In 2015, Nortech Systems, Inc. celebrated a quarter-century in business. Our longevity is no accident — it’s a major accomplishment and testament to all our employees, customers and shareholders who believed in us and made it happen. We also credit our unwavering dedication to superior quality and outstanding service.
Starting with a single facility in northern Minnesota in 1990, Nortech Systems has grown organically and through acquisitions. Today we are One Nortech — a cohesive family of facilities, operations and shared services working cooperatively to leverage resources. Our two core objectives are helping our customers succeed and providing a quality place to work.
We proudly offer world-class electronics manufacturing services — from early-stage product development and engineering through production and fulfillment. Over the years, we’ve responded to changing market needs by broadening and deepening our services and capabilities. Our overriding goal is to accelerate our customers’ time-to-market performance, improve quality and reduce costs.
DSC Nortech (1979-1990)
Our first facility, in Bemidji, was opened in 1979 by Control Data Corporation (CDC), a pioneer in the computer industry. Six years later during downsizing, CDC sold the plant to management, who began operating it as a new company — Digigraphic Systems — with CDC its largest customer. When CDC struggled in its market, suppliers suffered; DSC Nortech (as the company was then called) underwent Chapter 11 bankruptcy in 1990, emerging as Nortech Systems, Inc.
Nortech Systems, Inc. (1990-Present)
In a 1992 article in Minnesota Ventures magazine, Nortech Systems’ president and CEO Quent Finkelson credited several factors for the company’s successful reorganization: honest communication with suppliers and customers, Nortech’s outstanding reputation for quality and the unwavering commitment of dedicated employees. “Employees’ efforts were probably the most significant reason,” noted Finkelson.
To add capacity and to better serve customers in Wisconsin, Nortech opened its Augusta, Wis., facility in 1992. This satellite facility was the first of what would become a small constellation of facilities, created through organic growth and strategic acquisitions designed to expand capabilities and tap new markets.
In 1995, we purchased Aerospace Systems in Fairmont, Minn., which opened up possibilities serving the unique needs of defense customers; this company’s proud legacy and operations traced back to 1964. The following year we acquired two established operations from Zercom Corporation: Merrifield, Minn., added proven capabilities and expertise in printed circuit board assemblies (PCBAs); Intercon 1 offered a well-known, branded product line aimed at the growing machine vision market. Today Intercon 1’s sales and customer support teams are located in Merrifield, Minn.
In just six years, Nortech Systems had re-invented itself. We had evolved beyond wire harnesses and cable assemblies into PCBAs and more specialized capabilities. We could offer higher-level assemblies, box builds and even finished products. Customers increasingly looked to Nortech as a complete solutions provider; we expanded our value-added services to include engineering support and supply chain management.
To offer a regional wire harness and cable assembly solution for current and future customers located in Mexico, we purchased existing operations in Monterrey, Mexico, in 2002. Enhancing our service offering for the high- growth medical market — including life-sustaining Class III devices — motivated our 2010 acquisition of Trivirix’s operations in Milaca, Minn. This site’s distinguished medical pedigree traced back to 1984, when it was founded by Medtronic. In 2011, we added a second PCBA operation and valuable customers by purchasing Winland Electronics’ EMS operations in Mankato, Minn. Winland’s notable heritage in electronics manufacturing started in 1972. Throughout our history, Nortech’s acquisitions have added proven, well-run operations and experienced, knowledgeable employees — immediately making positive impacts that energized our company for the future.
This tradition was recently continued in 2015 with the acquisition of Devicix, LLC of Eden Prairie, Minnesota. Devicix, a world-class product development and engineering firm for medical device applications, complements Nortech’s production-driven capabilities for Class I, II and III regulated devices and gives Nortech a full, turnkey option for medical device OEMs around the world.
FOCUSing on Improvements
To strengthen Nortech through transformational change, the continuous-improvement (lean) program called “FOCUS” was launched in 2006. While disrupting the status quo, FOCUS demands a long-term view that can be challenging given the scrutiny public companies often face.
“Our primary goal with FOCUS was empowering our employees to make their own jobs better and more rewarding,” explained Mike Degen, who served on Nortech’s board for four years before becoming president and CEO in 2002, after Quent Finkelson passed away suddenly. “Our people are truly Nortech’s greatest asset,” Degen added.
Uniting for success. To strengthen cooperation and collaboration between facilities, to present a more unified image to all our customers and to continue Nortech’s strong growth trajectory, we launched One Nortech in January 2012.
Just as a strong chain relies on every link, our ongoing success depends on all Nortech teams — business development, operations and services — working together to leverage our resources effectively.
Assisted by multiple locations, our Bemidji facility and the Maple Grove corporate office spearhead Shared Services that help unify One Nortech: engineering, strategic sourcing, IT/IS, human resources, finance and business development.
We have shifted from a product- and capability-driven company to a customer-centric organization. As One Nortech, we concentrate on meeting the unique and diverse needs of customers across our three core markets — industrial, medical and defense — with local, regional and global solutions.
Through company initiatives like FOCUS and Integrated Business Process Management, we’re strengthening One Nortech with the overriding goal of meeting our customers’ dynamic needs with best-in-class performance in quality, delivery and price.
In 2013, Rich Wasielewski succeeded Mike Degen as only the third president and CEO in the company’s 25-year history; Wasielewski had joined the company as CFO in 2004. “Stable leadership, loyal shareholders and dedicated customers have all been instrumental in Nortech’s success, enabling us to maintain our strategic vision of building long-term shareholder value,” remarked Wasielewski.