Local manufacturers want to make Colorado Springs a manufacturing hub, and they’re collaborating on major contracts to make it happen.

Instead of competing individually and settling for small contracts, a handful of Springs companies are working together on selected projects to attract larger customers that have previously been out of reach.

“Really, I think this is the future of manufacturing for Colorado Springs,” said Dave Jeffrey, president of JPM Prototype & Manufacturing and vice chairman of Colorado Advanced Manufacturing Alliance South.

A new collaboration between JPM and Springs manufacturer Qualtek is proving the model works, he said.

Qualtek specializes in stamping, heat treating and finishing metal products, while JPM specializes in machining. Several months ago, Qualtek approached JPM to work with it on a large contract for a major customer.

“This customer is bigger than either one of us can handle [alone],” Jeffrey said. “Frankly, it’s bigger than both of us can handle and … we’re going to bring other shops in that would technically be competitors. But we’re not looking at this as competitors but collaboration…

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“That type of model is something that is not being done a lot — it’s very exciting, and there are some really great opportunities to bring some good strong manufacturing here into Colorado Springs.”

While delivery on the project will take place later this month, Jeffrey said the collaboration is already successful, as is another  project between Springs manufacturers IP Automation and ConcealFab Corp.

Dave Jeffrey, president of JPM Prototype & Manufacturing, is also vice chairman of Colorado Advanced Manufacturing Alliance South. Jeffrey said Springs manufacturers are beginning to collaborate more.
Dave Jeffrey, president of JPM Prototype & Manufacturing, is also vice chairman of Colorado Advanced Manufacturing Alliance South. Jeffrey said Springs manufacturers are beginning to collaborate more.

CAMA South wants to take this collaborative approach to the next level, showcasing the benefits at its SOCOM 2.0 Summit manufacturing forum Nov. 16, and trialling a business development co-op program.

“One of the things we’ve discovered is an important role for CAMA South, is for [manufacturers] to get to know each other and provide opportunities for those relationships to be created. …” said CAMA South Coordinator Randy Scott.  “What we’re trying to layer on top of that now is a more formalized approach, by testing this business co-op program. This will be where regional manufacturers will band together in a number of different ways to create a presence that is greater than the sum of its individual parts.”

The business co-op will produce a line card — a marketing tool that identifies the collaborative, the manufacturers involved, and their capabilities, capacities and certifications.

The co-op also will allow manufacturers to team up for exposure at trade shows they otherwise couldn’t afford to attend.

“For any one of our smaller companies to go to [the International Machine Technology Show] and present themselves would be very expensive — and bringing a small company into a show that big, they’d be lost in the crowd,” Jeffrey said. “But we can go in together as a group, and instead of saying, ‘This is what JPM can do for you,’ we’re saying, ‘This is what Colorado Springs manufacturing can do for you.’

“That’s a whole different picture … That’s the feeling of, ‘They have capabilities and capacities that I’ve been looking elsewhere for, and now I don’t have to go so far — I can find that in Colorado Springs.’”

Collaboration is one of the best ways Springs manufacturers can compete with bigger cities that are home to larger manufacturers, Jeffrey said.

“Right now we’re hearing from some of the larger manufacturers in Colorado that they’re going outside of Colorado to get their stuff done … because they can’t find shops that can handle the workload that they need.

“We don’t want that to happen. We want to keep that here in Colorado. … That’s important — so it really does have to be a collaborative effort. It has to be two or three shops coming and saying, ‘We together can do this, give us a shot at it.’ It’s a win-win.”

Winning these larger contracts is a big deal for smaller manufacturers, promising tremendous growth potential.

“For JPM this [customer] could be a third of our business,” Jeffrey said. “Again, it’s not something that we could go after alone … We’re 25 people, an 18,000-square-foot facility, but this job is big enough that it’s too big for our facility. Likewise with Qualtek — they couldn’t go after it by themselves because they don’t have the machining side of it. So to be able to come together and pool our resources is substantial.”

“I think this is the future of manufacturing for Colorado Springs.” 
Dave Jeffrey

Scott said the Springs manufacturing industry has been “pretty insular over the years,” and the business co-op and other collaborations are critical for building awareness of southern Colorado’s manufacturing capabilities, and improving those capabilities.

“It’s going to help us all become better at what we do, because to do these collaborative partnerships we can’t do them exactly the same way,” he said. “We’re going to have to become more savvy and increase our capabilities, and thus we’ll get better.

“This is going to force [manufacturers] to think very differently, engage with other organizations, work collaboratively and create a greater awareness of each other.”

Scott and Jeffrey both said they expect mixed reactions from manufacturers at SOCOM 2.0.

“What you’ll always find when you group businesses together, is that part of the group is already pretty innovative and is embracing new ways of doing things, and there’s another group that’s looking at it and haven’t quite made up their minds yet, and then there’s another group that’s ‘No, I do it my way.’ That’s just the way it is,” Scott said.

“I think there is some hesitancy until they see success — and they are going to see success,” Jeffrey said. “It’s going to happen between [JPM] and Qualtek, and I know … [IP Automation] and ConcealFab are doing the same type of thing, so I think once companies start seeing success, they’re going to be knocking on our door saying ‘How can we be part of this?,’ which is fantastic for the manufacturing community, and it’s fantastic for CAMA South…

Jesse Dahlberg of JPM Prototype & Manufacturing in Colorado Springs operates a coordinate measuring machine.
Jesse Dahlberg of JPM Prototype & Manufacturing in Colorado Springs operates a coordinate measuring machine.

“Frankly as the vice chair of CAMA South, I’m going to be looking for CAMA members first to participate in this — so there’s incentive there to be part of a bigger movement, if you will.”

Scott said CAMA South aims to have the co-op line card, including an initial group of about three manufacturers, available by January.

“The idea is to be engaged with this initial group, hopefully developing some business relationships or success by the middle of next year,” he said.

Jeffrey said he is “completely optimistic” about the future of manufacturing in Colorado Springs.

“There’s a lot of wonderful untapped opportunities here that we’re exploring, that we can really target to make a difference in manufacturing in Colorado Springs, in Colorado, and for our nation,” he said.

The SOCOM 2.0 Summit will be a half-day event focused on collaborative business development, innovation and facilitated networking with original equipment manufacturers, starting 11:30 a.m. Nov. 16 at The Pinery at The Hill. The workforce development component that was previously part of SOCOM will take place separately in January or February.