Top 100 Times
For those of us who have been around a while, Top 100 assignments are sometimes met with groans. Been there, done that. But every year, the list contains a number of pleasant surprises, filled with intriguing companies, laboring under the radar, with inherently interesting stories, personalities and successes. Here are a few I encountered this year.
Retrotech Inc. of Fishers is an 85-employee company that bills itself as a provider of computer-controlled warehouses and retrofits of automated storage systems. Which, of course, sounds rather dry. But first impressions can be deceiving. Retrotech works with large companies to figure out how to use robotic equipment and software to move products from factory lines to delivery trucks. The goal is to design a system that gets the right orders to the right delivery trucks exactly on time. Retrotech's work is in line with the trend in the economy toward "just-in-time" inventory, where companies stock no more than what they truly need. Automated systems can help companies shave off costs to stay competitive in an economy increasingly influenced by low labor rates in Asia.
Stone Construction Equipment of Honeoye makes concrete cutting equipment, mixers and other construction equipment. Stone's approach to production is atypical. The company's workers put products together in "cells" rather than assembly lines. Workers in a cell are trained across disciplines, rather than in a single specialty.
Spex-Precision Machine Technologies of Rochester has a real man-bites-dog story. While many companies and retailers are importing products from China and the Asia-Pacific region, Spex goes the other direction. The company produces a special item for a customer and exports it TO Taiwan. It's a product that Spex has made for a particular customer for years, and no one has found a way to improve upon.
The list also includes other up-and-comers in the economy: Pictometry International of Henrietta; EMA Design Automation, which tops the list for the second year, and, of course, Wegmans Food Markets Inc.