Manufacturer of thickness gauges provides tools for precise measurements.

Manufacturing is an industry of inches—fractions of inches, even.

For this information, many rely on Advanced Gauging Technologies LLC, a quickly growing Plain City company that makes and sells laser and isotope thickness gauges.

“A siding customer, they manufacture siding for houses, buildings, and if that material is too thin, it doesn't meet their warranty requirements. If that material is too thick, they're wasting raw material,” says Scott Cook, owner and president of Advanced Gauging. “The real-time feedback from our products allows people who have the capability of automating to do so.”

Cook says the 20-year-old company is primed for dramatic growth in the coming years, with prospects strengthened by a brand new, smaller gauge.

Starting in the 1980s, Cook's father serviced and sold non-contact thickness gauging equipment for the steel industry. He had no employees, and never sought to grow the business beyond merely supporting himself.

That changed, however, when Cook left a corporate job in 1997 to find something more entrepreneurial. He shadowed his father, Ron, for only a few days before the two formally partnered to create Advanced Gauging.

“We hired some outside consultants to help us with the most technical stuff that we couldn't do in-house, and we designed our own thickness gauge,” Cook says. “And it was a huge success right from the get go.”

The company quickly grew to have customers around the world.

Cook's father died in 2001 and his mother, Coralie, took over the ownership stake, which she maintains.

But despite Advanced Gauging's immediate success, there still was untapped potential.

Only four years ago did Cook drop other business ventures—and a passion for cards—to turn his full attention to the company.

“I was playing a lot of poker. I actually got pretty good at poker, entered a tournament and made a couple hundred-thousand dollars. If you're playing poker 30 hours a week, it's hard to grow this into a nice business,” he says. “I don't know if it was an epiphany but I just said, ‘I'm going to focus everything I have on this. I'm going to put all of my time, my energy and my mental horsepower into growing this business.'”

He hired the company's first sales person to actively drum up business with new customers. He implemented a robust employee benefits program, including companywide bonuses and free fitness training sessions, and began rolling out new products.

This year, the company introduced its third type of gauge, the smaller AGT600, to be used when a full-size gauge is impractical. The compact and portable gauge uses laser displacement sensors to measure thickness.

The company already claims to dominate the steel coil processing industry with its first two products, the AGT400 and AGT800. The new product is more versatile.

“The 600 opens completely new markets for us. It gives us tons of—infinite—opportunity in that, before, all we could measure was steel that's in a coil that was a quarter-inch thick or less,” Cook says. “Now, we can measure any kind of material, it doesn't have to be in a coil, doesn't even have to be on a processing line. We don't care how thick it is, we can measure it.”

The opportunity to sell even a single piece of equipment is impactful, as the gauges typically run between $30,000 and $40,000, depending on customization.

Now, Cook says, Advanced Gauging must figure out how to sell to new markets, including companies dealing in plastics and titanium. There was even an inquiry from someone wanting to measure the thickness of dough in a food processing facility.

As with other Advanced Gauging products, the accuracy of the thickness gauge will continue to be a selling point.

The first customer of the AGT600, Worthington Armstrong Venture, touts its reliability in measuring steel coil ranging from eight-thousandths of an inch to 19-thousandths.

The company, a producer of metal ceiling grids, is a joint venture between Columbus' Worthington Industries Inc. and Armstrong World Industries Inc. of Lancaster, Pa.

Before, “if a supplier said 10-thousandths of an inch, we pretty much just took their word for it,” says Mark Paskvan, general manager of the joint venture's facilities in Las Vegas and Benton Harbor, Mich. “By using this system upfront we're able to get some just-in-time measurements about thickness, so we can make just-in-time adjustments as it's running.”

Evan Weese is a freelance writer.