Making palm-sized precision parts: X-L Engineering's Prikos Family
NILES, IL - Here's something that should get your attention: almost every part X-L Engineering makes fits within the palm of your hand, the company's president Paul L. Prikos says.
Now in its fourth decade, X-L Engineering designs, engineers, manufactures and assembles precision components for industries including medical, aerospace, defense, hydraulics and pneumatics.
Paul's father “Bud” started the company in the 1970s after leaving an engineering job with a large company.
“I wasn't happy working in the large corporate world and wanted to go into business for myself. With my dad's help, I bought X-L Engineering,” Bud said. Bud added onto and later doubled the size of the Niles site. In 1999, the company added another facility in Elk Grove Village.
“We grew from ten employees to 100,” Bud said.
After graduating from college and working elsewhere for several years, Bud's two sons joined their father's business in 2004. The business expanded as opportunities increased. Bud is still active at X-L, but he's gradually spending more and more time away from the shop.
Now older son Paul is President of X-L Engineering and runs the Niles facility's daily business. As a second-generation business in an industry that's speeding into more and more technology and computer-based work, Paul says the challenges he faces are similar and yet very different from those with which his dad dealt.
One is the serious talent shortage, creating a need for qualified personnel that everyone in the business is facing.
“It's difficult to get someone off the street and have them hit the floor running,” he said. “Often, the best talent we've had has been from within. As they say, ‘You can train someone and risk having them leave, or you don't train someone and risk having them stay.'”
“It's rewarding to watch people that work here grow, especially when you get in a group of talented individuals, they start rolling and things are really good,” Paul said.
In addition to the search for talent, X-L faces challenges that come with precision machining – crucial tolerances that could make the difference between life and death, especially when creating medical and surgical instruments.
“In general, our work is small enough to fit in the palm of your hand. Since the tolerance is so tight, heat treating and grinding has to be exact,” he said.
Jack Prikos, who is vice-president and spends most his time at the Elk Grove Village facility, oversees much of the company's human resources, marketing and quality control.
Jack joined the business in 2010, shortly after the darkest days of the most recent manufacturing recession. At that time, X-L Engineering, like most U.S. manufacturers, went through a difficult time of layoffs. When orders picked back up, they faced equally difficult challenges.
“We had to get creative when the orders came pouring back in,” Jack said. “Things were humming pretty well by 2012 and 2013. Since that time, business has hit its highest numbers ever. Now things are leveling off.”
Investing in machines that make X-L Engineering appealing to demanding customers became a major consideration, but one that has paid off. “Our approach was very well rounded. We made improvements to capacity while adding to quality capability and upgraded software,” Jack said.
TMA's network of peers has been valuable during those good times and bad, Paul said.
“Being inside these four walls day in and day out, you can feel isolated – and sometimes you are. It's not easy to get to TMA events and committees, but doing that brings so much to the work we do,” Paul said.
“There's political information at TMA, education and networking. We discuss best business practices and how to survive during the tough time. Being around others going through similar things and with experience, you know you're not alone.”
“People within TMA are the most optimistic, positive people you'd ever want to meet. When you go, it's like you feel after you just worked out. You're glad that you did it. I am always glad I did,” he said.
Paul's enthusiasm about TMA is a family tradition, too. He now serves on TMA's 401 k Committee. His grandfather Paul Prikos served as chairman of TMA's Board of Directors in 1962, and his father “Bud” Prikos served in the same capacity in 1986.
For more information about X-L Engineering and its precision machining services, check out their website at www.xleng.com.
First published in Technology & Manufacturing Association's October 2017 News Bulletin. By Fran Eaton. Used by permission.