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Business as Usual: Intervala President & CEO Teresa Huber

Business as Usual

High-tech manufacturer Intervala, LLC, has been making serious headlines with acquisitions and facility expansions over the past year.

We welcome Intervala President and CEO Teresa Huber to talk about what's driving the company's extraordinary growth and detail its manufacturing capabilities.

Intervala manufactures complex, high-performance printed circuit board assemblies, electromechanical systems and cable and harness assemblies. Its customers are large, technology-driven companies primarily in the industrial, medical, transportation and defense industries.

Teresa is responsible for leading the company’s strategic direction and long-term growth. She has more than 25 years of management experience in strategic planning, operations and manufacturing, customer relations, engineering, supply chain, talent development and mergers and acquisitions within the electronics manufacturing arena.

 

 

Transcription: 

So good afternoon, everyone. This is Andre Russo, President and CEO of the Pittsburgh Technology Council. Welcome to business as usual, we have another great guest today, Teresa Huber. She's president and CEO of intervals, LLC. In a moment, I'll more formally introduce her. But I want to give a shout out to Huntington bank thanking them for the partnership and support that they've provided us, as we've entered our 11th month of doing these daily shows. And it seems like we never run out of great people to talk with and today is no exception. Also 40 by 80. It's the wholly owned subsidiary of the Pittsburgh tech Council on, we focus on workforce development and entrepreneurship. And you'll hear a little bit more about some of the work coming out of that organization very soon. So now I'm going to bring up precinct Uber, President and CEO of Intel Vala, LLC. And if you don't know her, this is going to be a treat for all of you. And if you do know her, you'll be happy to hear from her as well. So Teresa, I hope that you are staying warm and safe. I know that you're busy. I know that for a fact. But I hope that your health is good. And you're warm and safe. And thank you for taking the time with us today.

Absolutely. No, I was always well, and thank you for the opportunity. I appreciate it all

agree. No, absolutely. You know, listen, before we start, you know, talking about your company, I want to jump in a little bit in terms of your background, your professional and academic background. It's very interesting, because you have a long background in electronics and electromechanical operations and production. And you have a master's degree, I believe, from Carnegie Mellon, an MBA in operations. And also I think, an undergraduate in electrical and mechanical, I believe, you can correct me if I'm wrong, but I think I did my research and I saw Wow, she really got focused in terms of her academic career. So could you talk about that, like how that started? What prompted you?

Sure. So I my undergrad is actually electrical engineering, so very close. And, you know, it's interesting, I, you know, I chose electrical engineering, as my undergrad, really after spending time working with my father who worked in a manufacturing company, and he took me I wasn't sure what I wanted to do. So it's not like I've always wanted to do this. But he took me to work with him one day, because I couldn't decide what I wanted to do. He put me with the engineering team. I liked it. And I just said, Okay, yeah, that's, that's great. I mean, I've always been a math and science person. But after I went to work with him that day, I came home and said, Yeah, I'm going to be an engineer. So it was just straightforward and simple. Where did he work? He worked at PPG Industries. So he was in the purchasing group, but um, he hooked me up with the engineers.

Good for you. So that, so what about, so then you got a master's degree? Right? in operations?

Yes, I did. Yeah. So, um, you know, I loved engineering, I really liked the technical aspect. But I really, I think my aspiration, my true dream, from the time I was really young, was to run a company. And so, you know, I viewed engineering as a great field. But I kind of always viewed it as a way to get into a technical role and then run a company. So the Master's in at Carnegie Mellon was great, you know, taught us taught me a lot about running a business, about the business side of things. And so I was working, actually, for Westinghouse right out of undergrad, and went to Carnegie Mellon at night, got my degree while I was working. And then, as part of that program, they introduce you to different aspects of business and manufacturing, just really, I guess, piqued my interest. I like the idea that I could see, you know, I could put my hands on something. And so I kind of selected manufacturing, from that point on and then my career really kind of started as a as a production supervisor, and kind of worked my way up from there.

Wow. So you are born and bred in Pittsburgh?

Um, not really. It was actually born in West Virginia. But yeah, so not too far from from the Pittsburgh area, but we we moved when I was, you know, I don't know. 1112 years old. So I would say this is this is my home. I've been here most of my life. I spent a couple years out in the Harrisburg area working for Quaker Oats. But most of my of my time has been here.

