Business

Imagination, know-how help PWI adapt, grow

From left to right: Judy Baldwin, Robi Lorik, president of PWI,  Maki Lorik, CEO, and Robert Baldwin. PWI makes lighting systems for corporate jets along with other custom applications.
From left to right: Judy Baldwin, Robi Lorik, president of PWI, Maki Lorik, CEO, and Robert Baldwin. PWI makes lighting systems for corporate jets along with other custom applications. The Wichita Eagle

PWI could be a business school case study in nimbleness.

The small Wichita electronics company has survived for nearly 50 years in a world filled with giant competitors spending billions of dollars on research.

To keep up, it has repeatedly changed products and technologies, searching for new niches as old ones close down.

It makes ultra-reliable fluorescent lighting systems for Wichita's corporate jet makers, but it also makes its own custom electronic products and does contract production for other companies.

Founded by Miki Lorik as Precision Winding Inc. in 1963, the company continues to evolve from its original business of winding magnetic coils for electric motors. Lorik, now semiretired, still keeps his original winding machine — a black Singer sewing machine — in a case by the front door.

The company still does a good business winding odd-sized magnetic coils for electric motors.

"We cater to small volume," said Robi Lorik, president and Miki's son. "If it was high-volume, the offshore people would jump on it."

As its jet lighting business has fallen over the past two years, it has attracted more contract work, Robi Lorik said. The company's sales dipped less than 10 percent in 2009, but it avoided layoffs by using furloughs and reduced hours.

It has built products for companies in agricultural, medical, transportation and oil and gas industries.

"We have the imagination and know-how to do things they said were impossible," said Miki Lorik.

The family acknowledges that electronics can be a tough market, as technologies change and competitors look to undercut them.

"One thing that helps us stand out is quality and customer service," said Judy Baldwin, executive vice president and daughter of Miki Lorik. "One company sent its work to Mexico, and ended up bringing it back to us."

Baldwin's husband, Robert, is director of operations.

The company is more diversified than it was in 2001 during the last downturn, when it nearly went under.

"We've learned," Robi Lorik said. "They say pain is the touchstone of growth."

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