Major manufacturers -- like Honda or Boeing – get all the glory. Especially when they roll out their latest sports car or jetliner at trade shows and expositions. But behind the big brands are legions of unsung partners carving out a living – often a pretty lucrative one – as supply chain vendors. They produce many of the parts and components for these manufacturing giants and their creations.
A recent event in Akron sought to help vendors link up with manufacturers, and become part of a “supply chain”. Ideastream’s Brian Bull talked to one company that’s tied that knot.
The Manufacturing Mart is rife with tables and displays, littered with gadgets and gizmos…a tinkerer’s delight.
I was readily drawn to the booth for David Wolfe Design, where the company’s design manager, Doug Pryor, was brandishing something that at first glance, looked like an empty ice cream bucket.
“This is a nylon part for the U.S. Navy, they needed 40 pieces…and the only way to produce the part, is to build an injection mold.”
David Wolfe Design (DWD) is a plastic design production company based in Akron. Started in 1985, it’s made parts for a number of companies…
"Nordson of Amherst (Ohio) who do powdered coating…we have we have Aerospace Suppliers out of Arizona…the U.S. Navy for this part we were just looking at….”
Pryor says one of their best working relationships is with Nordson. It’s a global company that makes equipment used to dispense liquids and powders for industrial and medical uses. Nordson has more than 30 offices across the world.
But Pryor says this vendor-company arrangement didn’t just happen.
“Initially we started with just doing prototype work," says Pryor. "One or two parts manufactured to see if they would function...working with their (research and development) department so we could live up to their expectations in being a supplier. It took a level of trust on their part to see that we could provide them a product within their standards. So that took about 5 or 6 years to develop that relationship.”
That meant time, meetings, product demonstrations, and paperwork…but DWD president David Wolfe says it’s been worth it.
“When you get connected with a company that you can do good business with, there’s a large flow of work that can come your way," explains Wolfe. "So your upfront work pays off in the long haul. Versus working for a small customer, sometimes you may not get so much work every day, or over the course of the year.”
There are other benefits of getting in with the big guys, Wolfe says for instance, they can often weather economic turmoil better than smaller companies.
But there can be perils too… a shake up in your client’s management, or a delay in what’s already a long production cycle - like with cars or planes – can keep you waiting a long time to be paid.