Wow. What did you do Quaker Oats,

production, production management, you know, so after I graduated from Carnegie Mellon, like I said, I really wanted to do manufacturing, and I wanted to learn it from the ground up. So I took a production supervisor role, learned, you know, kind of the ropes If you will from the ground up, and then just kind of progressed on the eastern side of the state in Harrisburg. And then when Sony announced that they were going to be locating here, and the Westmoreland County region, in the early batches, I guess was early 90s. I was so interested in that, I thought I got to be part of that it just like it was right up my alley. So I applied and I was picked to be one of the startup team members. So I started with Sony back in 92, and spent about 10 years there.

Wow. And then from Sony, where did you go?

So from Sony, was when I kind of made the leap from being on kind of the OEM side, right, where we develop our own products and everything into contract manufacturing, which is really what inter Bala is, and what you know, I've been in since, I guess, 2002. So I left Sony, in 2002, to join Pinnacle electronics, which was a independent contract manufacturing company here in the Pittsburgh region. And then ultimately, we were purchased by labarge. And then all of labarge was acquired by two common, and that kind of begins the history of I guess, where, where I landed back here with inter Bala.

And so you've been at the helm of interval ml for how long.

So interval Allah has existed as you know, as interval Allah for five years, we actually just had our five year anniversary. And so I've been at the helm since the inception. And then prior to that, you know, as part of the new common in large organizations, I ran their, one of their divisions for them and have plants kind of all over the United States doing very similar things to what we do at intervalo.

So let's just talk about intervalo. Let's talk about what you make what you do, and give everyone an idea of what that means.

Sure. So as I said, we're a contract manufacturing company. So really, what that means in a nutshell, is that we are kind of the manufacturing and oftentimes kind of engineering support supply chain support arm for customers that decide they want to really focus on their core competencies. So you know, customers who want to do their own product development, they'll do their sales and marketing, you know, typically, they, they brand their product, they own that IP, but we are their manufacturing arm. And so, you know, as, as kind of companies have developed many of them, you know, realize that it's it's pretty significant investment to keep making in your company to continue manufacturing, and having that kind of engineering, technical support, everything that that takes the equipment, all of that. So, you know, that's really where we come in. I mean, we can serve that role for them. You know, what we make, typically are electronic or electromechanical products. That can be, you know, some examples of that would be cart, cataract surgery equipment. For a medical customer, we make some respiratory products, which, you know, are doing great right now, thanks to COVID. We do factory automation, robotics, we do defense work as well. You know, we're working with some of the kind of leading edge automotive folks, you know, some of the self driving applications. So, really a wide variety of products. I think the common thread is that our products are technical, they're complex, usually they have some specific regulatory approvals that, you know, that we have to, you know, make sure we can adhere to strict quality requirements, things like that. So, but we make a lot of different products. You know, as long as they're not like I said that the key the key common thread is that they're usually pretty complex. And they're electric.

They're electromechanical, right?

Yeah, they are. No, we, I will say we make some things that are purely mechanical, you know, metal on metal. But, you know, most of our products are either electronics or have some component of electronics along with some mechanical, the pieces Think, think a robot, you know, just in general terms, they've got kind of all of those different pieces.

So, can you tease us with any of your customers like who they are?

Yeah, I can, I can share some of them. You know, we don't share unless you know, the customer proves. You know, on our website, there are some customer testimonials. So if they're on the website, then you know, that's kind of a an okay, one. So developers drive developers health care is one they're up in Somerset area. We also do work for Applied Materials, which is a very large semiconductor capital equipment company. probably heard of them publicly traded abortion loan, which is a man obviously medical company is another one. So those are kind of a few, a few names, I guess.

And so how do you manage the operations of having such a diverse production what's the what's your secret sauce there? Because typically, you know, you want repetition? And what you just described is not repetition.

Yeah, it's totally the opposite. Exactly. So we kind of think of ourselves as a, I don't know, we're kind of a little, a bunch of mini job shops, if you will, inside of, you know, the factories. So, I mean, the secret in a nutshell, I'm going to go back to, you know, what I said, anytime I get the opportunity is our culture, which is really all around our people. So, if you're going to, you know, do what we do, which is really provide a custom product, for every customer that has different requirements. You know, they they have different problems that need solved, they have different regulatory requirements, you better have a really good team that knows what they're doing, and is really committed, and very dedicated. And, you know, we do how many people work for you now. So for over three years, you know, we have our location here, you know, which is now we're now in the Westmoreland County area. And then we have a location in the New England region as well, where we do manufacturing, so we're kind of manufacturing and headquarters here, and then also a manufacturing facility up in New England. And so between the two were over 300 employees and over 270,000 square feet of space that we occupy. And that was the New England one, was

that an acquisition?

