The Donnelly Mission — To Deliver Good Products on TimeInnovation, cutting-edge technology, attention to detail and organization are key advantages contributing to Donnelly Custom Manufacturing's success in the short-run manufacturing business.
By: Wendy Wilson, Alexandria Echo Press
Innovation, cutting-edge technology, attention to detail and organization are key advantages contributing to Donnelly Custom Manufacturing's success in the short-run manufacturing business.
Donnelly saw a need for short-run manufacturers in the marketplace and sought to specialize solely in short-run to offer higher quality services to customers. Short-run manufacturing projects run for 48 hours or less.
"Plastic is still a relatively new material," said Ron Kirscht, company president. "We are always getting new applications."
Today, many parts that used to be constructed with metal are now being replaced with plastic parts, according to Kirscht. Donnelly has a selection of more than 600 resins available for use.
The company makes about 3,000 parts supplied to 25 industrial companies. The finished products span a wide range of uses, including ATM and ice machines, anesthesia equipment and high-end paint sprayers.
Other exciting projects currently being developed include machines for security access passes and aerospace technology for aircrafts.
Some of Donnelly's biggest clients include Scotsman Ice Systems, Draeger Medical, Diebold, Incorporated and Graco.
Donnelly ships nationally. About 12 percent of their customer shipments are overseas.
In the late 1990s, the manufacturing industry climate changed. The number of long-run manufacturing projects completed in the U.S. plunged as requests were filled overseas at lower costs.
"There was a lot of shakeout and fallout in the industry," Kirscht said.
But Donnelly survived and thrived.
"We are scrappers," Kirscht said. "We are tenacious."
In 2008 the company posted record sales for the third consecutive year. While 2009 was a difficult year with a 31 percent decrease in sales, they rebounded with 28 percent gains in 2010 and about 10 percent in 2011 to bring the company close to 2008 levels.
The Donnelly team agreed it was becoming easier to compete with manufacturers overseas as the total costs of the supply chain are becoming better understood.
Wages and manufacturing costs are climbing overseas, shipment costs and lead-times are rising, too, while domestic manufacturers are better able to fulfill orders expeditiously.
"This is the best place to be," Kirscht said of the Alexandria community.
WHY THEY ARE DIFFERENT FROM THE REST
The best parts of Donnelly are its people: the customers served and the employees, said Kirscht.
"Our staff are bright, energetic people," he said.
And Donnelly's commitment shows. Many people working at the company have worked there many years.
Quarterly customer satisfaction surveys at Donnelly showed excellent results and satisfied customers, according to Darla Brink, director of planning and customer logistics.
"We rate highly in customer responsiveness," she said. "[We] listen to what the customer needs."
Donnelly assists customers with engineering and design services onsite at clients' premises and helps solve specialized problems.
And they will speak with the same assigned customer service representative who is familiar with their requirements.
Another key to their successful business model is providing ongoing training to employees.
"We need people with a broad range of skills," Kirscht said. "We make a huge commitment to training."
Employees meet each day in a "war room" to discuss ways to consistently improve services, identify and solve problems and eliminate waste.
What is on Donnelly's horizon?
Said Kirscht: "We will continuously improve to remain the recognized leaders in short-run manufacturing."
HISTORY OF DONNELLY
Donnelly Custom Manufacturing first opened its doors in 1984 in Minnesota. It started with just eight employees.
Initially, Donnelly's plan was to incorporate both short-run and long-run manufacturing within the enterprise. Plans changed. When they built success in short-run manufacturing, they stuck with it.
"We determined that you could not do short-run and long-run well," Donnelly President Ron Kirscht said. "You had to pick."
During the 1990s, many manufacturing jobs in the U.S.started to slowly disappear, heading overseas where the work could often be completed at a lower cost.
In 2010, Donnelly had annual sales of $28 million. Today, the company employs about 215 people.
machining, milling, drilling
Product design and project management at customer site
Customized customer service Short-run focus allows for:
faster speed to market
DONNELLY GUIDING PRINCIPLES
They utilize speed as a competitive advantage in everything they do. Donnelly leadership and employees push themselves to make good decisions quickly, but will not take shortcuts that jeopardize product quality or employee health and safety.
They recognize that simple solutions are stronger and typically provide better results than complicated ones. Donnelly maintains a willingness to explore ideas that will improve job performance.
They dedicate themselves to servicing the total needs of customers and employees. Donnelly seeks to raise the quality of service to a high level by measuring performance, encouraging feedback and responding to customers promptly.
They recognize their success results from the success of their customers. Donnelly will continue to grow profitably by providing solutions to customer needs and achieving performance goals.
DONNELLY AND THE ENVIRONMENT
Energy savings are realized in the production of the plastics Donnelly makes, according to President Ron Kirscht. Donnelly's production process uses a closed-loop water system, saving water. "We have always been focused on minimizing waste," Kirscht said. "We make extra investments in energy efficient equipment [to save energy]. It is the right thing to do."