High-tech light-sensing company rides boom in manufacturing
By Emily Ford
SALISBURY — Integro has grown.
Grown so much that the high-tech company with clients like BMW, Bausch & Lomb and Kimberly-Clark is bursting at the seams in a converted warehouse at 305 N. Lee St.
The firm, which provides light-sensing technology used by manufacturers in quality control, tripled its workforce last year, jumping from six employees in January 2011 to 18 today.
Integro doubled revenue in 2010, again in 2011 and expects to do the same in 2012, Vice President Shawn Campion said.
Because Integro serves companies across the manufacturing spectrum, Campion keeps his finger on the pulse of the national economy and watches several indicators.
“The outlook is good,” he said.
While construction and military contracts will continue to lag until after the presidential election in November 2012, manufacturing will increase and unemployment will decline because of the country’s capacity to produce parts for automotive production, Campion said.
“The automotive industry drives a huge piece of our economy,” he said. “Its importance is really underrated.”
Campion also predicts an uptick for pharmaceuticals and medical devices, two more industries with companies served by Integro.
“We work in every industry,” he said. “The only rule we have it that we will not inspect anything that is God-made.”
If you grow oranges, Integro can’t help. But if you make a widget of any sort, Integro can help you make it better and faster.
The company’s diverse client base has been one key to its phenomenal growth.
“When one industry declines, we shift and focus on another that has money to spend,” Campion said.
Integro uses cameras, lighting, mechanical and electrical engineering and other technologies to create an integrated “machine vision system” that can detect flaws on a production line invisible to the human eye.
Gatorade was experiencing a series of jams during production, costing the company time and money. Integro eliminated the jams by designing a system that inspects 1,300 Gatorade bottles per minute, Campion said.
That’s one decision every 46 milliseconds.
By preventing jams, Integro helped Gatorade increase productivity and eliminate wasted energy, scrap materials and gallons of disposed energy drink, he said.
On an engine assembly line, one missing washer or bolt discovered at the end of the process can mean reworking the entire engine, Campion said.
An Integro system is programed to take photos, analyze them and then tell the operator immediately if something is missing. All in a split second.
“We have found that major manufacturers who want to maintain facilities in North America ... have to assure their products are the highest quality and meet standards to compete in global markets,” Campion said.
Integro was founded in Pennsylvania in 2001 and moved its corporate headquarters and production facility to Salisbury in 2005.
Less than a year and a half ago, the company peaked at six active projects. In 2011, the peak was 45 projects.
“We are on the brink of outgrowing our current location,” Campion said.
The company has several large orders in 2012, then a three- to four-month window to move.
“We have every intention to stay in the downtown area,” he said, but the company is having a hard time finding the right building and has looked to Robert Van Geons and RowanWorks Economic Development for help.
The state announced in July it will pick up the $290,000 tab to replace crumbling, narrow sidewalks in the 300 block of North Lee Street — an area known as the Railwalk district.
Railwalk has been dubbed Salisbury’s business incubator for the new economy, and officials hope other high-tech firms will follow Integro and set up shop.
Integro’s high-profile clients were one reason City Council voted to make the sidewalk project a priority, due in part to concerns the company might leave.
It looks like Integro will leave after all. But due to growth, not crumbling sidewalks.
Contact reporter Emily Ford at 704-797-4264.