Latham Industries, a leading electronics contract manufacturer based in Phoenix, offering high-quality printed circuit board (PCB) assembly for aerospace, medical, industrial and security businesses to name a few. Some of the services Latham offers are surface mount, plated-through-hole, and mixed technology PCB assembly, along with prototyping, box builds, design and engineering, materials management, BGA reballing, and rework and repair. Founded in 2016 by Tracey Latham, the owner and CEO, the company has grown by focusing on people, quality, state-of-the-art equipment, and new growth markets. In 2022, Tracey Latham was the recipient of the SBA Small-Business Person of the Year Award for Arizona.
Arizona MEP Supports Latham Growth Strategy
In 2020, Arizona MEP began working with Latham, starting with a company assessment to understand goals and set a plan of action. At that time, AZ MEP alerted Latham to the Utility Tax Exemption and Refund, which exempts manufacturers from the state and county taxes on utilities. Latham was able to go back four years to claim the refund for past taxes and attain an exemption for the future.
Incumbent Worker Training Program Helps Expand Capabilities
Before Latham started the company, she assessed local PCB assembly providers. She determined there was an opportunity to deliver better quality with newer technology than her competitors were using. She invested in state-of-the-art equipment and hand-picked her team based on previous experience. In 2021, Latham seized on an opportunity to reinvest in her employees' skills and maximize the equipment capabilities by utilizing the City of Phoenix incumbent worker training grant. AZ MEP helped Latham prepare her application, identify the training needed, and source the trainers based on the previous assessment. “The grant allowed us to improve skills, maintain employee certifications, and certify to ISO 9001:2015 Quality Management system,” said Latham. “It was hugely beneficial to have AZ MEP as a partner. I didn't have to research trainers or consultants. AZ MEP had a skilled team and resources in place. Without the grant, it wouldn't have been possible to do all of the training at the same time, it's a big expense for a small company.”
Developing New Growth Markets
For Latham, differentiating the company on quality opens up more business opportunities, especially in the growing medical device market. The regulatory requirements for medical devices are increasingly stringent throughout every step of a product’s life cycle. To secure the business, Latham needed to earn ISO 13485:2016 certification, which demonstrates the company's ability to provide medical devices and related services that consistently meet customer and applicable regulatory requirements. With AZ MEP’s help, Latham Industries completed a gap analysis for ISO 13485 to help them prepare for a successful audit. The company recently passed the audit and is waiting for the final report to make the certification official. “With ISO 13485 certification, the medical device field opens up a new business opportunity for us,” said Latham.
The incumbent worker training grant helped the company pay for the audit and training for ISO 9001:2015, freeing up company funds to purchase new equipment and invest in a new ERP system. “We received additional training with our equipment manufacturers, which allowed us to improve our processes and implement the tools that give us traceability in our manufacturing process. From the time the parts come in the back door, we can trace it through our manufacturing process and tell our customers which boards right down to the reference designators the parts were used. The medical and aerospace industries want this level of traceability,” said Latham.
Supporting Future Manufacturing
Latham Industries will open its doors to high school students interested in a career in manufacturing on October 26 in celebration of Manufacturing Month. Latham will host student tours of its facility along with six other companies from the Phoenix metro area. Latham generously sponsored a bus to transport the students for the day. “It's wonderful to have high school students tour local manufacturers to give them a chance to see the different opportunities available,” Latham said.
AZ MEP Connects Manufacturers to Resources to Support Growth
Like many small business owners, Latham manages many business functions and doesn’t have extra time to investigate every resource to support her growth plans. “It's difficult being a small business and understanding what's out there to help us,” said Latham. “What AZ MEP offers is a huge asset for a small company. I don't have time to research consultants or search for resources, but AZ MEP has a team that delivers soup-to-nuts services for manufacturers. The help we received is a win-win because the employees improve their skills and become more valuable to the company, which leads to pay increases for them. And the company can gain certifications that help open doors for more business, resulting in more job hires and higher wages.”