By Mike Vieira | Mar 13, 2023
Machined parts for automotive, marine, and other industries
CEO Drew credits his lifelong interest and participation in drag racing and powerboating for drawing him to create new and better parts for motorsports.
He says, "I was essentially a broke college student, working on my physics degree, and I had spent about four years building several vehicles with my dad, and I was working as a fabricator at the time. This was when Jessie James was on TV with the Monster Garage, and that was a big inspiration for making me want to do that kind of work. I also didn't have the money to pay someone else to do the things I wanted to do, so I decided I had to learn how to do it myself."
He launched DREWFAB with Sarah, who is also the company's vice president, and acquired some manual milling equipment to keep things going as he started out.
"Then about six or seven years ago, we bought our first CNC machine," Drew says. "It was an old machine that I actually had to rebuild all the electronics on to get it working, but it was the most economical way to get into the CNC world. I started doing some CNC work, picked up some customers for that, and things just started rolling. We made a couple of our own products that didn't sell real well, but it got me headed in this direction. When you make your own products, and you have them on the shelf, people can purchase them online, and that's the only way you can make money when you're not standing in front of a machine."
Realizing that it would be necessary to upgrade his equipment further if he was going to make a real go of it, he took the plunge in 2020 and purchased a new vertical machining center.
"At the time that we made the purchase, we really didn't have the work to support the payment," Drew says, "but we had a customer come in and essentially bankroll the entire first six months of it, so that was really nice."
During this time, Drew was still working DREWFAB as a part time endeavor at night and on weekends, after his regular job. Only late in 2022 did he begin devoting his fulltime attention to his shop. That year saw the company go from its one CNC machine to four, along with all the supporting equipment for them. Additionally, the company acquired the Titan Clutch Company to add to its product line.
The focus was also turning from mostly automotive to marine products, in part due to Drew fabricating a hard-to-find part for his own boat. That led to interest from other boat owners, and then a further expanding product line for high performance boat parts. Though Drew makes some direct sales efforts himself, much of the company's new sales come from word-of-mouth recommendations and participation in online social media forums, particularly among boat enthusiasts.
The Dominique's participation and attendance at both boat and car racing events is also a major avenue for exposure and demonstration of their products. "It's definitely been very satisfying, and a lot of fun," Drew says, "and I look forward to what's coming down the road."
DREWFAB handles all the machining operations necessary for their customers, using outside services for coatings and finishes. Acquisition of new equipment, such as their laser etching machinery, is allowing them to further expand their in-house capabilities, even though they're very pleased with work provided by their outside contractors.
The company uses a wide variety of metals in its work, including some newer, more exotic materials that Drew gained experience with while working for a number of years in the solar industry, further enhancing his company's capabilities over competitors.
Additionally, with his expansive background as a physicist, manufacturing engineer, machinist, welder and fabricator, and CAD programmer, Drew says, "There are very few people in any manufacturing industry that have ability to take someone's idea and convert it from a thought in their head, or a drawing on a piece of paper, and actually engineer it with proper flow analysis and stress analysis, create a proper design, and turn it into a finished product."
Most materials are sourced locally, and they haven't really experienced any serious supply disruptions over the last few years. Prices, however, have increased substantially for many of their raw materials, although the rate of increase has slowed a bit recently.
"I have to be really creative when I'm bidding work, because sometimes the material you think you're going to use isn't the most economical, so you have to find the right one to use," Drew says. "What we're trying to deliver to our customers, ultimately, is the best value. That is the best combination between customer service, quality of product, and price."
Challenges: Going from a two-person family shop to hiring their first outside employee will be a big step for the company, and finding the most efficient way to grow while hiring the fewest people is a challenge they will have to deal with. "We're going to try to automate the company as much as possible, but there are limitations to that," Drew says. "A lot of the work we do has to be done by a person."
Opportunities: Continued development of new products, as well as looking toward more acquisitions of other companies, either new or established, in order to grow more rapidly.
Needs. "You always have to be expanding your capabilities, your customer base, and your technology, which means purchasing new equipment, and that's always expensive, especially in manufacturing," Drew says.