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October 16, 2023 Business Strategy

Tool-storage manufacturer’s new CEO Blaisdell plans to expand beyond aerospace

PHOTO | CONTRIBUTED Pith Products designs and builds equipment that stores the tools necessary to build and service several aircraft engines.
Click below for more information about Tim Blaisdell and Pith Products.
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Pith Products, an Ashford-based small manufacturer of custom tool storage, management and packaging products, will seek to diversify its customer base under a new CEO who took over the recently acquired company this summer.

Pith was purchased by a group of five investors in February 2022. The new owners installed Tim Blaisdell, an aerospace industry veteran, as CEO effective June 28.

Blaisdell, in an interview with the Hartford Business Journal, said he plans to grow the business by entering new markets.

Tim Blaisdell

“(Pith has) been sort of reactive to this point,” said Blaisdell, who spent 13 years in various roles at East Hartford jet-engine maker Pratt & Whitney. “I want to turn us into a more proactive entity.”

The 32-year-old company’s headquarters and manufacturing facility are in Ashford, a small town tucked between Hartford and Boston. Its products are built-to-order in a 26,000-square-foot space, at 39 Nott Highway.

Pith serves aerospace manufacturing and repair facilities, and its main customers are Connecticut-based defense contractors. Blaisdell declined to provide the customers’ names.

Pith manufactures tool storage and management products, including assembly carts and tool holders. The company’s products are meant to keep specialty tools organized and support the efficiency of lean manufacturing lines, Blaisdell said.

Growth path

Blaisdell hopes to expand Pith’s customer base outside of Connecticut, and eventually sell its products worldwide.

He also wants to expand outside of the aerospace industry. He sees an opportunity for growth in other types of manufacturing that produce highly specialized equipment, such as the medical device and locomotive production markets.

Companies in sectors that are highly automated, such as the auto industry, don’t need Pith’s products because they use machines on their production lines that are programmed to automatically grab the correct tools.

Instead, Pith will focus on industries that need equipment to store their tools in order to reduce the possibility of human error, he explained.

The product

The storage products are intricate and engineered to meet clients’ specifications. For example, Pith designs and builds equipment that stores the tools necessary to build and service different aircraft engines.

The tools must be stored properly because an errant nut or bolt left in a jet engine could cause damage when it fires up.

“Everything has to be accounted for, and everything has to have its place to make the lines as efficient and the highest-quality possible,” Blaisdell said.

It’s about more than storing tools. Part of what Pith provides customers is risk protection for expensive aircraft components — and peace of mind, he said.

“We build point-of-view carts, so there’ll be a cart that will go with a certain part of the assembly line and have all the right tools on it, in places where nothing else will go, so you know where your tools are,” Blaisdell said. “They’re easily accessible, easy to maintain and it takes out the risk of anything being left around, all the way down to a nut or a bolt that could go into an engine and cause significant delays, quality issues, and unfortunately, it could be even more than that.”

In addition to assembly carts and tool holders, Pith also makes wood-crating products used for the delivery and storage of finished products and components.

Business remained strong during the COVID pandemic, Blaisdell said. Orders for new storage products increase when local aerospace companies receive new military contracts, or develop new aircraft models.

The company

Pith has about 20 employees and annual revenue of $5 million to $10 million, Blaisdell said. Employees, most of whom have worked there for eight years or more, include salespeople, craftsmen and engineers.

Since being acquired by the investment group, one of Pith’s two former owners, Lance Bouchard, has stayed on as a sales engineer. The other former owner, Lou Albert, recently retired.

Blaisdell said he wants to maintain the close-knit family atmosphere. Bouchard’s son, Dylan, also works for Pith as a sales engineer, as does Albert’s wife, Sheila.

“It was a very well-run family business and they got to a point where they needed help to grow,” Blaisdell said.

Blaisdell declined to name Pith’s new investor-owners, but said they are focused on growing the company and willing to invest capital. The investors own several other small businesses, he said.

Prior to joining Pith Products, Blaisdell, who lives in Wethersfield, was chief strategy officer at Cumberland Additive Inc.

He also served as president and chief operating officer of VLN Advanced Technologies, and vice president of business development at MDS Aero Support Corp., where he focused on growth strategies for aerospace turbine engine test facilities.

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