When Dale Tompkins became the president of St. Louis-based Code 3 Inc. in July 2008, the company was “people strong, but process and imagination weak,” he says. Changes needed to be made, he explains, but he was optimistic that Code 3 had the desire and intent to improve. He also had the backing of Code 3’s parent – Public Safety Equipment – which designs, manufactures and markets engineered products that enhance safe travel for the motoring public.
“We set our sights high when I came on 18 months ago,” he says. “The company had endowments – such as lead time and customer service – but needed improvements. Since then, we’ve analyzed and employed growth-centric processes, imagined new avenues for expansion, and become a much more competitive company.”
As a developer and manufacturer of safety devices in the police, fire, EMS, DOT and construction industries, Code 3 operates in highly competitive domestic and international markets. To improve, the company’s core initiatives focused on creating quality processes to ensure well-designed, high-quality and unique products.
“Our business and facility are organized in response to our customers’ needs, such as using demand-flow technology to be more efficient and effective,” Tompkins says. “This capability has given us the fastest lead times in the industry – we are almost two times faster than our nearest competitor across our entire customer mix – for all our products which are 100 percent customized.
“All our facilities and processes are ISO 9001 certified, and we have been deploying Lean Six Sigma throughout all our processes,” he adds. “We are focused on eliminating waste on the manufacturing floor and throughout the business, as well as creating more value for our customers.”
Since Tompkins arrived, Code 3 has tripled its investment in new technology to boost its development capabilities. Two of its latest patent-pending introductions include TriCore lighting technology, launched in April 2009, and PriZm II lighting technology, launched in September 2009.
TriCore delivers more light output per watt than any other current halogen, strobe or LED lighthead on the market, Tompkins says. This technology makes TriCore more than two times brighter than any other warning light available.
Tompkins explains the PriZm II technology is an advanced dual-reflector LED technology that provides a brighter signal for superior visibility and safety. The system captures and concentrates the light more efficiently, resulting in a warning signal much brighter than comparable reflector lightheads.
“We are taking market share across the globe with the launch of TriCore and PriZm II,” Tompkins says. “All of our development is focused on making our products brighter, safer and smarter. Brightness matters to our customers, and we are 25 percent to two times brighter than our competition across significant parts of our product lines. The brighter emergency lighting clears dangerous road-way intersections for our public safety and construction customers.
“When designing products, we are completely focused on customers’ safety, including law enforcement officers, firemen and EMT personnel, as well as roadway construction workers. For example, we’ve been designing products so that if one light element goes out, it doesn’t compromise the entire system and the emergency light is still operational.”
“We are also building smarter because we create products and technology around the customers’ needs,” he adds. “For example, we design to ensure ease and timeliness of installation and user friendliness.”
Strengthening Its Core
Innovative products and an efficient manufacturing and supply chain operation will help Code 3 realize its goals of “product growth, core competency growth and geographic growth,” Tompkins explains. He stresses this strategy also will help the company gain market share in additional geographic locations and industry segments.
“Product innovation is increasingly setting us apart,” he says. “Our innovations show that we are responsive to customers’ needs and that we have our own imagination and creativity. We study discontinuities in the market and emerging mega-trends, and build products based on what we learn. Usually about 4 to 5 percent of our annual sales are put back into product development.”
Tompkins also notes another competitive strength of Code 3 is customer service, from easy ordering to quick problem resolution. “In our market segments, I want Code 3 to be the challenger brand,” he says. “We create innovative products, so we can make this happen. And going forward, we will continue to strengthen our core and take successive adjacency moves leveraging our technology, product development, lead-time and customer service capabilities.
“These adjacency moves are planned and executed using a rigorous strategic planning process that requires imagination and discipline to grow, and do it profitably,” he adds. “Code 3’s strategic intent is not just to be better – in terms of product, process and operations – but also to be different.”