Mercury’s process expertise and engineering prowess can help customers solve problems and streamline the manufacturing process. (Photo courtesy Mercury Corp.)

At its 500,000-square-foot facility, Mercury Corporation has the engineering talent and floor space to produce everything from components to large, fully integrated assemblies

January 31, 2023

By Mark Shortt

The past few years have brought significant changes at Mercury Corporation, a manufacturing company long known for its metal fabrication expertise. Now in its 103rd year of operation, Mercury serves customers in diverse high-growth industries, with an eye toward handling products that can be scaled to full production volumes.

“As a company with more than 100 years of experience, we know that we have to constantly change and streamline to be effective,” said Mercury Corporation President Joe Meade IV, in a phone interview with Design-2-Part.

Mercury supports OEMs with metal fabrication and assembly services that include fiber and tube laser cutting, automated bending, CNC punching and machining, welding, and hardware insertion, among others. The contract manufacturer is headquartered in Hammondsport, New York, with additional manufacturing facilities in Faribault, Minnesota, and Guadalajara, Jalisco, Mexico.

A focus on complete integration

Although much of Mercury’s work still consists of building metal fabricated components, the company is increasingly focusing on programs that involve fully integrated racks, enclosures, kiosks, or other finished products and systems with commercial or industrial applications. In addition to fabrication, these units often require electronic and mechanical assembly, complete electronic integration, and final testing. They’re also ready to ship to the customer along with any supporting components required.

“We’re targeting to continue to grow the fully integrated option as much as we can,” said Mercury Corporation Vice President Rebecca Kramer, in the phone interview. “We’re looking for more customers that are interested in utilizing all of our resources.”

On such projects, Mercury manages entire, often complex bills of materials (BOM) that include every piece of hardware, from brackets and enclosures to electronics and cable harnesses. In many cases, it handles the entire purchasing function for its customer and manages their supply chain, allowing the customer to focus on its core business without worrying about manufacturing.

Mercury delivers products to numerous markets, such as medical equipment, energy and power storage, defense, technology, industrial, and transportation, including electric vehicle (EV) charging systems. Data centers and semiconductor manufacturing equipment are also among these end markets, according to Meade. The company actively works to diversify its manufacturing projects, and has built a solid portfolio of customers across a range of products and equipment, Mead said.

“Since COVID, we’ve seen a much stronger demand in the U.S. for producing this type of equipment locally, or within the U.S., nationally. We’re involved in EVs here in New York. In Minnesota, we’re building frames and enclosures for semiconductor manufacturing. Data centers, of course, are our bread and butter. In defense and medical, we’re continuing to pursue new customers in both of those arenas,” he said.

As the U.S. Department of Defense works to expand its domestic base of manufacturing suppliers, Mercury has increased its work with defense customers. Kramer said Mercury is looking for defense programs that combine volume with a continuous-run build.

“We’re really seeking out those programs that are going to be continuous run for multiple years. We’ve been able to expand that base in the last couple of years, and are hoping that continues,” she said.

The company recently brought all of its processes in house and streamlined them to ensure a lean flow of product—from raw material through paint and final integration and shipment. Mercury also re-invigorated its plastics capabilities and is “running around the clock with plenty of capacity to add,” said Meade. “We just finished a Kaizen event and rearranged our final integration facility to be even more lean.”

A Mercury production team member at work. The company provides a wide range of metal fabrication services, from fiber and tube laser cutting to automated bending, CNC punching and machining, welding, grinding, and hardware insertion, among others. (Photo courtesy Mercury Corp.)

Big products, full production

One of Mercury’s noticeable strengths is its size—more than 500,000 square feet of space under one roof at the company’s Hammondsport facility, and about 300,000 square feet at its Minnesota plant. This, along with the company’s seasoned engineering and production team, enables Mercury to manage large programs that involve bigger products in full production mode.

“We can scale much more rapidly than our competitors can, given our floor space and size,” said Meade. “We’ve got just about every piece of equipment out there to do what needs to be done.”

