STERLING – For more than 30 years, United Craftsmen has carved out a niche in the local parts manufacturing industry, producing orders to die for.
Started in 1987 at 1500 W. Fourth St. by six brothers of the Sedig family, and now owned by Doug and Patricia Grunnet, the local machining and tooling specialists have produced a steady stream of steel and aluminum parts.
It is a local company that deals with local customers, and because they produce only a few parts for an order, they keep pretty busy.
“Local manufacturers are probably 99 percent of our customers,” general manager Paul Hackbarth said. “We do most of our business within a 60-mile radius.”
That business includes perishable tooling, short-run turning and milling, general machining, machining of component parts, die maintenance and electrical discharge machining. They can take most requests for a part design from customers and turn them into finished products.
“Almost everything is custom-made. We get most of our stuff from e-mail and then if we can do it we quote it,” Hackbarth said. “It’s made to print from supply drawings and blueprints.”
The tools of their trade are a mix of old and new equipment, with some of the machines 80 years old and some brand new, Hackbarth said.
Their versatility is one of their strongest assets, he said.
“We can do orders from one to 1,000 because we’re set up for higher run production,” Hackbarth said. “But our bread and butter is the small quantity production. We still have a niche business for the lower volume stuff.”
Another huge asset for United Craftsmen is its 14 employees, three of whom have worked there more than 25 years. There are a few who’ve been there 10 to 15 years, and then there are the newbies, with only a year or 2 on the job.
“It’s a nice place to work. We keep it laid back, and we keep employees,” Hackbarth said. “It’s a good group of guys.”
Some of those guys, like Hackbarth, have seen quite a few changes since they first walked in the door. Decades ago, they would get an order and wait a few days to get the drawings in the mail before they could start production.
“With the internet, now it’s only a matter of about an hour,” Hackbarth said.
They count local companies Wahl Clipper, Franz Manufacturing and RayOVac as customers, among many others.
It’s a customer list that keeps growing. United Craftsmen expanded in 1997, and it may be at that point again: The company was considering finding a bigger location, but worked out a deal with Engel Electric next door.
United Craftsmen has submitted a petition to the city seeking to subdivide a parcel of property Engel owns behind their building, Hackbarth said.
“So we’re going to stay in our current location and can expand in the future.”
United Craftsmen is at 1500 W. Fourth St. in Sterling.
Go to unitedcraftsmenltd.com or call 815-626-7802 for more information.