If someone made a movie about the electronics manufacturing services (EMS) industry, the leading roles likely would be cast with players from extreme ends of industry’s spectrum. There would be the behemoths churning out high-volume consumer electronics and the scrappy “mom-and-pop” shops surviving on small build-to-print projects. While these extremes exist, the industry’s real story is the far more nuanced and multifaceted middle: small and midsize companies that have carved out strategic, defendable niches.
One such company is Intervala. Launched in 2016, Intervala manufactures highly complex electronic and electromechanical products, as well as cable and harness assemblies. Its customers are leading innovators in the industrial, medical, transportation and defense industries who hire Intervala as their manufacturing arm so they can focus on their own core competencies, such as new product development or marketing.
Because the products generally are very specialized and often must be produced to strict quality or regulatory standards, the level of expertise required in a manufacturing partner is high. Intervala is a full-service operation providing whatever the customer needs to get their product to market, including engineering, design assistance, supply chain management, testing, direct-order fulfillment and sometimes aftermarket support.
“We’ve worked with companies to transition entire manufacturing operations to us,” said Intervala President and CEO Teresa Huber. “For other customers, we’ve redesigned their product to reduce cost or improve reliability or speed time to market.”
Although founded just four years ago, Intervala’s roots in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, where the company is headquartered, can be traced back to the 1880s. Ownership has changed a few times over the years, but the core business has a long history of delivering complex, high-reliability products. It has been in the contract electronics manufacturing space since the 1990s. Companywide, Intervala employs about 300 people.
“Most of our employees have worked in the business for a long time,” said Teresa. “They’re highly skilled and have a lot of experience solving customers’ problems. So, even though we’re a fairly young company, we bring decades of expertise to the table.”
For Teresa and the experienced Intervala team, everything is about helping the customer be successful. This talented group of people is unafraid to tackle any challenge and understands the need to be flexible, especially with the type of customers they serve, many of whose products have numerous configurations, frequent design changes and rapidly fluctuating forecasts. The experts at Intervala adapt to these changes as they emerge.
“We understand that sometimes we have to innovate very quickly to serve our customers,” explained Teresa. “It’s about doing everything we possibly can to make sure that our customers are not just happy, but incredibly delighted with what they get from Intervala, and our people are critical to that.”
Intervala is currently on a growth streak, winning new customers and making acquisitions. According to Teresa, the key is identifying opportunities that fit within the company’s business niche and customer-focused culture. This diligence ensures long-term success for both Intervala and its customers.
One of the new customers is OnSite Waste Technologies. The team at OnSite Waste developed a novel way to process regulated medical waste more conveniently, safely, cost-effectively and with less environmental impact than traditional methods. Referred to as red bag waste, the content includes used needles, syringes, bandages and other biomedical trash. OnSite Waste’s technology converts red bag waste into sterile garbage that can be thrown away in the regular trash. The innovative process will likely change the medical waste industry.
“Our work with OnSite Waste is right in our sweet spot,” said Teresa, explaining that the OnSite team developed a revolutionary product but needed a full-service manufacturing partner to ensure that the design was manufacturable, help them make necessary modifications, and then assist in taking it to market. Intervala applied the full range of its capabilities to meet OnSite’s requirements and won a multiyear agreement to produce the device.
In addition to bringing on new customers, Intervala has been executing on its acquisition strategy. The company recently purchased two companies in the Northeast region of the United States where many prospective top-tier customers requiring Intervala’s services reside. Intervala acquired the Hudson, New Hampshire operation of Varitron, a Canadian-based design and electronics manufacturing services provider, at the end of 2019. The company followed that purchase with the spring 2020 acquisition of Princeton Technology Corporation, also located in Hudson. The two acquisitions have expanded Intervala’s capabilities in cable and harness manufacturing, added production capacity and sped growth in the medical and defense markets.
“We’ll be looking for opportunities to expand our presence into other geographic regions as well, or to take advantage of add-on acquisitions where that makes sense for us,” added Teresa. “We’ll also continue to invest in new technology and people to support that growth.”
It’s common for Intervala to invest in new technology and equipment to ensure that it can provide the highest level of quality and efficiency to its customers. One example is its purchase of inspection equipment from Koh Young Technology, which is recognized as the world leader in three-dimensional inspection and measurement equipment.
“It is very important, especially for a company of our size, to invest in new manufacturing technologies that allow us to serve our customers and compete against much larger companies in our space,” explained Teresa. Many of Intervala’s competitors are multibillion-dollar Tier-1 manufacturers. Intervala offers many of the same advanced capabilities as these larger players, but can provide much greater flexibility due to its size and approach to the business.
“Our flexibility is an important advantage for us, especially right now when many OEMs are experiencing fluctuating demand and supply chain disruptions due to the COVID-19 pandemic,” said Teresa.
As important as new technologies can be to Intervala, investments in the organization’s culture are paramount. “I see culture as the only sustainable competitive advantage that you have in business,” Teresa added. “Our culture is critically important; it drives everything we do.”
Teresa continued, “Our culture is all about serving the customer, but in the process of doing that, we also like to have fun. We feel that’s important because our business is tough a lot of days, and customers have very strict demands, but we want people to also realize you can enjoy what you do.”
This message is emphasized in Intervala’s recruiting efforts along with the company’s commitment to professional development. “We have an employee development program for folks to be able to really develop their skills and grow with us as an organization. We have many talented people who have chosen to build careers here,” said Teresa.
As Intervala continues to grow and expand, it is writing its own story of success. And it’s doing it by maintaining focus on workplace culture and keeping its customers the top priority. “Our culture is special, and our customers would agree with that. Our people really are the heart and soul of what makes that work.”