Four years ago, in my first column for Modern Machine Shop, I wrote about a long time friend of mine, Jack Klim. Jack is president of D&E Industries in my hometown, Huntington, West Virginia. Their major product is the manufacture of truck and trailer brake cams.
Since 1987 they've produced some 10 million of these camshafts. I worked for Jack one summer during college. In those old days, we made drill steel for the coal mines. Well, that industry isn't what it used to be, which is why Jack got into supplying the trucking industry.
That production switch-over, from mining to transportation, was the topic of that first column. It almost put them out of business. Back then, Jack's company had just been nominated as the comeback business of the year by Inc. Magazine, Merrill Lynch and accountants Ernst and Young.
Comeback they did. Business is good for D&E. My dad sent me a clipping from my hometown paper. It was about Jack's recent trip to South Africa. The purpose of the trip was to extend D&E's already international customer base to a new continent.
So now Jack is making truck and trailer brake cams for South Africa. When I worked for Jack, Paducah, Kentucky, was home for D&E's most far flung customer. Now there's business coming in from Mexico, Canada, the UK, and Europe.
That's the point of this column. Not only has D&E moved away from the edge of business oblivion by changing its manufacturing base, they found a way to sustain growth by finding new markets. It's a key survival technique available to every shop. By going global, the vagaries of up and down local market conditions smooth out. Having a broad base of customers, is insurance that when one market is down another is up.
Global communication is the enabling technology for companies like D&E to find and sustain new markets. Thanks to internet and other communication innovations available now, Jack can sit in his West Virginia office and do business with the world.
Globalization is not a big business only club. D&E has 70 employees. Being competitive and willing are about the only dues necessary to join.