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Check-Mate Industries, founded in 1972, a Tool and Die, and Metal stamping manufacturer is looking to a new Georgia facility to meet growing demand for its products and services. Owned and operated by Regina Vieweg, Chairman and CEO, Jackie Santoro, Director of legal affairs, and Joseph DeBello, President and COO; with this expansion, the company is investing more than $16 million in a 168,000 square-foot location that will double its workforce.
Currently, Check-Mate Industries operates two buildings totaling 67,000 square feet in West Babylon N.Y.and employs 220. It is ISO 9001-2015 certified and working towards ISO 13485 certification.
The company’s core competencies are in tool and die making and metal stamping. Check-Mate Industries provides tool and die design and fabrication, progressive dies, secondary dies, fine blanking, long and short run stamping, prototyping, CNC Machining, wire and conventional EDM (Electrical Discharge Machining), heat treating, finishing, deburring, assembly and packaging. It serves a range of industries, including firearms and medical components, as well as automotive, aerospace, electrical, sporting goods, furniture, cosmetics, construction, power and lawn tools.
According to Joseph DeBello, president and COO, “We looked at a number of potential locations and finally decided on Thomasville, Ga. for a number of reasons. Several large companies in our industry are already located in Georgia or have recently announced moves to the state or surrounding area, making it a strategic location for us. Beyond this, Thomasville itself is a progressive town. We felt impressed by the leadership there. The school system, technical schools and universities are actively developing training programs for trades. Everyone demonstrated an interest in our long-term success, ensuring our move would be successful not only from the start, but for years to come. It was very clear from everyone involved that their partnership with us was not going to end once we moved in.”
In a press release, Thomasville Mayor Greg Hobbs comments, “We appreciate that the owner of Check-Mate Industries and her family value the quality of life in Thomasville and want to become a part of the community. That was a very important factor in negotiations—they have a family friendly corporate atmosphere and we feel they are perfect for the community.”
The new facility is expected to create 230 new jobs. DeBello notes that the New York operation will continue and the two manufacturing facilities will complement one another. “We’re going to implement one production line at a time in Georgia and be very methodical to ensure that we have everything correctly in place to ensure efficient operations.
He adds that as a long-time practitioner of lean manufacturing to eliminate waste, “Continuous improvement is a mindset for us. Each process is studied and broken down to see how we can make it more efficient. And once we do, then we do it again.”
Locating to Georgia is but yet another step in that direction. “We are partnering with key suppliers of ours to bring heat treatment and finishing under our roof in Thomasville. This will allow us to shorten lead times and ultimately improve the customer experience with Check-Mate,” DeBello says. “We are exploring other areas of vertical integration as well, and we always have our eyes open for suitable acquisitions.”
Developing an American Workforce
DeBello also points out that, “We have a 95 percent skilled labor versus five percent automation mix. We have had mixed success with automation. Most of the time, humans can do the job faster and cheaper than the robots can. It may sound counterintuitive, but that has been the case for us. As technology advances, we will may feel differently, but for now, we put our faith in the hands of the American workforce.”
Finding and retaining a skilled workforce is a challenge for every manufacturing business. While Check-Mate Industries is no different, it has a highly successful track record over the years.
“Retention and low turnover is key. We have employees in our New York operation that have been with us for over 40 years, so we have demonstrated that Check-Mate Industries is a great place to work and grow,” DeBello says. “We spend a tremendous amount of money and resources in training our team members, and offer competitive pay and good benefits. But there is more to it than that. We are a growing mid-size company, but we try to maintain a family environment. Everyone knows they are part of a team, and everyone must contribute and be a part of the team’s success. Everyone is treated the same, from the machine operators to the management staff. That type of culture lets people feel fulfilled and satisfied at the end of the day.”
Word of Check-Mate Industries’ employee centered-culture has apparently already reached Georgia job applicants. “Since announcing our move, we have received well over a hundred resumes from highly skilled individuals looking to come work for us,” DeBello points out.
Over the long term, DeBello says, “Recruiting to a high standard is a critical part of producing quality products. Historically, we have partnered with local high schools and community colleges to find apprentices to our tool and die programs. Which is why Georgia Quick Start played an instrumental role in our decision to move to the state. The workforce training they provide is second to none.”
He adds, “We have already begun creating training programs for our future employees at the new facility. We are also going to work with Southern Regional Technical College to create a tool and die apprenticeship program. Thomasville and the state of Georgia understand that we are missing an entire generation of skilled workers manufacturers will need in the coming years to fill quality trade jobs. We’re particularly impressed with the quality programs of local high schools and colleges in Georgia that are actively addressing this issue. Again, another reason why we are setting up shop there.”
Meeting Explosive Demand
Of course, why they are expanding operations in the first place is due to near-explosive demand. “We’ve got a diversified customer base, which always help balance out things as one sector might be in a slow period while another is stepping up. However, right now we’re seeing growth across the board,” DeBello says. “The firearms market in particular is still rapidly growing for us. People are buying firearms and accessories at near record levels. Across the board, we are seeing increasing demand and need for our products and services.”
Also increasing is the number of competitors. One of Check-Mate Industries competitive differentiators is that it offers “one-stop shopping.” According to DeBello, “The fact that we can get in early in the part design phase and make recommendations for manufacturability and cost savings is important. We design and build all of our tooling in house, so the project is controlled by us from the very beginning. From design feasibility to final packaging, we provide the highest precision in everything we do. It leads to a high quality product at a fair price, and that is a tremendous benefit to our customers.”
Check-Mate Industries is growing because of that ability to meet demand with a high quality process and a high quality product. DeBello emphasizes that, “Our expansion will lead to increased opportunities for skilled workers, and stimulate training programs that will develop a new generation of craftsmen. The American workforce is amazing. Our employees are like a family, and can rise to any challenge. We’ve been successful, and are growing, because of them and because of the trust of our customers. This expansion builds on our unique ability to handle customer projects from start to finish. It’s a wonderful thing to partner with local governments, state organizations, training programs, skilled workers and customers for a move that’s a total win for every party involved.”