Grand Forks company sees efficiencies from consolidation
Located in the back of Ideal Aerosmith's Grand Forks office are four yellow pads on the ground—a seemingly inconsequential sight to a visitor.
But those steel rectangles, each at least 8 feet wide, not only show the precise nature of the equipment the company makes but also help explain why Ideal Aerosmith decided to move all of its local employees to South Washington Street.
Ideal Aerosmith, which makes equipment to test aerospace, defense and energy exploration products, has recently consolidated most of its roughly 80 local employees under one roof. The move means more efficient operations, but it was prompted by a capital project.
Those yellow pads lifted by concrete piers actually are not attached to the building, freeing them from minute vibrations caused by passing traffic and other sources. The company couldn't install the isolation piers in its East Grand Forks office because the heating system there is in the floor, President Greg Owens said.
"Our customers are making more and more precise equipment," so Ideal Aerosmith has to be more precise as well, he said.
Behind a swath of cubicles in the front portion of the Ideal Aerosmith building is its manufacturing floor.
One of their products includes a spinning table sitting in what looks to be a heavy-duty microwave hoisted to eye level. Devices such as sensors are mounted on the spinning table and then are tilted on a vertical axis, which helps determine how accurate the device is before it's put into use.
Nearby, a computer screen monitors how much the testing equipment is spinning and tilting to fractions of a degree. Hence, the need for the isolation piers to ensure accuracy.
That represents one of several recent capital projects the company took on. Ideal Aerosmith also bought a motorized rack that stores its collection of wire spools that were previously stored on racks across the building, and it brought in a new paint booth in the back of the building.
Ideal Aerosmith also performed some electrical work and bought general office equipment that was necessary to accommodate the increased employment at the 3001 S. Washington St. office.
Despite the capital costs of fitting up its building, the consolidation has made the company more efficient thanks to reduced back-and-forth work over the Red River, executives said.
"We're just so much more productive here when we're in one building," said Bruce Kopp, the company's vice president of finance and accounting.
Ideal Aerosmith got some help from the city of Grand Forks for the move. Grand Forks City Council members approved a $163,500 economic development loan in December to help buy equipment.
There still are some employees in East Grand Forks, but the company will vacate that office in a few months, Owens said.
Ideal Aerosmith traces its roots to the founding of Ideal Laboratory & Tool in 1938 in Wyoming. That company was founded by former airline maintenance workers, and it originally focused on aircraft instruments.
In 1955, Ideal merged with Aerosmith Instrument Co. to form Ideal Aerosmith. Its corporate headquarters moved in 1984 to East Grand Forks, according to the company's website.
The company became crowded in the East Grand Forks facility, helping prompt the 2010 opening of the Grand Forks office, Kopp said. That building was "picked oversized on purpose for us to grow into," he said.
While Ideal Aerosmith saw business in the oil and gas exploration market in recent years, tumbling oil prices have slowed that market, Kopp said.
But Ideal Aerosmith has its eyes on new ventures. It sees opportunities in precision agriculture and unmanned aerial systems, otherwise known as drones.
"There are opportunities in other industries that we don't even know about yet," Kopp said. "That's part of the challenge in terms of us growing. We need to identify some of those areas."