Difficult machining projects require a skillful job shop capable of rising to continuous challenges. Challenges are what this Los Angeles, Calif., company thrives on. STADCO earned its steel-solid reputation for providing innovative solutions delivering precision-tooled and engineered products on time to discriminating customers worldwide. In fact, STADCO has manufactured master gages for nearly every launch vehicle produced since the early 1960s, including the Titan, Polaris, Poseidon, Trident and PeaceKeeper, and the Space Shuttle solid rocket motor. When NASA needed its master gage base for the advanced solid rocket motor, STADCO utilized a solid granite plate weighing 106,000 pounds and measuring 18 feet by 14 feet and nearly three feet thick, the largest of its kind in existence.
STADCO’s commitment to excellence constantly satisfies such customers as Boeing, Lockheed, Thiokol, Raytheon, BF Goodrich, Northrop Grumman and the U.S. government. Although STADCO’s core business is aerospace tooling and parts manufacturing, it also is a major supplier to the commercial aviation, communications and national laboratories offering engineering and design, fixturing and complex contoured tooling, and advanced tooling for composites.
“With over 50 years’ experience and exposure to a vast array of manufacturing requirements, we have the advantage of a heads-up view of potential design problems,” says STADCO President John Herzog. “Our overall equipment capabilities allow us to handle very large components, setting us apart from our competitors.” The company’s vertical and horizontal boring mills are the largest in the job shop industry, capable of handling up to 100-ton parts. “We can handle parts up to 65 feet long needing high-speed machining and five-axis requirements,” Herzog says. STADCO’s technologically advanced equipment includes lathes that can turn parts up to 98 inches in diameter by 40 feet long and machines capable of vertical turnings up to 25-foot diameters.
STADCO prides itself on its full-service capabilities offering close working relationships with its customers for the duration of projects. “Our estimator program managers are responsible to our customers from start to finish,” explains Herzog. “It’s like having your own personal banker. An inquiry comes in, and one person is responsible for quoting the job and developing the process to manufacture the product.” Once a product is delivered, managers will continue to monitor the project, even making personal appearances at the customer’s plant, if necessary.
Thriving On Challenge
STADCO’s major role in U.S. national security is a cornerstone testimonial to the company’s commitment to excellence. The company manufactured the phased array radar screen, an integral component in the DX-rated program of the “Star Wars” radar system used to track hostile missile launches. “This screen was delivered on time and without any deviation,” says Herzog. The panels, some of the largest pieces of aluminum produced in the world, serve as the platform to which the phased array system is mounted. Alcoa Aluminum produced a special run of 6061-T6 aluminum, with plates as large as 14 feet by 32 feet by 1.9 inches and weighing over 12,000 pounds. “The size of the panels and the potential for warping and distortion presented us with serious machining challenges,” continues Herzog. Finishing the plates was just as challenging because of the size of the plates and because of the unusual chemical film specifications. National security issues intensified the need for STADCO to quickly innovate solutions. “We delivered the plates two months early.”
Another of STADCO’s challenging applications required extremely demanding and critical tolerance fabricating and machining. “The stainless steel units we manufactured will be part of a $1.3 billion program at Lawrence Livermore National Laboratories in Livermore, Calif.,” explains Herzog. “The National Ignition Facility (NIF), the size of a football stadium, will be located at the Livermore Laboratories and will be used for research into nuclear fusion. The NIF will rely on spatial filters built by us that will guide lasers to the target chamber.” These spatial filters are among the largest assemblies ever machined by STADCOSTADCO delivered functional precision to the International Space Station, which required the company’s expertise in fabricating a large portion of the habitat tooling, including the final weld assembly tool. This computer-controlled tool had to fit through a 42-inch square opening and then had to expand to 168 inches in diameter. STADCO built the tool to exacting tolerances.
Boeing Huntington Beach recently awarded a plaque to STADCO in recognition of the company’s commitment to excellence and its outstanding support of the successful Endeavor Shuttle Flight STS88. “This was for the new space station and the PMA, or pressurized mating adapter,” explains Herzog. “That flight carried a PMA we manufactured for the International Space Station. The PMA is used to join together the various modules, allowing personnel to move from one living module to another.” This is yet another example of STADCO’s reputation for delivering quality products on time.
Tools Of The Trade
These colossal accomplishments would be impossible were it not for state-of-the-art equipment. STADCO takes seriously its commitment to house the finest and most technologically advanced machines for its customers’ projects. The company’s facilities, which occupy 300,000 square feet of space, are environmentally and temperature-controlled, eliminating the need to compensate for expansion and contraction during the tool manufacturing and inspection cycle. “We have an inventory of precision machine tools valued in excess of $40 million,” says Herzog. “We also have more than $5 million custom-designed support equipment and drilling heads, sine plates, extension heads and other setup equipment assuring speed, efficiency and cost effectiveness to our customers.” STADCO also offers crane capacities working in tandem of up to 100 tons for parts and tooling handling.
While STADCO’s core business is machining, it offers added services, including fabricating, welding and tool design. “We are requested to quote on build-to prints for the majority of our contracts,” says Herzog. As the world leader in INVAR tools STADCO manufactures more INVAR tools for composites than any of its competitors worldwide. With low controlled Coefficient of Thermal Expansion characteristics and the durability required for high-volume heat cycles, INVAR is the alloy of choice for many composite tooling applications. STADCO is renowned for manufacturing precision master gages and programmable, universal holding fixtures used in machining large aircraft components and assemblies.
Employees: Dedicated, Loyal, Experienced
STADCO’s 200 employees understand that team involvement is paramount to the continued success of this quality-driven company. “We implement concurrent engineering, and we skillfully blend technical design proficiency with effective team processes,” explains Herzog. “We employ watchmaker precision when assembling, and our personnel check and calibrate every unit, assuring quality every time.”
The company’s Total Quality Management, guided by its ISO-9002 certification and philosophy, assures customers that every employee is dedicated to working toward manufacturing superior-quality products. The average STADCO employee has been with the company for more than 17 years, truly underscoring the dedication and expertise of the STADCO work force.
When Thiokol Corporation needed a zero-defect solid rocket stiffener case, STADCO delivered the product in five months, rather than the 9 months it normally would have taken to complete. Such a tall order could be accomplished only with the loyal commitment of STADCO employees and the framework organizational philosophy.
“The whole secret to success is the employee, and we value each of our employees.” STADCO’s commitment to its employees is evident in its four-year machinist apprentice program, a part of the National Tooling and Machining Association’s apprentice program.
Design-And-Build Team Strategy
STADCO’s design-and-build teaming strategy, in conjunction with its concurrent engineering, is the heart and soul of services offered. From initial design concepts, to final assembly and quality assurance planning, STADCO provides customers with a synergistic and seamless process that is unrivaled in the industry. STADCO’s evolution is impressive, from a 1945-established humble tool and die shop, to the international leader it is today. Current owners Parviz Nezarian and Neil Kadisha have owned the company since 1982. “Although we will continue to maintain our core business of tooling, we now are moving more into the arena of commercial product tooling and parts manufacturing,” says Herzog. “With oil prices continuing to rise, more intensive oil exploration is definitely on the horizon for well drilling, and this means more opportunities for us.”
STADCO will continue to utilize advanced technologies and expand its capabilities and services to be an increasingly full-service organization. “We may look at acquisitions if they are appropriate, and we are considering expanding our international market capabilities,” concludes Herzog.