North County San Diego Manufacturing Facility

Made in the USA

Traffic solutions leader keeps jobs stateside

Anyone curious about the state of U.S. manufacturing need only look at the promising high-tech production taking place inside the state-of-the-art 100,000-square-foot facility that McCain, Inc. opened three years ago in North County.

McCain, Inc. is best known as a national leader in the manufacturing of traffic control equipment and provider of sophisticated traffic management systems.

There is a good chance the next traffic signal you see while driving around San Diego County was made the Vista-based company. McCain, Inc. is responsible for more than five million traffic signals that have been installed around the world since the late 1980s. It is a pioneer in the use of technology to synchronize traffic signals that improved the flow of vehicle traffic on busy streets in cities such as San Marcos, Oceanside and Temecula.

In recent years, McCain, Inc. has been building its credentials as a contract manufacturer, which is a form of outsourcing. For U.S. providers of this service it is also known as near-shoring or domestic manufacturing.

McCain, Inc. expanded its manufacturing capacity to more than 300,000-square-feet with the opening of its $20 million manufacturing plant in Vista in 2011. The move has given McCain, Inc. additional appeal to U.S. companies that for a variety of reasons – including made in America agreements – are looking to outsource domestically rather than searching abroad. McCain’s website for contract manufacturing summarizes that appeal: “We’re doing our part to support the American economy, let us help you do yours…”

McCain, Inc. official say the company’s expanded manufacturing capacity and high-tech machinery are winning over new customers.

“This year we’ve had one of our strongest starts. We’ve had two record-breaking months so far for the entire operation. It’s great to see everything paying off,” McCain, Inc. Marketing Manager Trisha Reddan said during a tour of the spacious plant on Progress Street.

McCain, Inc. is sensitive about disclosing client names for competitive reasons, but describes them as national and regionally-based companies in areas such as aerospace and defense, alternative energy, communications, computer hardware, electronics, gaming, information technology, power generation and storage and auto and transportation.

McCain’s contract manufacturing offers such in demand services as precision sheet metal fabrication, powder coating, assembly, welding, shipping and delivery. The privately-held company also operates a recently expanded, 155,000-square-foot production plant in Tijuana, where it makes traffic-related equipment and is also available for contract manufacturing. About 400 employees work at the two plants.

Credit bold thinking and determination for McCain’s successful expansion and re-positioning the company as more than a manufacturer and supplier of all things that are traffic. The company established its contract manufacturing division in 2006 and opened the Vista plant five years later. In between, the Great Recession hit.

“We definitely felt the constraints of the economic recession like others did, but our CEO Jeffrey McCain thought it was the best time to invest in the company as a whole, bring in new technology so that we would be well positioned when the economy bounced back,” Reddan said.

The expansion happened shortly after McCain Traffic Supply rebranded and became McCain, Inc., provider of traffic equipment, intelligent transportation solutions, parking guidance systems and contract manufacturing.

“McCain Traffic Supply just said ‘I’m a supplier of traffic equipment’ but we’re more than that,” Reddan said. “We’re a service company, a software company, a hardware company. We have so much more depth in our product availability than just supplying hardware. We’re innovative. We’re always releasing new products to help drive the industry to where it’s going,” she said.

Reddan says the McCain brand is built on customer satisfaction, which resonates across all segments of manufacturing and is the main reason new customers return placing larger orders. “We’ve proven ourselves with these customers. They know that what we give them is what we promised them,” she said.

The McCain way of doing business is based on a set of 12 core principles that founder Jeffrey L. McCain introduced several years ago. It can be found posted on doors. The list includes easy-to-remember lessons, including: “Strive to be the Best. Never become Complacent;” “Use Technology as an Accelerator;” and “Remember: Customers, Customers, Customers.”

McCain personifies these principles. He began as an electrical contractor for his parents’ company who got tired of waiting for traffic signal equipment to be delivered to complete street projects. He decided to build the equipment himself and launched McCain Traffic Supply. He practiced innovation and invested in technology including adaptive signal control where signals are automatically adjusted to meet traffic demands.

McCain described his company’s durability and success in a 2012 press statement to mark the 25th anniversary of its founding: “To survive in today’s business climate you have to be able to see the bigger picture and adjust your corporate vision. We’re proud of our ability to evolve and expand into one of the leading ITS (intelligent transportation system) and transportation solutions providers,” he said.

Because it is business-to-business, McCain, Inc. tends to fly under the radar with the general population. But that’s changing partly through its involvement with the San Diego North Economic Development Council.

McCain, Inc. was busy during national Manufacturing Day last fall, which SDNEDC hosted locally. McCain invited members of the news media to visit the Progress Street manufacturing facility, which is near its corporate office in Vista. Manufacturing Day is designed to raise public perception of manufacturing career and the value manufacturing careers and the value manufacturing has on the North American economy.

Manufacturing is the fourth largest employer in the United States with a workforce of more than 11 million, including 1.1 million in California, according to the U.S. census. Locally, manufacturing is one of the largest employers along the state Route 78 corridor.

“We’re hoping to do another big event this year and invite the public, including students and business owners,” Reddan said. “A lot of young people don’t know about the manufacturing opportunities in North County.”

McCain, Inc. generally is on the lookout for light industrial candidates, machine operators and software engineers, she said.

When it comes to hiring the best people for the job, McCain looks at the entire profile, including character, Reddan said.

“One of our guiding principles is ‘who and then what’,” said Reddan. “If you have the right who, that is more important than what they are going to be doing,” she added.

“We’re looking for people who have the right skill set, but we are also looking for people who can add something to manufacturing, who can help us streamline, who are team-oriented and can fit into our culture,” she said.

North County Business Journal Summer 2014

Tags: Articles, us manufacturing