Profile Update: Semahtronix
WHN profiled Semahtronix late in 2017. At that time, they were just a few months under new ownership with some exciting plans ahead. After a recent conversation with Travis Atkinson, Business Development – Engineer and Alex Stubenfoll, Director of Marketing and Sales, it turns out 2018 really was an exciting year, but with some interesting twists. The company managed to onboard 38 new customers and increase their revenues six-fold. In addition to the 65,000 sq. ft. facility in Flippin Arkansas and 25,000 sq. ft. facility in Newport, AK, Semahtronix is about to open another 25,000 sq. ft. in the same industrial park in Newport.
They brought many of those customers on through the traditional path of face-to-face sales efforts. They also had active campaigns on social media, and promoted some videos to address niche industries. “But oddly enough,” Travis explained, “customer referrals are what propelled us more than anything else because we proved we can be extremely nimble and quick responding to customer needs.”
That’s where they are now, but it wasn’t necessarily a smooth road. “We worked diligently the first few months pursuing new business,” he said. When the POs came in, however, something became apparent. “In my mind at the time, the one thing we could do best was build harnesses; but after about one week attempting construction, I realized it was probably one of our greatest weaknesses.” Travis recalled this with a bit of laughter, but at the time it was quite serious. “We literally shut down production and devised a work method to deploy the customer’s assembly drawings to a manufacturing drawing, then on to a form board. We did this in a unique way that allows us to divide and conquer within our facilities to produce high-quality complex products.”
That bold step really changed the face of their business internally. The new work processes are extremely efficient and allow operators to easily understand work instructions. “That method has allowed us to be faster and respond even quicker with multiple complex assemblies,” Travis said.
Travis and the rest of the leadership team have also been concentrating on fostering a workplace that values employees, and an environment where they enjoy coming to work. They recently went to a four-day, ten-hour shift work schedule, and the staff really likes it. “We have about 30 employees who are at or near their golden years, and we allow them the opportunity to choose a schedule between 10 to 30 hours.” These folks work very well with the younger staff, as Travis revealed, “Millennials get a bad rap in most workforces, but for whatever reason, they excel in our environment.”
It’s not like there’s no competition with other employers in the region. “In our area of Arkansas, we’ve got Ranger Boats, Baxter Laboratories and Eaton Corporation. You’d think with the growth we’ve had, we’d be grasping for quality workers, but we’re very fortunate that the workforce is coming to us, by word-of-mouth; and they turn out to be very productive.”
There’s been some heavy capital improvements over the past year too. “A large part of what we do is over-braided, so we put in five new braiding machines.” They’ve also added Schleuniger and Artos wire processing machines, and a Telsonic ultrasonic welder. “We’re investing in state-of-the-art equipment and developing adaptive processes that allow us to continue to be nimble and meet our customer’s needs,” Travis said.
Most of their business is in what he referred to as low to mid volume assemblies. “I was looking the other day, and we had 550 different part numbers and about 22,000 pieces of material in WIP, so that’s an extremely diverse capability.”
There’s a lot of American pride in what Semahtronix does. They are proud to be vertically integrated and to source mostly US made products. “There’s only one component we source from offshore and we pride ourselves in being competitive, even with offshore manufacturing, for what we do,” he revealed.
In his concluding remarks, Travis seemed delighted in the way Semahtronix works as a team. “I think one of the biggest things is our owner, Rusty Hayes, and the rest of the management team are actively engaged in the business – from strategic decisions to tasks down on the work floor. Probably 50% of my time is spent on the shop floor, and in today’s times, that’s somewhat unique.”