Made in Eastern Iowa: Adding machines and skills in Marion

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MARION, Iowa (KCRG-TV9) -- Walking around the Electric Specialty Manufacturing facility on the eastern edge of Marion, Jim Eipert said having clients spread across industries has been a major element of success in manufacturing.

"When there are shifts in the market, we don’t see too much impact because the others pick up and move ahead," Eipert, the owner and president of ESM said. "The product that we manufacture and produce, they’re diverse. You might find them in agricultural, hoisting equipment for elevators. Construction equipment, medical research labs. That diversity has allowed us to utilize and develop skills to apply across the spectrum."

Originally a company that focused on telegraph keys a century ago, ESM now focuses on custom products for a variety of sectors, including aerospace, hydraulics, banking, medical, electronics and scientific research.

As a handful of people work the equipment from the production floor, Eipert was quick to point out the more advanced purchases that also require advanced knowledge.

"A twin-spindle, twin-turret lathe is an advanced piece of equipment that requires a lot of training," Eipert demonstrated. "A lot can go wrong very quickly but a lot can get done very quickly. It’s a skill that’s not really out there. Schools don’t train for it."

These are bustling times for ESM, where the goal is to add a high-end piece of machinery in the hopes that production will also increase, which will lead to adding or maintaining workers with the knowledge to operate whatever the future brings.

"At the current trajectory that we’ve got and the current growth pace, we’ve added 12 pieces of equipment since the current owners purchased the business," operations manager Tim Atwood said. "In five years, we’ll probably have five new pieces of equipment and new people. We want to add another shift to get a better utilization of the resource."

Eipert called the acquisition of new technology a "necessary evil" in manufacturing.

"If you don’t grow and adapt to the technology that’s out there, you’ll very likely be buried by your competitors," said Eipert. "As technology advances, the equipment becomes ever more challenging and it really is going to require a higher level of education and training. As an employer, that’s what we are up for. We’re up for giving employees the opportunity to grow and develop in the technologies that we haven’t even seen yet."