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Winfield’s Galaxy Technologies a rising star

  • The Wichita Eagle
  • Published Thursday, April 25, 2013, at 7 a.m.

— Galaxy Technologies, tucked in Winfield’s industrial park, is a company on the upswing.

Revenue is up 60 percent from 2010. Profits are up as well.

Galaxy is in the midst of adding five-axis, high-speed milling machines to keep up with increasing demand.

It plans to add 40 more employees this year to its staff of 200, which is up from 105 in 2010.

All sectors of the business are expanding, especially the commercial aerospace market, said Galaxy president and CEO Andy Plyler, who joined the company in late 2010.

It wasn’t always that way for the designer, manufacturer and assembler of production tooling for the aerospace and plastics industries.

Galaxy started in 1985 building molds for what is now Rubbermaid.

Gladstone Investment Corp, a publicly traded business development company, bought the business in 2008.

When the general aviation industry took a deep downturn because of the recession, 60 percent of Galaxy’s work came from one customer — Cessna Aircraft.

It also had business from general aviation manufacturers Hawker Beechcraft and Gulfstream.

As a supplier, Galaxy’s sales suffered along with those of the planemakers.

“We had to diversify,” Plyler said.

Today, its biggest customers are Boeing, Spirit AeroSystems, Northrop Grumman, Lockheed Martin, Rubbermaid and Coleman.

Galaxy also made a number of other changes, many related to in-house processes and its culture.

“We took a hard look at workflow — how the product ran through the plant,” Plyler said.

It set up the groundwork to implement cellular manufacturing — a model for workplace design that groups equipment and operators with common functions into cells to improve efficiency.

As part of the change, Galaxy created a planning department and a program management office.

Using employee surveys, managers also came up with 55 activities to improve the company.

“We completed all of them,” he said.

Plyler also put in the processes to collect data.

“I’m big on scorecards and metrics,” Plyler said. “Metrics and metrics management are key to our performance.”

In 2011, the company rebranded itself, changing its name from Galaxy Tool Corp. to Galaxy Technologies with three separate business units focused on engineering, tooling and plastics tooling.

Outsiders see one company, Plyler said, but internally, profit and loss statements are separate.

That allows company leaders to focus on each unit.

The changes have made a difference. Galaxy competes against some much larger companies for work.

“I would put our business processes and management team up against anybody in the country,” Plyler said.

Biggest challenge

This year, the company is focused on five initiatives:

• improving the workplace

• achieving full staffing and training

• driving sales and market share

• operational excellence

• leveraging technologies.

Plyler recently added a director of performance management dedicated to improving efficiencies, performance management and lean manufacturing.

“I’m really excited about that,” Plyler said.

The company’s biggest challenge is hiring talent.

Galaxy plans to hire 40 employees this year, including machinists, computer numerical control operators and plastic mold builders.

But the technical talent pool in the United States is shrinking, Plyler said.

The company’s location in Winfield can also be a disadvantage. It’s difficult to recruit employees from Wichita, an hour or more away, Plyler said.

To help, Galaxy began its own machinists training program.

Galaxy is a good place to work, Plyler said, with good compensation, benefits and employee morale.

It continues to add machines and inspection equipment.

It has on order two five-axis, high-speed machining centers and a coordinate measurement machine to be installed this summer.

Former Hawker Beechcraft CEO Jim Schuster is a member of Galaxy’s board of directors.

Plyler grew up in San Diego and first went to work for Delta Air Lines as a machinist. He’s been in the aviation industry roughly 30 years.

For Plyler, the most satisfying part of the job is watching employees execute plans that they may not have bought into at first, but then see they work.

“I tell my group, ‘Just believe in me,’ ” he said.

Reach Molly McMillin at 316-269-6708 or mmcmillin@wichitaeagle.com.

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