Feedback to manufacturer pays off

for Brookfield-based Wire Specialists

Usually when someone says he’s got the use of a "loaner," a Porsche Boxster doesn’t exactly pop into your mind. More likely, a stripped-down, bare-bones, no-frills car appears.
But in the case of Wire Specialists, the loaner is a new Porsche, and best of all, it’s free – for at least three months.
The company, which is a wire electrical discharge machining (EDM) job shop, recently struck a deal with Mitsubishi to test drive a new wire EDM machine manufactured by the Japanese giant, and to provide feedback to Mitsubishi as to its performance and features. Only one other Wisconsin company was offered the same deal. In return, Wire Specialists gets to use the machine for three months, paying only $400 in rigging charges to get the machine into its facility.
"They wanted someone who was going to take care of the machine, that was going to run it, that was going to work it, and tell them the ins and outs of the machine – what we like and dislike," said Robert Magnus, co-owner of Wire Specialists. The feedback includes a monthly phone call and a potential visit from Mitsubishi headquarters after three months.
"It’s a review of how we like the machine – what are the quirks, what are the things that aren’t user friendly, what are the things that are too frustrating or we’re unable to control," Magnus says. "They are looking for our opinion, and we haven’t been shy in the past to critique their machines.
"This was their way of saying, ‘You’ve given us valuable input in the past,’" Magnus said.
The company has 11 EDM machines, 10 of which are Mitsubishi, making it an expert on the machines in real-world situations.
According to Mark Peterson of Schweda Machinery Sales – Mitsubishi’s Wisconsin sales representative – feedback from Wire Specialists drove changes that are incorporated on the machine that it’s testing.
"That was some of what drove that (deal)," Peterson said of the previous feedback. "A lot of input, a lot of the changes that were put into this machine were market-fed. … A lot of the suggestions that those guys made are on that machine."
The deal appears to be a win-win for both sides as Wire Specialists gets the advantage of using the $217,000 machine for three months, freeing up cashflow to be used elsewhere. If the company decides to keep the machine, Mitsubishi will throw in another three months at no cost. The company would then begin payments on a capital lease.
Because of the production-payment cycle, having the use of a machine for free for three to six months means the company can generate revenues before it starts paying for it (if it agrees to buy it).
There are other, intangible benefits to the loaner agreement.
"It does help them (Mitsubishi) because we are providing information on how their machine is producing," Magnus says."But it also allows us to say, ‘If we had another machine on the floor, how is that going to help our work flow, our turnaround, our productivity level? What is that machine going to do? Will our productivity go down because we’re understaffed, or does it allow us to turn around more work?’"
Those are important questions for the growing company, which recently moved into a new facility at 12570 W. Lisbon Ave., Brookfield, from Menomonee Falls. The co-owners, including Charlie Mauer and John Mueller, purchased the Brookfield building last November, boosting the square footage from 3,600 to 13,000.
Leasing was economical to a point, Magnus says, but the company had clearly outgrown its Menomonee Falls facility, and it became apparent that owning a larger facility was the way to go. Besides, the deal with Mitsubishi would have never come about had they stayed in the old facility.
"In our last building, we had no floor space to do anything," Magnus said. "We were so restricted – in power, in safety issues, in work issues – we just had no room to do anything. So we couldn’t even think of doing something like this even if we wanted to."
Capital leasing has always been a part of the company’s strategy to stay competitive. "If we’re competing against someone who has older equipment, and our machines can go faster, at higher precision and have a better surface, then we can adjust our quotes to be competitive. … That’s where it comes down to leasing and new technology. That can be huge, especially since we’re a job shop and there are other job shops in the area."
The competition has heated up. Since the company’s inception in 1990, competing firms have increased from three to 10, according to Magnus. So getting an edge, any edge, is crucial.
"It’s survival of the fittest," Magnus says. "Either you reinvest your money in your employees and equipment to stay competitive or you’ll get lost because there are other people out there with newer technology."

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