Located right in the heart of San Clemente’s industrial center, on the aptly named Calle De Industrias, sits a family-owned manufacturer that’s called the town home since 1967.
Filger Manufacturing, named after founder Albert C. Filger, now headed by Albert’s son Al and Al’s two adult children, has been a major contributor to the aerospace industry since shortly after its inception in 1953.
On Friday, Oct. 20, staff gathered downtown at H.H. Cotton’s to celebrate the company’s 70th anniversary and to recognize Filger’s success in maintaining an industry foothold.
As Al, the company’s vice president, put it, Filger Manufacturing is a precision machining facility that produces hydraulic valve components such as ailerons and tail rotor flaps for Boeing 700-series commercial planes.
“Our technical understanding of the parts that we make is head and shoulders above the rest,” said Lane Filger, company president and Al’s son. “That’s what I feel that I’m most proud of, that we make parts other people can’t.”
Al referenced the manufacturer’s longevity as a sign of its success in itself, adding that it hasn’t needed to seek new work in 30 years.
Filger is well-known in the industry, he continued, meaning staff don’t need to “pound doors” to sign new contracts as customers already appreciate the manner in which Filger delivers the products customers want when they want it.
“The first thing we do is make a part the best we possibly can,” said Al. “The second thing is, after we’ve achieved that, then we see if we can make it as fast as we possibly can.”
Operating within an intense, fast-paced environment that calls for perfection in manufacturing and allows for strict regulations, Filger has had to have been on top of its game at all times.
That’s where Casandra Filger-Robinson, Al’s daughter, steps in as chief operating officer and quality manager.
Despite being the least tenured of the three executives, with only 10 years of experience at Filger, Cassandra received praise from her father for her level of accomplishments.
He specifically spoke to her advancement of the company’s human resources department, investment in new equipment and quality control, with respect to certain aerospace industry standards Filger follows, known as AS9100 and ISO9001.
Before receiving the recognition it has today, however, the company’s founder had to start from the ground up.
After serving in the Army during World War II, Albert returned to his job at the Douglas Aircraft Company, which predates the renowned aerospace company McDonnell Douglas. Soon after restarting work there, Albert felt it necessary to fulfill his and his wife’s dream of starting a business, which came in the form of a machine shop in Pasadena.
Albert’s close partnership with a company that produced devices for switching the flow of hydraulic fluids in planes led the young Filger business to make similar components, forever tying it to the aerospace field.
Lane said the company truly started to grow in the late 1970s and the mid ’80s, after Al purchased computerized machinery, or computer numerically controlled (CNC) machines, that consolidated production from five different pieces of equipment into one.
“It helped us produce a lot more with less equipment, basically, and therefore we were able to just grow that way,” he added. “We really stepped into the CNC-era at that point in time with this business, and it did open up a lot of doors for us.”
Filger expanded from having between eight and 12 employees to staffing 15, and then to its current number of 21. That final number was a reduction from the days before the COVID-19 pandemic, when Filger staffed 25 people but was forced to conduct layoffs.
Over time, the company has developed into a family atmosphere with an average tenure of 20 years.
The old adage about loving a job to where it doesn’t feel like work has held true for Al, he added, as he enjoys being equal partners at Filger with his children.
Additionally, the near future looks stable for the company, as Filger has multiple contracts for the next five years and has emerged as a stalwart in the industry after COVID.
Al noted that many similar companies “threw in the towel” with the difficulties that impacted the industry’s highly skilled manufacturing processes, such as supply chain issues and a reduced number of products businesses were asked to produce.
The problems arose even as companies like Filger were deemed essential for making components for the aerospace and military industries, Casandra said.
Despite the issues that the pandemic posed, Filger weathered the storm and is able to keep the family business going. Casandra mentioned that the family aspect is what excites her most, but the recognition of the company’s reputation for quality manufacturing within the aerospace industry is a close second.
“(Major companies and government agencies) will not accept anything but perfection, and if there’s a little scratch, scrape or anything, they send it back,” she said, adding, “I think it would be detrimental if something happened to us and it wasn’t a smooth process. They would have a hard time finding suppliers to do what we do.”
Al reiterated the high standards necessary for manufacturing, especially as Filger produces the parts that contribute largely to the operation of both commercial and jet airplanes.
“This is day in and day out, week in and week out, year in and year out,” he said. “We keep the standard, we don’t vary from it, (and) we don’t get sloppy at any point. We can’t.”
With planes that have parts that need to be switched out every 100,000 miles, the aerospace world will keep relying on Filger as a vital component of the supply chain.
All the while, the facility on the far corner of Calle De Industrias will feature those same whirring noises year after year, doing what needs to be done to continue a longstanding legacy of success.