LOFTech was originally founded on the principle of “Do what we say and say what we do”. While the company’s business model and capabilities have changed over the years as the company has evolved, the core values of treating the customer fairly and doing what it takes to ensure a quality product has remained constant.
In its early days, LOFTech began as a precision machine shop. They viewed this first step as a necessity to become the respected automation builder that they hoped to become. The company quickly established a reputation for producing high caliber piece parts and tooling. Many of these fabricated parts were for assembly fixtures and automated prototype machines for its customers designs. While LOFTech was a machine shop at this time, the special attention to detail and the willingness to understand their customers parts became hard to hide.This led to even greater opportunities for them to support their customers.
LOFTech had produced several fixtures for a particular customer who ultimately was looking to improve their current process even further. Through a collaboration of ideas, LOFTech entered the world of mechanical and process design to help their customer with an automated solution.This led to the manufacture of a prototype that proved out the most complex part of the design. The rest, as they say, is history. LOFTech had accomplished one of their major goals and was acknowledged as a competitor in the world of automation. “At that point in our business growth, we were still establishing our fabrication shop” commented Dan Feser, Chief Manager and CFO at LOFTech. “However, with this breakthrough, our customer had entrusted us with a critical piece of equipment. This gave the company the confidence boost that the timing was right to jump into providing turnkey automated solutions”.
In the succeeding years, LOFTech increased its capabilities in both the mechanical design and the electrical/control systems departments. Today, the company excels in working with its customers from the prototype stage of a project, through design, fabrication, debug, and ultimately producing a piece of equipment that meets or exceeds expectations. LOFTech works with a varied customer base including businesses in the aerospace, transportation, medical, defense, electronics, and energy industries.
Up-Up and Away
At LOFTech, each customer is different and bring their own unique set of challenges to the table. One such challenge was working on a project for NASA in 2009 on their LCROSS program. This mission explored the South Pole region of the moon in search of ice-locked water. The end goal was to help evaluate the possibility of extended inhabitation on the moon. LOFTech fabricated several key pieces of analytical equipment for the mission including portions of the spectrometers, telescopes, and solar viewers. These parts were fabricated and assembled with enough precision and care that they were able to meet the NASA criterion, the first time, in themandatory trial that the space agency conducts before mounting foreign parts onto its rockets. According to Feser, “Everyone anticipated the prototypes to undergo multiple tests before NASA clearance” and LOFTech’s efficiency allowed NASA to proceed with its mission ahead of schedule. Because of this success, additional devices were also produced for the CURIOSITY program, which landed a rover on Mars in 2012 and the LADEE program (2013), which conducted experiments while orbiting the moon.
We want to produce a machine as if it were a piece of equipment that would land on our own production floor
Another instance where LOFTech demonstrated their prototyping ability was for a customer in the glass/window manufacturing sector. A unique triple pane product presented automation assembly challenges that had not existed before on previous double-pane models. Instead of trying to retrofit a double pane machine design, LOFTech was able to prototype an unprecedented solution by building a smaller version of the final product. The design solved the crux of the problem and demonstrated the viability of the solution without the extended cost of the overall machine. With the customer on board with a high level of confidence, LOFTech was able to move forward and design, fabricate, and bring the first of a kind machine to life to produce a new product.
Business Philosophy: Done Right and On Time
Providing a high-quality product and delivering that product on time are at the heart of the LOFTech way. Each customer and project will be treated with the same amount of passion and dedication to complete the said task. “We want to produce a machine as if it were a piece of equipment that would land on our own production floor” comments Feser. “We are a small company with a mission to continuously improve. Our employees are hands on and optimizing a closely-knit team of skillful hands with some passion can outproduce larger firms.”
As much as LOFTech enjoys a challenge, they will also be the first inform you if a project does not fit in their wheelhouse. With quality as a must, meeting an on-time delivery is also paramount. So much so, LOFTech tracks and analyzes deliveries on a weekly basis. This attention to detail is one of the tools that feeds into their continuous improvement process. As a matter of fact, Feser contends, LOFTech’s capability to manage time and enable clients to “Do more with less” is their ultimate asset.
Having Fun Doing It
The 17-year-old entity is going strong with the four original founders still very involved in the company and actively practicing their second founding principle, “Having Fun Doing It”. This phrase is literally on the wall of its machine shop in Vadnais Heights to serve as a reminder to its dedicated workforce that while we are here to work hard, we can always have fun in the process. This encourages each of the 38 employees to go that extra mile in providing outstanding customer service.
LOFTech also supports a healthy work-life balance for its employees. This has helped set the company apart in earning the trust and dedication of its personnel. In turn, this has built a culture witha strong work ethic and has helped solidify LOFTech as a top player in their industry.
A Prosperous Road Ahead
The philosophy of controlling growth has allowed LOFTech to run at even keel and maintain a high level of attention to detail for their customers. This focus culminates strong internal communication which naturally spills over to their communications with clients. This attentive approach has contributed to LOFTech gaining the long-term trust of its customers. This fact was most apparent during the great recession.While other organizations were in scramble mode, LOFTech grew by 40 percent in the 2008 and 2009 time period.
As LOFTech moves forward, it promises to “Get better before getting bigger” and focus on the growth of its internal team. “Although the industry always presents new challenges, we will continue to look forward and control our growth” Feser concluded.