A Manufacturing Success Story: Stevens Alum's Company is One of Best in New Jersey
When Frank J. Semcer graduated from Stevens in 1965, he didn’t join Micro Stamping Corp., the company his father had founded 20 years earlier. He carved his own path, joining W.R. Grace & Company, later Allied Chemical, to develop new polymers for the plastics age.
Micro Stamping sought him out several years later, in search of much needed “young blood” for the small electronics parts manufacturer. It was 1969 when Semcer accepted the offer, and the company, now a publicly-owned conglomerate, had about 50 employees.
Semcer bought back Micro Stamping within eight years. Renaming it MICRO, he upgraded its technology and invested in research and development. A true manufacturing success story, today the company of 350 employees produces six billion components a year for the medical device, automotive, aerospace and electronics industries and boasted sales of $72.5 million in 2010, with increases expected this year. Headquartered in Somerset, NJ, it has additional operations in Florida, Korea and Singapore, as well as New Jersey and Florida manufacturing facilities boasting a total of 140,000 square feet.
This year, Semcer’s efforts were recognized by NJBIZ, which named MICRO #85 on its Top 100 Privately Held Companies for 2011, up from #93 the previous year. In addition, The Wall Street Journal pointed to MICRO as a sign of hope for the company’s manufacturing sector, and U.S. Rep. Rush Holt (D-Hopewell) glowed about its modern technology and R&D investment in The Times of Trenton.
“All of the company is excited,” said Semcer, Chairman of MICRO and a resident of Far Hills, NJ. “We’re a growing business in the state of New Jersey, and we’re growing in spite of the rest of the world.”
What has been MICRO’s secret to bucking the struggles of so many of the country’s manufacturers?
“It’s really the innovative approach that we have to helping our customers reduce their total costs through new product design and different methods of manufacturing,” Semcer said.
The collaborative process with clients in which “everyone gathers around the table” is a huge advantage, he added.
And perhaps the company’s biggest strength is the chairman himself. Semcer promptly returns his own phone calls and emails. When you meet him, he is approachable and enthusiastic about what he does.
In recent years, Stevens has also figured prominently into MICRO’s story. Several Stevens alumni, including the company’s president – Semcer’s son, Brian Semcer ’00 – are on staff. (Three of Semcer’s other children, Al, Frank, Jr. and Paige also work with the company.)
MICRO has also employed Stevens’ Cooperative Education students for the past few years, with 11 on staff in 2011. Semcer, a father of six and grandfather of 15, puts these students right on the plant floor and lets them apply their Stevens engineering education as they work to help improve manufacturing quality and processes.
“We believe that the Stevens education gives students real knowledge on application versus the theoretical approach,” Semcer said.
Semcer himself chose Stevens because he longed to develop his strengths in math and science at a small school, and he wanted a general engineering curriculum because he wasn’t quite sure what he wanted to do.
“It’s a diverse education that we gained at Stevens so that all of the technology that we use in manufacturing, we employ, from electrical to mechanical to chemical engineering,” he said.
Semcer was active during his years as a Stevens student, serving as a member and officer with Theta Xi fraternity, working with The Link student yearbook and playing interclass and interfraternity sports.
He has continued his involvement with Stevens as an alumnus. He is a member of the Stevens Board of Trustees, has served on his class’ reunion committee and has been a faithful Alumni Weekend attendee. He is also a generous supporter of Stevens and a member of the Edwin A. Stevens Society. For his pioneering vision as a business owner and innovator, Semcer received Stevens’ Award for Innovation and Entrepreneurship in 2010 – the first recipient of this prestigious award.
Semcer, with his wife, Mary Jane, has also been a generous advocate within his home community. This past fall, Semcer received an award from HomeSharing, a Bridgewater, NJ-based organization whose mission is to prevent homelessness through shared affordable housing. The group created the Frank Semcer Outstanding Volunteer Award in honor of Semcer and MICRO, longtime supporters.
As a business leader, Semcer said that he is optimistic about manufacturing in the United States as the time lag and supply chain issues make manufacturing in China no longer so cost competitive.
As for the future of his own company, he said that MICRO will continue to search for ways to innovate, be it through redesigning existing processes or using new technology – just as he learned at Stevens.