What began nearly 40 years ago as a general job shop company has since developed into a well-known U.S manufacturer of precision machined products. S&W Manufacturing has grown from a single shop that once served the gaming industry of the 80s to a multi-facility company that serves several global industries — including aerospace, automotive, electronics, and many others.
“Back in the late 70s and early 80s, the gaming industry was big business. So, the shop began making a few of the components that went in arcade games and such machines,” shares Don Secor, VP with S&W Manufacturing, which is located in Bensenville, IL.
These included the roller that served to control a Centipede game, for example, or the spring levers used to shoot that silver ball around a pinball machine.
Secor began with S&W in 2000 but the story, as he’s heard it, is that after receiving enough requests, the company realized they were onto something. “Eventually, the light bulb went off so to speak, and the company realized there was a demand for this kind of product line — and that we could make it for half the cost or less than just about anywhere else,” he says. That’s when S&W officially became a manufacturer of leveling feet, knobs, spring-loaded devices, tooling components, and other such parts.
Today, S&W is known for its “Made in America” manufacturing commitment but that wasn’t always the case. “About 20 years ago, near when I began with the company, a lot of our products were made overseas because we were growing so fast. At that time, we just didn’t have the capabilities here to keep up with it.”
Before long, however, William J. Burr — CEO of S&W for more than 30 years now — decided to make a change. “Basically, he said, why don’t we give our steel suppliers and our platers more business? Why don’t we offer more jobs and hire locally? And that’s when we bought our second building,” explains Secor.
There are several advantages to manufacturing locally. Along with contributing to the American economy and local jobs, one of the key benefits for most customers is time-savings. “Lead times are critical in many applications and clients are unable to wait 10 or 12 weeks to get parts, which is typical if sourcing overseas. Then, there’s the quality. Costs might be less expensive overseas but there’s a reason for that. Sometimes you get what you pay for.”
Secor says one of his customers buys parts from S&W and overseas. But the latter typically comes with a 50 percent reject rate. “It’s not feasible for many, especially when we can guarantee quality products that are manufactured within a timely manner.”
Experience also counts. “Our two buildings are now five buildings,” he says. “We’ve grown and been successful with our Made in USA brand…and a lot has to do with our experience.” This makes sense, adds Secor. “For example, if I’m looking to do some modifications on my brand-new car that I’ve saved up for, I want the guy who’s been doing just that for 10 or 20 years. He knows what you need and is going point you in the right direction without selling you unnecessary products. That’s what we offer.”
Although fasteners are a niche market for S&W, they still serve the industry. “We also manufacture spring-loaded devices, such as ball and spring plungers, which are similar to set screws,” he says.
Over the last decade, S&W has also focused on expanding its line of leveling products to become one of the top companies offering leveling and vibration control mounts, worldwide. “You can find our products in chip manufacturing, aerospace, packaging, electronics, gaming, and pharmaceutical industries throughout North America, Europe, and Asia,” says Secor. This includes standard and custom products. “It’s great to see how much we continue to grow.”