Posted: November 02, 2012
Top Company winner: Geotech Environmental EquipmentDavid Lewis
Geotech Environmental Equipment Inc.
Geotech Environmental Equipment Inc. won its Top Company 2012 recognition in the manufacturing category, and as we all know any business that manufactures in the United States deserves an award of some kind.
"We’re excited there’s still a manufacturing category," jokes CEO Jeff Popiel, who might not be joking. "So when we got the award, I said, ‘Gosh, thanks for having a manufacturing category. We still do this.’ "
Denver-based Geotech started 56 years ago, in 1956, so the manufacturer has done a lot of surviving for a long time. To make it, Geotech Environmental needed to be smart and nimble in the beginning, lucky and canny in the middle, and pretty near brilliant throughout.
The lucky part happened because in 1978 U.S. Geological Survey at the Federal Center invited Geotech’s predecessor business, a tool and die maker, to make parts for equipment for the new U.S. Trace Metals Analysis Program.
"At that time my dad and uncle were like, ‘Gosh, we have ideas to make you a better pump. Can we just sell you an assembled pump as a finished product vs. all the individual parts?’ " says Popiel, son of co-founder and chairman Jerry Popiel.
The USGS agreed. The products Geotech’s founders designed and manufactured became the federal standard for equipment used for sampling, monitoring and remediating groundwater and soil pollution.
In 1996, the younger Popiel joined the company. Geotech Environmental then had $2.5 million in sales. Popiel says this year Geotech expects sales to exceed $20 million.
Geotech Environmental makes 60 families of products, enough to fill an 80-page price book. These products range from circuit boards to water-level meters and extruded tubing.
"The challenge for us is, how do you get really good at manufacturing in small batches?" Popiel says.
How do they do it? "The culture we have here. We’re eliminating waste, we have a continuous improvement process, but one of the biggest opportunities we have is tapping into the unused creativity of the American worker – because we’re problem-solvers."
David Lewis is a freelance writer based in Denver.