Mercury employs whatever processes—such as metal fabrication, welding, injection molding, finishing, powder coating, and assembly—are required for the application. The company doesn’t outsource any fabrication, welding, or painting. “We’re very vertically integrated,” Meade said. “We handle the entire program, not just a piece of it. We do it all in house.”

With so many capabilities and space under one roof, Mercury can support integrated assembly products by controlling each facet of the build.

“We have the longevity, reliability, and size to handle large, full-scale programs,” Meade said in an emailed response. “Our all-encompassing processes and services are housed in a sizeable facility ready to dedicate space to new product lines.”

Solving problems with DFM

While Mercury doesn’t offer product design as a service, it does provide design for manufacturing (DFM) to customers who require assistance. Its team reviews the customer’s product and suggests ways to solve problems and streamline the manufacturing process. Here, Mercury’s process expertise and engineering prowess can benefit its customers.

Kramer said Mercury’s engineers become experts on the company’s machinery and the capabilities of those machines. That helps them explain to customers not just what the machines can do, but how their product can be designed to be produced on its manufacturing equipment while holding the required tolerances in a more cost effective manner.

“Those kinds of tips really help them (customers) to have a product that can be made cost effectively,” Kramer said. The challenge for engineering comes down to, “How can we make the product the best possible way, yield the same results they’re looking for, and be [cost] competitive at the same time?”

Mercury’s engineering staff is experienced and diverse, according to Meade, who said that the company’s engineers average about 25 years of experience per person, with backgrounds ranging from materials to mechanical to electrical. Their skills are instrumental in the smooth operation of Mercury’s manufacturing processes, its quality management, and its quoting and cost estimation, Kramer said.

All in on quality

To perform the high-level fabrication, assembly, and integration services that Mercury provides to customers in essential industries requires a robust commitment to quality management. Mercury’s ISO 9001, AS9100, and ISO 13485 quality management certifications carry standard operating procedures to ensure its team is following the same processes “every single time,” Kramer said. “They make sure we’ve got control of all of our different areas that we work in.”

The company uses various methods to ensure that customers receive a high quality product. At the quoting stage and in new production introduction (NPI), Mercury verifies that it can meet the specifications provided, whether they are tight dimensional tolerances, AWS certified welding specifications, certified paint specifications, or final test specifications. During production, each part passes through a quality checkpoint before going on to the next operation.

“There’s a double check after the part’s been punched out in the flat, on a laser QC scanner to check the 2D dimensions,” Kramer said. “There’s a quality checkpoint after forming to make sure the bends are correct and within tolerance, another check after Haeger for all the PEM hardware or inserts that are put in. We’ve got a separate quality check for all kinds of welding, grinding, finish grinding; another checkpoint after paint; another checkpoint after assembly; and then there’s a testing procedure that’s going to have its own quality checklist to make sure everything passed testing before it goes out the door.

“We’ve implemented quality into every single process that we do,” she added. “We try to make sure that the product going out the door is exactly to our customer’s specifications.”

In addition to design for manufacturing (DFM), the company employs failure mode and effects analysis (FMEA), first article inspection (FAI), and production part approval process (PPAP). For customers who require integrated products, Mercury performs on-site testing to ensure that all hardware, software, electronic, and mechanical features function properly.

For one customer, Precision Fermentation, Inc., Mercury manages the production of a device that performs real-time fermentation monitoring and analysis. Precision Fermentation’s BrewMonitor Sensor Hub is a system designed to help beer brewers increase quality and profitability through superior fermentation-process control. Mercury provides supply chain management, manufacturing, electronic integration and assembly, and testing of the system.

In a statement endorsing Mercury’s work, Precision Fermentation Director of Development Daniel Kulenic said the company chose Mercury for its “size and integration capabilities.”

“While they have a large, worldwide footprint, they are very focused on us and the end quality of our product,” Kulenic said in the statement. “It feels like they are an extension of our team.”

