Edward Brabandt is president and founder of Systematic Manufacturing Inc. (SMI; Sterling Heights, MI) and was nominated by Betsy Aller, associate professor of engineering at Western Michigan University where Brabandt received his engineering degree. She recommended Brabandt for supporting “the education and professional development of his employees, paying for the college courses and training of his employees.”
Why is Brabandt a patron for his employees?
“I read an article recently that stated the average age of a machinist is 50 years old. This is and will continue to be a big problem for domestic manufacturers in the near future,” he said. “I plan to do my part in making American manufacturing strong once more—and showing the next generation of manufacturers that the trade can be very gratifying.”
Brabandt fondly recalls those who mentored him. Among them was Fred Sitkins. “Early in my college career,” he said, “I took an elective in manufacturing processes with the late Dr. Fred Sitkins, and I knew [then] my calling was in an applied engineering curriculum. Though I think many people influenced my decision, Dr. Sitkins convinced me…to begin my journey as a Manufacturing Engineering Technology undergrad.”
One of those other people was a high school teacher.
According to Brabandt, his “passion for manufacturing began when I was 14 years old in Mr. Hart’s precision machining program at Romeo High School. His program laid the foundation for my success.” (It certainly laid a foundation for his machining skills. “While in college,” said WMU’s Aller, “Ed was acknowledged as the finest machinist the faculty recalled teaching.”)
Brabandt’s great grandfather, a machinist, his grandfather, a machine designer for General Motors, and his father, a GM product engineer, also played more than passing roles in his development.
“In college,” said Aller, “he acknowledged what he felt was his debt to those [mentors] and a desire to give back. He has done just that. His company has donated manufacturing tools and lathes, as well as money, to his high school. He has been a guest speaker there, involving students in discussions on the future of manufacturing…and encouraging their participation in hands-on activities. Students hold co-op positions at SMI and several have gone on to full-time positions there.”
Upon graduating with honors from WMU in May 2010, Brabandt worked as a quality engineer for a time. Then in January 2011 he launched SMI with one employee—himself. His first-year revenue was $30,000. This year, said Aller, he is on track to earn $1.6 million and the machine shop’s client list includes the likes of Stryker (where Brabandt interned while in college), FANUC America, Clausing, Stanley Black & Decker, Kuka and others.
Why did he make the leap from employee to entrepreneur?
“My father always told me ‘if someone can do it, so can you.’ I took it a step further by telling myself ‘if someone can do it, I can do it better.”
This article was first published in the July 2016 edition of Manufacturing Engineering magazine. Read all of the 2016 30 Under 30 Profiles as a PDF.