Issue Jan Feb 14
Locally owned and managed, EBW Electronics specializes in the design and manufacture of printed circuit board assemblies for a diverse customer base. Manufacturing Today recently had a chance to speak with Chairman Pat LeBlanc, President Cory Steeby and Sales Manager Todd Magsig about EBW Electronics continued organic growth, its focus on quality and how its culture contributes to its ongoing success.
Manufacturing Today: How did EBW Electronics get started?
Cory Steeby: I worked for an electronics design firm in Holland, Michigan. Pat’s dad, Leo, owned a company called Enterprise Brass Works (EBW) in Muskegon, Michigan. In 1992, Leo LeBlanc purchased our design firm, turned us into a manufacturer and EBW Electronics was created.
Pat LeBlanc: EBW Electronics has had its ups and downs, but currently is on a rapid up. The past 21 years, EBW Electronics’ primary manufacturing focus went from electronic monitoring equipment for underground storage tanks, to circuit boards for instruments in the dashboards of recreational vehicles, to florescent lighting ballasts and finally for the past 5 years circuit boards populated with LEDs. Our electronics design and lighting experience has made the progression into the LED industry natural for us.
MT: What markets do you serve?
Todd Magsig: Our largest market is automotive, but we also provide LED lighting for office furniture and we have industrial customers. Our design experience focused on LED lighting products. Our manufacturing capabilities are more generic; if it’s an electronic assembly, we have the capability to manufacture it.
PL: About 65 to 85 percent of our business is from automotive, depending on the month. The LED lighting portion of the automotive industry is in its infancy, and the percentage of cars containing LEDs products is only going to grow in the future.
MT: Describe your operations.
TM: Our operations are extensive, but one of our greatest strengths is our people. Western Michigan is a great place because we have people who care about the company, our products and our customers.
We have two areas for manufacturing. There is a high-speed automation area for placing small components on circuit board. We currently have seven of these automated lines in place. They run 24 hours a day, five to six days a week. We also have a secondary operations area where hand-assembly operations such as manual soldering and programing, and automated processes such as selective soldering and conformal coating take place. In addition to these manufacturing areas, we also have a space products are functionally tested before being shipped to customers.
PL: You can probably eat off our floors – our plant is immaculately clean. We also follow lean manufacturing principles. There is very little out of place and everything is laid out in a very efficient manner.
TM: The facility is environmentally controlled and very quiet. We’ve been in our current facility since December 2004 and in October 2011 we doubled our manufacturing space. In spring of 2014, we will be adding another 40,000 square feet of manufacturing space.
MT: How do you work to maintain a quality culture?
PL: Our commitment to quality is shown by working toward zero-defect manufacturing. Our core values are: seek perfection, making our customers successful, encouraging growth in every member of our team and humble leadership. Everyone, from the top on down, is all about the team.
MT: Have you noticed any trends among your customer base that you’re responding to?
TM: Everyone wants more, faster and for less money, but that is nothing new.
CS: We are seeing more and more business on-shoring away from Asia, and that is great. Our prices are really competitive and we offer a great location – built in the U.S.A. This means we can provide shorter lead times and can make changes quickly.
Our business is up and that is in part because the automotive industry is doing really well. The majority of our growth is organic, which shows how we deal with existing customers. They trust us.
MT: How do you manage your supply chain?
TM: That is a vital part of what we do. We have a great group of engineers who understand electronic parts very well. We also have a procurement team that understands the world well, so our sourcing is top-notch.
Our quality systems ensure the right part is on the right board every time, and we have an elaborate system that tracks each part from our loading dock and throughout our system. We are working to become an extension of our customers. We do a lot of the design and provide a turnkey operation. We can take our customer’s idea from as early as the “sketch on a napkin stage” all the way through product development to production. We offer a full service solution.
MT: What distinguishes EBW Electronics?
PL: We are an American company competing in a market full of multinational companies.
CS: We have the fastest, most-advanced and most-competitive automated equipment. On top of that, our culture is the best. Our employees’ attendance is off the charts – they are excited to come here and be here, and that shows in the quality we deliver. Plus, the depth of our technical staff is outstanding.
MT: What are your plans for growth in the near future?
PL: We’d like to increase exposure to other industries. We want to get beyond tomorrow and start planning for several years ahead. That is why we hired Todd Magsig and are adding more manufacturing space.
MT: What are you most proud of about the company?
CS: We provide good jobs and a great place to work, and by being successful with our people, we are better able to be successful with our customers.
PL: We are really passionate about our people. I love watching them grow in this company. Truly, it’s not the money, not the technology – this company is about the people. Our culture is strong, and we like to say “TBIF – Too Bad It’s Friday.” You spend a lot of awake time with your coworkers, and we enjoy being with each other. I also say “TGIM – Thank God It’s Monday.”
TM: There is definitely an appreciation of a job well done here. When something is done well, there is always a thank you involved. Some of our people are at the point where they could retire, but they want to work here and be a part of this time. That says a lot about EBW Electronics.