendi Mfg. Corp. – to manage the cutting and machining end of the business, naming his wife Vee as president.

Like many fabricators, however, Hassane began to realize that the traditional manual manufacturing methods are both time-consuming and error-prone. He wanted to build a more efficient fabricating business, so he started attending trade shows and seminars, learning all he could about digital manufacturing. Hassane invested in 3-D scanning systems and used them on jobsites to streamline the quoting and drawing processes. Eventually, he took the next big step – purchasing a 3D Fabri Gear 400 II automated laser cutting system from Mazak Optonics.

As demand grew at Triple H Construction, Hassane opened the doors to a separate company, Afendi Mfg. Corp., to manage the cutting and machining end of the business. He named his wife, Vee, president.

That was two years ago. Hassane has since hired additional people – primarily younger engineering graduates more open to this new manufacturing approach. He’s expanded his use of 3-D modeling and simulation software, invested in robotic welding and continued to bring in new business that complements his company’s newfound capabilities. And although the transformation presented him and his team with a steep learning curve, engineering costs have dropped by a factor of three, and material waste has been cut by 90 percent or more.

Hassane was, therefore, well-positioned to maintain operations when the pandemic struck earlier this year.

“Our work with the Housing Authority is considered essential, and we were able to continue some projects with the MTA, so while we had to cut back somewhat, we’ve been holding steady,” he says. “And because most of our equipment is now automated, I don’t need a lot of people to maintain production. Our new approach to manufacturing has definitely turned out to be the right move.”

Meeting the challenge

Charles Boyce is another manufacturer familiar with the MTA. In fact, his company designs and manufactures communications systems for the subways and trains of New York City and elsewhere. Founded in 2008, Boyce Technologies Inc. employs 150 engineers, machinists, sheet metal workers and assemblers, and is home to tens of millions of dollars in state-of-the-art manufacturing equipment.

Watch the video to see some of Boyce Technologies’ cutting-edge equipment in action.

Boyce was driving to work last spring listening to the radio when he heard about the urgent need for ventilators. This was at the height of New York’s Covid-19 crisis, and the lifelong resident and president of a vertically integrated manufacturing company knew he had to do something.

Says Boyce, “I walked in 15 min. later and told my crew, ‘Guys, I don’t think we can keep listening to this without taking action. We tell everybody how we can make everything, and now we need to make ventilators.’ So that’s what we did.”

There’s more to this story than Boyce and his team. Several other companies became involved in the design process, but within three weeks, Boyce Technologies had produced several dozen ventilators, and quickly ramped up to one hundred times that amount. To date, they’ve made 3,000 ventilators and are poised to make more. “We’ve pivoted back to our normal production and are having a record year, but can switch back within a few days if necessary,” he says.

Charles Boyce is president of Boyce Technologies Inc., a company that employs 150 employees and is home to tens of millions of dollars in state-of-the-art manufacturing equipment.

It wasn’t long after the first ventilators began shipping that Boyce received a call from Mayor Bill de Blasio, thanking him for his efforts. The mayor called him back just 10 min. later however with a challenge, one that Boyce gladly accepted.

Fast forward to today. Boyce Technologies has invested more than $1 million in developing a fully automatic N95 mask making machine – fabric, glue, labels and elastic band go in one end and sterilized masks come out the other. It was not an easy project, yet as Boyce noted, it was an important one, and he and his team learned a great deal along the way.

“It was a challenging journey for us, understanding how to manipulate the material, how to bond and label and test each mask,” he says. “The machine’s not yet commercialized. It needs better guarding, for example, and some interface tweaks, but we use it every day to supply our building with masks. With the election past us, we’re very anxious to show it to people, in hopes that people can focus more on recovery than politics.”

Afendi Mfg. Corp.

Boyce Technologies Inc.

Precision Sheet Metal Supply

Triple H Construction