With PRODx, Bill Berrien wants to build ‘the world’s most valuable manufacturing network’│Ep. 49


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Pindel Global Precision entered 2020 making no ventilator parts for its customers. The New Berlin-based precision machining manufacturer exited the year having made thousands of parts for five customers.

Bill Berrien, chief executive officer of Pindel, and his team were among the companies that moved quickly as the COVID-19 pandemic hit to find a way to contribute. The experience led Berrien to start a new venture in addition to Pindel called PRODx, short for Production Expediting Technologies.

The idea behind PRODx is fairly simple. Buyers at larger manufacturers will turn to PRODx when they run into issues with their existing supply chains. PRODx will then take the order to a network of machining companies, ask them to quote it and then return it to the buyer, ideally fulfilling what Berrien describes as the buyer’s “hair-on-fire” need.

“When something happens to that supplier, poor planning or they get disrupted by material needs they’re not able to fulfill or they get too much business, things like that happen and that reverberates through the supply chain,” Berrien said on the most recent BizTimes MKE Podcast, acknowledging that a buyer’s need for the PRODx service depends on how mature and resilient the supply chain is and if the part in question comes from a single supplier.

PRODx has already had an early success story. In mid-February, an injection molding manufacturer called needing help. The company was producing a critical part for a larger assembly and the end customer had run completely out of its stock. The problem was that the supplier of a machined component inside the molded part said it couldn’t deliver until May.

The purchase order came to PRODx on a Friday. It was sourced through the company’s network and parts were being sent to heat treating by Tuesday. They would ultimately be delivered in around 10 days instead of closer to 10 weeks.

“There is actually an incredible amount of excess capacity across these machine shops and when you really dive into the numbers and the true levels of utilization, there is ton there,” Berrien said.

On the surface, it would seem Berrien might be better off replicating his 2020 experience as these opportunities come up by fulfilling them at Pindel. He acknowledged that might be the better short-term play, but he’s more interested in the potential long-term benefit.

“There’s a scalability aspect to it,” he said, noting that the PRODx markup from the network partner also provides an attractive margin as well.

His initial vision is to help network partners fill their excess capacity, but the second phase is to drive innovation and best practices across the network so the companies in it can be the lower cost solution

Underpinning the approach is Berrien’s belief that high levels of automation with a highly-trained, highly-paid team will trump low-cost labor.

“I believe that with the levels of automation, data understanding and most importantly the kind of capabilities that we have in the workforce here, I think the U.S. should be the factory floor for the world, not Asia, not other areas of the world,” Berrien said.

PRODx launched with a half-dozen manufacturers from around the country that Berrien is familiar with and has another dozen identified for future growth.

The pitch is that the company will have an opportunity to use excess capacity, see a breakdown of PRODx revenue from an order, will get full access to the buyer’s purchase order and the opportunity to pursue their own business development when the project is done.

Berrien hopes sharing best practices and innovation will help eventually grow the network into “the world’s most valuable manufacturing network.”

“It might be a little too ambitious, but why not think big?” he said.

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Arthur Thomas
Arthur covers banking and finance and the economy at BizTimes while also leading special projects as an associate editor. He spent also five years covering manufacturing at BizTimes. He previously was managing editor at The Waukesha Freeman. He is a graduate of Carroll University and did graduate coursework at Marquette. A native of southeastern Wisconsin, he is also a nationally certified gymnastics judge and enjoys golf on the weekends.