“We consider ourselves a high-end electronic manufacturing and integrated circuits company,” Mabel “Mabs” Goble, owner of Engineering Development Laboratory, Inc. (EDL), says of her ISO 9001.228-certified premier electronics manufacturing services firm.
Ross Goble joined the military during the Korean War. He met Mabs while stationed at Oceana, where they both took part in a local annual talent show: he painted backdrops and she danced.
“She liked his painting and he liked her legs,” son-in-law Jay Noble, says.
They married and when he left the military, they moved with daughters Debbie and Pam to Clemson University, where Ross earned his undergraduate degree. He then earned his masters from New York University (where son, Greg, was born) and on to Virginia Tech to earn his Ph.D. in mechanical engineering.
“He was a rennaissance man,” Jay says. “The smartest guy in the room with a Ph.D.—a painter, sculptor, builder and sailor.”
Ross was a young division chief at NASA when his entrepreneurial spirit drove him in a new direction.
EDL, Inc. was created in 1984 by Ross and Mabs (presidents/co-owners until he passed away in 2013) and son, Greg, director of engineering. Management includes Steve Patterson, director of marketing and sales; Pam Goble Patterson, director of procurement and materials; Debbie Goble Noble, comptroller; and Jay Noble, director of manufacturing.
EDL’s first large customer was Canon, Virginia, Inc., building a circuit board for the Hewlett Packard LaserJet Printer.
The firm transitioned to a contract manufacturing company in 1989. As it grew, the company relocated into several Oyster Point locations, eventually settling in 2002 in its current 25,000-square-foot facility on Rock Landing Drive. With roots in engineering and some manufacturing for Space Shuttle Challenger Life Sciences flight hardware, the company transitioned into manufacturing work gained by initial engineering redesign work.
For five years, EDL’s primary customer was AMF Bowling Centers worldwide, working to execute a circuit board change for their scoreboards and other controls.
EDL manufactured 91 memory-card modules deployed into the Minute Man III weapons system, a mission-critical device.
Says Jeff Wassmer, chairman/CEO of Spectrum, “EDL provided expert electronics manufacturing guidance, so when we started development of the Go-Box Chrome product in 2016, it was an obvious choice to involve EDL early in the design process. After four production runs, we have not had a single failure of the hardware in the field, a great testament to the excellent quality from top to bottom throughout EDL.”
“We pride ourselves on supporting firms, launching new designs/products, partly in hopes to compete for the mass manufacture,” Steve says.
“Ross never said no,” Mabs says of her husband’s pioneering spirit. “He would say, yes; then we’d figure out how.”
Most of what EDL does is built-to-print to a customer’s specifications. It supplies the US Army with electronic assemblies, supporting the next-generation communications.
EDL captured current client StarChase as it was looking for better quality and improved customer support. The company made the control boxes that launch the device that GPS uses to tag a car that police are chasing.
EDL’s workload has changed significantly in the past three decades.
“In the beginning it was more confined: a few products for one customer,” Jay explains. “Now, Pam probably buys for three different products weekly.”
EDL boasts a low-volume, high-mix of products, causing a constant changeover on its floor—sometimes on a daily/hourly basis.
Ross developed the Blue File process control system, a “roadmap, so if the job comes back in six months, you bring out that Blue File,” Jay says. “Without that structure, you couldn’t build 30 different products a week.”
EDL was the first company in Virginia to receive the SHARP (Safety and Health Achievement Recognition Program) award from the Virginia Department of Labor and Industry. Several of its 30 employees in administration, engineering, manufacturing, hand soldering, etc., have been there since 1989.
“Our trained and skilled employee base has changed,” Jay says. “We’ve gone from hand assembly to the automated placement of parts, producing hundreds of thousands of parts weekly.”
Management loves what it does. “We constantly improve our people and our infrastructure to support our customer base,” Pam says.
“I love that customers bring a challenge to the table almost weekly,” Steve says. “That keeps it exciting.”
“Every day’s a little different,” Jay says. “Our people are not stuck building the same widget every day. It keeps them fresher.”
“We’re more than a company,” Debbie says. “We’re family.”
Annually, EDL closes its plant during Fourth of July week. Management has taken a lot of family vacations over the past 30 years, often European cruises. “It lets us play together,” Debbie says. “We work together, but we need down time just to have fun.”
TO THE POINT:
Engineering Development Laboratory, Inc.
Address: 11839 Rock Landing Dr.,
Newport News, VA 23606