Variation Reduction Solutions, Inc.
Plymouth, MI 48170
With its roots in the automotive industry, VRSI could have faced a fate similar to many Michigan companies when the economic downturn hit in 2007. Instead, VRSI has grown and thrived, thanks in part to the SBIR Program. Innovative leaders at the company had looked to extend beyond the automotive sector to the aerospace industry, specifically the F-35 Joint Strike Fighter Program, and were able to leverage SBIR awards to enter that market.
“Starting in 2007 we got involved in the F-35 Program through our first SBIR effort. It was right when the automotive business was starting to fall off precipitously in the run-up to the financial downturn,” recalls Michael Kleeman of VRSI. “Being involved in a new industry, bringing our technology into new types of fruition with the tremendous enabling influence of the SBIR Program, is what enabled us to not only weather that downturn but to come out on the other end stronger in every aspect of our business.”
VRSI specializes the type of inline dimensional measurement that has been key to improvement in the automotive industry. Their products allow companies to measure every car, every time, as it goes down the line, and make sure it is being built to exact standards. Interestingly, this technology is new to the aerospace industry, which has traditionally used a manual process for building planes. With its first SBIR award, they were able to bring those processes out of the automotive industry and apply them to aerospace at a time when that industry needed them for defense applications.
The SBIR Program, with its ability to connect government, large business and small business, was the essential vehicle for success. “The key factor to the success of our SBIR award was the support of all our key stakeholders. We had tremendous support fromn industry—from Northrup Grumman and Lockheed Martin on the F-35 program-as well as from government, both the Air Force Research Laboratory and the F-35 Joint Program Office,” says Kleeman.
“We were able to realize a return on investment for all stakeholders involved, which is really the goal of the SBIR Program.”
From the time of its first SBIR award, VRSI has grown from 22 to 38 employees and remain profitable despite the economy. Innovation, enabled by the SBIR Program, has been the engine of that growth. Says Kleeman, “As a small business, SBIR funding has allowed us to scale into new industries, new markets, and new technology development for which there is a market but which we would not otherwise be able to fund and to get off the ground.”