How RAMEC Engineering Emerged
This is the true story of how a 16-½ year old farm boy from Louisiana joins the armed forces, becomes a platoon sergeant and fights on the beaches of Normandy on D-Day in WWII. This man comes home to become a husband, a father of five, and President of his own successful Aerospace Manufacturing & Engineering Corporation he calls RAMEC.
In July of 1942, 16½ year old Leonard Earl Roberts entered the Armed Forces, weighing 115 lbs. and measuring 5’9” tall. When he returned home three and a half years later in December of 1945, he was a 6-ft tall, 175-lb. man who knew the lessons of Duty, Honor, and Country. It was not difficult to falsify his age to enlist, and so Leonard did, since “it seemed like the thing to do”.
After taking an IQ test, it was decided that Leonard would be best suited as an officer or a non-commissioned officer. He was sent to Fort Francis E. Warren in Cheyenne, WY for Basic Training, for officers and non-commissioned officers. After completing his training he was sent to New Orleans to train a group of New Recruits. After completing this, he was sent to Taunton Mass. to train another group of Recruits. After completing this and since he could type 96 words per minute he was promoted to Personnel Sergeant Major. By this time he had taken a liking to working with the men in the field and they liked and respected his leadership. Leonard asked for and received permission to accept a demotion to Staff Sergeant to remain in the field. Superiors would require that Leonard find someone else to take his place as Personnel Sergeant Major and train them for that position. Not being one to enjoy office work (knowing he was much more mechanically inclined), Leonard stepped down in rank, losing two stripes, so that he could be out in the field training recruits how to march, assemble and disassemble weapons, and how to carry the flag. Training also included generally how to be a good, competent and safe soldier during wartime.
Leonard was a Platoon Sergeant on Omaha Beach on D-Day, WWII. His platoon lost 7 men, killed in action, and an equal number were wounded while on Omaha Beach.
His Entire outfit received the Bronze Indian Arrowhead for Assault Trooper, The Cor-Du-Gherre From France, Four Battle Stars, and he received the Purple Heart. Still in Europe when the war ended, Leonard retrained for Pacific Theatre of Operations and was in the process of being sent home for a short vacation, and then would be sent to the war in the Pacific. The war ended in the Pacific however, and that became unnecessary. Leonard returned to the United States and was Discharged on December 7th 1945.
Leonard Earl Roberts was Married to Dessie (who had been his childhood sweetheart), and five lovely children: Donna, Janet, Leonard Jr., Jacqueline, and Keith were to be born to this marriage over time.
Leonard used the GI Bill of Rights To attend MIT in Boston, Massachusetts, studying Engineering. He also studied Tooling & Dye Making. Later Institute after returning to the West Coast of the US, Leonard studied Electronic Engineering at Electronic Technology.
Soon, Leonard began working at a company called Aeromatic Products who made aircraft parts and small outboard motors. After only a few months Leonard was promoted to Foreman and remained with the company when Aeromatic Products Sold out to Aircraft Taper Sheets. Several months later, Leonard was approached by the Manager with a plan for he and two other partners to start a new company which they had named, American Tapered Wings Inc. (ATW). Leonard accepted the position of Superintendent and Secretary Treasurer. Leonard remained at American Tapered Wings Inc for 22 years.
His duties at ATW were, Estimating, Planning, Machine and Tool Design, Supervising the shop, and dealing with all Customer Engineering and Quality Personnel.
Since this was the beginning of the jet age and no machines existed that would manufacture the parts that were being designed at the Major aircraft plants, older machines were modified, or redesigned and remanufactured, to get the jobs done.
Leonard designed and supervised the manufacture of all profile equipment. Some as large as thirteen feet wide, and thirty-two feet long. Leonard also invented the first machine that would machine a part with a twist in it. This machine invention was patented in his name; it was called a Swarfing Machine. This was many years before any of the Major Machine Tool Builders thought about making a machine that would cut a twisted part. Wilson Machine Tools, was the first to copy his design but they did not get the Hydraulic controls right. Cincinnati Machine Tools, was to follow many years later, but not until the CNC was available - so they did not have to use Hydraulic Controls.
After 22 years Leonard decided to leave American Tapered Wings Inc to begin his own company. “Roberts Engineering Company” was established in September of 1972.
Roberts Engineering Company began it’s roots in a small Torrance location on 240th and Vermont with 1 profiler machine which Leonard Sr. re-designed as a swarfing machine so that it would have the capability to cut the 4th axis.
Roberts Engineering Company thrived from it’s inception due to support from friends and associates Leonard had made when he was with American Tapered Wings Inc. Work flowed in from Lockheed, Macdonald Douglas, and the Skunkworks.
At this early time, Leonard’s sons Leonard Jr. and Keith worked part time while they attended college. Over the years, wife Dessie, and daughter Donna would manage the office. The Roberts family would keep the business strong.
In 1973 Roberts Engineering Company incorporated and officially changed the name to Roberts Aerospace Manufacturing and Engineering Corporation, RAMEC for short. Leonard Earl Roberts Jr. was attending USC Taking Architectural Engineering and Design and learning the ropes of running a no-error, quality-counts, corporation quite early and was soon to become Vice President of RAMEC.
In 1974 RAMEC moved to their current, much larger location in Gardena where they began a working relationship with Northrop, Boeing and also Aviquipo which was owned by Lockheed.
On faith, some very large orders were placed with RAMEC, and with a 24-hour shop running, orders were promptly fulfilled. The first order was so large in fact, that Leonard Sr. put a lean against the deed to his shop’s land so that he could buy the materials to make the parts. These first orders allowed RAMEC to grow in reputation for quality, in clout within the industry, and in new machinery assets to perpetuate this growth.
The first completed shipment of parts returned a check for $252,000; Leonard Sr. went directly and picked up the deed for his land. Mid-order RAMEC purchased a Hitachi Seiko CNC. It was the first one in the country so Hitachi sent many of their own possible buyers to RAMEC to watch it run, and it ran well, all day, every day.
A 2nd and 3rd CNC machine were added soon thereafter.
The 4th CNC, another model of Hitachi, was purchased with $380,000 cash after a business trip was made to Japan to view the machine and to experience some of the culture. When the new CNC arrived, the sellers, Hitachi LTD, flew in from Japan to bless the very large machine tool with a Traditional Japanese Ceremony.
Around this time, (1972), Leonard Earl Roberts Jr. graduated from USC with a degree in Architecture, and he stepped into the position of Vice President of RAMEC Engineering. The business was continuing to thrive due to RAMEC’s reputation of impeccable quality and due to references by sales friends from ATW.
Leonard Jr. has no lack of ingenuity. Matter of factly, he has a proclivity to three-dimensional thinking, open mindedness for unprecedented aerospace design, and the highest standards of quality. He knows well that in Aerospace, there is no room for error. Leonard Jr’s daily practice of this rule has lead to a well-respected reputation in the Aerospace industry, among friends, and among family.
Ramec’s Quality over the years has earned them the privilege to perform “Delegated Source Inspection” from major Aircraft Companies. Northrop Grumman’s “Delegated Acceptance Program”, Northrop Grumman’s “Key Plan”, and Vought Aircraft Industries’ “Preferred Supplier Program.” Earning this privilege is not easy and not taken lightly.
RAMEC thrives today, fulfilling orders for some of the most difficult to manufacture parts that ever will fly.