Yes, so we actually did two acquisitions in the New Hampshire area. And kind of the two of them together, we kind of merged and formed our New England manufacturing kind of complex. So

let's, let's think about these last, I'm gonna say 18 months, maybe eight, maybe 17 months, you you've actually gone through, you know, just it's COVID. There, there was, you needed to change your location due to, you know, some water damage. And, you know, you've just been through so much. And yet you haven't skipped a beat. Everyone worked in the office. And, and if people don't know that, that Teresa has been, you know, nominated, awarded for her work and culture, and for her leadership of her team, and this is hard for her to even talk about herself. So I'm thrilled to be able to have this opportunity to shine the light. But you've been through a lot through this last year plus, and not that anyone else hasn't. But you know, you have to lift up and pick your facility up and figure out where you are going to go. Can you share a little bit about that?

Sure. Yeah. So we, it was Christmas eve of 2019. Right. So just about what, 14 months or so ago, that there was we were located in East Pittsburgh, had a fairly large footprint there, and a bill of 135,000 square feet multi storey building that we leased, and there was a water significant water pipe incident on Christmas Eve. And literally hundreds of 1000s of gallons of water poured through the facility, the break occurred on the third floor. So the water poured down to the to the bottom. And so, you know, we were faced with, you know, a significant, obviously event. And so, you know, at that point, again, I think you have to just, you know, I think as I look back, it was such an opportunity, though, for us to demonstrate our culture, really an action. So, you know, within days, you know, we had a plan, you know, I do need to give a shout out to, you know, the RDC Don Smith, Dennis Joyce. I mean, they were great to work with, you know, basically identified the Westmoreland facility, and we started moving so, you know, our people just jumped in literally work day and night. 24 seven. And, you know, we had to take everything out of the East Pittsburgh facility, there was no power, you know, no working elevators. So no heat, no lighting, other than emergency lighting. And so we had to rig it all off the side of the building, move all the equipment, get everything kind of relocated, get the Westmoreland facility, outfitted all the electrical, you know, needed run. I mean, it was just a tremendous amount of effort. And all of that happened. And we produced and shipped our first product out of the new location, three weeks after the incident. Which rule? Yeah, I mean, I just think is is unbelievable. And it's absolutely a testament to the team, the people. You know, our culture is at the end of the day. You know, if you go back and think about what it is that we do so in many cases, we are the manufacturing location for our customer. So if we don't produce for them, they are really severely impacted. So they were great to work with, we work with all of our customers, prioritize shipments schedules everything. And we were back in operation very, very quickly. And, again, I think it's the culture, it's everybody knows, you know, we only succeed if our customers succeed. So you know, you do what you got to do. And that's, that's what the team did.

Wow. Right at Christmas, right at the holiday break. And so then you get up and running. And you do have a clean room. Right? Didn't you have a clean room?

We have a small cleanroom. Yes. Right. Yes. So we have and we basically relocated the cleanroom got everything up and running. Yeah, like I said, you just, you know, looking back at it, it is it is truly amazing. Yeah, the other thing we had just done, we closed on the first of our two acquisitions in New England, on December 19, the flood happened on the 24th. So we had a brand new operation that we were just about to integrate, you know, and then that comes on top of it. But you know, all as well. And we actually did our second acquisition in April, and kind of put it all together. And, um, you know, I have to say, Now, you know, that incident was obviously, you know, not not anything you want to live through. But, um, you know, I also think you can look at it as, you know, you can take a bad situation and turn it into a positive. And everybody had a great attitude about it, everyone worked together. And, you know, here we are now, you know, we decided to stay permanently at the Westmoreland Innovation Center. And we're, you know, it's worked out great, you know, we have a larger space, we have room for expansion, we're growing. And so, you know, it's all good.

Well, someone has a question, but I'm gonna follow up in a minute. Jonathan, what's the question? that's out there?

Great question here. And Good to see you, Teresa. I did not know about that story. That's crazy. So Joseph Burke wants to know, do you contract manufacturer for companies outside of the US for the US market?

Yes, we do. Our customer base is across the US. And we do have some international customers as well. That is one of the areas that I would say is growing for us. So internationally headquartered companies that need to establish a US presence or maybe have a presence, and they need to have a manufacturing presence within the United States. So yes, we have a couple of those examples. And then someone has one question, and then I want to jump out.

So someone wants snow to do you work with quasi government manufacturing organs, like arm at the Hazel wood, green, or American makes in Youngstown. Um,

we do not, at this point, you know, the kind of work that we do tends to, you know, the products that we manufacture, as I said, are pretty technical, they typically require a significant investment to get up and running. So the customers that we engage with, we kind of need them to be long term. And we also need a certain level of business, to be able to really make the value proposition work for us and for them. So that aspect is not really part of our business model at this time.

