Catching up with…Fastrak Manufacturing’s Phil Guzman
Fastrak Manufacturing is one of those companies that focus on solving problems, tough problems, problems that other companies cannot solve. Technically a contract manufacturer, Fastrak is much more than that, working with companies who have an engineering/manufacturing problem to solve, or with inventors trying to get a new product developed, manufactured and out to the market in a limited amount of time. Fastrak has a reputation for doing all that they can to make that problem disappear or to get that product built and to market.
I recently had the opportunity to sit down with Phil Guzman, founder and owner of Fastrak, to learn more about him and his company. Phil’s story is an interesting one.
Dan: Thanks for taking the time to talk with me today. First, tell me a little bit about your company.
Phil: Thank you Dan. This is a story I never get tired of telling. Ours is a classic Silicon Valley start-up story; believe it or not, we did start the company in a two-car garage. I actually got my start with the Ford Motor Company, in an assembly plant right here in Milpitas, where I learned all aspects of the assembly business, from material handling to receiving inspection. I have to say it was a valuable and classical education in assembly. After that I worked at a company called Versatec Inc., doing new product development. I am especially proud of my work on launching a then new line of multi-color electrostatic printer/plotters. Then, I left Versatec and started Fastrak.
Dan: Tell me about that. Why did you start Fastrak?
Phil: I wanted to do something that would use the skills and experience I had attained, but I wanted to do it my own way. I was ready to be out on my own. I wanted to have a small, more personal company that would be dedicated to providing quality services to the Santa Clara Valley. I wanted to work closely with customers, getting a good understanding of what their goals were and how we could help them to achieve them.
Dan: And how did you go about starting the company?
Phil: After leaving Versatec, I decided to semi-retire and try my hand at freelancing, finding repair and rework projects, you know, doing stuff that I liked to do. So I called people in my network and offered to do rework for them. It seems like in a matter of days I literally had more work than I could handle.
Dan: Can you give me some examples of the kind of work you had?
Phil: Sure, one of the first projects was trouble shooting the mother board for the Apple II, which got me started working with Apple on some board-level diagnostic work. I also did work for Sun Microsystems on some of their boards that needed rework. From there one project led to another to the point where I finally had to break down and start hiring people. The breakthrough project came when I was asked to work on some cable assemblies and the volume reached a point where I needed to hire some people.
Dan: I understand that besides the normal everyday business you also took on some project management assignments as well, right?
Phil: Yes, that’s right. Project management is my true passion, it is something that I am also pretty good at so after a while people came to me and asked me to help them with their new projects.
Dan: Was this mostly with new products?
Phil: Yes, exactly. I would have to say that my specialty, if you will, is product introduction. I like getting things done. I like to work with people who have good ideas but sometimes just do not have the know how to get their product fully developed enough to be manufactured and then to market. For example, I had the responsibility of introducing new products into manufacturing in Mexico for WebTV, a Microsoft company.
Dan: So brining this up to today, what exactly is the company focus right now, would you say?
Phil: Fastrak’s focus is to continue to expand the cable and harness business, and expand into other areas that can utilize the assembly services we provide. Fastrak is very good at providing quality products and identifying documentation errors and assisting the customer engineers to resolve them.
Dan: And what are some of the services you provide?
Phil: We provide multiple of services including engineering support for cables, harnesses and sub-assemblies. Here is a list of what we can do:
- Design and manufacture of control panels
- Commercial applications of bacteria-fighting silver
- Commercial solutions to automation and control applications
- Commercial liquid and gas integrated systems
- Advanced materials discovery for semiconductor manufacturers
- Recertification of semiconductor process equipment
- Portable clean energy charging equipment
- Oil quality sensor equipment
- Parts and subassemblies for semiconductor and aerospace
Dan: Phil, that’s a pretty impressive capabilities list. To give our readers an example of the good work that you do at Fastrak, can you give me an example of a recent success story?
Phil: Sure, Let me talk about a portable solar charger we worked on. This company came to us with the challenge of being able to produce their product at a greater volume to keep up with the growing demand. They were just a start-up, operating out of a garage, of course.
Dan: A garage, what else? It is Silicon Valley after all.
Phil: That’s right. They brought me the product and told me that they had tried two other contract manufacturers without success and now were in dire straits to get their product out to market. We reviewed their product and felt that this was a challenge we would like to undertake. Within a week we produced 10 working units and by the following week we were up to 50 units per week. We were so successful that the customer asked us to slow production until sales caught up. We continue to have a very successful relationship with this customer and have assisted them in many method improvements and cost savings.
Dan: That is a great story. Where would you like to be next year at this time, and in five years?
Phil: Fastrak is continuing to head in the direction of achieving growth and improving performance by adding state-of-the-art assembly and testing equipment.
Dan: What new technologies are you focusing your efforts on?
Phil: We’re contemplating adding 3D printing capabilities to our list of services and investigating on increasing the service of rework, modification and recertification of customers’ requirements. I also want to mention that I brought on Michael Corriveau to help out. He came on about five years ago and has been a great help to me when it comes to everything from sales to project management. He handles the day-to-day operations from purchasing to project management. Of late, Michael has been reaching out to customers—former, current and new—to work with them on some of their needs going forward.
Dan: Where do you see your industry going?
Phil: I see the industry will continue to grow and with it the competition. Fastrak must continue improving process and procedures that will improve output and quality. This will be accomplished by continuing to add equipment and knowledge of new products to reach this goal.
Dan: What do you think is the biggest issue/challenge that we face in your industry today?
Phil: Outsourcing to offshore will continue to be a challenge. Our industry must improve the output and reduce manpower required to produce more product. A second concern would be the reduction of interconnections by the use of wireless or other technologies that would reduce the requirement of cables. But whatever the challenges are we will meet them. We are in the business of solving problems. That’s what we do. We find a way to help our customers produce products that work.
Dan: Phil, why should customers want to do business with you?
Phil: What I really enjoy is solving problems for my customers. There is nothing like a challenge and I love making things better. Look, let me be honest here, I think it’s great when companies come to us first and I wish they would at all times. But even when they don’t, even when they have tried other companies, companies who had not been able to provide what they needed, they should not give up. They should instead give us a call. We are the last resort; if we cannot meet their needs then no one can. To all of those companies who are trying to get a new product to market, I invite you to give us a call, we’ll help you figure it out. That’ what Fastrak is all about.
Dan: Phil, Interesting stuff. I wish you well in the coming year and I hope you’ll allow me to come back and visit a year from now to see how things are going.
Phil: It would be my pleasure Dan.
For more information about Fastrak Manufacturing click here.