SALEM – Hickey Metal Fabrication, Salem, has taken a common sense approach in tackling the anemic labor market and other challenges brought on in the aftermath of the COVID-19 pandemic, its executives say.
“We had to figure out how to continue to grow without just saying we needed more people,” says Adam Hickey, vice president.
So, the 81-year-old family business invested in automation to create additional manufacturing capacity, meet its customers’ needs and attract new business, he says.
The strategy worked. Before the pandemic, Hickey Metal employed more than 200. Then the economic shutdown brought on by the pandemic in early 2020 led to layoffs. By the end of 2022, Hickey Metal had replenished its workforce to 187 employees while posting an annual growth rate of more than 30%, Hickey says.
Hickey Metal made several capital equipment investments last year, including new 2D and tube laser cutting machines, a robotic bending cell, robotic welding cells, and CNC machining equipment.
More equipment is on the way, Hickey says. This includes another completely automated laser center, which can run any gauge steel up to one-half inch. Parts will then be fed to two automated bend cells and welded head and tail stock robot cells. These machines are scheduled for commission during the second and third quarters of this year.
Also in 2022, the company began construction on its seventh manufacturing facility. This expansion will add 25,000 square feet to the company’s existing 400,000 square feet of production space at the Salem Industrial Park. Hickey has also purchased a plot of land adjacent to its existing properties for any future growth.
These expansions create new job opportunities at Hickey Metal.
“With all the latest technology, this is a great opportunity for people interested in the metal fabrication industry,” Hickey says.