Okay, that's great. Good question. So what, you know, I before get into COVID, you know, what about, were you prepared, like, with your insurance and your disaster recovery plan, when when this sort of went down? In the dark?

Yes, we were. And, you know, looking back on that, you know, don't underestimate the importance of both of those things. That's a great question. You know, it's one of those things that, you know, honestly, sometimes, you know, you have business insurance, and yeah, you know, your business insurance, you make sure, yeah, yeah, that kind of makes sense. Um, you know, it's maybe not something that you spend as much time on it as you should. But we Fortunately, my CFO manages that. She's awesome. And so we had great coverage, she does a great job with that. And that worked out, you know, very well, for us, they were very supportive. And things, you know, all kind of worked out the the kind of disaster recovery business continuity plan, you know, we Yes, we absolutely have one still have have one, and many of our customers kind of require that. And, you know, that's so that's been good, right? So that ended up being a good thing for us. Well, we, we had it we basically opened it up and we started following it you know, obviously the it and you know, some of the obvious things are in you know, we're in there and um, you know, we had our it recovered, we lost data, you know, never lost email, everything was up and running very quickly. So, yeah, don't underestimate the business continuity plan for sure.

Wow. So do you have in house it? Or do you do you have an ej?

Yeah, we have in house it. We work with partners as well. And, you know, certainly we had, you know, somebody Equipment damaged and things like that. So our outside partners were great, expediting equipment to us and coming in and helping as well. Same.

It's insane. I remember talking to you, and then thinking, oh my god, now we're in COVID. So let's talk about COVID. So think COVID hits, you're all nestled and settled down? How has How has that affected you? How did that affect you? How to Do not skip a beat?

Yeah, so I think, um, you know, with COVID, when everything, you know, first started, as you know, with with the COVID, with the pandemic, and I think the biggest challenge for us, and probably the same for everyone, was the uncertainty, you know, it just seemed like it, you know, at the federal level, state level, local level, the regulations, you know, different things were coming at you. And, you know, we weren't always sure what any of it meant, you know, fortunately, based on the products that we make, you know, we were deemed essential, you know, both here, and then, you know, New England, so, you know, navigated through all of that. And so I think, really, you know, it's just one of those things where you got to be flexible. And so, you know, we did, we continue to operate, because we have customers across different markets, some of our customers, you know, their business was impacted negatively, by COVID, some of our customers business was impacted positively by COVID. And so because we cover a wide variety of markets, you know, we were not negatively impacted to a significant level. So, um, you know, we did all of the things, you know, I'm sure that everyone's doing, you know, implement all the extra cleaning protocols, we want to remote working as much as possible, you know, we're still kind of on a hybrid model. Now for that. So, you know, just kind of take it day by day, you know, and again, I guess, you know, I don't want to downplay COVID, clearly, but with everything we were already through at that point, it's almost like okay, yeah, fine. Just one more thing. Let's go, you know,

what about the supply chain? The breakage of the supply? Yeah. How did that, actually, what did you see? What

do you still see? Yeah, great question. So, yeah, the supply chain was one of the things that was, was really uncertain for a while with COVID. Especially, you know, we we are, you know, manufacturing a lot of electronic products, which have components in them, that most of the time come from Asia, you know, China specifically in some cases. So, there are a lot of, there's a lot of uncertainty with supply chain, you know, again, you know, I'm going to tell our team, we have a great supply chain manager, our team has great relationships, they were on top of it, they were ahead of it, you know, honestly, again, I'm going to say, you know, in some ways the our flood helped us because, you know, when that incident happened, and we weren't 100% sure how much inventory might have been damaged, we actually went out and started buying parts in advance just to make sure we didn't run out. And so that kind of positioned as well as COVID, hit two were kind of ahead of the game. And, you know, just work with our suppliers. And we did not experience any significant disruptions to the supply chain through COVID. You know, little little issues here. And there little hiccups. You know, right now, the global electronics supply market is getting tight very, very quickly. So we're starting to see lead times pushing out some parts. I mean, I think the next, you know, 12 months are going to be tight from that standpoint.

So, are there questions or

something similar in the Volkers kind of asking about here was how the pandemic has affected the electronics and electromechanical contract manufacturing market demand?

Yeah, so again, I think, you know, some customers are up, some customers are down, you know, I think one of the things that, you know, we didn't necessarily see coming, but that we, you know, experience is that infrastructure, right. And you guys probably have seen this, but anything having to do with building infrastructure, especially for connectivity, right, people there now, everything is remote. We have online learning. So we have, you know, we have customers that are in that space, and their business has just exploded, right. So even what you're seeing to some extent in the semiconductor capital equipment market, some of that is driven by that. And we have other customers that are in related markets. So, you know, again, I think some are up some are down but infrastructure is big, anything directly medical that is COVID related, you know, growing is doing well. You know, we do a lot of elective surgery type support that is down still so, you know, got some ups and downs. And just kind of have to see how it's gonna play out it. It should. It should normalize once. COVID. normalizes here.

