Honeycutt Manufacturing is a family-run aerospace manufacturer in
Mukilteo, Washington, that sees the big picture.
By Jennifer Ferrero
Nick Honeycutt is an everyman’s manufacturing company operator. Like many in the commercial aerospace industry in the Northwest, he has the highs and lows of running and growing a small company. Honeycutt shared that he sleeps minimally, maybe four hours a night. “I have four kids, and they are all busy with sports; after they go to bed, I sit up and think about the business.” There’s no wonder where his thoughts go in running the company—the political climate, hiring and maintaining employees, upgrading equipment and square footage, competition, vendors, and adding services and customers. Add in concerns felt going through the pandemic and its challenges, and it keeps a man up at night.
But Honeycutt will tell you that they are busy and growing—he sees opportunity in commercial aerospace and space. The two industries he said, “are very different.” Through perseverance and change, Honeycutt and the team share their optimism and belief that their business is a going concern. The tagline leaves no doubt that this is a machine shop, “AEROSPACE. MARINE. MEDICAL. SCIENTIFIC. BEYOND. WE MACHINE.”
The business, initially founded by their father, Ron Honeycutt, is now operated by Steve, Tim, and Nick Honeycutt. In 2006, Ron decided to sell the company. The buyer needed to be a better fit. After four years, Ron repurchased it when the existing owner failed. The company’s repurchase took a name change from Honeycutt Machine to Honeycutt Manufacturing. Then they started repairing customer relationships.
Now they have a staff of 32 personnel. Dad is less involved but still comes by the facility for a few hours daily. According to Nick, Honeycutt Manufacturing serves the aerospace industry about 60 to 65 percent of the time. Additional work includes high-end fly-fishing equipment, snowboard bindings, and parts of coffee makers.
But during the pandemic, he remarked that they also picked up some much-needed space work from Blue Origin. Nick said that was low-volume, high-value prototyping work. They were grateful for the work since the airline industry dried up. But in 2023, things are on a rebound, and Nick is prepared.
Nick’s twin brother, Tim, is also prepared. Tim is responsible for everything “customer-facing and outside the facility’s walls.” He observed that everything from “punching bag to shoulder to cry on” falls into his purview. But kidding aside, the brothers, including Steve, work hard to keep customers and employees happy.
The twins went to Washington State University. They aren’t like many manufacturing managers, because they have the education and generational knowledge that keeps them going. One of the challenges they’ve faced is a familiar story—workforce development. Tim said that right after the pandemic, there was a hiring spree by regional manufacturers who were rapidly approaching competitors’ employees and working to lure them away.
The Honeycutt’s wanted to keep valuable employees, so they negotiated shift changes and gave everyone a 10 percent raise. They also were privy to an SBA loan to help them automate the plant. They decided to begin by automating their new 5-axis mill, which they had purchased in 2018 for $900,000. At the time, they needed more space, so they opened the facility next door for expansion.
Now, they have automated other machines. It allows them to run the machines for 50 to 60 hours unattended on the weekends. Also, during the period after the pandemic, when commercial aerospace work fell off, they could pick up work with Blue Origin. Nick noted about the automation, “That’s how we were able to weather the storm.” He said that investing in automation shows the “fruits of labor” almost immediately.
Although automation and investments in machinery have become important, hiring good people is still critical to their success. As a family-owned and operated facility, Nick feels their culture is key. Tim said that when he arrives at work each day, he likes to walk around and say hello to everyone to see how they are doing. Nick added, “If you are here, you are family.” Both agreed that hiring is still tricky. Instead of hiring machinists directly, they said they would instead bring someone in to “sweep the floors” and cut materials, and if they are ethical and have a good attitude, they can be trained to run machinery. They also promote from within, said Nick, “If they show the effort and the ability, we will move them up.”
Tim said that employees are everything to them, “If they need help with money, time off, or a compensation discussion,” they will do that. He said they encourage all employees to contribute to the 401k plan because the company will match five percent. But interestingly, many employees don’t want to contribute. “Saving for retirement—it is hard to get people to understand how they are missing out on free money,” he added.
He noted that they continue to innovate to keep employees happy, “We have to find a way to stay competitive and stay ahead of the curve; we want to keep people here.” They’ve even added retention bonuses every three months, wherein they add 10 hours of payment to the paycheck, no strings attached.
One of the greatest assets of Honeycutt Manufacturing is its agility. Nick added, “When you call, you are talking to the decision maker. There are not five layers of people to sign off on a decision.”
Tim affirmed this agility also comes into play if they are overloaded with work. He said they have relationships with smaller machine shops that they can contact for support. According to the website, www.honeycutt-mfg.com, “We also are happy to work with your preferred vendors, and under any pre-existing pricing arrangements, you may have. This flexibility not only allows us to provide you with a complete production solution for any part you bring to us, but it also enables us to pass along lower production costs by leveraging competitive bidding across vendors throughout the industry.”
Like many small manufacturing companies, Honeycutt Manufacturing is family-owned and operated. The brothers, Steve, Nick, and Tim, feel responsible to customers, employees, and the family to ensure the business’s success. They are hopeful for upcoming contracts and new business. The company’s past is rich, and the future is bright for the generational family business, Honeycutt Manufacturing.
|Call-out Box #1 Services Machining
Honeycutt Manufacturing is a world-class aerospace, and commercial machine shop with capabilities spanning CNC multi-pallet horizontal mills, vertical mills, lathes, a 40-pallet 5-axis milling center with turning capabilities, a dual-spindle/dual-turret mill-turn, centerless and through-feed grinders, and auto-feed saw cutting machines. EngineeringOur Programming and Engineering team utilizes the latest versions of Dassault Système’s SolidWorks (CAD), Open Mind’s hyperMILL (CAM), and Delcam’s FeatureCAM (CAM) software. We can work with CAD files, 2D blueprints, or reverse engineer your design from a physical sample. QA Our Quality Assurance department uses industry-leading metrology equipment to ensure your finished parts are dimensionally, structurally, and cosmetically perfect. When your assembly requires precision, we can machine your parts at tolerances down to one-tenth of one-thousandth of an inch and provide the measurements to back it. We are also equipped to measure conductivity and hardness on incoming raw material and material we have sent to be heat treated. We can also verify protective coating thicknesses using ultrasonic and eddy current methods. Processing There is no limit to the type of finish, coating, heat treatment, or material inspection we can apply to your parts. We work with every aerospace, commercial finishing, and heat treat vendor in the greater Puget Sound area. We will send parts to vendors around the globe for distinctive finishes and specialty processes that can’t be found anywhere else. Pack & ShipIf you have no specific requirements, our standard packaging practices ensure your parts will make it to you in pristine condition and always clearly identified by label. If you require specific packaging materials, box quantities, labeling, or anything else, we will work closely with you to deliver a consistent, high-quality experience. Part Marking Engrave information such as part and revision numbers into your parts. This gives you a permanent, cost-effective method for marking and identifying information before critical cleaning and inspection processes such as passivation or magnetic particle inspection.
12402 Evergreen Drive
Mukilteo, WA 98275