Taiwan, the founder didn’t increase fabrication capabilities. Instead, he dove immediately into machining by buying a CNC vertical mill and a turning
center. He soon picked up machining work, which
eventually dovetailed into assemblies that included
both fabricated and machined components, fastened or welded together.
The lion’s share of company growth during these
earlier days came from five major accounts, all of
which are still with the company today. “We were
fortunate to have our top five customers grow,”
Smith said. “And we grew with them.”
One customer is in the lawn and garden sector,
another produces exercise equipment—two sectors
that complement one another. People tend to buy
lawn equipment in the spring and summer, exercise
equipment in the fall and winter. “The seasonality
of those two sectors stayed even,” Smith added.
“Our revenue month to month stayed somewhat
level. We still don’t have a lot of ups and downs. And
I attribute that to the fact that our customer base is
what it is.”
Some of NSA’s customers are diverse themselves,
serving many di;erent markets. Others are in indus-
tries that are simply less volatile than, say, oil and
gas or other commodity-related businesses. “One
of our big customers is in the food processing sec-
tor,” Smith said, adding that the product isn’t likely
to become obsolete anytime soon. “Guess what?
People are always going to eat. And back in 2009,
two big food service companies carried us through
Once the founder sold the business to investors,
the company’s growth philosophy changed. As
Smith recalled, “One of our board members told
us, ‘If you’re not investing in technology every year,
you’re going to be le; behind. You may be OK for
a few years. But you’ll eventually start losing your
Ever since, NSA has planned to spend at least
$1 million in capital, either replacing old equipment
or expanding capabilities with new technologies.
The company obviously has spent much more than
this since 2012, but the benchmark remains for fu-
ture years. Investing in technology isn’t a luxury. It’s
now viewed as necessary to sustain the business.
In 2012 NSA was an early adopter of solid-state
laser cutting, which really made a di;erence considering the amount of thin stock the fabrication shop
runs. “There weren’t many [disk or fiber cutting la-sers] in the market, certainly in our area,” Smith said.
“When you’re cutting 16 gauge at 1,000 inches per
minute versus 250 inches per minute [with the previous CO2 laser], it was hard for anybody to compete.”
He added that, of course, this edge never lasts—
hence the reason for the company’s goal of continual technology investment.
When NSA expanded into its machining facility
in 2014, it had about 40,000 sq. ;. to spare. “That’s
also been our philosophy,” Smith said. Being in ru-
ral Vermont, NSA can’t rely on adequate industrial
space being immediately available, and building a
new facility takes time. “When the next opportunity
arises, we want to be able to jump on it, and that
requires space. We’ve always tried to keep extra
square footage available.”
He mentioned one private label job in which NSA
handles all the manufacturing and logistics, from
raw stock to final assembly and packaging, shipped
and labeled under the customer’s brand. This job
started small, but in 2016 the customer needed to
ramp up volumes.
To meet this demand, NSA invested in another
solid-state TRUMPF laser, two Salvagnini panel
benders, three Amada press brakes, plus a robotic
NSA has invested heavily in automation in fabrication, especially in cutting, where processes can run unattended.
In the woods of northern Vermont, NSA Industries has grown to become one of the largest metal fabricators and machine shops in northern New England.