Rocky Mountain Twist isn’t a faddish dance or ice cream flavor of the month. Rather, it represents something that’s here to stay. It’s the name of Jore Corporation’s industrial division, an enterprise that provides innovative, high-quality drilling equipment and cutting tools to the industrial marketplace. Further, it has enhanced the Ronan, Mont.-based parent company’s versatility and value.
A bit of background: Established in 1990, Jore Corporation, located in the heart of the Rocky Mountains, became a leading U.S. manufacturer of high-quality power tool accessories and hand tools targeted toward the retail market. We’re talking about the “do it yourselfers” who purchase products in “big box” outlets such as Home Depot.
But at the behest of a potential client, Jore directed activities toward the industrial marketplace. The transitioning transpired in the late 1990’s, and it led to creation of Rocky Mountain Twist (RMT), Jore’s growing industrial division.
Specifically, Boeing challenged Jore to expand its focus. Boeing sought a vendor for drill technology, and it recognized Jore’s potential. “They knew about our high-tech equipment, but the company felt that what we offered to the retail market couldn’t satisfy their specific needs,” recalls John Stead, RMT’s director of sales. “Basically, this is what they said to us: ‘The drills you make for the retail market are great, but they don’t meet our needs. However, they could.”
Presented with the Boeing challenge, Jore needed to create newer and better drill technology, and the company proved ready to move beyond its comfort zone. “They said if we could do that, they’d like to do business with us,” says Stead. “Obviously, we wanted to do business with them, so we directed a portion of our business toward industrial manufacturing.”
To exploit new opportunities, Jore redesigned and re-engineered its high-performance cutting tools that already well served the retail marketplace. “But while this fine-tuning addressed the needs of the industrial market, we weren’t the first that entered this sector,” says David Tyler, Jore’s director of marketing. “At the time, needs were being met by other suppliers. But, as it turned out, with our technological and manufacturing advancements, we proved we could offer a better quality product.”
Subsequently, there was an immeasurable gulf between Jore’s retail activities and its industrial activities. Stead illustrates: “On a Saturday, a consumer might want to drill a couple of holes in the garage. So, they’ll go to Home Depot, purchase a fairly expensive, high-quality drill, and then create the required holes. After the home project is accomplished, the consumer would most likely stow the drill somewhere before they needed to use it again.”
But industrial companies can’t afford to be so blithe about equipment purchase. When you need to drill 200 holes in one hour, the supplier, the company and the equipment needs to do more than just dabble. What’s needed is a reliable, industrial strength drill, and that is where RMT comes in.
Customization and Problem Solving
And this industrial division is industrial strength. It manufactures more than 2,000 standard drill products but also delivers cutting tools that meet customers exacting specifications. Indeed, RMT customizes as needs require.
“A great deal of engineering and research and development go into the products we provide for end users,” says Stead. “We do a lot of work with subcontractors. They tell us what they need, and we’ll then design the best drill. The drill will undergo rigorous testing and, when the customer signs off on the design, the test product then goes into production.”
But the RMT way is more than just about developing new product, as Tyler relates. The company is a problem solver. “We directly interface and collaborate with customers when problems arise,” he says. “Both company and customers greatly rely on our engineering team. We view this as a partnership rather than merely a supplier-customer relationship. We understand that ‘partnering’ is a term that easily gets tossed about in industry, but we seek to truly become a client partner.”
Stead describes how this comes about: “We work through distribution and we’re very loyal to our channel, as it interacts with our customers on a daily basis. From its position, the distributor is the one that recognizes the business opportunity with an end user.”
Typically, this leads to a conference call, which enables RMT to best determine the specific problems a customer confronts. Stead provides an example: “We did a call with a Lockheed subcontractor, and they had 14 people in their conference room. On our end, we had five people representing areas such as engineering and research and development. For nearly two hours, we all discussed the issues that Lockheed confronted. In this case, the company had three of its sections represented in their conference room. Each section used our drill motors, and each used a different drill motor speed. So, our drills worked quite well for one section, just okay for another section, and not at all for the third section. What it came down to was determining the right drill speed, and that solved the problem. Now, that sounds quite simple, but at the time, it was quite confusing for all involved. When you build a high-performance drill and someone tells you it isn’t working, then you need to figure out what’s going on.” In this case, it came down to that drill motor speed.
