Steel Going Strong ...
A Pittsburgh company changes its focus from furniture design to architectural millwork in order to survive the economic downturn after 9/11.
Elias Studios has transformed over the years from a company that once downplayed CNC technology to a company that now embraces high-end equipment to remain competitive in a steadily changing landscape.
Elias Studios reinvented itself by turning a golfer's swing into a batter's stance - a different game with different techniques, but with the same goal of hitting a small ball for a long distance. Reinvention is not an unfamiliar theme locally. Pittsburgh, well known for its steel production, also went through a turning point during the 1970s when its huge steel plants, as well as other manufacturing plants, closed down, leaving a severely battered local economy. Through several renewal phases, the city eventually evolved from a manufacturing driven economy to one based on information and services.
"It became pretty obvious that high [end] technology played a big role in the more successful shops," Elias says. So he decided that in order for the company to grow and take on extra work - and to deal with a narrow pool of skilled labor - he had to invest in CNC capabilities. Elias also decided to develop an in-house moulding department, and he joined the Architectural Woodwork Institute. "That made a huge difference, too," Elias notes. "It brought exposure to how other shops were doing things, [provided] seminars, literature and [allowed us to] compete at a different level."
According to Elias, the CNC allows the company to respond quickly to its customers' needs and to operate in a lean fashion. It can produce parts as needed to assemble and work in small batches so that other areas in the shop are not overwhelmed.
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More Than a Job
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