Your semiconductor plant just suffered a brief power outage and the menu-driven spectrum analyzer isn’t working – or the calibration on your one-inch micrometer is off just enough to make it impossible to use. Equipment –whether digital, analog or mechanical – does break down and complicates life. Mountain Metrology and Repair (MMR), serves quality assurance and testing managers throughout the Pikes Peak region at companies like U.S. Filter, Lockheed-Martin, Intel, Honeywell and RockShox – and assures the highest possible accuracy of the instruments it calibrates.
Incorporated in 1996, Mountain Metrology and Repair’s operation has grown, thanks to the determination and extensive manufacturing and testing industry knowledge of its owners. Isaac Dowdell, president and chief operating officer, and Frank Lytle, vice president, both invested in the company upfront – and bring a wealth of experience to the firm. Dowdell’s background includes work as a purchasing manager and work in clean room management at Digital Equipment and Quantum Corporation. Lytle also worked for Quantum, and has an extensive background in manufacturing.
So what is metrology? “Contrary to popular belief, it’s not the study of weather – that’s meteorology,” Dowdell clarifies. “Metrology is the science of measurement and involves the accurate calibration of electrical and physical equipment – a critical aspect of product manufacturing. A chip maker, he points out, can’t afford to have a systems analyzer off by one-thousandth of an inch for an entire shift – that can cost a company hundreds of thousands of dollars.”
Electrical calibration may include digital and analog instruments such as systems analyzers, digital oscilloscopes and digital multimeters – so important in high tech manufacturing. On the physical dimension side, MMR technicians work with surface plates, attenuaters, directional couplers, micrometers and pressure torque equipment.
As a new entrepreneur, Dowdell approached starting the business methodically, with careful preparation, networking and research. He enlisted the resources of the Pikes Peak Work Force Center, the Colorado Springs Chamber of Commerce, SCORE and the Pikes Peak Library District. As Dowdell recalls, “The SCORE reviewers were very impressed by the thoroughness of our business plan – they provided us a lot of help initially.” He also used the Internet to research military installations, hospitals and high tech companies as prospective clients – and collected the names of companies from machine shops to multinational firms with a regional or branch office in the Colorado Springs.
Today the partners divide their responsibilities, with Dowdell taking on client contact and marketing while Lytle runs technical operations. Once their homework was done, they began to win and service customers. “It was tough in the beginning,” Dowdell recalls. “There are a lot of companies that do mechanical or electronic equipment repair, and but we were equipped to do both – and we were willing to travel to plant sites, when necessary to do our repairs. I think that has set us apart.”
When a crisis does occur, the MMR team often travels to the client’s location to calibrate faulty machinery or hardware. Norman Symonette, Measuring and Testing Equipment Administrator for Lockheed Martin Mission Systems in Colorado Springs says that’s one reason his company has been so pleased with the service Mountain Metrology and Repair provides. “We often send items down to their lab,” Symonette said, “but sometimes an instrument is too large or too sensitive to move. It’s at that point that we call Frank (Lytle) and the team comes out. That works very well for our type of operation.” He also says that Lockheed Martin handles all vendor contracts through its procurement office. “We have some stringent requirements – and MMR has met or exceeded those. We award most of our jobs based on competitive bidding – and once again, MMR has continually met our requirements for good service for a reasonable price.” Symonette also says that Lockheed Martin, like many other government contractors, appreciates the fact that they can stop by the company’s local office for regular audits and walk-throughs.
Dowdell sees his company’s role as an extension of his client’s business. “MMR’s clients will never have to worry because their equipment will be repaired and returned in timely manner.”
In addition to ongoing work for government contractors like Lockheed Martin and Honeywell, MMR also serves a broad spectrum of scientific and private sector customers. Ed Armstrong, for example, is the Quality Assurance Director, PSW for U.S. Filter, a water systems provider for pharmaceutical, medical, technology, and manufacturing companies as well as power plants in 58 countries around the world. He relies heavily on the firm’s consistent quality service and responsiveness.
“Mountain Metrology & Repair just documented calibration on 28 instruments for a water system that U.S. Filter is installing for one of the largest pharmaceutical companies in the world,” said Armstrong. “The calibration proof they provided was to Ultra Pure standards – and is a requirement on projects reviewed by organizations like the Food and Drug Administration (FDA), the U.S. Department of Agriculture and the Department of Defense. Armstrong says that while he is approached by many other vendors, that MMR continues to earn his business. “Frank and the operations team have proven themselves again and again,” he said.
So where does the young company go from here? With $250,000 investment in lab equipment, a well-trained team of technicians, and a growing community to provide new business opportunity, Dowdell is optimistic. “I have several goals, including increasing our market share,” he said. So far, MMR has not been able to penetrate the City of Colorado Springs or El Paso County, in spite of repeated efforts by the company to win contracts or even small jobs. The entrepreneur believes his time may be better spent building new private sector clients – especially in view of increased military contract awards. Biotech firms, hospitals and medical clinics, power facilities and utilities companies are other logical clients for the company.
Though Dowdell does not disclose annual earnings, he expects continued growth and expansion.. “We’re in this business because we love it and because our clients appreciate us,” he said. And just as they started with thorough research and a methodical approach, Dowdell and Lytle believe that their reputation for quality work, combined with client referrals will be their strongest marketing strategy. “That’s the way I like to get new business,” Dowdell said. “If customers like you and tell others about you, that’s the best marketing there is.”