An Evolution in Extrusion
Failure is only a short-term condition, and fortunately, it often fosters more sustainable success. As Author Denis Waitley once observed, “Failure is only a temporary change in direction to set you straight for your next success.” In the case of one Ontario-based metal engineering operation, such changes in direction have not only inspired an increased capability to compete, but also greater capacity for claiming further future success.
Headquartered in the Canadian community of Chatham-Kent, Dajcor is Ontario’s “one-and-only” company which exists as a single source for excellence in aluminum extrusion, fabrication and anodizing services, all under one roof. And indeed, it’s a wide roof which covers more than 190,000 square feet of operations that accommodate everything from cutting, drilling and deburring to tapping, tumbling, polishing and punching, plus a whole lot more. While that range of expertise has helped spare customers from otherwise excesses in cost, time and headache, it has additionally helped Dajcor rise above the fray of would-be competition and secure singular distinction as an emerging leader in its industry. And no doubt, the significance of Dajcor’s success isn’t lost on anyone who works there, or anyone, for that matter, in its community.
Though Dajcor’s corporate identity was only established some three short years ago, operations at its site actually commenced more than seventy years ago under the auspices of a company formerly known as Daymond Aluminum. Daymond thrived throughout many, if not most, of its years, but late in life, failed to endure following operational follies which can be likened to putting too many eggs into one basket. Daymond was heavily vested in supplying a particular product line for an automotive manufacturer. As fate would have it, the manufacturer ceased production of the vehicle line and Daymond lost much of its business. As sales dwindled and bills mounted, Daymond ultimately went into receivership and more than a hundred workers prepared to lose their jobs. The situation posed a grim economic blow to the community.
Luckily, Chatham was also made home by an entrepreneur named Mike Kilby. Some years earlier, Kilby had established a company that specialized in marketing services for the energy industry. The success of that venture caught the attention of other enterprises, and later, upon receiving an offer deemed as too good to decline, Kilby sold his company to a larger firm. While he may not have planned to go into manufacturing at that point, Kilby heard the dismaying news of Daymond’s closing and learned that a pending auction would see the facility and all its assets liquidated.
Kilby arranged to meet with key former management and labour teams to determine whether there was consensus that operations could be effectively turned around to restore the company to vitality. With assurances and confidence of the respective teams, an agreement was forged and business plan drafted.
As for the new company, Kilby bestowed it with a name that pays homage to his other, more essential, interests outside of business. A family man, Kilby is a father of three daughters respectively named Danielle, Alyssa and Justine. Borrowing from the first letter from each name, Dajcor Aluminum emerged as the new company. It opened with a small composite of office staff and only 20 hourly workers.
Dajcor Vice President of Sales and Marketing Todd Young (one of the former Daymond staff) offers perspective on the corporate transition. “We spent the first several weeks planning our approach, making a business plan and identifying markets we would target. We determined we were going to target a diversified value added extrusion customer base, targeting markets such as transportation, automotive, medical, construction and distribution. Production started almost a month after Mr. Kilby and two shareholders purchased the company… and it was a little difficult at first because there wasn’t a ready customer base,” explains Young. “We had been shut down for seven months and our challenge was how to recapture old clients and secure new accounts at the same time.”
The Dajcor strategy relied heavily on two fundamental principles that proved to dramatically affect the shape of things to come. Young says first and foremost was “renewed focus on customer service.” To attract and retain customers, Young says Dajcor created what they call “a corporate manifesto on customer service.” In the extrusion of aluminum, metal may be malleable, but the mandates of the manifesto were unalterable. The directives called for unwavering attention to detail in understanding exactly what customers want, and need, when seeking solutions from Dajcor. Service guidelines also dictated absolute and consistent quality in production, and delivering on every assurance provided to a client, but not in a way that merely satisfies orders, no, Dajcor set out to exceed expectations. “A lot of companies may say they focus on customer service, but this is how we live and breathe here. Customer service is what propels everything we do,” says Young. Dajcor’s service efficiencies often led them to under promise, but over deliver. For example, orders that needed to be fulfilled within four weeks were often completed in only two. And today, when the demands on their business are drastically different than what existed when Kilby took over, Dajcor’s delivery performance rates (just shy of 100 percent) are among the best of any industry in North America.
Yet, to more fully account of Dajcor’s transition requires explanation of the second principle in their strategy – diversification. Intent to not repeat the mistakes of the former company, Dajcor sought new markets for their products. But to more effectively penetrate new markets, company principals recognized they would also have to expand on their capabilities by offering valued-added services. As an ISO 9001-certified supplier of aluminum extrusions, Dajcor produces more than 30,000 custom aluminum profiles for various markets and applications today, but the fact remains this is only a portion of the services performed by the company. Dajcor’s composite of computer-controlled machining centers equip them with exceeding capability in an extensive range of precision production machining projects. Dajcor’s fabrication services accommodate special tolerance specifications as well as the plethora of cutting, mitring, notching, piercing, forming, bending, mechanical assembly and welding of aluminum components.
Dajcor is equally efficient in anodizing services, offering not only standard anodized aluminum finishes such as bright and satin clear, gold, bronze, brown, and black, but other popular custom finishes such as satin or brushed nickel, stainless steel, titanium, as well as electrolytic color anodizing (for lengths up to 28’) of antique bronze, copper and polished brass. Dajcor also has mechanical finishing capabilities such as brushing and polishing.
Young said by bringing this diversity of services under one roof, Dajcor quickly gained distinction as unique in its industry. For clients, the ability to source such a range of services from one supplier connotes to huge savings in cost but also quicker turn around on order fulfillment. In a recent case study involving an electronic packaging company, Young says the customer’s constant cycling of goods from extruder to the anodizer led to wait times of 13 to 14 weeks. In bringing that business to Dajcor now, the customer has been able to reduce the lead time to 4 weeks from purchase order to delivery.
“An oft-quoted comment we hear from prospective customers is that they can’t believe how simple our ‘all under one roof’ service makes their lives” states Young. More and more customers are realizing the hidden added costs in delays and quality issues associated with using multiple contractors to produce their components, and see the value in our efficiency”. Dajcor’s speed of delivery, along with its drive for quality in production and customer service, all complemented by its expertise in a range of design and manufacturing of engineered metal services, has ultimately allowed the company to achieve diversification in market penetration. Though Dajcor has regained position as a supplier of parts vital to the automotive industry (particularly roof racks), it additionally produces components essential in the marine industry and medical industry, as well as certain military goods needed in the defense industry.
While budget cuts in defense may see some of their business slow, Young says Dajcor anticipates increased business in the medical goods industry. Dajcor currently provides various fixture components, such as the aluminum consoles that complement standard hospital beds. As they further penetrate in that market, Young also says Dajcor is increasingly taking on more work in the marine industry for which they already provide rails, track components and goods to which other hardware is affixed, such as holding equipment.
The company will also invest in additions to its fabrication and machining capabilities, as Young says, to further capture opportunities in the market.
And while its customer base has grown, so too has Dajcor. Today, the company is employing a little more than a hundred people and is contributing to the overall economic stability of the community in which it operates. In his perspective, Young describes Dajcor as a “feel-good story of success.”
Success, of course, has a way of attracting more success. When Michael Kilby determined to restore vitality to the company, there were many prognostications that should he be successful, that business achievement might one day help in attracting new business to the community of Chatham-Kent in Ontario. Dajcor’s efforts to date have laid a solid foundation for future success stories in Chatham-Kent.
For more information, please visit their website at: Dajcor
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