Picture a bathroom scale… but for complex machines like oil pumps, medical devices and aerospace equipment. That’s perhaps the best way to describe load cells, a type of product manufactured by Scottsdale-based company Interface for over fifty years.
“We focus on a very basic element that everyone can relate to, and that is force,” said Ted Larson, Vice President of Product Management and Marketing for Interface.
Larson said load cells are a common and important component for a variety of machines and devices; the technology allows businesses to measure a wide range of forces like torque and pressure using gauges and sensors. The load cells that Interface manufactures are used in everything from packaging facilities to rocket engine testing, Larson said. Some of their clients include NASA, Boeing, General Motors and Johnson & Johnson.
Interface is not the only company manufacturing load cell technology, but CEO Joel Strom says they’re one of only a few load cell manufacturers that “is totally vertically integrated.”
“We start with the design, we cut our own metal, we machine it, we assemble it, we calibrate it… and we’re one of the only companies that both manufactures load cells and manufactures their own gauges,” Strom said. “That really separates us from the pack.”
The company was founded in 1968 by Richard Caris, who Strom said “felt there was a better way to make load cells” and decided to start a new business in Scottsdale. After more than five decades, Interface is still based out of its original location but has grown significantly. Currently, the company’s 60,000 square foot campus employs about 220 people.
Strom said he thinks the main reason Interface has continued to grow after so much time is the quality of its employees. Because assembling load cells is a relatively intricate process, and must largely be done by hand, he said finding quality talent is crucial to their business.
“The process of manufacturing [load cells] requires… a lot of dedication, a lot of concentration, a lot of commitment to doing it right,” Strom said. “That’s what we’ve been finding with our employees here, and we celebrate that.
Larson said that a major factor in Interface’s ability to recruit quality talent is the state’s growing talent pool coming out of local universities.
“When you look at the University of Arizona, Arizona State University, and Northern Arizona University, all three of those have great sources for future recruitment as well as good corporate engagement programs.”
Although the manufacturing process for load cells depends on human handiwork, Interface says it has been working to innovate its manufacturing process. One example of this is Interface’s recent introduction of a robotic arm to help speed up the manufacturing of its load cells, allowing them to push out more product.
“Automation is important because we’re trying to get more product out, keep it moving, meet our customers’ demands,” Strom said. “We’ve been looking at ways to speed up the process and get rid of some of the more mundane parts.”
Ultimately, Larson said he thinks Interface has a bright future ahead of it.
“We’re also looking at new fields of endeavor; with the commercialization of the space program, new mobility-type sectors growing… it’s just bringing a lot of new challenges for us,” Larson said. “In the future, we’re trying to stay ahead of technology and looking for ways of continuing that growth.”