Beyond the Circuit Board

Pinnacle Technology
Written by Karen Hawthorne

New technology and digitalization has meant infinitely smaller components and significant changes to electronics manufacturing. To master the market, Pinnacle Technology has been quick to capitalize on new developments and build its long-standing customer base.
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So here’s the thing: if you’ve been successful in the electronics manufacturing industry for a number of years, you’ve been running with the fast pace of change while adapting to the rollercoaster of economic ups and downs. And you have the know-how to stand out from the competition.

That’s the kind of smarts and experience Richard Wasserman and his team at Pinnacle Technology, a full-service contract electronics manufacturer, have been bringing to the table since 1996.

“We go beyond just building parts for customers; we put in the time and effort upfront to understand what they do, what their business is and what their expectations are of us. It’s our commitment to the customer,” says Wasserman, CEO and founder of Pinnacle, which is based in Ottawa Lake, Michigan.

“That’s one reason we’ve been able to keep customers for the long-term and grow as they grow. I think it’s the value-added services. Each customer wants something a little bit different and we try to provide it.”

Electronics manufacturing today is not just about parts or full electromechanical systems integration for end products; it’s about people and relationship-building. Pinnacle provides a personalized one-stop shop for entrepreneurs and businesses who want to get a quality product to market with a manufacturer who offers an established network of suppliers, rigorous inspection of all parts and processes, and mitigated risk.

To this end, Pinnacle is ISO 9001:2000 certified with capability for a comprehensive range of processes, including surface mount assembly, through-hole assembly, complete system assembly, potting and conformal coating, and in-circuit and functional testing.

“While we have all the state-of-the-art technology and equipment to be able to build high-quality electronic componentry, we also offer value-added services such as engineering and design services to whatever level they may need.”

And things are changing – quickly. From toasters to weigh scales, consumer and industrial products are having chips inserted in them to talk to each other, collecting and communicating data as the Internet of Things (IoT) becomes part of almost everything we do. Developments in sensor technology, cable assembly and printed circuit board assembly are driving intelligent design. Whatever device you want to connect, there is technology that can make it happen. That’s opening up new possibilities for electronics manufacturing.

Essentially, Pinnacle guides the customer all the way through a product’s lifecycle, with the tools to design, prototype, test and build electrical and electro-mechanical assemblies. Again, the focus is on tailoring the manufacturing to suit the customer.

The company’s line of business includes the manufacturing of medical instruments, industrial controls, audio electronics, sensors and a proprietary line of medical training devices that draws on Wasserman’s extensive experience. After college, he partnered in a start-up company to manufacture medical products, and later decided to forge out on his own in broader electronics manufacturing with Pinnacle at a time when electronics and automation development was just starting to accelerate. Now the company also works with tech-savvy clients in the video gaming and aerospace sectors.

“With the advancement of tech, parts are more robust and more capable and miniaturized, especially in electronics, so the components that go onto the circuit boards are continually being downsized,” he explains. “For us to have the equipment and the skill set to stay on the front end of that is challenging. But it is one of the things that keeps us relevant and keeps us competitive.”

A few years in, Pinnacle acquired a smaller manufacturing company with more automated processes and moved Pinnacle from Toledo, Ohio, to Ann Arbor, Michigan. Wasserman built his current manufacturing plant and warehouse in 2006 in Ottawa Lake, and is proud to report that his sons are part of the business, one in sales and business development and the other an engineer in manufacturing and process engineering. They’ve both been active in the company “since they were big enough to cut grass and pull weeds,” he says.

One side of the business is the high-volume production of LED lighting up to 48 inches long for commercial and industrial use – a growing market, given the energy savings and long-lasting product reliability.

But the company’s core business is in the complex circuit boards that are in demand for sensor technology and other devices. The company’s diversification ensures continued stability in the event of an economic downturn or a problem within a specific industry. “All of our eggs are not in one basket, so we have a much broader risk threshold,” Wasserman says.

One of his proudest accomplishments – beyond transitioning his sons and other key employees to lead the company when he retires – was an “ultra-successful” product in the marketplace for a key customer. The product, developed by his team with radio-frequency identification (RFID), was an oscillation mannequin widely used for medical training for nurses and doctors to learn to detect blood pressure, heart arrhythmias and other heart-related problems.

“We put new technology in a design that we were able to manufacture and exceed the customer’s expectation, which is a win for the customer and a win for us,” he says.

Another big win has been maintaining a core group of customers for a very long time and a primary group of employees who joined the company in the first couple of years. “Being able to provide an organization and operation to employ that many people, there’s a sense of accomplishment in that,” says Wasserman, happy with the company’s consistent growth and optimistic about the days ahead.

“We’re on a very positive trend with the economy being strong. The future looks bright; we feel like we’ve got people, equipment and ideas and strategy to get us to the next level. That’s where we’re going.”

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