Fayetteville Company Poised to Amp Up 'Power' Production

by Luke Jones  on Monday, Mar. 5, 2012 12:00 am  

APEI now operates in 20,000 SF of laboratory and manufacturing space. The company's most recent expansion was a 10,000-SF manufacturing facility at the Arkansas Research & Technology Park on the UA campus. Lostetter called it a milestone.

"Our original goal was to develop technology and license it out," he said. "We were pushing the limits on some of the things we were doing, particularly for extreme environments. So far, there weren't any manufacturers or manufacturing processes that could do it. What we learned over the years was that it was simpler for us to actually do it ourselves than try to teach our manufacturing partners how to do it."

Lostetter said he saw a chance to compete in a low-volume, high-dollar niche market, and even turn a profit. The facility was built in 2010 and optimized in 2011. The building itself features a class 1000 "cleanroom" environment.

"It's a way to detect the amount of dust in the environment," Lostetter said. "In a cubic meter, there would be less than 1,000 particles in the air. It's a very clean type of environment, very high-tech."

Lostetter said with current resources, the facility produces about 5,000 units per year, with each unit selling for $500-$1,000 each. Only about five of APEI's 36 employees work in the facility.

"These are very highly skilled workers," Lostetter said. "These are guys and gals with 20 to 25 years of experience at the bottom level of training. The high side is up to Ph.D. level of engineers."

Melanie Ritchie, financial accountant for APEI, said the average salary for the company's full-time employees was $86,345 in 2011, while the engineers averaged $94,950.

The facility's products include power modules for the Air Force's F-35 Lightning II fighters. In 2009, APEI won an R&D 100 award from R&D Magazine for one of the modules. APEI is also designing for the oil industry, which needs instruments that can survive extreme temperatures.

During the next two years, Lostetter said, APEI will build a second, 13,000-SF manufacturing facility and grow its production rate to 20,000 units per year.

 

A World Leader

The development of APEI is important: It gives highly trained engineers a reason to stay in Arkansas.

 

 

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