Interview: Diane Mindrum, CEO, Mindrum Precision
Mindrum Precision was started by Paul Mindrum in 1956. It’s now run by Diane Mindrum, his daughter, and she’s training her son, Kurt Ponsor, to take over the business in the near future. We’ve always been based in Rancho Cucamonga and have been working with aerospace and NASA and JPL since the 1960s. Mindrum has mission-critical components and assemblies on many NASA manned and exploration space flights. Kurt Ponsor was a major in the United States Air Force prior to coming to work at Mindrum.
Please tell us about your current role. What are your key focus areas and responsibilities?
Diane Mindrum is the CEO and manages finance, marketing, HR and risk management. Kurt Ponsor, because of his mechanical engineering background, is actively involved in engineering, manufacturing, sales, marketing and facilities management, as well as new product development. Also in the family, Dan Mindrum works as head of the optical department, and his daughter, Heather Mindrum is head of purchasing, and shipping and receiving.
What inspired you to join/start this company?
The company has always been a closely held, family-owned business. Diane started out at teaching, which gave her lots of experience in managing students, which was great training for managing employees and tough customers. Mindrum has always worked in defense and aerospace. We are always working with engineers, trying to solve problems and make the impossible possible. We are always learning something new, every single day.
What do you think sets your company apart from your competitors?
We work as a team on prototype development getting jobs started. Then, if we’re lucky, we can continue on once the parts go into production. We work with wonderful people in the industry and enjoy the challenge of doing new things rather than making the same part over and over again for 10 years. We work in ceramics, glass, quartz, sapphire and metal materials, and we tackle the jobs that other people turn away. We are also proud to have several products of our own, that we manufacture and assemble at Mindrum. We manufacture a unique microvalve that is critical in several NASA flight instruments. We also offer several laser altimeters, which are used in fixed-wing and rotary-wing aircraft, such as crop dusters and Predator UAV.
What are the key opportunities and challenges your company faces at present?
We are very diversified, which gives us lots of opportunities in this ever-changing industry. It seems like development, automation and innovation are just exploding in our industry. International competition is both a challenge and an opportunity. No matter what happens, we are positioning ourselves to be a player in the next generation of artificial intelligence and automation.
Are there any new technology developments that you are working on at the moment? Can you tell us about them?
We have just started working with the wire EDM machining a year ago. It is a whole new concept in how to machine metal parts, and conductive ceramics and glass. The opportunities just keep expanding.
What would you say most excites you about your role?
My biggest challenge is handing the company and my job over to my son, Kurt Ponsor. They don’t train you how to do that when you get your MBA. The hardest part of any job is letting it go, but my son is doing a fabulous job tackling those parts of the business that I wasn’t trained for. I know he will grow the business in areas I haven’t even recognized.
How do you think the industry will develop within the next five years? Can you tell us about the key trends emerging?
Automation and electronic sensors will create a new level of manufacturing that will change the landscape, as much as cell phones have changed social media and communication. There will always be opportunities in these advancements for an innovative company that is good at finding and training a technical workforce.
What do you hope to achieve at the show next year, and what connections do you hope to make?
We hope to meet large corporations that can use the specialization and prototype development that Mindrum Precision has to offer. We always meet interesting people at the trade shows, many of whom become lifetime friends and contacts.
Mindrum Precision will be exhibiting at Cermaics Expo 2018 in booth 110