Dennis Suedkamp, CEO, Fastener Technology Corp. (FTC) and President, Avantus Fasteners
Since 1979, Fastener Technology Corp. (FTC)has been a key innovator in the high-strength aerospace fastener sector for themilitary, industrial and commercial markets. FTChas come a long way from its family-owned business roots to today’s professional, efficient manufacturer that is capable of designing and implementing complete fastening solutions.
By working jointly with Distribution partners and OEMs such as Lockheed Martin and Boeing Defense Systems,FTC has established itself as acapable problem solver and a reliable extension of its customers. In addition, FTC’s customer service team prides itself in pro-actively communicating with customers, thus providing a human touch to the uncertain times in which the aerospace market currently finds itself.
Following a Continual Process Improvement Strategy
FTC’s “On Time Delivery” has increased dramatically across the broad spectrum of their products. Their dedication to on-time starts, Lean manufacturing, six sigma problem-solving, effective processing/coating, and continuous improvement is coupled with a culture that puts employees first and enables them to contribute directly to their own success.
The company’s ability to simplify the use of fasteners for its clients is another major factor contributing to its success. Dennis Suedkamp, President and CEO of FTC, adds, “Our strong engineering team has developed many patents through FTC’s history, including three in just the last two years. FTC is adept at working through the client’s pain-points via design innovation, manufacturing improvement, and CAPEX investment, all of which add to our customer loyalty.” All of FTC’s internal processes are driven and written around strict adherence to ISO9001: 2015 and AS9100: Rev. D certifications, which reflect FTC’s continual process improvement.
Ensuring Efficient and On Time Delivery
FTC has always been on the forefront of listening to its clients and delivering a solution that meets their needs. Avantus Aerospace acquired FTC because of their strong defense product base and reputation for quality. However, even with a quality product and superior customer service, efficiency is not always there. Over the last four years, an investment of over $3.5M has been directed toward capacity expansion and efficiency improvement, including automated EDM, efficient machining (CNC lathes with multiple spindles), laser marking, and automated grinding. These investments have had the effect of reducing overdue backlog to under $100K while enabling the factory to consistently achieve greater than 95% on-time delivery (OTD) across its expanding customer base. Simultaneously, fastener lead times have reduced to an average of 20 weeks, primarily depending on material availability. These fairly short lead times are somewhat unique in today’s aerospace fastener market.“FTC’s commitment to providing the best equipment and tools to our motivated team of employees has helped pave the road to our results,” Suedkamp said.
FTC is communicating and working with its customers to guide the expansion of its product base. To achieve the proper diversification and ensure its on-going commitment to quality and delivery, FTC’s Operational Excellence Executive, Mr. Alex Krutz, has created a road map using swim lanes to help synchronize the company’s various process improvement initiatives. This enables the company to measure itself against the road map and its overall strategic goals. As Suedkamp points out, “Efficiency was not part of FTC’s original vocabulary. We did not have Kanban systems, Kaizen events, Gemba walks, or daily strategy sessions with metrics boards. These systems are now a permanent part of our culture.”
Our strong engineering team has developed many patents through FTC’s history, including three in just the last two years. FTC is adept at working through the client’s pain-points via design innovation, manufacturing improvement, and CAPEX investment, all of which add to our customer loyalty
He further points out that consistency and organizational discipline are needed for any company to continue to reach its goals over time, while complacency and inconsistency can quickly impact quality and delivery performance. As part of this effort to sustain excellence over time, Ms. Poppy Carellos, Avantus Fasteners CIO/SCIOPS, ensures that the company has the systems capabilities and custom reports tailored for optimized efficiency.
An Employee-First Culture
A successful business culture starts with treating people with respect and investing in their personal development and success. Suedkamp’s maxim is to “show respect, be caring, deliver reasonable consequences, praise in public, punish in private, but mainly, to treat people like you care.” He adds that your employees – and customers and suppliers, for that matter –should receive the respect they deserve. FTC’s positive culture is self-evident to anyone who visits the facility; guests routinely note that senior management knows all of the employees by name and that the employees respond positively and enthusiastically to being addressed. This same people-first culture is lived and breathed throughout Avantus Aerospace, the parent company of FTC; the support from Avantus encourages FTC to maintain its focus on its people and their importance.
Coming from the “The Buckeye State,” Suedkamp is the last of six children, all of whom are extremely competitive. He mentions, “We played ice hockey, football, baseball, volleyball, card games, and board games. I learned strategy at a young age and how to work that into winningwithout alienating my family or friends.The same principle applies to business: understanding the strategic plan and how to communicate it clearly to employees and customers results in alignment and transparency at their finest.”
Suedkamp also coached girl’s fast-pitch softball for 15 years through, taking them to two national championships. He says, “My goals centered on communication, individual player development, and achieving success while having fun. We were competitive, but there were no trophies just for participation—the players had to earn my respect, as I did theirs.” He adds that this experience made him want to ensure that all women are successful in business and can take their lives to the next level, competing equally with men.
The success of FTC has been a big help to Avantus Aerospace as it adds additional fastener companies to its portfolio. Most recently, Avantus acquired Fastener Innovation Technology (FIT) in Rancho Dominguez, CA, and California Screw Products in Paramount, CA. This has enabled the sharing of operational best practices across all three companies while providing the advantages of a broader market presence. The complementary capabilities of the various Avantus fastener companies provide a unique value proposition to the customer community, one that is based on both specialty fasteners and standards and that is underpinned by a genuine customer focus and commitment to excellence. Suedkamp adds, “Thesefastener companies are further complemented by the other Avantus C-Class component companies – Lamsco in Santa Clarita, CA; Bolsan in western PA, and Attewell in the UK – which manufacture a broad array of related detail parts and shims.”
With Suedkamp at the helm, FTC is currently working with its customers’ engineering teams to develop the next best fastener and improve on its existing products. “We are known for our F-35 content and platforms such as F-15, F-16, F-22, C-130, Apache helicopters, and other defense systems. We have our sights on the next generation of fighter jets, military transports, and space systems, applying what we have learned to continue to define and expand our niche,” he concludes.