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UEC Electronics: Unmatched Combination of Capability and Flexibility
UEC Electronics (UEC) has evolved greatly since its founding in 1995. Rebecca Ufkes, president of UEC, established the company with her engineering expertise to offer comprehensive consultation services from her home office. The South Carolina-based company now operates out of four facilities with a cumulative area of 80,000 square feet to provide engineering design, product development, rapid prototyping and manufacturing services to companies nationwide. The company provides products and services to diverse market segments, including defense, aerospace, commercial and medical.
“UEC has been a continuous evolution,” explains Rebecca. “I’m an engineer and my husband’s an engineer. We moved to Charleston in 1990. I made the break from a corporate position and started providing consulting services for other, mostly larger companies.”
Rebecca’s husband was later offered a job in Indiana by Cummins Engine Company (Cummins). Neither wanted to move back north, so the couple decided to write a proposal to support the Cummins work independently. The proposal was accepted, and UEC was launched with only five employees.
UEC has come a long way from its humble beginnings, and now boasts a team of 200 employees and a number of large contracts with big-name entities. Some work UEC is currently undertaking is for entities such as MARCORSYSCOM, SPAWAR Systems Center Atlantic, Raytheon, Boeing, Cummins Engine Company, BAE Systems and Parker Aerospace.
UEC is ISO 9001:2008 and AS9100C registered, which has assisted in the company receiving many distinguished awards. UEC was even named South Carolina’s fastest growing manufacturer by Inc. Magazine for the last two years. Rebecca was named Small Business Person of the Year for South Carolina and recognized the first runner-up nationally. UEC participated in the Department of Defense (DoD) Mentor-Protégé program with Raytheon and was awarded the coveted Nunn Perry Award for Excellence.
Small Business with Big Ideas
“We began in heavy industrial applications and eventually expanded into military and defense and, most recently, into aerospace programs,” says Rebecca. “We continue to diversify our markets. UEC has continued to invest in additional engineering and manufacturing resources.”
Rebecca is proud of how far UEC has come. “We provide engineering and manufacturing as a service; however, we can also take a concept or product through the full lifecycle. We can design, prototype, test and produce.”
One product UEC has recently designed and developed is the Ground Renewable Expedition Energy Network System (GREENS). GREENS is a portable power generation system that can be used in multiple applications. The unit manages power from various sources, including solar panels, generators and batteries. A recent Marine Corps study involving 10 kW generator usage found that GREENS can save up to $26 million annually across 100 patrol bases.
In July 2012 the Marine Corps awarded a $41 million, five-year production contract for 1,000 GREENS to UEC. This contract followed a 2011 contract of $11 million with the Marine Corps for 270 GREENS.
“These units have reduced the number of resupply missions required by Marines on front lines in Afghanistan, which results in reducing the potential for casualties from roadside improvised explosive devices [IED],” says Rebecca. “UEC sees the potential for this product to assist natural disaster victims right here in the United States, as well. UEC is now launching a follow-up product, which provides over five times the power of the existing system.”
In addition to the military, UEC works with large entities and entrepreneurs to help develop and commercialize innovative ideas. Rebecca explains the company worked with an entrepreneur to develop a product currently being licensed and distributed through Lumalier. UEC continues to manufacture the product called Smart UVC (TRU-D). TRU-D is a portable UV disinfection system that reduces pathogens in health care settings allowing health care providers to rapidly prepare rooms for new patients. According to Rebecca, the same technology can be used on cruise ships, airplanes or other potentially contagious locations.
Lumalier quotes health professionals saying the TRU-D technology is able to decontaminate all surfaces of a hospital room, including some often missed by traditional cleaning. “A study showed that 18 percent of sites under edges of bedside tables were still contaminated with MRSA after routine hospital cleaning versus zero percent when TRU-D was used,” Rebecca details.
Rebecca recognizes the importance of remaining successful as a small business. “Being a small business in this environment has enabled us to grow and diversify our customer base,” she says. “The hard part is that it requires a very complex business model, but it is fun, challenging and keeps us current. Strong customer relationships and partnerships have been critical to our success.”
UEC is constantly looking for new opportunities, concepts and ideas. The company’s employee base helps UEC remain diversified because of the staff’s vast experience. “We get involved in many different projects, all occurring at the same time,” Rebecca says. “We always have to maintain a balance while responding as quickly as possible. As our business has matured, our challenge has been staying agile and responsive.”
Of course, it is not all fun and games at UEC. “It’s a combination of making it happen while trying to have structure and maintaining control,” Rebecca says. “It’s determining how we take on large projects without overstressing our resources.”
Rebecca reports the company has seen excellent growth in recent years with about 71 percent increased revenue between 2008 and 2011. While she is involved in projects the company is currently working on, her main focus is where UEC will be two to five years down the road. For the future, Rebecca’s goal is to maintain diversity and strike a balance between commercial, defense and aerospace contracts.
“We’ll spend a significant amount of time solidifying our current customers while also exploring new opportunities and partnerships,” says Rebecca. “It’s all about how do we stay as lean and mean, and responsive, as we possibly can.” Led by Rebecca, UEC Electronics will continue to prevail by providing cutting-edge services.