Headquartered in Madison, AL, SEA Wire and Cable, Inc. provides its clients with a full stock of mil-spec wire, cable and related wire harnessing products. With a specialty in demanding electronic applications, SEA Wire and Cable takes pride in offering quality products, outstanding customer service and informed technical support in addition to its fully stocked warehouse.
“On a day to day basis, we are a leading distributor for those products,” says President and COO, Marty Clark.
Founded in 1970 as a manufacturer’s rep, SEA began to expand its focus into the stock and distribution of military wire and cable in the 1980s. Since then, the company has continued to horizontally grow their product offering and improve their systems to provide customers with the high level of service they have come to expect from SEA for 40+ years.
Today the company stocks in excess of 11,000 items including more than 700 different types of wire amounting to over 60 million feet of wire in its newly expanded warehouse. With products available 24 hours a day 365 days a year, the company has developed a substantial client base of nearly 5,000 customers including Boeing, Raytheon, Northrop Grumman, Unison Industries, Lockheed Martin and other aerospace industry leaders. In fact, Jim Duggan, National Sales Manager says he likes to think of the company as a supply chain manager for its clients.
A small woman owned business, SEA Wire and Cable was founded by Gary Griffin, father of current President Dana Town. Griffin passed the company down to his daughter, and the company continues to operate as a family environment with a dedication to hard work.
This dedication is essential in a highly competitive niche market. “Being in a niche market protects you from yourself,” says Duggan. “It allows us to have a laser focus on our market. We aren’t chasing other markets outside of our core competency.”
With only their market to think about, SEA Wire and Cable, an AS9100 certified company, is able to focus entirely on continually improving their operations in order to provide their clients with the highest level of service.
They recently finished an enormous expansion and overhaul of their warehouse, doubling the available space. “The new facility is absolutely beautiful,” says Duggan. “When you walk in, you would think you are walking into a Fortune 500 company.”
During the renovation, the company decided to make the building more environmentally friendly. They changed all of the warehouse lighting to high bay fluorescents and installed motion detectors to save energy. Additionally, SEA uses recycled plastics in all of their spools. This may not seem like much, but when one considers that every single wire shipment goes out on a spool, it quickly adds up.
After the completion of the 35,000sf addition, the company hired a consultant for a complete process review in order to identify and correct inefficiencies in their warehousing system. “We changed the racking style, increased the height of the ceilings, used different picking equipment, organized inventory by pick velocity rather than by part number, remapped work stations and installed a series of conveyers,” says Clark of the resulting overhaul.
The company also reorganized the way they stock their wires and cables. “We achieved efficiencies in picking and put away,” explains Clark. “We located the items that move the most so that they are the closest to the shipping area.” This cuts down on the amount of time it takes to find the correct wire and move it to the shipping area. “It makes a significant difference,” adds Clark. “While increasing productivity, it has cut down on the time to pick and prepare customer orders.”
Continually managing and improving stocking techniques is vital at SEA Wire and Cable, because as Clark aptly says, “Stock is king.” The company stocks what its customers need and has to be able to find and ship the correct product with speed and accuracy. However, keeping track of more than 11,000 items is a monumental challenge.
To manage this challenge, SEA has invested in leading edge software programs and improved customer service. They hope to have their new Prophet 21 system integrated by April 2010 and they will be using a CRM system with a wireless warehouse management module.
The company provides inventory management for its clients depending on their needs such as Kanban, JIT, dock to stock, demand-pull, stock rotation, or standard spools/packaging. Clients can also choose from several different payment methods including pay as sold, pay as sold during a pre-defined period and ownership changes after a pre-defined period.
SEA Wire and Cable also goes one step further, offering a consignment program option. With the use of in-house consignment stores at strategic customers, SEA has an automated ordering process for on-time inventory control that allows customers to leave the product on their shelves and pay for it as they check it out.
“We are strengthening those relationships, helping the customers be more competitive by pushing more of their overhead cost back onto ourselves,” says Clark.
However, SEA also stresses that while technology is essential, it doesn’t replace strong business relationships. “We’re still going to answer the phone with a smile,” says Duggan.
In its 40+ years of operation, SEA has developed strong relationships with clients, vendors, and employees. “Relationships are absolutely key,” says Clark. “You can’t just be someone who is going to stock wire and cable.”
For example, the company’s strong relationship with their vendors has allowed them to come up with agreements that allow them to work with multiple suppliers and provide more products at a competitive price.
Similarly, SEA’s strong relationship with its employees is reflected in the fact that they have never had a layoff in their 40+ year history. The company also sponsors monthly company luncheons, celebrates birthdays, and hosts several other family oriented events. The company Christmas party is based around the employee’s children because SEA wants to emphasize the importance of family.
The company encourages community involvement, participating in the Wounded Warrior Program, holding seats on the board of several local charities and partnering with vendors and customers to raise funds for charity.
Duggan describes this atmosphere as a “high performance family environment.” People build relationships without sacrificing their work ethic. In order to find new hires that fit well with this environment, SEA recently invested in developing a hiring process with an industrial psychologist.
“Before we hire sales people they have to complete an online sales evaluation, series of interviews, and finally a meeting with an industrial psychologist,” explains Clark. “It determines how they will fit culturally into the company and tests their cognitive reasoning skills.”
“It is a substantial upfront investment, but it’s worth every penny,” adds Clark. In fact, the company has had a 100 percent success rate with the system. “The people we have hired with this system have not only stayed but have turned out to be some of our best sellers,” he says.
45 YEARS AND COUNTING
By combining quality products with exceptional customer service, SEA Wire and Cable has continued to thrive and grow since its founding. “It’s our 45th anniversary this year, and we couldn’t be prouder of where we’re at,” says Clark.
In fact, the company experienced 30 percent growth for the five years before the downturn. And while business has been flat during the recession, Clark says it was not a time to rest. “We have taken advantage of the slow economic time to retrench,” he says.
“We have become more of a strategic partner with our clients,” agrees Duggan. And while he does not think the company will hit 30 percent growth soon, Duggan believes the company can achieve 8 to 15 percent growth over the next five years. “When you get bigger, it gets harder to sustain that kind of growth. We are probably number two in the market right now depending on which numbers you look at,” he explains.
And while their market area is still slow, military funding is looking good for the coming year. “Our risk going forward is if the government runs out of money. We need more rich bankers to buy commercial jets,” Duggan says with a chuckle.
While he is not satisfied with the current, flat sales, Duggan is confident that the economy will make the necessary corrections and says SEA is well equipped to take advantage of the coming upturn. “We have a 45-year history under our belt and fully expect another great 45.”
Article from Manufacturing Digital, February 2010.