So is there another question, Jonathan? Yeah, one more here. I

think we can get back this is a pretty pretty good question system in curse again. But another question wants to know, are there many companies like yours that provide customized manufacturing all over the United States? Do you have plans to expand beyond your current capacity?

Yeah, um, so the, you know, contract manufacturing companies, you know, there are a lot of them out there, and they span anywhere from, you know, folks who, you know, do a very small amount of business, you know, maybe sub a million dollars, you know, very small mom and pop shops, up to, you know, what we refer to as the tier ones, which are, you know, multi billion dollar companies that are, you know, global typically doing, you know, iPhone type things, if you want to think of it that way. So, you know, in our space, kind of a mid tier player, if you will, fully us base, there are other people, you know, we certainly have other competitors out there. I think our value proposition, as I said, you know, before is obviously our culture and our focus on our customers, you know, the other thing is that we are really, we have the capabilities of the larger kind of folks in our space, but the flexibility of the smaller folks in our space. So that's kind of, you know, our value proposition. You know, we do want to expand further, you know, as I said, we have a new england footprint, you know, Western Pennsylvania footprint, those geographies, you know, we we added New England, because that's a great geography with some great top tier customers, we certainly will look to expand to other geographies. At this point, we've got a few options that we're looking at. So I'm not sure exactly where that will be.

So we, you mentioned all through this, and we know that you've talked about the culture at inter avala. And what you've sort of harnessed and created, how would you capture that? And I want you to brag a little bit, she's, she's not gonna brag, unless I unless I poke at her.

What's your question, Audrey?

Why is it so great? Why do people love working there?

Um, you know, I don't know, I just think that, you know, we're a very, I think we're a very down to earth group of people. We like to work hard and play hard. We've always really kind of enjoyed each other, enjoyed, you know, going out after some major accomplishment, and, you know, kind of celebrating as a team, you know, we do a lot of special events with our employees, you know, so COVID has been tough on that specifically, right? Because we're very relational. We love to, you know, kind of do things together as a team recognize achievements, you know, all kinds of things like that. So, you know, I just, you know, I think that, you know, we just tried to make it a place where, you know, people feel good about what they do, you know, which we want people to understand the products that they're making, and why they matter, you know, why if it's your family member who is having that cataract surgery, you need to make sure the product works for them. So, you know, I just think, you know, people, people inherently, I think, want to do a good job, I'm a believer in people. And so I think you give them the opportunity, and you train them and develop them, you know, and kind of let them go and, and just keep reminding them of the importance of what they do. And that, you know, if the customer is happy, and they succeed, that means we succeed. We have job security, we grow, you know, all those things.

And so, Are you hiring right now? Oh, yes,

yes, if you go to our website and click on the careers button, on the top right hand side, you will see a long list of positions. So we would love to be able to, you know, hire some additional folks

at both locations. Good. All right. Well, we'll we'll make sure that we'll put that link out there and let them know. And what do you think that we may have missed in this conversation? Is there anything that you want to say to the tech community about what it's like working here? What you think we should be? We should know about interval? Is there anything that perhaps you would like to add as we wrap up?

Um, yeah, so I guess I would say that, you know, I'm going to key a little bit on the the question about hiring, um, you know, we, again, we're all about satisfying our customer. And to do that, we need the best people, you know, so I think, you know, we're growing, we have a great plan for the future. And so we would love to have more people join our team. You know, I think in terms of the tech community, and, you know, just the folks in general, you know, you know, we're part of, you know, the Pittsburgh region. There's a lot of, you know, other companies out there as well, you know, we do try to partner from a supply chain perspective and other services, you know, regionally with people. So, if there's someone out there that thinks that there's a You know, something that they can, you know, offer that we could help them with and partner together, you know, please reach out to me.

Okay. Well, it's always great to spend time with you, Teresa. It really is, you've been through one heck of a year, year plus 14 months. And I imagine that you're going to continue to soar. I really I know that it's hard for you to talk about yourself. But it's not hard for you to talk about your company. And that's that's what really matters really appreciate your leadership and your commitment to this work. And I can't I can't wait to see what's next. Great. So many points out to her. It's easy to find her. The link is out there for intervallic careers and also on interval Comm. Right. Thank you so much. Stay safe, really appreciate you spending the time with us.

Transcribed by https://otter.ai