When Sussex Wire, a company that designs and manufactures custom, cold-formed parts, deployed Adept software last year, the engineering team got more than a secure, centralized vault for product drawings. It got a significant edge on the competition. To understand how, it’s helpful to understand a little bit about Sussex and its business:
From Sole Proprietor to Private Equity Backed
Cold-forming is a manufacturing method in which fine gauges of metal and alloy wire are forged, upset, or rolled into complex, tight tolerance geometric parts at ambient temperature. You’ve probably seen cold-formed structural pieces in planes, automobiles and building technology (e.g., rivets, bolts, nuts). But you’ll also find them making up the smallest manufactured products, like semiconductor leads, medical devices, relays, sensors and fasteners, and that’s where Sussex comes in. The Easton, PA-based company specializes in designing and manufacturing micro-miniature metal components, producing parts with diameters as tiny as 0.0035 inches at rates of up to 300 parts per minute. In a typical year Sussex Wire ships well in excess of one billion parts to dozens of Fortune 500 customers spanning four continents.
Sussex focuses predominantly on collaborative design engineering solutions for manufacturability, assembly and cost with a list of blue-chip state-of-the-art clients – providing them with items like micro cinching fasteners, micro valve stems, sensor rivets and alloy hubs for hypodermic needles. A well-resourced manufacturer serving engineering-driven manufacturers seeking the strongest, most cost effective and ecologically friendly component part solution is Sussex’ niche and it has served the company and its customers well since its origin in the 1970s.
But now the landscape is changing. The sole proprietor that founded Sussex 40 years ago exited a control interest in the business, and today a leadership team applying contemporary LEAN best practices drives the company. The company’s CEO sees a grander future for the company and with the investors’ backing is eager to expand its competencies and capabilities. In addition to organic growth the company is focused on identifying, selecting and acquiring companies with complementary technologies. For a self-described “Mom and Pop shop,” this kind of growth means moving into bigger, perhaps more competitive markets. To make it work, Sussex has to tighten up its processes and work leaner than ever.
Growing more competitive with Adept
Fortunately, the Sussex team recently deployed Synergis Adept software. We told you in a previous post about how the document management software helped the team when it says it “had a mess on our hands,” with scattered, disorganized design files. But the investment in Adept also plays a significant role in making the manufacturer more competitive. Here’s how:
- Less rework. With engineering data well managed in Adept, it’s easier to find the most current revision of any design. “We’ve spent money making the wrong versions in the tool room because someone was only able to find the old version,” says Madan Mathevan, Director of Engineering. “They didn’t know there was a newer version.”
That’s a mistake that happens in small companies everywhere when data is kept in files on desktops and shared drives. By deploying Adept, the Sussex team eliminates unnecessary rework and brings costs down.
- Automated processes. Adept can speed up development and improve accuracy and accountability, too. Using the workflow engine within Adept, teams standardize and automate everything from engineering change notices (ECNs) to the bid process. “With ‘library cards’ in Adept, we can enter all the relevant information, and then the workflow basically moves the cards from person-to-person as they add information and approvals,” says Mathevan. In the case of ECNs, the software can take care of tracking and updating revisions, too.
- Integrating CAD outsiders. “One reason we chose Adept was because it’s CAD agnostic to AutoCAD, Pro/E, and SolidWorks,” says Tim Kardish, President. “As we acquire companies, we have no idea what they’ll be working with.” Fortunately, the Synergis software can accommodate a multi-CAD environment, making the integration of new teams and their legacy data efficient. “With Adept, we can import their drawings, their files, their models, and link it all in one system.”
- Helping new companies mature. Kardish says that he doesn’t assume that the companies we’re considering for acquisition currently work with sophisticated document control tools. But because Sussex has already deployed Adept, his team can quickly roll it out with these new companies as well, helping them operate more efficiently and add value right away.
- Informed investments. With the entire product data centralized, management at Sussex can start reliably mining the information as well. For example, the company performs much of its own manufacturing processes and outsources a few non-core secondary operations. With the information in Adept, Kardish says he can make better assessments of which new manufacturing technologies his team should invest in.
“If we wanted to acquire a micro stamper with progressive die or deep draw capabilities, it would be great if we knew that there were 80 prints over the past 12 months that could have benefited from the tool,” says Kardish. “That will help the company decide whether it should invest organically in the design and manufacturing, or even go buy a company because we’re regularly asked by our strategic accounts to expand Sussex Wire’s breadth of manufacturing capabilities. Without Adept, our process for integrating acquisitions would be loose.”
With Adept software for document control, Sussex has made a key move to become more nimble, consistent and responsive versus often larger, less process-driven manufacturers. Now, the team works smarter, more accurately, faster, and more productively. And best of all, it’s prepared itself for a promising future as strategic acquisitions are added to its portfolio of solutions.
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