In 2012 a company contacted us about fabricating some aluminum racks. Their current supplier was causing them a lot of issues. Deliveries were always late, parts had to be reworked during assembly, and product installation was a hassle.

On the surface, the project looked like a good fit for us. The fabricated racks were complex but well-designed and manufacturable, the production volumes were good, and it required processes that were core to our business.

The potential customer stressed two requirements: the product needed to be consistent (high quality every time); and we would need to be competitive on price with their current supplier. Since we have always maintained industry-leading quality metrics and we work hard to be competitive in the market, we were not concerned.

Then they told us that the units were being manufactured in Mexico. We were up-front and told them that our pricing would most certainly be higher than their current supplier but, if they chose to work with us, we were confident that we could eliminate the costly, ongoing quality issues. We both agreed to continue the conversation.

The more we talked with the customer about their goals for these units, the more they kept talking about the need for consistency. The reason for this is that the way these fabricated racks are used by the final customers requires complete interchangeability. The racks are set up in stores in various configurations and occasionally changed out for new ones. When they are changed out, the new rack needs to fit exactly into the same spot as the one that was removed and fasten together without issue. The racks that were coming out of Mexico were not consistent at all. Rack width and height varied and mounting brackets would never line up. A change out would take days and the customer needed it done in hours.

The other major issue for our prospective customer was the lack of on-time delivery. Because of this, they were forced to place larger orders and inventory a lot of extra units just to make sure that they could deliver the units to their customer when they were needed.

The company did end up ordering this product from us at a higher (but competitive) price and when they received our initial delivery, they were thrilled. Not only did we deliver on time, but their assembly staff was amazed how easily everything fit together, saving them a lot of time and hassle.

We accomplished the high level of consistency they were looking for by building poka-yokes into many of the fabricated components and incorporating the use of several fixtures into the welding process. As we moved into full production on these units, we found other ways to improve the process and the product which allowed us to offer significant savings to our customer.

For twelve years now we have been the primary supplier of this product, fabricating thousands of high-quality, interchangeable racks and delivering them on-time. Our customer is now able to maintain their production schedule without excess inventory, assembly is efficient and routine, and final installation is easy and quick as required.