In our personal and professional lives, we encounter a wide variety of partnerships. There are silent partners, marriage partners, doubles partners and trading partners.
Few of us can pass through this world without forming some kind of partnership, at least on a superficial level. Other partnerships are very deep to a point of almost co-mingling the individuals involved.
Recently I attended a press conference ostensibly to tour a new plant just opened by robot manufacturer, Motoman in Troy, Ohio. Of course no one can long resist watching robots moving around. They are mesmerizing with their speed, grace, strength and accuracy. Any shop that uses robots understands the fascination with watching them work...and work...and work.
However, I came away from the visit to Motoman with a story that's not about robots. Instead I learned about how two relatively diverse companies had formed a partnership. A fruition of the partnership is visible in form of the 187,000 square foot facility I went to tour.
Motoman makes robots. Stillwater Technologies is a contract machine shop and manufacturer of tooling, resistance welding equipment and part positioners. Many robot applications are in welding. Before a robot can weld, it needs a torch or gun and something to hold the workpiece. In today's automation hungry market, a welding equipment maker is going to sell a lot of stuff that will end up on robots.
It was too obvious to pass up. Phil Monnin, president of Motoman and Bill Lukens, president of Stillwater agreed to go together and build a single facility to house the two companies. Yes, it was that simple. No long contractual documents, lawyer's fees, or other formal entanglements were needed. All it took was for two company heads, with complementary needs, to agree to work together under one roof. From start to finish, it took just a year to complete the plant.
So, there's a contract manufacturer on one side of the building and a major customer on the other. Stillwater machines castings for Motoman. Motoman buys parts and welding application equipment. JIT delivery requires moving needed parts through a 12-foot doorway that separates the operations. Maybe the handshake can make a comeback.