Manufacturer carves out a Vital niche
In the mid-1980s, Hamid Zaidi took his last paycheck from his previous employer and started a tiny company that helped fill northern Nevada’s need to build weapons-grade electronic applications for the defense industry.
“Back then there was nobody in Reno doing quality work in defense contracts,” Zaidi said. “I got certified by the Navy and the Department of the Defense. “I started out of a garage and worked in other businesses before finally getting a business license in 1986,” said Zaidi, the founder and owner of Vital Systems.
Upon obtaining its business license, the firm was situated in a small facility on Edison Way in Reno. It relocated five times before settling in its current location on Aircenter Circle in southeast Reno.
Back in the 1980s, Zaidi said the company was the first to offer such technologies in Nevada.
It was a leader in innovating such components as surface mount devices for the defense industry.
Today, Vital Systems Corp. marks the beginning of its 30th year in business, and now provides electronic design and manufacturing solutions to markets across the globe. It employs about 50 at its 20,000-square-foot facility. The business also generates millions of dollar in sales annually.
Vital Systems’ technology can also be found in products such as televisions and smartphones as well as aerospace equipment.
With the dangers of concussions and other traumatic brain injuries for amateur and professional athletes, the subject has gained much attention. Vital Systems developed an application for a device that can be worn on an athlete’s head and detect whether or not that person suffered a head injury.
Another product that Vital Systems is engineering is for the transportation industry.
After an oncoming train killed two workers on a railway in San Francisco, the industry saw a need for safety measures and worked with Vital to make a warning device. What the company developed was a buzzer that alerts workers of eminent danger and gives them 20 seconds to clear the area.
Vital Systems’ clientele ranges across the U.S. and abroad, particularly in the burgeoning Chinese market.
What Zaidi says sets his company apart from its competition, both in the U.S. and abroad, is the capability to design and manufacture products in one place. He noted many similar companies don’t have the capabilities to do both.
Vital is able to bring an idea from a customer and get it into production, often within a 4-6 week time frame. Zaidi also insists products are designed and produced one time without repeated modifications, to save time and money for Vital and its customers.
To be able to have a one-stop shop is due in part to an in-house computerized management systemVital designed itself.
The system, which is called B2, keeps a recorded database of every one of its customers since its inception, such as product designs, invoices and even defective product recall records. It also stores ‘manufacturing recipes’ of every product built and has the ability to communicate with every machine on the company’s production floor.
Clients can also access the system on Vital Systems’ Web site at: http://www.vitalsystems.com. It also serves as a virtual human resources center for the company. It keeps records of employee information such as timecards, personal information and forms such as I-9s.
And it keeps the company almost paperless, something that Zaidi stresses is important for efficient customer service.
“You take some of this information, you write it down on a piece of paper, you come back into the office and lose it and you don’t know what you did,” Zaidi said. “With this the information stays there.”
He also noted that the company is looking into possibly marketing and selling the technology in the future, hopefully by 2017.
One of the few industries Vital System’s products can’t be found is gaming.
“We were never able to break into the gaming industry for one reason or another,” Zaidi said.
Zaidi was born and raised in Pakistan and always had an appetite for the electronics industry.
He worked for a business installing intercom systems for offices in his native country during the 1970s, including building nurse attendant calling systems in hospitals, which was revolutionary for the area at the time.
Eventually, he got a call from the Office of the President of Pakistan. He wanted Zaidi to install an intercom system so that the president could talk to his generals and not be intercepted by the opposition.
Zaidi’s brother had already immigrated to the United States to serve as a nuclear physicist for the government during the Cold War era, and helped Zaidi to come to the United States with his family. Zaidi eventually settled in Reno and worked for various companies including Radio Shack, where he managed the store in the old Parklane Mall.
He quit his job to start Vital Systems, although he took positions with other companies, including one as program director at Sierra Nevada Corp. with the U.S. Army and Navy to augment his income. Once Vital Systems got off the ground, he turned his attention solely to Vital Systems. Although he has built a highly successful business, the humble Zaidi still calls himself “a small businessman” and refers to his venture as a hobby. He disdains vacations and even a few days away from his business leaves him chomping at the bit.“It was the American Dream that brought me here, and I worked hard enough to achieve that dream,” Zaidi said.
“I point out many cases of where privately owned companies do just as bad a job as publicly owned companies,” says Reno resident and former teacher Robert (R.D.) Gardner.