The Power of Small Parts and 3D Printing: Andrew Fulford Talks Manufacturing on Middle Market Growth Podcast

Andrew Fulford, HBM’s vice president of corporate development, was recently interviewed for Middle Market Growth Conversations, a podcast about trends affecting midsize companies and the influencers behind their success. Discover some highlights from that discussion — including which manufacturing subsectors represent investment opportunities, how HBM helps its portfolio companies close the skills gap, and why advances in 3-D printing are changing how HBM’s businesses operate.


Andrew FulfordFor manufacturing investments, HBM sees big opportunities in small components.

As an investor in industrial products and services businesses, HBM has a core strategy with a long-term focus. When HBM acquires companies, it’s with the intent to add them to the portfolio indefinitely, says Fulford. For investment opportunities, the firm has continued interest in industrial components — especially small, complex parts like gears that are used in much larger mechanical systems. HBM also plans to focus more on energy equipment services (particularly in oil and gas infrastructure) as well as manufacturing companies for environmental technologies such as water and wastewater treatment and infrastructure.

HBM’s approach to recruiting and training helps fill critical manufacturing positions.

Recruiting and retaining labor is a challenge throughout the manufacturing industry. HBM supports our portfolio companies in their efforts to bring in skilled labor and professional talent where needed. That includes providing training on HBM’s culture and operations; in many cases, these efforts supplement what our portfolio companies would otherwise do on their own. HBM also encourages partnerships with local community colleges, technical programs, and high schools to help train individuals for future opportunities that are requiring greater technical competencies.

Operating companies decide which technologies will benefit their manufacturing floors and supply chains.

The companies choose which technologies are the best fit, while HBM acts as a facilitator and looks for best practices to share across the portfolio. One example from HBM’s portfolio is Mississippi Lime Company, which is incorporating technology to better track operations and equipment in mines. This effort has had substantial implications for safety, security, and productivity, says Fulford.

In the near future, expect to see robotics and 3D printing benefit manufacturing even more.

HBM is in an exploratory stage with robotics. It’s used sparingly in a few HBM businesses to reduce heavy human labor and improve efficiencies, and Fulford expects more applications to be tested in the near term.  However, the technology that’s benefitted HBM companies most is 3D printing — with prototyping and other uses, it has improved employee productivity at Tru-Flex. Fulford says the advances being made in 3D printing are “breathtaking,” and HBM hopes to be ready to capitalize on those opportunities.