By Angela Rose | Apr 25, 2023
Machesney Park, Illinois
Welding, laser cutting and marking, CNC machining, 3D metal deposition
"Tom and I started in our garage in Rochelle, Illinois," Beach-Shelow says when recounting the company's origin story. "Our main customer was in the north part of Rockford, so we moved from the garage to 1,800 square feet, and then into 10,000 square feet. Now, we're in 55,000 square feet. Each time [we've moved], we've gotten bigger."
From the beginning, Beach-Shelow and her husband were focused on the aerospace industry and precision welding. While they initially outsourced other processes to vendors within a 90-mile radius of their shop, they eventually expanded their capabilities. "Anything that we weren't successful at outsourcing, we brought in over the years," she explains. "We brought in non-destructive testing. Then we brought in laser cutting. Then we started welding with lasers, and we added CNC machining."
Today, Superior Joining Technologies' robust portfolio of services also includes laser marking, CMM measuring, and 3D metal deposition. "We're printing with metal powder," Beach-Shelow says. "That's our newest thing. And for that, we needed to add the certification of ISO medical."
In addition to ISO 9001 certification, Beach-Shelow's company is AS 9100D and ITAR certified. It is also Nacap accredited for fluorescent penetrant and magnetic particle inspection as well as fusion welding and laser welding – along with a host of other certifications, affiliations, and accreditations.
"We're one of only 11 companies in the U.S. that has a Nadcap laser welding certification." Beach-Shelow says. "Laser welding is an area that grows for us every year. We can laser weld on five different lasers, so we can do different power strengths and things."
She continues, "There are a lot of credentials involved with our operation and our people. Our most important thing is our employees. We enjoy working with them, and appreciate them, and we do a lot to train people. Our people are highly skilled and credentialed."
Continuous education is encouraged, and Beach-Shelow says that earning new certifications is a way for the company's employees to increase their wages. Some training is completed in-house, while other training and testing may be done elsewhere.
"For the certified weld inspection, we do training here and then send them out," she explains. "Same thing with non-destructive testing. We do hundreds of hours of over-the-shoulder observation, and then we'll send them out. With welding, you can practice after work and on Saturday. If you want to improve your welding on different kinds of aluminum, or different stainless groups, you can practice. And then we'll send out the tests and get them observed."
Superior Joining Technologies often works with customers who need service from blueprint to finished product, and Beach-Shelow notes that contract manufacturing is "one of our larger profit centers. When we do contract manufacturing, we're probably going to do welding, machining, non-destructive testing, inspection, and marking. We may use up to six different processes to [manufacture] something for a customer."
Materials are sourced within a 90-mile radius of Rockford, including from suppliers in Illinois, Indiana, southern Wisconsin, and Iowa.
Challenges: Beach-Shelow says that her company has faced challenges over the last few years because of its traditional aerospace focus. "We're mostly aerospace," she explains. "We're on 17 different airplanes with original equipment. And we're on every space program and many of the satellite programs. But with being so heavy in commercial aviation, and commercial aviation struggling to rebound after COVID-19, we have had just seven or eight percent growth, which is small for us."
Opportunities: Beach-Shelow says Superior Joining Technologies has many opportunities, and she's excited to see where the company's new ISO medical certification along with its new 3D laser metal printing and metal deposition services will lead.
Needs: Like many manufacturers, Beach-Shelow needs people. "We haven't had a lack of interest in the jobs that we have, but we haven't totally been able to land everybody," she says. "We still have gaps that we would be glad to fill with new people. We like to bring people on and train them. So, you don't have to know everything. If you're enthusiastic, and a good worker, and interested in learning new things, we have opportunities for you."