Maker Monday: Acutec Precision Aerospace

Elisabeth Smith
Elisabeth Smith
Occupation: President and CEO

Owned by Elisabeth Smith, Acutec Precision Aerospace is a forward-thinking, data-driven machining and subassembly supplier partner serving the aerospace industry. In June 2018, Acutec announced the expansion of its manufacturing facility, which will create 60 new manufacturing jobs. For almost five years, Smith has managed operations at Acutec, and she was named the winner of the 2018 Winslow Award, which is given to individuals or businesses that have made an impact in the Meadville Area. Smith is both the first woman and the first millennial to win the award.

How did you get into your career in manufacturing?

I initially wanted to be a labor economist and started work at a consulting firm in DC, and I ended up getting along well with the aerospace and defense team. I attended the Paris Airshow with them in 2005 and fell in love with the aerospace industry, and I was shocked by the dearth of women there. Ultimately, rather than analyzing female labor market participation, I wanted to be a part of the solution while making tangible products. That’s when I finally came around to the idea of joining my family’s business. I received my MBA in Manufacturing Operations at the University of Michigan and then participated in the Operations Leadership Program at United Technologies. In 2013, I moved back to Pennsylvania to work at Acutec.

What do you love most about your job?

Working with our team to solve problems is immensely satisfying. My role is to be the integrator of all our operations. While I am accountable for the profit and loss results and executing the business plan, I really enjoy removing obstacles and barriers in our path, creating organizational clarity and communication, and developing world-class processes. I am delighted by the ideas our employees come up with and enjoy building connections both within the company and with the larger community. Oh, and tours! Introducing elementary school kids to the cool stuff we do and watching a kid see a legit x-ray gun in action is awesome.

What is one thing you want people to know about Acutec Precision Aerospace?

We are hiring, and we’re a privately held, world-class organization headquartered in Meadville, PA. We have no outside investors, so we run the business prudently for the long term for our stakeholders, which include the employees, the community, and our customers. This business model is increasingly rare in our industry, which sees many companies being bought or invested in by third parties who do not have the same priorities. We have never instituted layoffs.

What makes you proud to be a Pennsylvania maker?

Infrastructure, people, and community are strong in Pennsylvania. We have benefited from redevelopment of our industrial legacy infrastructure, and our customers are shocked by the low rates we pay for manufacturing space, which has allowed us to rapidly expand. Our area is historically known as Tool City USA, and over 25% of our workforce is still employed in manufacturing, so we have a broad workforce and great regional schools to partner with and draw talent from. Finally, our community here is largely rural, and everybody knows everybody else and looks out for each other. We shop at the same stores and eat at the same restaurants. We can’t go anywhere in town without seeing five people we know. We root for each other and work hard to achieve goals. I genuinely wish success to all the other makers in our area.

The Maker Monday series features Pennsylvania manufacturing employees discussing their work, what it’s like to be in the industry, and why they love what they do.

To learn more about the manufacturing industry in Pennsylvania, visit the DCED website.


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