Last week DeWys Mfg., a metal fabricator based in west Michigan, launched a new Web site, and the content of that Web site is worth noting. The contract fabricator is touting its “circle of companies” concept, which is another way to describe the fact that DeWys is a one-stop shop for metal manufacturing: precision sheet metal, metal stamping, powder coating, product assembly, machining, and international sourcing.
Yes, you read that last one right: international sourcing.
As DeWys’ Web site states: “Following the principles of lean manufacturing, we strive to accomplish tasks using the most efficient manufacturing systems and following the most direct route. It is for this reason DeWys International was established. DeWys International simplifies the process of sourcing component parts and finished products from offshore manufacturers.”
The site continues: “It is important for our customers to know that although the components are being externally produced, we still stay true to our commitment to quality. Just as we would do in our facility, we monitor all phases of production. We inspect the products through the use of blueprints, samples, CAD models, and in-person inspection, just as we would if our team members created them in-house.”
DeWys is touting itself not as just another contract job shop, but a company that can take a manufacturer’s fabrication problem and find the best solution. The company Web site aptly calls it “single-source fabrication management.”
The FABRICATOR has covered other companies selling similar services during this economic recovery, and some of them just happen to be in Michigan. Maybe that’s proof that the best business ideas come out of the most challenging business environments.
Last year, for instance, we chatted with Rich Achtenberg. The manufacturing executive spent almost two decades in various industrial sectors, including many years in Japan as a manager for an automotive supplier. Today his Rolodex is chock-full of business contacts throughout the Pacific Rim. So in early 2008, with the help of those contacts, he went out on his own to launch Tora Group, which brought Asian parts to the U.S. manufacturing market. Soon after, he acquired Dorr Industries, a 52-year-old Grand Rapids, Mich., company specializing in stamping, tube bending, and screw machining. And like DeWys, Tora offers global supply chain management, particularly when it comes to tooling.
Talking with me late last year, Achtenberg said something that succinctly describes a new kind of value proposition: “We’re a dyed-in-the-wool Michigan company. But we also want to be global-thinking. We want to add value where it makes sense to add value.”
If something makes sense to manufacture stateside, these contract manufacturers make it happen. If offshoring is the best way to go, these contract manufacturers make that happen too.
These fabricators are capitalizing on a trend. Too many companies sourced abroad without really knowing what they were getting into. They just knew they were getting a better price. Besides, everybody else was doing it, so it must be the smart thing to do, right? In many cases, not so much. Language and cultural barriers were difficult to break through, and this led to communication and part quality problems.
But what if fabricators controlled the process to ensure no kinks arose at any link in the metal fabrication supply chain? This is where companies like Tora Group and DeWys may be able to add value. These shops aren’t just selling their fabrication capabilities, nor are they saying they can be everything to everybody. What they seem to be selling is their knowledge of and contacts in metal fabrication. They can identify good quality, and they know who can do it best. It could be their shop or an operation overseas.
Today it’s not just about the toys you have (that is, the fabrication equipment on the floor). It’s about what you know. Metal fabricators are knowledge workers, and the better they sell that knowledge, perhaps the more competitive they can become.