Shax Engineering: The Biggest Little Board Shop in the Bay Area

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Matties: The keyword here is profitability, right? How do you grow and stay profitable in this?

Shakour: We have the capability and ability to improve our output in such a way that we can reduce our cost while expanding and increasing our sales. Also, there are two types of growth: horizontal line and the vertical line. Right now, I’ll just be very conservative and say that expanding organically would take a lot of time. So it would probably be through acquisition. That's the fastest way and a possibility for us.

Matties: When you look at manufacturing in America, what are your thoughts?

Shakour: I always and still believe in this country; has the best manufacturing capability in the world. I don't believe that any single country right now can produce any product in the world where 100% resource and material is from the same country as the United States. This country is full of natural resources.  That's my belief, and I think that this industry is alive and well. Furthermore, this country has very well-trained manpower, which does not exist everywhere, and we have a lot of people coming from some of the best schools in the world.

Matties: I hear what you are saying, but I see it a little differently. Many young people don't want manufacturing jobs in America, because those jobs don't pay well and/or the infrastructure for manufacturing isn't necessarily there. We are far from the top in just high school level education, and the cost of college education is through the roof, so we're seeing more alternative paths to education. Don't you think that plays a big factor, contrary to what you're saying?

Shakour: The concept of manufacturing has changed. It does not mean that you have people sitting on an assembly line, assembling by hand. Even those workers are becoming computer-literate people that know how to manage a number of manufacturing lines by using robotics technology. That's a concept that we have to adhere to in America. But I believe our manpower has a very high level of education, which is available right now. They can run assembly lines efficiently with very few people, and do it better than you can find outside of the U.S. That kind of efficiency is what we need in order to reduce production costs. I believe this can happen here, that the United States still has the ability to lead production better than any other country in the world.

If you look at the production in this country years ago, most of the jobs in the north were textile. They moved from the north to the south, to south of the border and then to Asia. With that being said, if we cannot renew ourselves, jobs are not going to stay here. We have the research institutions, we have the capability, and we have the right amount of people who are very well-trained, specifically here in California. We can retrain our employees in order to give them another chance to produce different things. The country is strong. The idea out there is that jobs are not available here and somebody is going to steal my job. Nobody is stealing our job, but again, we have to renew ourselves and do this continually.

JZ_breadboard.jpgMatties: Today we are here at your facility with Jonathan Zinski, a young man who is designing a circuit, and you are mentoring this young man and really helping him out.

Shakour: I remember myself when I was young. I grew up in Sudan, a place where there was no technology, and I was fascinated by electronics. But at the time there were many big brands of radios—Grundig, Philips, RCA—and they ran on batteries. My grandfather had a big radio, so I broke it open and it looked like a little honeycomb. I loved it all, and to understand all of this I had to travel to borrow books about electronics from the Local British Council Library of American Center in Khartoum.

I remember the first time I came to the thermionic valve and the germanium transistor, and for me at that time it was something amazing. I was around 16 years old. Now you find somebody like Jonathan here, he wants to build his circuitry himself and he wants to excel in electronics. It reminds me of my days when I was trying to get these things working and understand how the transistor and thermostatic valve worked. So I try to help as much as I can.

Matties: I think that's the right attitude that we have to embrace. Because when I look at our industry, I don't see a lot of young people coming into it. It's going to take people like you to mentor young people like Jonathan into the industry and show them the possibilities and the future that can be here.

Shax_table.jpgShakour: When you find somebody interested in electronics, like Jonathan, these are the young people who will advance this technology and keep this country leading in medicine and technology.  By their new inventions we will still dominate in the areas of electronics and other industries. This new class generation will fuel companies and industries for the generation to come.

Matties: I agree. Thanks so much for your time today.

Shakour: Thank you very much and I'm sure your magazine and publications have continued to greatly deepen the knowledge about electronics and manufacturing. I wish you all luck. 


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