TMA Masters of Manufacturing: The Precision Zone Team

Tim Churchill (center) joined Precision Zone in 2011 after graduating from the University of Illinois Champaign-Urbana with a degree in electrical engineering. He worked his way up from engineer to become Director of Operations. He now oversees Precision Zone’s repair and automation departments, as well as logistics.

While the topic was not directly addressed with Churchill, a healthy, positive workplace culture is crucial to him. When he interviewed with TMA News, he invited two younger Precision Zone team members whose work he wanted to showcase to join him.

Including two younger colleagues in the interview was unspoken evidence that Precision Zone’s director of operations respects his colleagues’ work and wanted them to receive recognition for their accomplishments, especially with the growing demand for automation in the manufacturing industry.

How the Precision Zone Team came to be

Precision Zone was officially launched in 2004 by company owner Anton Koretskov as an electronic industrial repair shop. Now with a staff of 50 professionals, Precision Zone continues to offer repair services on AC & DC drives, AC & DC motors, CNC controls, feedback devices, printed circuit boards, power supplies, operating panels, PLCs, HMI, monitors, LCD retrofits, a wide assortment of semiconductor parts and equipment accessories.

The second member of the Precision Zone team in the interview was Mark Giertych (photo left), who joined the company as a repair technician in 2017. Last year, Giertych inquired about a position that opened in the company’s new robotics department. He now helps design robotic cells and train those that work with automation.

“I help our customers understand what they need to do that will be beneficial. The process starts with hearing the problem the customer wants to solve,” Giertych said. “We then make a robotic system that solves that problem and then we train them so that they can operate it.”

TMA SIG network contributes to Team’s Progress

Last year, just as Giertych moved to robotics, a request came through the Technology and Manufacturing Association’s member network called “SIG,” searching for a recommended source that could help develop an automated system using lasers to engrave part numbers on metal couplets.

Churchill responded to the CMS-SIG request, and after showing the interested company around their 72,000 square foot facility and introducing them to the Precision Zone team, the TMA member tasked Precision Zone with the project.The result was the TMA member saw the value of investing in automation for repetitive assembly and designating more intellectually demanding tasks to human staff. 

“Automation provides teams with higher level jobs, higher paying jobs,” Churchill said. “Automating may take away a repetitive task or job, but somebody is not injuring someone or themselves. So, you’re creating higher level jobs, and people can move into those. It allows them to work at their skill levels. And in turn, it makes manufacturing more efficient.”

Indeed, as every U.S. manufacturer is aware, finding qualified staff to fill crucial positions and those interested in developing industry careers is becoming a bigger and bigger challenge.

Facing that personnel shortage reality, Churchill welcomed young Julian Herrera’s (photo right) interest in interning during his last year of studying mechanical engineering at University of Illinois, Champaign-Urbana. After graduation, Herrera returned to Precision Zone, and now works with the engineering and marketing teams – especially working to promote Precision Zone’s services through videos.

The supply chain dilemma during the past two years has pointed out clearly how important it is that manufacturing returns to the U.S., Giertych said. Precision Zone, as did all companies searching for repair parts and equipment, experienced during the pandemic how difficult it was to get parts needed to get industrial equipment up and running again.

Supply Chain challenges lead to more Precision Zone work 

“The U.S. is going to be pushing really hard towards automation because we have to start doing something in-house,” Geirtych said. “And the way I’ve always heard — that automation is just taking bad jobs and replacing them with good jobs. The same amount of people are working. There is just a lot more efficiency, and better- paying, higher-skilled jobs.”

And while automation is an exciting horizon Churchill sees quickly developing at Precision Zone, he was clear that his repair technicians are equally important to the industry and the company. Recognizing their efforts was a part of the appreciation culture Churchill promotes at Precision Zone.

“Our technicians love the electronic work they do troubleshooting diagnostic circuits. It’s fun to them when they’re trying to figure out what’s wrong with a system,” Churchill told TMA News. “They do enjoy that work and we want to expand that service for our customers and the people around them.”

Altogether, the workplace culture Tim Churchill encourages at Precision Zone is one that is key to both employees and the company’s customers. It is built upon customer satisfaction and team member appreciation.

Churchill conveyed the message to fellow TMA members, loud and clear: “We’re here to help manufacturers out in any way possible, whether it’s to keep their existing machines or robots running, or if they would like to explore automation to improve their production and efficiencies.”

“We’re here to help, and if they have an idea they’d like to try, reach out to Precision Zone, and we’ll be happy to hear you out and see if we can help them out,” he said.

Vision of attracting interested high schoolers 

In the days to come, Precision Zone plans to take their service-mindedness and work culture into area high schools, using their mobile automation demo.

They hope to expand a fledgling robotics team and interest in automation among high schoolers.

Herrera, the newest of the three interviewed at Precision Zone, said his work is rewarding – something that is especially motivating to him and his age peers.

“It’s rewarding to help people and deal with new challenges presented everyday. I like watching Precision Zone employees grow and use their skill sets, their knowledge in everyday problems with automation or whatever they’re faced with. Plus I like diving in a little bit here and there and getting somewhat technical when I can and help them out,” Herrera said.

Churchill says over the next five years, he hopes to see Precision Zone expand the automation training they’re now offering – and to reach more high schoolers before they make career decisions that may not include considering careers in the manufacturing industry.

He hopes to change all that – and with Churchill’s emphasis on creating an inspiring and exciting workplace culture at Precision Zone, and his own work ethic, he’s likely to succeed.

More about Precision Zone at 

First published in January/February 2023 TMA News Bulletin. By Fran Eaton, Editor.