Brothers/owners, Ed & Erik Sicairos at Applied Precision Manufacturing Inc. (APM) in South El Monte, Ca. have gone through a few different trials and tribulations over the course of their 20+ year history. It is a cautionary, yet entertaining tale of machining, deceit, denial, fake falling outs, and a loco investor. In the last five years they’ve bounced back better, building the dream they imagined when they went into business together in 2000.
Since he was 24 years old, Ed Sicairos wanted to start a manufacturing company and be his own boss. He even convinced his younger brother Erik to go back to school and get the fundamentals of machining down so they could partner together in a shop. “I think he just wanted someone to take that ride with him,” jokes APM co-owner Erik Sicairos. “We planned it for over a year before pulling the trigger and striking out in 2003.” As Erik was learning the trade Ed was applying it as a manufacturing manager for the automotive company B & M in Chatsworth, Ca. “I was 27, didn’t know how to run a business, but was great at machining and programming,” explains APM co-owner Ed Sicairos. “The idea was to pick up a mill and a lathe and for Erik to run them while we built a customer base and I still worked at B & M.” They crammed two machines into a small shop in City of Industry, Ca. with Erik doing the manufacturing and Ed programming from his job at B & M. Ed didn’t feel right about working on his own deal while on another company’s dime. He knew he just needed to commit 100% to the new endeavor, but it was a big step and a bigger pay cut.
Ed went to the owner Bob, the B in B & M and explained the situation and guaranteed he wouldn’t leave them high and dry, staying until his replacement was fully up to speed. “They seemed really happy for me,” explains Ed. “It was strange. Then I got called back into the office and it became clear why that was. They were already set on shutting down the in-house manufacturing and selling off the CNC machines. If I wanted to buy the machines, I could have the work too. I was like what? So, I’m out of a job or I buy a shop’s worth of CNC machines. Everyone in the area wanted the work, but no one wanted the machines. We got some help from our dad and figured out extra funding. The stars just aligned, but six months into being first-time business owners we now had something like 10 machines, 20 employees, a bigger building and a ton of B & M parts. We were full gas, 100% B & M, two shifts and seven days a week. What could go wrong? Machining is the hard part, running a business is easy right? It went well for years, and then we noticed that the PO’s were getting lower and lower, but our nut still was the same every month. Let’s just sum it up as we learned some lessons and built back smarter and better.” “We spent a decade learning what not to do as a business,” adds Erik. “We always took great care of our customers, and the quality of work never faltered, but honestly we needed to be better businesspeople.”
After some struggles, a family investor came along that looked to solve their problems. He did solve a few but created even more. After a long-drawn-out miserable partnership, the company dissolved. Armed now with the experience they once lacked, Erik and Ed reformed the original idea into today’s Applied Precision Manufacturing Inc., owned once again by only the brothers Sicairos. “When all was settled, we needed to rebuild and this is where Harvinder Singh, of Expand Machinery really helped us out,” tells Erik. “After the dust settled, after wasting all that time, wasting all that money we ended up with a clean slate but only two machines, a Haas VF4 with a 4th axis and a SL20 with a C axis. We needed more machines and ended up buying a Comet, a Femco, a Takumi, and a VF6. We got everything from Expand Machinery. Harvinder went out of his way to steer us in a good direction. We told him exactly what had happened and where we felt we went wrong and where we wanted to go.” “Picking up used machines from Expand Machinery is like buying new,” continues Ed. “They are perfectly rebuilt and ready to go without the higher price point of new. The buying process was amazing. You know right away that Harvinder is in it for the long haul with you as a company. The one and done mentality you get from many machinery salespeople doesn’t exist. We are customers and friends for life, he has been that valuable in reengineering the APM program.”
Stage two for APM came about a year ago when they earned their AS9100 certification and took up Swiss turning. “One of our long-term goals from back in the day was to get AS9100 certified, and we did it finally last year,” touts Erik. “We’ve always embraced the standards as a company, but love that we now have the certifications. It is a road map; follow this guide and you will do well. We should have done it sooner.” New Aerospace customers haven’t beat down APM’s door during the pandemic, but automotive has been nonstop. That is ok by them as they continue to reinforce the AS9100 training and essentials with their team. “Not every job requires a paper trail,” explains Ed. “But we treat every job as if it does. The AS standards have improved us as a company, and we are delivering better parts because of it.”
With phase one machines paid off and APM on the rise, Ed and Erik set off in search for the next wave of machining centers that would help drive their expansion. New clients and work orders come mostly via referrals and word of mouth so when an existing customer offered up an additional family of parts they jumped at the chance. “One of our local aerospace customers has been so impressed with how we’ve been manufacturing their large parts that they wanted to give us their smaller parts as well,” explains Ed. “Some of those parts they were actually manufacturing in house on really old screw machines. So, the POs came with three old machines. We knew we needed to call Harvinder and see what was out there to improve quality and efficiency. He took us all over the place looking at new and used machines. Ones he couldn’t even sell us, just to show us what was out there and some of the features he thought could up our manufacturing game.”
APM ended up purchasing a Ganesh Cyclone 32 NCY Swiss screw machine turn from Expand Machinery and financed it through Valley Financial. They also added a KIA turn, a Toyoda FA-450 II HMC CNC horizontal, and a dual spindle Ganesh Genturn-32CS Swiss machine, all bought with funding from Valley Financial. “The Swiss turning was something we really didn’t know a lot about and Harvinder really helped educate us on the different aspects that went along with it,” tells Erik. “We immediately saw the benefit of Swiss turning and kicked ourselves for not buying one sooner. It was a night and day difference. As soon as we got the first one, we added the dual spindle version a few months later. Our first set of parts earned us more PO’s, more parts, and larger run quantities. Once we pay off the first Gen Turn in March, we plan on adding a third Swiss machine in the summer.” “The value of buying a used machine from Harvinder, and Expand Machinery is like buying a certified preowned machine,” continued Ed. “He is the type of guy that replaces everything in it before installing it on your floor. Looking back, I see a guy that spent a lot of time showing us options that would best benefit our business and not necessarily his. Who does that? Harvinder does, and we appreciate it every day.”
APM is growing at the rate they want; with the machines they want and the customers they want. It has been a long time coming for the brothers Sicairos and quite the journey, but they are walking the path they imagined back in 2000. “2021 was the most profitable year for us as a company,” concludes Ed. “We got new business, upgraded machines, and a long-term plan that includes one day handing the reigns over to our children. We are not the cheapest and not the most expensive, but you get way more than you pay for in quality and service. We take pride in what we do. Customers see that and know it has value and recommend us to others. Verification processes tell us we make good parts, but recommendations tell us it was a job well done.” “Job satisfaction doesn’t just come from customers,” finishes Ed. “Working with my brother all these years and having our sons as part of the company now and in the future makes APM a place Ed and I want to come to work. Ed’s son Alec is our mill setup man right now and his oldest Andrew just opened an engineering and designing 3D printing company down the road. My son Erik Roy Sicairos worked with us for 8 years and is off gaining other experiences, but they know this place is theirs. It started with family and will stay with family.