Company Profile: Extrema Cables
We highlight businesses large and small in our profiles. Most have been in business for many years, but some, like Extrema Cables in Charlottesville Virginia, are in their early years. I spoke recently with Frank Churillo, Founder and President of Extrema Cables about how things are going for this young but growing business.
March of 2019 will mark Frank’s 4th anniversary in the business. He began our discussion telling how his background and experience led him to venture out on his own. “For the first half of my 20-year career I worked in design and development, and for the second half I worked for an engineering design company that did leading edge printed circuit boards,” hedetailed. The boards were all outsourced and Frank managed the efforts of the contract manufacturers. “Along the way, I got tired of seeing how inefficiently things were being done, and I thought I would start my own company to try to correct some of the things I thought were wrong.”
Since he didn’t have a product, Frank began to scour government and military bids for something that was within his skill set. “I saw there was an opportunity to make electrical cable assemblies, and I thought that would be a decent way to get a little business started,” he explained. Eager to pull the boat close to the dock before the jump, Frank put out some bids while still at his old job. “I won a few, and the rest is history.”
As expected, it wasn’t easy in the beginning. “I had managed manufacturing from a higher level in my previous jobs, but there is a big difference between managing it and actually doing it. There are a lot of steps to go through, especially for the military as the specs are just overwhelming, so I spent the first couple of years getting that under my belt.” So far this year, things are working out well and the company just won a contract to sub for a prime contractor. That order alone should more than double Extrema’s output from last year.
Frank would like to continue to forge ahead with cable manufacturing as he has learned so much about it. He is in the process of quoting other applications, and he would like to bring some commercial harness builds on board. “I’d also like to get a little higher on the value chain and do some box builds as well as design work,” he mentioned.
I asked Frank about any surprising challenges he has encountered since getting his business off the ground. “I would say the thing that has been the hardest for us, as far as cable assembly, is doing cables that have to pass a hot and cold salt water test,” he explained. They have had a couple of military cable jobs that required them to pass the test zero leakage requirements. Frank and his team have found it arduous to economically produce cables that pass that test.
Although not surprised by it, Frank spoke about some of the challenges of running a company efficiently. “It doesn’t matter that you can make a cable that meets the specification; you need to be able to do it for a really good price, especially in the competitive area I’m in,” he emphasized.
On-time delivery and good communications with the customer are two strengths Frank sees emerging within his company. He prides himself in turning out quality product, but realizes that quality alone is not going to set him apart. “Our customers have seen that when we say we are going to do something in a particular time, we are getting it done.” There have been occasions where a component is late arriving, and Frank and his team have been diligent in keeping customers informed. “We are good at keeping them in the loop, so I would say we are very customer oriented,” he reiterated.
Extrema Cables major strength, as Frank sees it, is not necessarily something the customer sees. With their technical background, they have been able to design processes and build solutions to do things for less money. “Being engineers, we’ve figured out some tricks and work arounds so we don’t have to buy expensive equipment. I can’t buy a $10,000 circuit tester right now, but we can make something that gets the job done.” He noted that some of the quality inspectors sent in accordance with the government contracts have been very impressed with their quality assessment tools.
Frank is optimistic about the future and knows he is poised to take the company to the next level. “I think this is going to be the year things really take off for us as we go from a startup to a well-established company,” he pledged. So be on the lookout for Frank and his small but mighty team at Extrema