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Manufacturing Technology Insights

Excelling at Developing Custom/Speciality Products

Jean Horvath, Vice President - Custom & Speciality Products, The Vollrath Company

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This article is based on an interview with Jean Horvath, Vice President of Custom & Specialty Products at the Vollrath Company

Strategies and Methods Use to Design and Develop Custom or Specialty Products

At VMS, our competitive advantage in designing and developing custom products is rooted in multifaceted strategy that capitalizes on our extensive in-house capabilities, industry expertise, and notably, our design engineering expertise. Our Design engineers have invaluable knowledge of materials, capabilities, regulations, and processes related to custom OEM components and metallurgy, enabling us to provide comprehensive solutions tailored to our customers’ unique needs. In addition, we are one of only a few firms in the nation that offers in-house annealing for deep-drawn parts–a major competitive advantage that sets us apart in the industry. This synergy of design engineering expertise and our exclusive capabilities augments our ability to deliver high-quality, customized products.

Our competitive advantage at VMS lies in a multifaceted strategy that capitalizes on our extensive in-house capabilities, including deep drawing, stamping, annealing, spinning, and anodizing, among others, all backed by robust design engineering expertise, empowering us to offer a broad range of solutions tailored to our customer’s unique needs.

A pivotal strategy involves tapping into our standard product tooling capabilities. This not only minimizes investment and development time but also ensures swift responsiveness to customer requirements while upholding stringent quality standards.

Our adept in-house engineering and sales teams play an integral role in fully understanding project requirements. Collaborating closely, they streamline the new product development (NPD) process, guaranteeing timely delivery of high-quality products or components within the allocated budget. Their expertise allows us to navigate the intricacies of each project, tailoring solutions to precise customer demands.

‘Transparency forms the bedrock of successful collaborations. It’s crucial to recognize when a project or request lies beyond your area of expertise’

Our expertise in induction technology, power control, and circuit technology also sets us apart in the market. This specialized proficiency facilitates innovation and the delivery of cutting-edge solutions, positioning us as leaders in meeting evolving customer demands.

As a domestic industrial product solution company, we take pride in our capability to produce intricate, highly engineered products and solutions. Our commitment to utilizing in-house processes, complemented by dedicated sourcing teams acquiring components directly from domestic and international suppliers, ensures consistent delivery of top-quality products.  We extend comprehensive turnkey solutions, including custom tooling, packaging, and inventory management.

Our strategies revolve around maximizing our in-house capabilities, leveraging existing tooling, nurturing expertise in critical technologies, and maintaining an unwavering customer-centric focus throughout the design and development process.

Share Experiences from Successful Custom or Specialty Product Initiatives You’ve Led

At our company, we’ve been privileged to spearhead numerous successful custom and specialty product development initiatives. One such initiative that stands out is the creation of an innovative outdoor-rated induction cooktop for Traeger, the first of its kind in the industry. This project exemplified our commitment to pushing the boundaries of technological advancements while meeting specific consumer needs.

Our team took on the challenge of developing a durable and efficient induction cooktop suitable for outdoor use, tailored to Traeger’s requirements. Leveraging our induction technology expertise and extensive product development experience, we meticulously designed and engineered an induction cooktop that met stringent quality standards and environment demands.

Throughout the process, our collaborative approach between engineering, design, and sales teams ensured a comprehensive understanding of Traeger’s vision and end-user expectations.  This collaboration allowed us to streamline the new product development process, ensuring that the final product not only met but exceeded performance expectations.

The successful launch of the outdoor-rated induction cooktop for Trager showcased our company’s ability to innovate, adapt, and deliver cutting-edge solutions. It not only highlighted our technical prowess in developing specialized products but also demonstrated our commitment to meeting the evolving needs of our clients and their consumers.

Challenges to Ensuring Quality Control and Consistency in the Production of Custom and Speciality Products that Current Services are Unable to Solve

Ensuring quality control and consistency in producing custom and specialty products often presents challenges that conventional services struggle to address optimally.

One significant hurdle lies in establishing a robust, well-documented new product development process. Creating a gated process that streamlines development and maintains quality requires meticulous planning and execution.

Another challenge involves meeting stringent tolerances and maintaining high aesthetics, particularly when translating a blueprint to the final product. The complexities in achieving tight tolerances, complex geometry, and unique aesthetics demand specialized expertise and precision.

Additionally, understanding the intricacies of metal formation and designing tools to meet specific specifications is time-consuming and multifaceted. It demands flawless communication across various functions, from design to production, which can be challenging to achieve seamlessly within standard service frameworks.

The interplay of these challenges represents a unique set of complexities in the production of custom and speciality products. Overcoming these hurdles requires expertise, tailored processes, and specialized communication that may not always be readily available through existing services.

Evolving Industry Trends, Technologies, and Customer Preferences that Excite You the Most

The advancements in power control and circuit technology truly excite us as we explore innovative applications for our induction expertise. Additionally, our focus on developing new spinning technologies aims to deliver cost-effective solutions that can minimize tooling investments. We also leverage our proficiency in secondary capabilities like annealing, anodizing, automated finishing, and welding to enhance our offerings.

In the industry landscape, a notable trend is manufacturers’ efforts to integrate induction features into projects. This shift is driven by the demand for consistent heating, faster heat-up times, reduced energy costs, and a transition away from gas-based solutions driven by new regulations.

Also, customers increasingly seek vertically integrated manufacturing partners capable of offering multiple operations. This desire is driven by the goal of streamlining processes, eliminating the complexities of managing numerous supplies, and ultimately reducing the time and costs associated with component logistics. 

Finally, the continuous evolution of battery technology is intriguing. The emergence of new startups exploring innovative ways to reuse and revamp battery tech presents exciting prospects for various industries, influencing how we approach product development and customization.

Advice to Professionals in Other Companies in the Manufacturing Industry in Terms of Dos or Don'ts

As someone with extensive experience in the manufacturing industry, there are several insights I’d like to share with professionals in similar roles.

First, transparency forms the bedrock of successful collaborations. It’s crucial to recognize when a project or request lies beyond your area of expertise. In such instances, swift and honest communication with clients is essential. Redirecting them to better-suited manufacturers not only showcases integrity but also ensures that customers receive the best possible service, even if it’s not directly from your company.

Second, never stop seeking growth opportunities. Regardless of your company’s years of experience or long-standing history, a continuous quest for expanding knowledge, skills, and expertise remains critical. This approach keeps you adaptable and ready to embrace new methodologies and advancements in the industry.

Another fundamental aspect is the willingness to embrace innovation. While a company might have a legacy spanning decades or even centuries, it’s imperative to remain open to new and improved approaches. Adapting and innovating ensure sustained relevance and competitiveness in a constantly evolving industry.

Last, integrity should always be non-negotiable. Upholding principles of honesty, transparency, and ethical practices has to be the cornerstone of every operation. This commitment to integrity builds trust among clients and partners, fostering long-term relationships and solidifying the company’s reputation.

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