July 13, 2008

Tri-Jet Manufacturing Hones Its Niche in Supply Chain

By Margaret Bauman, Alaska Journal of Commerce, Anchorage

Jul. 13--PALMER -- Hans Vogel watched intently as the computer controlled water-jet cut a precise pattern in aluminum sheets, fashioning exhaust ducts for a generator.

In just three and a half minutes, the part was complete, and the water-jet ready to cut more.

Water-jet computer numerical control cutting services are just one of many services now available at Tri-Jet Manufacturing Services, LLC., which shares facilities with the engineering and product development firm Triverus LLC, both owned and operated by Vogel.

Vogel, who has a degree in welding engineering, has already steered Triverus into substantial contracts with the Defense Department and major private firms, including oil companies operating in Alaska.

Triverus gained notice several years ago, when the company began working with the U.S. Navy on a prototype of a deck-cleaning vehicle for aircraft carriers.

With Tri-jet, Vogel hopes to provide the contract manufacturing ability that will make the firm part of the supply chain for a number of other firms.

While Triverus concentrates on new product development, Tri-Jet specializes in complete manufacturing capabilities that employ computer numerical control water-jet cutting milling and turning, powder coating, welding/fabrication and design engineering and drafting.

The company's goal is to eliminate the logistics often needed to move parts from one shop to another for various services, Vogel said.

"We want to be in a position to have affordable, reliable manufacturing services right here," he said. "It's essential to be part of other companies' supply chain. We want to reduce cost and increase reliability."

To that end, Vogel said the company has worked with an area firm in the recycling business to produce a bi-product used in manufacturing.

"This took us months of testing, and now they are making the product for us," said Vogel.

Clients for Tri-Jet, whose business Vogel said has doubled over the past year, come in all sizes, from military contractors to a small firm producing milk jugs for the new Matanuska Creamery in Wasilla.

One contract involved making components for an X-ray scanning device being built by a Defense Department contractor in Alaska.

Another involved computer designing and manufacturing a small piece of equipment used in production of the bright yellow milk jugs. Other clients have come in with requests for everything from components for unmanned aircraft systems for the U.S. Navy to components for designer wheelchairs produced by Lasher, an Anchorage firm.

"Our goal is to have a customer base diversified enough to keep all our systems running at all times," Vogel said.

While other companies may provide a variety of welding, machining, powder coating and other services, "we do it all," he said, including powder coating, an industrial finishing process used to apply a range of coatings, from Polyester, TGIC Polyester, Epoxy and other compositions.

The powder coating process speaks to the application of the material. Powder is applied electrostatically at a consistent coating thickness and the process is completed by a time and temperature driven curing process.

Over the past few years Triverus, and now Tri-Jet, has developed a growing number of clients in resource extraction industries, from oil and gas to mining, as well as defense contractors. Tri-jet works with welding and fabrication firms, aircraft component manufacturers, sheet metal shops and others.

Sometimes a company comes in with a plan and Vogel's crews build it, he said, pointing to a 20-foot skid for a satellite platform that was ordered by an area telecommunications firm under contract to the U.S. Air Force.

Beyond Tri-Jet's production capabilities, with its specialized computer design and manufacturing equipment, the bottom line has been good customer service, Vogel said. In fact, he said, two parts clients want to move out to Palmer from Anchorage.

Business growth aside, however, the biggest challenge remains convincing clients that they can have it all done in one shop, he said.

Margaret Bauman can be reached at [email protected]">[email protected]


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