When it comes to business, there is one thing Steven Goldthwaite, president and CEO of Metem Corporation of Parisppany, New Jersey, feels strongly about, and that is innovation. “It’s core to the future of the manufacturing economy; it’s in our business, and it’s in our DNA,” he says. 

Mr Goldthwaite, who joined Metem in 2001, describes the company as a specialised, highly sophisticated supplier of machining and assembled components for the gas turbine and aerospace industries.

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“There is more innovation in the US around this type of thing than one would expect,” he says. “We are constantly coming up with new ways to improve air flow in turbo engines. A component that had 200 holes not very long ago now has 1200 holes.”

The hole story

What makes Metem unique is precision hole technologies that enable engines and turbines to function more efficiently, saving money and mitigating emissions. As a result, Metem is experiencing tremendous growth in both the US and internationally, as the world adopts more natural gas power for cleaner energy.

As the company's CEO, Mr Goldthwaite says he is constantly looking for ways to innovate in unexpected areas. In his view, the successful companies of tomorrow will be those that innovate at faster rates. “As the global economy develops, companies that innovate faster will do better,” he says.

At its inception, Metem was the first company in the world whose total resources were designed specifically for electro-metalworking. The company pioneered numerous sophisticated applications of electronic discharge manufacturing and electro-chemical machining, and became the leading global supplier of these and other services to the gas turbine and aerospace industries. In 2006, Metem expanded globally and opened a factory in Hungary that provides turbine engine components for overseas customers.

In 2012, Mr Goldthwaite facilitated the purchase of 50% of ECM Technologies, an advanced precision electrochemical R&D company based in the Netherlands, to help ensure that Metem retains its pioneer status in electro-chemical machining and the electrical discharge machining of super alloy parts. 

People power

According to Mr Goldthwaite, two areas are important when it comes to innovation: equipment innovation and innovation around the development of employees. “Sometimes people think of innovation as equipment only, but its heart is within the skills and empowerment of people,” he says.

To Mr Goldthwaite, this is where US manufacturing has tremendous potential. “We have a highly skilled labour force and well educated people,” he says, adding that when Metem hires young people, they tend to be very excited about the prospects of manufacturing. “They collaborate in ways we never did before,” he says. “They leverage their social network. They understand how to find solutions outside their core employee group and they are very good with the IT aspect of business.”

Mr Goldthwaite points out that while some young employees may not have classic engineering skills, they posses other powerful skills that are critical for success. “Collaboration and the breaking down of silos is critical. With new managerial processes, young employees will thrive,” he says.