Most Innovative Companies #10: Aggressive Grinding Service

Over the next two weeks, we'll be counting down some of the most innovative industrial companies covered in-depth by and its sister publications throughout 2013.

Coming in at #10 is Aggressive Grinding Service, headquartered in Latrobe, Penn., which was selected because of their unique business model — by attaching themselves to the region's shale gas boom, and being stationed right in the heartland of the Marcellus hotspot, they've achieved enormous success. In addition, the company's philosophies, when it comes to getting the job done well and using the latest equipment, makes them a key innovator.

Aggressive Grinding offers a precision grinding service to the oil and gas industry, with tolerances measured in millionths of an inch on materials such as carbide and ceramics used in high-wear oil and gas applications, including drill bits, bushings, and nozzles. It credits a unique business model for allowing it to be able to deliver to such a fast growing and unpredictable industry. 

“I have a philosophy of being overstaffed and over-equipped,” explains Lester Sutton, founder, president, and CEO of Aggressive Grinding Service. “It goes against all accounting practices,” he admits, but he stresses the necessity of such an against-the-grain business practice when working in an industry that he says is among the worst at predicting its demand. With approximately 50 percent of Aggressive Grinding’s business recently growing to be tied to the shale industry, the company had to be able to deliver. “It is very much a flash industry,” with “extreme” sporadic demand throughout the year, he says.

The company’s distinctive way of doing business has brought it to the forefront for an industry where downtime while waiting for a critical replacement wear part that can shut down a drilling head can cost up to $200,000 an hour in lost productivity, Sutton says. “That’s really where we’ve separated ourselves from the rest of the people in our industry—being able to meet those demands.” As the manufacturing industry looks to Lean more and more to reduce inventory and reduce costs, this grinding service company has positioned itself to respond to manufacturing demands as quickly as possible. While energy companies are flying in to receive a critical part, Sutton’s company is ready to receive any specialty item that the oil and gas industry needs and says the company is fortunate in the sense that it is somewhat protected, and can have the opportunity to prepare for a quick turnaround. “It generally takes a minimum of three days to manufacture a piece of carbide. We may be able to grind it in an hour.”

Read the rest of the article here.

See the rest of's Most Innovative Industrial Companies For 2013.