The need for speed: Getting there fast with value engineering

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Fast turnaround is a deceptively complex issue that often changes and evolves for different reasons.

March 27, 2014
Clark Neft

Fast turnaround is a deceptively complex issue that often changes and evolves for different reasons: A startup needs to reach market as quickly as possible to satisfy investors and beat the competition; another company deals with an emergency situation that threatens to bump a project off track; a surge in demand exceeds another’s capacity.

Many times in the world of manufacturing, particularly for contract manufacturers (CM), speed is just shorthand for speed at any cost. However, a CM can help build capacity and create faster turnarounds with the right partnership.

Fast turnaround maintains a competitive edge in a world of rapid-prototyping and ever-changing market places. Manufacturers must make fast turnaround business as usual and here’s how a CM partnership can reach these goals.

Value of entrepreneurial spirit

Fast turnaround begins with an entrepreneurial spirit and a willingness to invest in a mission that goes beyond customer- service-is-top-priority rhetoric.

Strong, responsive project management is critical. Without a team of focused professionals who have a handle on customer needs, organizational capacity, and a network of suppliers, it would be nearly impossible to turn around complex projects quickly without sacrificing quality.

CMs need to be as entrepreneurial as their customers regarding time-to-delivery, quality, and cost targets, and constantly look for new ways to reach those goals. They ultimately need to be passionate about their customers’ success. This starts with understanding the challenges from supply chain to end user.

For example, Barth Industry’s team of project managers works with companies from startups to well-established, large-scale business. The team works with these customers to move beyond simply taking orders and manufacturing to spec. The team is involved in the planning process – encouraging them to get involved in planning the specific project and the entire trajectory of a brand.

A good example of this is a startup that needed to design and build a very large-size product. Barth created a factory within its manufacturing facility. This factory-within-a-factory, with all the dedicated processes, fixtures and tooling, gave the customer more capacity than it was capable of selling at that time. The challenge for our customer was not how much capacity Barth may have but how much product it could sell. That’s an entirely different paradigm that let the company realize its potential, unhindered by supply.

Value and cost of capacity

In the above example, Barth provided its customer with capacity. Often-overlooked in bringing a product to market or staying competitive, capacity allows a company to meet surges in demand and push sales to their limits. More capacity help customers reach sales goals faster, so it can be a hedge against both good and bad problems.

However, capacity is expensive. Creating capacity is either a bet on growing sales or insurance against unexpected problems. Either way, it’s money that could be put into product development, marketing, sales, or customer support.

A relationship with a contract manufacturer can create capacity at the lowest possible cost. A contract manufacturer can easily scale up and down because floor space, labor, and technology are spread across many different customers and industries. The costs of unused capacity cease to exist.

Where capacity exists is also an issue. One factor in on-shoring is the capacity that many established companies have within a network of partner manufacturers. This network can further increase the capacity of a contract manufacturer. For example, Barth is located in Northeast Ohio, which boasts a well-established network of manufacturers. Almost every aspect of manufacturing is covered in this network and close proximity means the entire region can provide high quality, fast turnaround, and competitive pricing.

Value of establishment

Discussing speed-of-light manufacturing, an entrepreneurial spirit, and a network of world-class, technologically-advanced manufacturers and suppliers, Northeast Ohio may sound counterintuitive. Nevertheless, that description fits the Rust Belt perfectly. The challenges the region has faced are the reason it is re-emerging as a manufacturing powerhouse.

For example, Barth Industries celebrates its 100th anniversary in 2014. While none of our team members have been with the company for that long, some can boast 30 to 40 years of working with customers to manufacture a wide range of products, parts, and devices.

A century in existence means the company has had to reinvent itself many times to survive. Many companies in Barth’s network of suppliers and partners have done the same. Tough times have created a core group of manufacturers that have been forced to innovate, invest, and reinvent to survive. This has created a huge asset for companies looking for manufacturing partnerships to compete and thrive.

Experience, combined with a spirit of entrepreneurship, means companies from startups to established Fortune 100s can leverage the benefits of speed outlined here, with confidence that their partners can get the job done.


Speed is sometimes seen as a solution to a problem. However, in manufacturing, it really is the key to success. Speed allows a company the flexibility to optimize a product and the manufacturing process. This can reduce costs and give a better product to customers. Whether it’s delivering on time or just in time, building a partnership for high-speed innovation, manufacturing is one of the best long-term investments a company can make.

Barth Industries


About the author:
Clark Neft is president of Barth Industries and can be reached at 216.267.1950.