Sponsored by Forest Grove Economic Development
Home Back Issues January 2014 DWFritz Automation: perfect prototype

DWFritz Automation: perfect prototype

| Print |  Email
Articles - January 2014
Monday, December 09, 2013

BY EMMA HALL

0114 FOB Reboot 01 
Above: Sixteen-foot ceilings are part of the modern design in DWFritz's new headquarters.
Below: DWFritz Automation's new 70,000-square-foot world headquarters in Wilsonvile.
// Photos courtesy Peter Eckert
0114 FOB Reboot 02 

From Stumptown to silicon forest. DWFritz could be a poster child for Oregon’s industrial evolution. In 1973 Dennis W. Fritz started a one-man engineering consultancy in the West Hills of Portland focused on the booming lumber industry. By 1989 his company was doing precision automation work with Hewlett-Packard, pushing revenues in excess of $1 million for the first time. In 2010 the company now known as DWFritz Automation, Inc. shifted its entire focus to consumer electronics, landing a major contract with a large brand to provide assembly and inspection of precision automation systems. “With all the cell phone and tablet construction that’s happening in Asia, it’s important to automate these processes to eliminate labor,” says Jake VanderZanden, vice president of corporate development. “This demand for miniaturization, where human hands can’t do some of the operations has driven a demand for our services.” 

The skills gap. DWFritz grew from 30 employees in 2010 to more than 100 employees today and is still hiring. Because DWFritz’s clients do a lot of Asian manufacturing, the company has a 30-person support staff dispersed in cities across Asia. But all of the basic design and principal manufacturing is done in Oregon to ensure high quality. “It’s an Oregon-founded company. Our roots are here, so we will always run our headquarters from here,” VanderZanden says. “And also, we’re just committed to jobs in Oregon, period.” Like other tech companies, however, DWFritz has struggled to find experienced software-engineering talent locally. “There tends to be a lot of talent in the Bay Area,” VanderZanden says. The company does plan to hire more junior engineers as it grows, and expects to have more luck filling that demand in Oregon. It sees promise in its partnership with the OSU robotics program, which has the third-largest robotics faculty in the nation.

Building green. Since 2010 DWFritz has quadrupled revenues. In order to accommodate such rapid growth, the company moved to a new Wilsonville headquarters featuring 20,000 square feet of office space and 50,000 square feet dedicated to manufacturing. Designed by Portland architecture firm Mackenzie to focus on sustainability and modern design, the building includes automated light switching and a kitchen with only reusable dishes. “The new headquarters is a part of attracting big-time talent, and sending a message to our clients that we’re really serious and have much more capacity now, from both a manufacturing and engineering point of view,” VanderZanden says.

Template for success. Driven by backlog from new clients, DWFritz’s growth rate is expected to continue. “We have good things to come and more people to hire,” VanderZanden says. His optimism is grounded in reality. Launched 40 years ago to accommodate the state’s homegrown timber industry, DWFritz has since evolved to meet the needs of a global, tech-based, sustainable economy. If that trajectory sounds familiar, it should. As goes DWFritz, so goes Oregon.

 

More Articles

The global challenge

News
Friday, June 27, 2014
062714 thumb globalmarketBY JASON NORRIS | OB BLOGGER

Over the last several months we have seen a wave of cross-border acquisitions, primarily U.S.-based companies looking to purchase non-U.S.-based companies. There are a few reasons for this, but the main culprit is the U.S. corporate tax system. The United States has one of the highest corporate tax rates in the world.


Read more...

Understanding Oregon medical marijuana dispensary tenants

News
Friday, June 13, 2014
061314 thumb grassrentBY CLIFF HOCKLEY | OB GUEST BLOGGER

This article summarizes the key considerations a building owner must keep in mind when thinking about leasing to a medical marijuana dispensary.


Read more...

Blips and trends in the housing market

News
Thursday, June 26, 2014
062614 thumb realestateBY ERIC FRUTS | OB BLOGGER

Last year, the housing market in Oregon—and the U.S. as a whole—was blasting off. The Case-Shiller index of home prices ended the year 13% higher than at the beginning of the year. But, was last year a blip, or a trend?


Read more...

South Waterfront's revenge

News
Thursday, July 24, 2014
MoodyAveBY LINDA BAKER | OB EDITOR

Remember the naysayers?  Those who called the South Waterfront aerial tram a boondoggle?  Those who rejoiced at the massive sell off of luxury condos at the John Ross and Atwater Place?


Read more...

Trends in business succession

News
Thursday, July 03, 2014
TrendsBY TED AUSTIN & MIKE BAELE | GUEST CONTRIBUTORS

The Office of Economic Analysis announced that Oregon is currently enjoying the strongest job growth since 2006. While this resurgence has been welcome, the lingering effects of the 2008 “Great Recession” continues to affect Oregon businesses, especially with regard to estate planning and business succession.


Read more...

Creating a culture of compliance

Business tips
Thursday, June 19, 2014
DataBY MONICA ENAND | GUEST CONTRIBUTOR

Nine tips for building habits among employees to respond when needed.


Read more...

Who said we should sell in May?

Contributed Blogs
Friday, July 18, 2014
BullMarketBY JASON NORRIS | OB GUEST CONTRIBUTOR

Back in May, we shared a common Wall Street quote about investing, “Sell in May and go away.” Fast forward to July and the most common question we have been getting from clients is, “When is the market pullback going to occur?”


Read more...
Oregon Business magazinetitle-sponsored-links-02
SPONSORED LINKS