ControlTek provides local hook-up in cable assembly

Automation at 40-year-old Vancouver company leads to increased business, not employee layoffs

Courtesy of ControlTek

When you make custom circuit boards, electronics and components for the aerospace, defense and medical industries, the cables that hook everything together may seem like a bit of an afterthought.

But for Vancouver’s ControlTek, adding the capability to create custom-made cables for those sectors is giving the business a nice boost. The company, which installed a new piece of $165,000 equipment to automate part of its cable-assembly process in July, has seen an uptick in sales and expanded interests in its products, said Sean Neill, vice president of Operations.

“The custom cable assembly business is a relatively small component of what we do,” Neill said. “We have about 12 people in cable processing. But … cable manufacturing has been constrained in our area for a while. There was a market demand before we added this.”

The machine, which is part of the company’s “Crimp Center,” processes the wiring inside the cables much better than can be done by hand. And it works much faster than a human could, Neill said.

“In our old method, we’d have one person cut and strip wire, then one person crimp, one person seal and one inspect,” Neill said. “The Crimp Center does all of that now. It’s one machine that does the work of three to four people, and it does it extremely fast and with better quality.”

The machine can cut, strip and even apply solder to cable assemblies.

“Sometimes customers come to us just for cable assembly, and we use the center to process as much of that work as we can,” Neill said.

As a Service Disabled Veteran Owned Small Business, the 40-year-old company has never laid off an employee because of its automated processes. And this new automated process is no different, Neill said.

“Without automation, you’re going to lose jobs,” Neill said. “If you don’t automate, you can’t compete. And you lose jobs to competition. But I’ve never let anyone go because we’ve automated their job. It’s more like we hire a bit more slowly.”

ControlTek, which has 150 staff members working in a wide range of electronics industries, thinks the expanded capabilities will also bode well for Vancouver’s growing manufacturing sector.

“I hope it means we’ll be able to bring in more business here,” Neill said. “I can already use more machine operators and could use more cable assemblers since we launched the Crimp Center.”

There are also still some custom cable assembly jobs that the machine just can’t do, which means the company will always need workers, he said.

“We would really like to support a lot of the Vancouver manufacturing companies and have them not have to go out of state to find things like this,” Neill said. “We’re also trying to draw some new business here from out of the area now that we have this capability. I’m excited about it.”