When Dale Sutaria walks through the employee lunchroom at SMG-Global Circuits Inc. in Arden, he has to maneuver around a large piece of equipment that’s waiting for installation elsewhere in the building. Following a recent acquisition, the company is experiencing growing pains at its longtime headquarters at 120 Stationvue in Arden. In March, SMG acquired Oakmont-based Global Circuits to become SMG-Global Circuits Inc.”
In June, Global completed its transfer of employees and equipment to SMG’s Arden site, necessitating the need for additional space and workers.
In addition to acquiring all of Global’s production equipment, Sutaria’s workforce has more than doubled from 21 to 47 because of the extra business.
According to Sutaria, only a dozen of Global’s core workforce made the move to Arden, so he’s looking for more workers as he tries to work through paperwork and permitting for an expansion of the 25,000-square-foot Chartiers Township plant. While he was able to complete new office and storage space, Sutaria is renting 3,000 square feet of storage and using three truck trailers. His immediate goal is to add between 3,000 and 5,000 square feet of space. If business continues to grow, he said, he’d like to add another 10,000 square feet to the facility.
The expansion plans aren’t a stretch for the 24-year-old business.
Beyond the challenge of adding space, Sutaria acknowledged that like most area manufacturers, he has trouble finding the semi-skilled and general labor workers he needs in the local labor pool.
SMG-Global’s customers are located around the U.S. and include original equipment manufacturers and contract producers in a range of industries that include aerospace, mining, safety and electronic signage. Some names on the customer list are well-known, including Westinghouse, Eaton Cutler-Hammer and Mine Safety Appliances, as well as contract manufacturers supplying Texas Instruments.
Besides U.S. customers, the company also exports its products to Thailand, Argentina and Mexico, and to a lesser extent to companies in China and India.
The combination of the two companies now has Sutaria’s operation running at a capacity never before experienced by his company.
“We had operated at 30 percent capacity, but never more than 50 percent capacity,” he said. “Now we are running at 80 to 90 percent, and with the expansions, we could be more.”
During a tour of the plant, Sutaria showed areas that drill, rout and score metallic sheets, while a film and image area prints and laminates circuitry. Other boards pass through an electroplating area, and all go through an inspection by staff or a new machine that can catch imperfections that a human eye might miss.
The growth at SMG-Global is critical, because U.S. printed circuit board manufacturers have been steadily losing ground to imports for more than a decade, said Sutaria, who founded SMG in Bridgeville in 1989 and moved it to Arden in 1996.
“It’s a dying industry in the U.S.,” he said. “Ten to 15 years ago, there were 1,250 shops in the U.S. Now there are slightly over 200 left, so we are the survivors.”
While acknowledging that imported circuit boards can be purchased at a cheaper price, Sutaria added a caveat.
“People looking for price and cheaper quality are going to get it (from offshore producers), but they are going to have to deal with it when there’s a problem,” he said.
Sutaria said SMG-Global tries to counter the offshore competition by working hard to ensure good customer service, working one to one with customers “to make sure they get the product when they need it. We try to cut costs wherever we can to stay in competition.”
But being a U.S. producer earns some points with some of his company’s customers, Sutaria added.
“Some customers have a policy of not going offshore,” he said. “We are in direct competition with China, yet we are growing.”