Now, 26 years later, that vision is looking very real.
Thom Shelow and Teresa Beach-Shelow started Superior Joining Technologies, Inc. 26 years ago. It was the classic startup in a garage, their garage.
Thom was a welder with work experience through other companies. He had ideas on how welding services could be better provided to his customers. Today, 80% of SJTI’s business is in the aerospace industry. That work grew because of 100% inspection of all products even at the start of the company.
Superior Joining Technologies’ services breakdown into several components:
- High quality manual welding.
- Micro welding.
- NADCAP registered laser welding using focused beam of light to fuse metals together.
- Multi-axis precision laser cutting, drilling, and welding.
- Longitudinal seam welding that produces full penetration welded seams in sheet metal components.
- Resistance seam welding producing a series of overlapping resistance spots. It can be used in a cylindrical application as well as flat assemblies.
- Non-destructive testing which is a valuable technique because it does not permanently alter the item being inspected.
Looking at the impressive list of services provided, SJTI has moved a long way from its first welding booth in the garage.
Teresa, the majority owner of the company, and thus qualifies SJTI as a Woman-Owned Business. She heads up quality control and procedures as compliance officer. She is also president of the company and responsible for the accounting and administration.
Thom is the production guru that sees opportunities in different ways to serve a growing and sophisticated group of customers. Thom foresaw early on the need for small manufacturers to take on quality assurance. He says, “we provided full inspection of all of our products and assured the customers the parts were all built to spec.”
Thom says “from the first, we solved some of the problems for our customers. We built a reputation as problem solvers. Once the quality emphasis was established, Teresa implemented many programs and procedures to deliver the quality product. It was great to build these relationships. We were soon asked to participate in the development of parts and we helped identify problems in the design phase.”
Tom says “Superior has a lot of credentials that are unique to this type of business. I was hearing complaints from our early customers that the quality awareness was lacking for several companies. I took it to heart, and we set out to change that for our company.”
The company is a FAA repair station certified in welding. It is UTC Aerospace approved, NADCAP accredited for fluorescent penetrant and magnetic. It has the particle inspection and fusion welding, and laser welding certificates. The company is also ISO 9000 and AS 9100 certified.
SJTI recently moved into a 55,000 square foot building on Turret Drive in Machesney Park. This is their fourth move in 26 years. Teresa says “we increased our floor space size five times with each move.”
The company has grown in other ways as well, with 30 employees now on staff and with a doubling of sales in 2017 and expected in 2018. The recent acceleration in growth partly stems from being one of only eight companies in the U. S. that is NADCAP certified for laser welding.
Thom and Teresa, husband and wife, have made their company a key member of their family as well. She says “we talked welding and business at the dinner table. Both our daughters have worked in the company as well.”
The Shelows also encourage others to think about manufacturing and engineering for a career. The company provides 1,000 square feet to the Rockford Robotics 2039 student team which competes annually in the “U. S. First Robotics Challenge.” They also support the team with manufacturing services. Thom says they help the team because “we think manufacturing is important in our community, and manufacturing has made our community important in the world. We want to encourage education. We have been doing this for years and years.” Teresa says “the students get to see inside the company and see how the manufacturing world works.”
About 80% of the employees at SJTI are welders with junior college or technical school training, industrial engineering, or draftsmen courses. All the welders are certified based on hours of experience at the company. Teresa also pointed out the company does a lot of in house training to further the skills of their employees. The company invests training time and money in new employees before they even do any billable work.
SJTI works on exciting projects including the space shuttle, the Hubble Telescope repair, and 18 different airplane makes.
One of Teresa’s passions is to help veterans who come out of the service but are not allowed to provide a reference of their experience and education while in the service. She wants to see this changed.
Both Thom and Teresa are proud of their team. They say “we try hard to provide an environment where people want to contribute and increase skills. We have good benefits, a wellness program, and we keep our wages ahead of the big guys. We want everyone to keep learning.”
Thom says they put their roots down in the Rockford area because of the manufacturing and precision culture and the resulting workforce available to the company. “It’s a great community for aerospace work.”
By JAC, RAEDC Correspondent