HOUCK MACHINE – A MINNESOTA MODERN MARVEL
In December of 1984, two industrious young brothers from Minnesota pooled their collective technical talents and started a company machining metal components for a medical company.
Today, three decades later, that company has thrived into one of the foremost manufacturing entities in the Midwest, serving the high-tech industry needs of corporate clients, large and small, from coast to coast. That company is Houck Machine.
Forged with the technical and business expertise of Dick Houck and the quality control experience of Dennis Houck, the two had a wide breadth of skill and knowledge to draw from in those early days. Looking back, Dick said the two just seemed like a natural fit.
“My entire career, since I was 18, has been in technical industries, and the management side,” Dick said. “Dennis’ specialty was in quality control. We just married those two skill sets and decided we were ready to strike out on our own.”
Armed with a single CNC Machining Center, the brothers struck success quickly with a big client in the medical field, Bio-Medicus, thanks to one of Dennis’ contacts. It wasn’t long before they needed machinists to help run the operation. Their first hire was none other than current Vice President Steve Kingdon, who is also a co-owner in the company.
“Steve was dating my daughter at the time,” Dick chuckled. “Steve’s a very talented individual. Of course he wasn’t my son-in-law at that time.”
Steve said he already had a full-time job at that point, but chose to work nights and weekends at Houck before taking on a more permanent position. In 1994, after nearly 10 years with the company, Steve became a partner and co-owner in the business alongside his father-in-law.
“I think I’ve worked every position in house since then,” Steve said, who is now married to Dick’s daughter, Heidi. As the company progressed, Dick bought out his brother’s interest, and hired additional employees over the next several years as business continued to roll in.
A BIG STEP FORWARD
Every day, they committed to getting better, a philosophy that has not changed. That commitment to continual improvement could be seen in the company’s ever expanding technical capabilities. In 1997, Houck Machine hit a significant milestone by acquiring its first ISO Quality System certification. It was a significant step forward for the company.
“We were very small at the time, I think only nine employees,” Dick said. “That was really something for a company our size. We took a big step there.”
With that mark of credibility under their belt, the company was able to garner immediate respect for their capabilities with customers. Houck, Kingdon and team went from its Brooklyn Center location, a 12,700 square-foot building, to a 21,000 square-foot facility in Plymouth, largely thanks to the new business it could acquire.
In the years that followed, that ISO certification has been a staple of Houck Machine – each year, they are required to uphold the standards it demands, and it has to be proven with system audits, which have become part of the annual routine at its new state-of-the-art 42,000 square-foot facility, located in Plymouth. Together, both Dick and Steve, along with their team, are very proud of their unbroken streak of certification every year since 1997.
Dick said that the company’s commitment to modern performance has been a big part of their success in the three decades since they first formed the company.
“We’ve always kept our equipment modern, high-tech and up-to-date. That keeps us at the forefront of the industry,” Dick said. “Maintaining is always a work in progress. It’s always a part of our continuous improvement.”
Steve added that it’s about a mindset, communication and genuinely caring about the people he works with, both staff and customers alike.
“For me, the most important thing has always been the building and nurturing of relationships that are beneficial to both parties,” Steve said. “We try to create a very positive work environment and provide good benefits, know who our employees are so that it’s not just a job to them, and to know they’re not just employees, cause they’re certainly not.”
Benefits from that type of thinking get passed on to the customers of Houck Machine, as many now seek out the company as a technical advisor and resource for problem solving. “That’s all part of building that relationship of trust and knowing who we are,” Steve said.
A MULTI-GENERATIONAL COMPANY
Dick said that the company he started more than 30 years ago will be stronger than it has ever been in years to come thanks to Steve’s entrance into company ownership in 1994. They are a company, and a family, that will live on long after he’s gone.
“We’ve become a multi-generational business,” Dick said. “And we wish our future generations to become part of that. It’s not going to end with me.”
We wouldn’t be where we are today without the strong relationships we’ve built with these businesses and organizations: