Sunday, 10 April 2011 15:56

Pettey Machine Works built from humble start

Decatur Daily
Running like a machine
Trinity man builds parts company from humble start
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TRINITY — Bill Pettey bought a business license here in 1965 and spent his income tax refund on a small lathe.

On a part-time basis, he launched a machine shop in a 12-by-20-foot building behind his house and recalled Doyle Whitlow being his first customer.

“We made his first welding torch collets as he opened Doyle’s Supply in Decatur,” Pettey said. Collets are metal bands.

In 1968, working out of a rented grocery store basement with a couple of helpers, Pettey left his job in the machine shop at what is now the Decatur BP plant and founded Pettey Machine Works Inc.

Wolverine Tube became his first customer in the new venture, ordering 15,000 ferrules, short pieces of brass tubes.

This month, Pettey’s firm celebrates its 43rd year in a 30,000-square-foot facility on about three acres on North Seneca Drive.

And Pettey, a 1960 graduate of Decatur High School, who recalls thinking when he was in trade school — “how do you ever get enough money to buy a machine” — runs about 100 different machines.

The company primarily manufactures industrial valves and valve components from stainless steel, high-performance alloys and plastic. It also makes replacement parts, including pumps and valves, and repairs industrial components using ceramic and metal coating.

For example, Pettey grinds slitter knives for steel processing companies such as CoilPlus in Athens.

Pettey’s daughter, Kim Owens, who has worked at the company 22 years, said the firm doesn’t do die or mold work.

“We don’t engineer the parts, either,” said Owens, who with her father determines quotes and passes work orders to shop supervisor Doug Irvin. “The customer does the engineering and sends us the drawings of the specifications, including the alloy to be used. We buy the raw materials and manufacture the product.”

In addition to customers, including most of the industries in the Decatur area, the company’s client list covers about 20 states. It also exports to Canada, Malaysia, China and Brazil.

Kim Owens’ husband, Scott, is quality manager and came to the firm two years ago after taking a buyout from BP, where he worked 12 years.

Pettey’s wife, Brenda, is chief financial officer and has been with the firm from the start. Their son, Jeff, also works there.

Ricky Bailey of Athens joined Pettey six months ago after spending 30 years at Delphi. He operates a manual lathe.

“I’ve always said with a little bit of training, anyone can run a computerized lathe,” he said. “It takes skill and years of training to handle the manual lathe.”

Andy Bolton of Trinity has 30 years at Pettey and also runs a manual lathe. “It’s good clean work,” he said.

Waymon Jones worked 21 years at BASF before the company closed. He joined Pettey about four months ago.

“I was a paint maker at BASF doing industrial coatings,” he said. “What I do here is related. I do grinding and ceramic spraying.”

Gerald Leindecker of Russellville is a CNC (computerized numeric control) mill operator with 13 years with Pettey.

“I like what I do because there isn’t anything mundane here,” he said. “Every job is different, like a new job every day.”

Mike Pirtle of Decatur operates a CNC lathe. He has 30 years in the business and has been with Pettey eight months. He also likes the challenge of something new each day.

“It keeps your mind fresh,” he said, as he watched bushings move through his machine.

And over the years, Bill Pettey has maintained a fresh mind, too, as he guided the company forward.

“But I didn’t have a clue to what I was doing when I left (BP),” he said. “I’ve never done anything big. It’s just been a steady, constant grind.”

Pettey also is a community leader. The same year he started his company, he joined the Trinity Volunteer Fire Department. He became chief in 1970.

“William Lee and I are the only charter members left,” he said.

Pettey Machine Works Inc.

Location: 16 North Seneca Drive, Trinity

Established: 1968

President: Billy D. Pettey

Products: Manufacture and repair industrial parts

Annual gross sales: $4 million

Employees: 18

Annual payroll: $1 million

Pettey receives ISO certification

Pettey Machine Works Inc. recently received ISO 9001:2008 certification.

The International Standards Organization recognizes companies with a quality management system.

TUVRheinland, a premier global provider of independent testing and certification services, authorized Pettey’s certification.

ISO 9001:2008 provides a set of requirements that must be in place to have a quality management system, regardless of the organization’s size, product or service line.

Certification to the standard is voluntary, and organizations must complete a rigorous auditing process by a third-party registrar.

Pettey Operations Manager Kim Owens said the certification opens the door for more business opportunities.

“It took us six months to achieve ISO certification, a relatively short time,” she said. “We already had an in-house quality management system in place that we built on.”

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