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Manufacturing Profiles: Dale Ray

Dale Ray Chief Operating Officer Morton Manufacturing Lancaster Morton Manufacturing was started in 1967 as a grinding shop. Founder Wallace Morton later transitioned to making engine bolts and fasteners for commercial and military aircraft. The company can turn out 1.2 million bolts a month. In 2014, after more than 40 years in the Santa Clarita Valley, the company relocated to Lancaster and a new 88,000-square-foot building. Dale Ray has worked at Morton for nearly 30 years. Question: How is business these days? Answer: We are growing. General Electric Co. and Pratt & Whitney have new engine programs. GE’s engine line is probably going to triple. Same thing with Pratt & Whitney. GE is making the Next Gen engine. Pratt & Whitney is making the turbo fan engine. So, we are making all the new style engine bolts for those. Seventy percent of our business is replacement parts. Engine bolts can only last so long and then you have to replace them. What kind of challenges do you face as a manufacturer? Probably the biggest is whatever new California state laws come out. Employment laws, health and safety, medical insurance – because we buy our employees’ medical insurance here. Is it tough being a manufacturer in California? I think Santa Clarita was the toughest. Out here has been really nice. They have their own AQMD (air quality management district). It’s not part of L.A. County’s. Does that make things easier? In Santa Clarita, where we were located, every time they would see smoke coming from your building – because we vaporize our oils and boil them off, and you’d get smoke – we got 20 phone calls from the (housing) tract above us. It was tough. Once they come in, they want to look at everything, not just that. It’s different in Lancaster? The work environment here in Lancaster is a lot easier. Employment is easier if they (workers) do not have to commute. When we opened up here we probably got more than 100 applications the first day we posted for jobs. What was the reason for the relocation? We outgrew our building in Santa Clarita. The city of Santa Clarita could not find a spot for us. We did not want to move to the industrial center because most of our people live in Palmdale and Lancaster. I came out here and looked and the owner did not want to move out here. We actually were going to go to Palmdale but they like more retail than manufacturing. Lancaster was real acceptable toward manufacturing. They gave us property at a reasonable rate. The city had bought it and sold it to us. And $2.5 million in improvements they put into it for us – roads, cul-de-sac and water – everything. The property was probably 60 percent, 70 percent cheaper. We bought 10 acres. We have another 5 out there to expand. Do you anticipate needing that land soon? If we do Boeing work, yeah. What is the status of that contract? Right now, we are qualifying for Boeing. We have made the first qualification parts. Frame bolts are similar to engine bolts. Boeing is tough to qualify for. We have a big press out there and that is to qualify for Boeing. They go up to 3/8-inch diameter bolts for frames. That could be our biggest customer ever if we get in with Boeing. How long did the move take? We started looking in 2012 and started building in 2013 and finished in 2014. It took us over a year to move out here. We were making 14,000 different part numbers and you have to requalify on every one of those parts with our customers because they are engine bolts. Once you move from one location to another, even though it is the same employees and same equipment, you have to requalify. They do not want hiccups in their engine lines. What you do is you build parts out here to qualify and you still build your parts there (at the old location). You ship from both locations until you have everything going good. How do you compete? We are low cost. Fasteners is a commodity so you have to be low cost. Certain fasteners we make are priced within a half penny. With engine bolts, we don’t deal with that (price sensitivity). We are probably priced within 30, 40 or 50 cents. Do you face much competition from lower-cost foreign companies? Our only overseas competitor is Lisi (Aerospace). They are in Turkey, India, France and Canada. So far no one other than Lisi makes engine bolts overseas. – Mark R. Madler

Mark Madler
Mark Madler
Mark R. Madler covers aviation & aerospace, manufacturing, technology, automotive & transportation, media & entertainment and the Antelope Valley. He joined the company in February 2006. Madler previously worked as a reporter for the Burbank Leader. Before that, he was a reporter for the City News Bureau of Chicago and several daily newspapers in the suburban Chicago area. He has a bachelor’s of science degree in journalism from the University of Illinois, Urbana-Champaign.
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