For another customer, ICE Energy, Mercury builds a large HVAC unit that freezes water during off-peak hours (overnight) of energy use, creating a giant block of ice to cool commercial and industrial buildings during the day. “We build that complete—refrigerant, testing, everything,” Meade said.

Although Mercury is large in size, it tailors its programs to its customers, based on their needs. “We meet the customer at their desired level of integration,” Meade said.

The manufacturing steps involved in providing a fully integrated unit, such as a rack or enclosure, begin with managing the bill of materials (BOM) and the supply chain. That means competitively sourcing the materials and components needed for the project, from hardware and paint to electronics, circuit boards, monitors, cable harnesses, and anything else that’s required.

“When we receive material, whether it’s stainless steel, aluminum, or cold rolled steel, we process it through our fabrication department,” he explained. “It could be stamping, laser cutting, or automated bending. It goes through our welding processes—MIG, TIG, spot weld—and on to finish grinding, and then on to our powder coating or automated paint line.”

From there, components enter Mercury’s assembly buildings, where they merge with the components purchased from the supply chain. Ideally, all arrive at the appropriate time, and they get assembled, Meade said.

“We’ll go through any test specifications and quality specifications that are required by our customer, and then they’ll typically get shipped out or put into a finished goods warehouse.”

Any product that is not fully integrated goes through that same process, moving in a lean flow from cell to cell, from one end of Mercury’s facility to the other end in a logical progression, Meade said.

One of Mercury’s more notable recent achievements was its attainment of Responsible Business Alliance (RBA) certification. It represents the highest level of recognition—platinum status—for validated compliance with a set of social, environmental, and ethical industry standards for global supply chains.

“It’s very stringent, involving everything from tracking greenhouse gases to additional safety and labor initiatives, to a code of conduct and ethics,” Meade said. “It really puts us at the forefront of a lot of our competitors as a leading manufacturer in social responsibility in the U.S.”

The Responsible Business Alliance (RBA) is a nonprofit coalition of leading companies dedicated to improving social, environmental and ethical conditions in their global supply chains. The RBA has a Code of Conduct and a range of programs, training and assessment tools to support continuous improvement.

Mercury’s capabilities enable the company to take on programs that involve big products in full production volumes. (Photo courtesy Mercury Corp.)

The company decided to pursue RBA certification, Meade said, for a couple of reasons. One was a specific customer’s demand. Another was “seeing where businesses are going in the future” and how they are planning to meet the demands that are put on them—worldwide and here in the United States.

“We thought it was a good thing to do,” said Meade. His comment was echoed by Kramer, who said that Mercury’s management understood that “it’s (RBA certification) becoming more and more important to many different companies. Trying to stay ahead of that curve is very important to us.”

Seeing benefits in automation

Mercury has also made it a priority to stay on the leading edge of production technologies. Its investments in automation include a fiber laser attached to a material storage system; a large, automated panel bender; and welding, grinding, and polishing robots. But that’s just the tip of the iceberg, according to Meade, who said the company is planning further investments in robotics for its machining, forming, spotwelding, and assembly areas.

“We’re constantly looking at all of our processes and asking where things could be automated, and how. And we’re really intrigued by the advancements in robotics and cobots, and just using them in ways that haven’t been thought about before,” he said.

Mercury’s use of automation brings significant benefits to its operations and, by extension, its customers. First among them are consistency and quality of the parts produced. Automation also provides cost control, production output, and productivity to counter fluctuations that can occur within the workforce or in day-to-day scheduling.

“It also provides an opportunity for our employees to advance themselves in learning how to program and run automated equipment,” Meade said.

As Mercury continues to pursue fabrication projects involving electronic and mechanical assembly, final testing, and full integration, Meade is excited about the company’s future prospects.

“We’ve got just a great team here,” he said. “We’ve got a lot of younger folks coming online, and they bring a lot of new ideas and excitement to the company, as well as different ways to harness technology.”

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