Skip to Content

Behind the Business with C.R. Onsrud: Keeping Its Business Model Malleable

| Manufacturing

The NC Chamber recently had the opportunity to speak with C.R. Onsrud, which was this year’s winner of the Coolest Thing Made in NC competition in the medium-to-large business category.

For over a century, the Onsrud family has been driven by a passion for innovation. Virtually every aircraft built for the U.S in WWII had parts made on Onsrud routers and most of those machines are still in use today. In 1976, Charlie Onsrud, founder of C.R. Onsrud (Troutman, NC) patented the “inverted router,” which revolutionized the woodworking industry and raised the standard of safety. The dedication to engineering advanced manufacturing solutions is carried on today at C.R. Onsrud by the fourth and fifty generations of the family.

Alyson Onsrud Strickland and Jeff Onsrud, who are siblings and part of the fifth generation of the family-run business, spoke to us about the history and future-focused vision of the company.


Future-Focused Vision

C.R. Onsrud specializes in high-quality computerized machinery routers and mills—essentially, precision cutting machines—that are used to cut wood, metal, composites, plastics, and other materials. The company creates computer numerical control (CNC) routers for use by manufacturers of airplanes, furniture, RVs, boats, satellites, signs, doors, technology, arts and crafts stores, and much more.

Speaking to the reach of their products, Jeff said, “If you just take a look around the room you’re currently in, there’s a good chance that something in that room was made on a CNC router.” He is also an electrical engineer by training and explained, “We want to be a leader in the industrial automation space. We want to automate the part of the process that’s backbreaking labor for the worker. CNC machines make cuts that are consistently accurate compared to traditional tools. They help to reduce waste, save time, and allow for the creation of customized, complex designs, high volume of parts with high-quality finishes, and streamline the R&D to machining process.”

C.R. Onsrud has also been able to expand its operations during COVID and other financial recessions due to the diversity of the industries it serves and its ability to adapt its product line as the needs of its loyal and growing customer base change. They credit that malleability and adaptability as a key component of success.

“Being owned by engineers, part of the culture is wanting to solve problems and getting fulfillment from solving customer problems,” said Alyson. “We want to grow with our customers because we want them to stay with our brand.”

Hiring and Expanding

And brand loyalty doesn’t stop with its customer base. The company has several multigenerational families working at its facilities, several employees with 30-plus-year tenures, and dozens with 20-plus-years. Additionally, the company has also been committed to conducting each aspect of the manufacturing process in the United States, which is an attractive selling point to its current and prospective customer base.

“I think people get enamored by cheap labor,” said Jeff. “The labor might be cheaper, but then you have transport and supply chain delays to think about. The American worker is efficient and smart, and our company has only benefited from that.”

In 2016, the company added a fabrication facility. Historically, fabrication facilities are not known for being the best working environments—they’re hot and dimly lit, which is part of the reason for the welding shortage, explained Alyson and Jeff. However, C.R. Onsrud recognized that and changed the look and feel of that environment.

Jeff said, “Our welders saw that we’re a company that cares about our workers, and everyone started calling their friends to let them know about us. So, while there is a welder shortage, we did not encounter that. If you do it right, you can find people.”

The company is also continuing to expand and hire. C.R. Onsrud is adding 70,000 square feet to its facility, which will triple its final assembly space bringing the total manufacturing footprint up to 250,000 square feet. During our Zoom interview with them, they panned their computer screen over to the office window, showing the massive construction site across the street where the facility will be housed.

And of course, the addition of that facility means many more jobs to fill—hiring for positions across the board, including welders and engineers. Do you know someone who may be interested? They can apply here. Learn more about the company and its history here.