Survival of the fittest
The company’s product range has evolved significantly throughout its rich history. During the 1930s, it became the largest manufacturer of parachutes in the country, outfitting the expeditions and world record attempts of Amelia Earhart, Wiley Post and Admiral Richard Byrd, as well as assisting the US government in producing parachutes for World War II, the Korean War and the Vietnam War. Today, the product line has evolved into a range of cutting-edge safety and survival equipment and textile products, including life rafts, anti-exposure suits, face shields and military life preservers. The family-run business predominantly works with domestic and international governments, currently holding active contracts with all branches of the US military. In addition to this, the company holds an extensive corporate client base within the commercial airline, aviation and oil and gas sectors as well as selling direct to consumers.
The company attributes its success within these sectors to its strong skillset in R&D as well as the innovative design and exceptional quality of its products. The in-house design team possess extensive experience in designing highly technical equipment and the high level of quality control required within the safety and survival products sector is carried across the entirety of Switlik’s product range. Furthermore, Switlik’s fluid management structure means it is able to make decisions and respond to problems quickly. These are crucial qualities to possess as a product manufacturer in an industry where products must be of a superior quality and work 100 percent of the time.
One competitive advantage of maintaining private ownership of the company means that it is able to direct its focus on being highly responsive to customer needs, delivering bespoke products and performing custom requests and modifications where requested. This serves to differentiate the company within the manufacturing industry whereby many businesses are being bought and sold by larger companies. This often led to a dilution of customer service capabilities and the capacity to build strong relationships with clients.
Switlik is now looking to expand its client base within the municipal police, fire, and search and rescue markets, maintaining a focus on a target market of customers who will use its products for protection and in a rescue situation. The company is also making some exciting additions to its product range including the introduction of a new and improved anti-exposure dry suit product line. They’re working on bringing a fresh set of innovative designs, complete with different fabrics and customizable accessories. Switlik is also looking to tap into the drone emergency response space with its TechFloat lift and rescue device, which can be deployed to a distressed person quickly via a drone, and utilizes underarm flotation technology to stabilize the victim. The FAA has decided to allocate funds to exploring the use of drones in disaster and emergency response. Therefore, this is an exciting and innovative area to be expanding into for the company, demonstrating its ability to always remain ahead of the curve. The diversification of Switlik’s product line, as well as the company’s willingness and ability to change with the times forms an important component of the company strategy to maintain its position as an industry-leading American manufacturer.
In order to consolidate the expansion of its operations, the company has recently announced the addition of a new 20,000 square-foot building to its manufacturing facility on East State street in Trenton. This expansion provides the company with the space to expand its current product offering and take on new innovative ideas, whilst also laying the foundation for the next generation of Switlik employees. Switlik has been employing the residents of Trenton and Hamilton in its two Trenton-based facilities for more than 100 years and all of its products are manufactured there. The announcement of this property expansion therefore not only demonstrates the growth of the company but also its commitment to serving the community and protecting jobs within the local neighborhood. Switlik’s commitment to the people side of the business is further demonstrated by its commitment to creating a positive working environment to retain its highly skilled staff members, extending the family business mentality to all 120 to 150 members of the company. The company also carries out a lot of work with local schools and the education system as well as having its own charitable foundation and focusing on investment in the local area.
Environmental sustainability is another core area of the company strategy, demonstrating an appreciation of the social responsibility corporations must shoulder within the manufacturing industry. The installation of solar panels is one of the company’s key environmental policies, which it looks to implement with the construction of its new facility. This transition to renewable energy will help to power the current facility as well as the new building and demonstrates the company’s commitment to sustainability and environmentally conscious decision making. As a clothing and equipment manufacturer, material waste is one of the company’s key concerns, not only due to the harmful impact of waste upon the environment but equally because this negatively impacts the company’s efficiency and product output. In order to combat this issue, Switlik has been investing in highly precise machinery which is designed to utilize the materials in the most efficient way possible to reduce wastage during the manufacturing process.
The future growth of the company will be an important consideration during the current generational transition between Sarah Switlik and her father, Stanley. Coming from a background in marketing and global business management, Sarah accepted a marketing role within the family business around nine years ago. After working her way up in the marketing and sales departments, she stepped into the role of COO following her return from maternity leave two years ago. Looking to the future of the company, Sarah plans to increase exposure of Switlik’s B2B offerings as well as hoping to expand within the international space, particularly in the international governmental sector. The property expansion will present a huge opportunity to the company here, enabling it to carry out its operations more efficiently and expand its client base into new target markets.
Combining the exceptional quality and range of products offered by the company, in addition to delivering responsive and personalized services to customers, the 102-year-old family business looks set to maintain its position as a leading designer and manufacturer of technical textile product solutions that always meet the performance needs of its customers.