“The manufacturing sector demand very high quality, so we work closely with customers to achieve the most positive results,” says Tyler.
Adds Stead: “We are not only as good as our cutting goods but also only as good as our ability to solve the end users’ problems. That’s where an intangible comes into partnerships, and we take partnering quite seriously. It’s a win-win situation, where everyone benefits.”
SERVING SEVERAL SECTORS
As Stead indicates with his Boeing and Lockheed anecdotes, RMT has a strong presence in the Aerospace industry, plying its value through distributors and subcontractors. “We’ve developed a threaded shrank drill that is only used in the industry, and we produce as many as 50,000 of these each week,” he says.
The division is also strong in the aftermarket, Stead adds. “American Airlines and United both do an enormous amount of maintenance and repair and, as such, need a lot of our products.”
The division also established a presence in the trailer and automotive industries. “For the trailer industry, we produce some drills unique to the sector’s applications. We also service a huge number of sub-tier contractors in the automotive industry.”
For any customer, RMT provides best-in-class, high-performance cutting tools designed to surpass customer expectations. Tools are measured to the highest industry standards and tolerances, utilizing advanced automated CNC technology and manufacturing innovation to exceed clients’ performance requirements. Drill bit grinding, high-speed machining, injection and blow molding, die casting, and metal forming and stamping – such capabilities are routinely provided.
RMT accomplishes its industrial magic in three buildings that total nearly 300,000 square feet – a sizeable industrial space that houses state-of-the-art manufacturing, assembly, packaging, warehousing and distribution capabilities.
RMT’s facilities are located in Ronan, in the heart of the Rocky Mountains. The 300,000-square-foot facility employs around 160 people. It is a highly automated facility, equipped with CNC technology, and the automation keeps costs down. “Automation allows the labor portion to be a lot smaller than what you’d find in the more traditional methods of making drills,” explains Stead.
Indeed, manufacturing capabilities are a significant differentiator. “Our capabilities are better than anything else in the U.S. market, and probably even the world,” observes Stead. “Our proprietary CNC drilling grinding technology enables us to provide a superior product.”
Stead describes another significant differentiator: “Once we decided to do business with Boeing, we established a quality system that deployed the most advanced technology available in the marketplace. This involved placing inspection equipment right on the plant floor, so that the operators could look at the drills.”
Boeing was so impressed that it purchased the system after witnessing how it worked on the plant floor, relates Stead. Further, RMT influenced other companies with its approach to quality. “We were cutting edge, way ahead of the industry mark,” he says.
There’s one more differentiator, and some would consider this the most important: RMT is one of the few remaining American manufacturers of high-performance cutting tools that produces its products in the United States. And this isn’t just about patriotism. “We won’t sacrifice quality,” emphasizes Tyler. “Many large drill manufactures engage in offshore production for cost-saving purposes, but quality suffers. Their product isn’t as good as ours.”
True it’s a two-fold issue, adds Stead. “On the one hand, it involves loyalty, but quality is equally as important, if not more important. By seeking to purchase something cheaper, many companies have been burned. They find the part they purchased just doesn’t work they way they envisioned. Also, they can ruin their own equipment by trying use a less-expensive – but inferior – product. The effort to save a few bucks can have disastrous consequences.”
Growth for this relatively new industrial division has been substantial, despite current global economic circumstances. “Up until the recession hit, we were growing at a rate of 22 to 24 percent each year,” reports Stead. “We still managed 23-percent growth last year, but the year before that was a difficult one. Even last year was a bit tough.”
Still, the company is optimistic enough to set an ambitious growth goal in upcoming years. “We expect to continue to grow and to keep the range within 20 to 30 percent for each year,” says Stead. “True, that represents a challenge, but that is the goal that we have set.”
And it’s not just about profit. RMT is a socially committed company. “We’re one of the largest employers in our region, and we want to keep providing more jobs. That’s very important to us. Our leadership is committed.”
So pick up that air guitar and sing along with Joe Walsh: “The Rocky Mountain way is better than the way we had.”