Top-notch customer service and employee incentives help this Michigan company produce specialized equipment
In the 45 years that Novi Precision Products has been doing business in Michigan, the company has evolved from a small machining job shop, initially created to do overflow work for an automotive supplier, to a global machine tool manufacturer and integrator specializing in assembly and metal removal systems.
Over the years, the company has changed owners and locations. As the name suggests, Novi Precision started in Novi, MI, in 1971 but later moved to a larger facility in Wixom. It expanded again several years later, this time to Brighton, MI. In 1990, Novi Precision built a new facility in Brighton spanning 36,000 ft2. where it resides today.
Ron Karaisz, the current co-owner and president of Novi Precision Products, began buying shares of the company in 1997. At the time, he represented Novi Precision through his company Kar Enterprises, a machine tool distributor that he started in 1987.
“In 1997, the owner of Novi Precision was looking to transition out of the business and move into retirement,” said Karaisz. “Having worked with him since the early 90’s, we got together and worked out an arrangement that we would purchase the company.” He assumed complete ownership in 1999 along with John Goit and Jim Reichel.
Today, Novi Precision specializes in building and designing special machines for two key areas. The first of those is metal removal for custom drilling, milling, tapping, and deburring machines. The second key area is assembly machines for various types of assembled components. The assembly machine umbrella also covers leak and functional testing systems, press systems, notch and pierce equipment, laser marking systems, inspection machines, and integration systems. Think high-volume projects with cycle times of mere seconds.
“Pretty much everything we do is specials,” said Karaisz, “Sometimes we’ll get into bigger programs where you multiply the same machines, but that’s few and far between.”
Novi Precision also takes on major auto assembly lines, where as many as 122 different components are assembled and the finished product is then tested as it is used in the vehicle. These large complex assembly lines have been a bright spot for the company over the past five years. Another bright spot has been metal cutting machines for machining cylinder heads, cylinder cases, and transmission components, said Karaisz.
Nick Karaisz, international sales director at Novi Precision, said that the company has also seen an uptick in demand for inspection systems recently. “It’s just become more relevant in the industry because everyone’s shooting for zero defects on parts,” he said.
The company’s biggest market is small engines, followed closely by automotive. The Big Three are among its customers, but the majority of the automotive market served is Tier 1 and Tier 2 suppliers, such as American Axle, Dow Automotive, Linamar and Magna, to name a few.
Since Novi Precision designs and builds such specialized systems, working with the customer every step of the way is critical. Usually, the process starts with a visit to the customer, who has a part that needs to be machined or assembled. After taking a look at the raw or unassembled components and then the finished components, Novi Precision designs a proposal for a new system—for example, suggesting a ten-station machine and breaking down each station’s function, and then attaching a price to it.
After multiple meetings with the customer to refine the design, the customer determines whether or not to choose Novi Precision for the job. If they do, that project is assigned a project manager that becomes the main point of contact for the customer throughout the process. A timeline of the entire project is provided—dates for when the engineering will be complete, project reviews, and shipping and installation.
Novi Precision’s engineering department has both mechanical and controls engineers that are responsible for the design and programming of the machines they build. After the machine is assembled, tested, shipped and installed in the customer’s facility, Novi Precision provides a one-year warranty for the machine. An area the company prides themselves on is building robust machines that will last 15–30 years. This is accomplished by using heavy-duty weldments, thick steel plates, and other high-quality components. To top it off, 24 hour, seven days a week, service and support is provided to its customers.
Novi Precision does anywhere from 15 to 25 jobs a year. Right now, business is booming, and they are quoting a year for delivery dates for large jobs.
While Novi Precision does work for many Michigan companies, shipments and installations aren’t limited to Michigan, or even the US for that matter. “Probably our biggest market right now is Mexico,” said Ron Karaisz. They have also done installations in Canada, Slovakia, the Philippines, South Korea and China.
Karaisz has also had a partnership with Hydromat (St. Louis and Switzerland) since 1996 to provide all the sales and service responsibility for the state of Michigan for Hydromat machines. There are about 330 Hydromat machines that have been sold and serviced in the state of Michigan.
Pursuit of Perfection
In 2008, Novi Precision Products created a new company philosophy called “Pursuit of Perfection,” intended to put focus on three areas—the customer, the budget, and teamwork. If Novi Precision’s employees hit certain targets on the budget and with customers, incentives are available.
“It’s been very successful,” said Karaisz, especially when it comes to employee retention. Right now, Novi Precision has about 55 employees, and it occasionally uses contractors when the company has a lot of work on the shop floor. That can sometimes bring employment up to 80–90 workers.
Finding qualified employees can be a challenge, said Karaisz. “That’s why if you do get a good employee, it’s best to retain the employee.”
The program helps employees and customers get on the same page, too. Employees working on a project fill out a self-evaluation during the process, and the customer fills out the same form at the end of the job. Positive feedback from the customer factors into employee incentives, and there are no surprises in terms of customer satisfaction.
It’s a win-win for employees and customers alike, as well as the company. “We feel that if you can build a machine, and you can meet the budget and you get repeat business from your customer, you’re going to be here a long time,” Karaisz said.
Novi Precision also works lean, in its own way. Since it deals in specialized equipment and not commodity, it’s not lean manufacturing in the traditional sense. “I would say we work pretty lean,” said Karaisz. “I mean, we don’t really buy a lot of inventory. We design each job and then we buy each job.”
Business so far this year has been excellent, Ron Karaisz said. He foresees another two good years since his company is working on programs that are two years away from being introduced and can predict business through 2018. However, Karaisz does note that economists forecast another small recession in 2019.
Karaisz is especially qualified to comment on the machine tool industry—he’s been serving on the Association for Manufacturing Technology’s board of directors for five years, this year as First Vice Chairman, and he’s been selling machine tools since his first job out of college. In fact, he still owns and operates Kar Enterprises, which continues to represent Novi Precision Products as well as several other lines.
He said the machine tool industry is cyclical and you typically see a downturn in the beginning of every decade, but it always bounces back.
History of Novi Precision Products
1971—Novi Precision Products was incorporated in Novi, MI. The company was started to do overflow work for Commerce Industries.
1976—Novi Precision moved to a larger facility in Wixom, MI.
1980—Moved to Brighton, MI into a 16,000-ft2 building. The company expanded its product line to include assembly and gaging equipment.
1984—Purchased a second building in Brighton for a total of 32,000 ft2.
1988—Novi Precision Products purchased Summit Products and Freeland Gage. This allowed the company to expand its offerings and build leak test equipment and cut-off saws.
1990—Novi Precision built a brand new facility in Brighton, MI consisting of 36,000 ft2. This is the company’s current location.
1997—New ownership started purchasing shares of Novi Precision Products.
1999—New ownership took over complete control of Novi Precision Products.
2000—Novi Precision Products started doing complete turn keys, integration, and building more advanced automation equipment.
2007—Novi Precision Products diversified its customer base to add solar, diesel components, and large and small engine manufacturers, in addition to automotive.
2008—Novi Precision Products created a Metal Removal Division and hired additional personnel. Novi Precision also created a company philosophy called the “Pursuit of Perfection.”
Future—Novi Precision Products strives to continuously innovate, grow, and meet and exceed customers’ needs in a dynamic and changing marketplace.
This article was first published in the August 2016 edition of Manufacturing Engineering magazine. Read “Pursuing Perfection at Novi Precision Products” as a PDF.