This is the final column in my series of interviews with successful machine shop owners. This month’s column features Roger Sustar, president of Fredon Corporation in Mentor, Ohio. Mr. Sustar tells how he started and grew Fredon into a major supplier of machined parts.
“We are a contract manufacturer, specializing in precision machining and electromechanical assemblies. Being Six Sigma trained and ISO 9002/AS 9000 certified, we are specialists in handling outsourcing requirements for world-class companies. The markets we serve include aerospace, aircraft, locomotive, medical, off-highway transportation, robotics, electronics and machinery.”
Fredon Corporation started in 1969 as a two-man team operating out of a 1,800-square-foot facility in Euclid, Ohio. From there, the company experienced steady growth and today operates from its 33,000-square-foot, climate-controlled headquarters in Mentor, Ohio. The factors that led to this company’s growth include “quality, investment in people and technology and strong customer service,” Mr. Sustar says. “I believe if you surround yourself with good people, good things will happen.” The company also has continually increased capacity to provide the fast deliveries its customers require.
“We have been in business for 32 years, have achieved ISO 9002 and AS 9000 certification and are known for providing top quality precision parts,” Mr. Sustar says, and this is why his customers buy from Fredon and not the competition. “Our attention to detail and quality has resulted in long-term relationships with satisfied customers. We pride ourselves on meeting the needs of our customers and frequently do the type of jobs that many others cannot do. For us, the more complex the job the better, as this narrows the field down to a few really top-notch companies.”
The Internet has made competition global, Mr. Sustar says. “It’s not just the United States anymore. We are able to transfer customer files, download solid models of parts and generate our CNC programs almost automatically. The benefits of this process include less mistakes and elimination of the time required to re-draw parts. Even simple part drawings that are transferred over the Internet are easier to read than faxed copies.”
Further growth can be attributed to the technologies that have been implemented into the operation at Fredon. “We have listened to our employees and customers and updated our plant and offices, computerizing many of the processes we used to do manually. We continue to invest in new, updated equipment. Our new machines are more multi-functional—combining operations that would normally be completed with two machines and two machinists. We have to stay ahead and use the latest technology if we are to be competitive.”
Mr. Sustar says other technological advances with the potential to help businesses include Web site improvement, use of software for estimating jobs and increasing computer use in general. “Computers continue to be a major tool in our industry to collect and refine data, process machined parts and assist our customer service group in tracking order information from beginning to end. Our customers like to be constantly updated, and it’s much easier to follow orders on the computer. Faster machine tools with greater capacity to mill and turn will help companies do more operations in one setup. I envision more and more of these machine tools coming onto the market, and we will add as many to our plant as we can,” Mr. Sustar says.
In short, Mr. Sustar says persistency has led to 32 years in his business. “This means never giving up! Also, constantly striving to improve and be the best shop around has always been our main motivation.
“Fredon is preparing for a promising future while working to maintain the ideals established within the company in years past. We plan to continue to service our customers’ needs for precision machining. Our goal is to double sales volume by the year 2010. We plan to increase our workforce and maintain our support of continuing education and training for all. These goals create our Vision 2010/10 plan that will help guide our customers and us far into the 21st Century.”
Company visionaries such as Mr. Sustar understand that satisfying customers is not the most important thing; it’s the only thing! Organizing resources to focus on what customers really need is the key to success, not only for Fredon, but for any manufacturing enterprise.