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Temco Tool asking for more elbow room

New Hampshire Union Leader

May 21. 2016 6:52PM
Machinist Shawn Owen makes a fixture at Temco Tool Co., Inc., in Manchester on Thursday. (DAVID LANE/UNION LEADER)

MANCHESTER - With a big aerospace contract under its belt, a local machine shop has filed plans to expand its Manchester plant.

Temco Tool Co. Inc. is also poised to go on a hiring spree, expecting strong growth in the industries it supplies, including aerospace, defense, medical and precision manufacturing.

"It's only going to go up. There's a need to build up our military, I believe," said Norman Gagne, president of Temco, which is located on Holt Avenue in east Manchester.

Earlier this month, engineers representing Temco approached city planners with blueprints for a 20,100-square-foot addition to the company's plant, increasing the plant footprint by nearly 40 percent.

Temco has landed a contract to supply materials for the F-35 fighter plane and needs the expansion to accommodate the work, said Robert Duval, an engineer with T.F. Moran who is overseeing the expansion.

"In order to fulfill their obligations under the contract, they need more space, and they need more space quickly," Duval told the Manchester Planning Board. "The alternative is if Mr. Gagne can't do this in a timely way, their opportunities will go elsewhere out of state."

Gagne said he hopes to begin work on the plant expansion this spring.

Temco holds an Aerospace 9100 rating and is a Tier One supplier for BAE Systems, said Gagne. He was hesitant to name customers, given the confidential nature of the defense industry.

The company uses sophisticated milling machines to manufacture parts out of material such as graphite, aluminum and steel.

It knows where some of the devices go: brackets for drone cameras; printer heads for ink-jet printers; satellites antennas. Other parts? Gagne shrugs and said he only manufactures the device based on customer specifications.

Its precision tolerances dip down to inconceivably small levels - two 10,000th of an inch in some cases, according to Dennis J. McElreavy, the plant's general manager.

Most of the parts are manufactured in sophisticated computer numerically controlled milling machines or electrical discharge machines. For the most part, the cutting element stays stationery while the machine controls the tilt and position of the material in an enclosed environment.

For lubrication purposes, the machines spray oil or a water-based solution during the process, as if it were in an automatic car wash.

The company employs about 60 people and runs three shifts. Gagne said the expansion will allow the company to create an additional 20 to 30 new jobs. It's difficult to find qualified workers, even with starting pay at $15 for people with no machine shop experience.

"We're usually hiring all the time. The right person comes in, we'll hire them," Gagne said. He said the company has hired short-order cooks, roofers and part-time firefighters.

"We bring up people here. You get 90 days to show your ability," Gagne said.

As workers gain skills and education, hourly pay can more than double, said Steven Bairam, operations manager for Temco.

"When you do work like this, you set up a process," Bairam said. The right kind of worker is someone who understands and knows how to follow the process, he said. If a part ends up not meeting specificiations, it's the process that failed, not the worker, he said.

For some contracts, Temco is like the mass producer of the industrial age. For example, a graphite printer head can take about an hour to produce, and the company turns out about 120,000 a year, Bairam said.

Sometimes Temco can manufacture as few as five products for an aerospace suppliers, and a product can take 17 hours to manufacture. Then quality assurance makes sure the parts meet customer specifications.

"Quality," Gagne said, "is selling our product."

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