Quality Certification Wins New Customer at Whitetail Manufacturing

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Whitetail Manufacturing is a Vermont precision manufacturer of close tolerance parts of ferrous and non-ferrous metals, plastics and phenolics. The company, located in Williston, Vermont, has been in business for seventeen years and has fourteen employees. For several years, Whitetail had been courting business from a large aerospace manufacturer. One day during this process, Whitetail received a request for a quote (RFQ) from the manufacturer for a long-term contract opportunity. It looked too good to be true.

In fact, it was too good to be true. Whitetail had been sent the request by mistake. The RFQ was targeted to firms that were AS9100 certified and Whitetail lacked this certification. With this clear evidence of the opportunities they were missing, Whitetail became serious about qualifying for appropriate quality certifications.
Whitetail had made some false starts at the certification process in the past. However, this time, Whitetail contacted VMEC. VMEC helped Whitetail attain its certification, and even funded part of the costs of the project through the New England Manufacturing Supply Chain (NEMSC) initiative, which assists small and medium-size manufacturers to enter defense supply chains.

Whitetail and VMEC started working together in April of 2005: in August 2006, Whitetail successfully passed the AS9100 registration audit.
Becoming AS9100 certified led to two types of improvements at Whitetail:

  • Increased business, both revenues and stability
  • Increased understanding of the manufacturing process and employee buy-in.
  • Increased business.

Whitetail has increased its business in terms of more revenue, new customers, and the ability to do different types of manufacturing. Whitetail has:

  • Increased revenues significantly, by at least $100,000 a year
  • Added an aerospace division and aerospace contracts
  • Added two more workers and is looking for more
  • Moved to a larger facility with double the floor space
  • Bought new equipment, including equipment that allows them to do short production run parts.

This type of business was new to them but very successful.

Increased understanding. By working with VMEC and contractors, Whitetail employees have bought into the quality program, realizing that it adds revenues to the company and stability to their jobs. Jerry Thibault, a machinist, said that with the new quality system, “quality is better, [we have] on-time delivery to customers, and it’s saving us money.”

Whitetail employees have been involved from the start of the certification effort, and they understand that the quality process leads to job stability. Employees receive on-going training in the process, including necessary inspections and sign-offs. As president Harold Torre said: “Going through the AS9100 implementation forced [the employees] to understand why they are doing things, implement new procedures, and eliminate unnecessary procedures…..Now people are more aware of the processes and quality system requirements, and there are fewer mistakes.” Whitetail has successfully completed their first annual surveillance audit.

Results of the Project. Overall, according to Torre, the AS9100 process “has challenged us to understand our own means of daily operations…..[AS9100 quality control processes are] more work, but the benefits [are] definitely a positive. I feel strongly that if you’re in machine trades and you want to be in business five years from now, you have to have these ratings.”