At Micro Stamping headquarters in Somerset, New Jersey, it is largely what is not visible that gives the metal-forming company its edge in the highly competitive world of precision component manufacturing.
Chairman Frank Semcer, Sr. ’65, an alumnus of Stevens Institute of Technology, has built a global enterprise over the past three decades by reinventing costly and outmoded manufacturing processes through innovative engineering – and keeping his agile, multi-faceted manufacturing operation competitive in the toughest global markets.
In recognition of his pioneering vision and business savvy, Semcer will this month become the first Stevens alumnus to receive the university’s newly created Award for Innovation and Entrepreneurship.
“What Frank has accomplished is exemplary. His emphasis on innovation, his ability to leverage technology and to engage his customers as co-developers has breathed life into the manufacturing sector,” said Harold J. Raveche, Stevens’ President. “Add to that an outstanding record of pursuing innovative engineering approaches.”
Micro Stamping’s facility provides an eye-opening introduction to 21st century manufacturing. With its robotic equipment, “clean room” for sterile operations and dedicated research and development space, the company’s headquarters looks as much like a high-tech invention lab as a factory.
“We take longstanding commercial processes and re-envision them,” says Semcer, who took over a small electronic parts manufacturer founded by his father and several partners in 1945 and systematically expanded its capabilities. Today, Micro produces more than 5 billion components a year for cars, medical instruments and electronic devices.
Semcer and his team have succeeded by devising ways to automate cumbersome hand operations, combining multiple fabrication steps into a single process, and by reconfiguring components themselves to improve their performance and simplify production. These innovations, spurred by ongoing investments in technology and engineering, have led to dramatic cuts in manufacturing costs.
Micro’s components are integral to the functioning of endoscopic instruments that perform delicate surgeries, sensitive automobile air-bag sensors, and electronic devices in aerospace vehicles such as the Mars Rover, to name a few applications.
Semcer’s father urged him to first study engineering in college, and it left a lasting impression.
“The ability to come up with solutions to manufacturing problems is based on performing detailed analyses of every stage of production, and that is what engineering school teaches you. You must solve problems step by step, but also be able to adapt your design to a changing situation,” he said.
When he joined Micro Stamping in 1969, he was eager to apply these engineering principles, but was stymied at first. The company had been sold three years before to a conglomerate that refused to invest in significant new technology for what it considered a small division. So eight years later, he bought it back.
“I wanted to grow this company as fast as I could with the best technology I could acquire,” he recalled. “I put $1,000 down and borrowed the rest. It was the gamble of a lifetime.”
Micro Stamping quickly established itself as a can-do contractor for companies with manufacturing problems: a part that takes too long to make, is ineffective or is too complicated to design in-house.
Semcer’s open-minded approach and broad engineering capabilities allowed Micro Stamping to seamlessly enter new sectors. In the 1980s, when a major medical/pharmaceutical company asked the company to devise a better way to make ligation clips – clamps applied to blood vessels and left in the body – Micro Stamping performed a radical “surgery” of its own.
“Their supply chain for the clips, from order to delivery, was 30 weeks long. There were seven steps in the fabrication process. We came up with a methodology to collapse them into one step, with delivery in four weeks,” he recounted.
Throughout the years, Semcer has maintained his ties with his alma mater. He was member of the Stevens Board of Trustees throughout the 1990s, and also has provided opportunities for Stevens students at Micro Stamping. Each semester, students in Stevens’ Cooperative Education program work directly with company engineers who are designing new products at the company’s Somerset headquarters.