First, the company has made itself a pillar of the Richmond, Va., manufacturing sector. They serve local companies with custom-fabricated machinery and parts from design to installation, all by the Rayco team. Fueled by the phrase “We can build it!” – The people at Rayco take pride in being able to deliver total turnkey solutions from beginning to end. “We’re doing every step of the process. From engineering to installation. Taking it all the way from one end of the process to the other,” said Co-Owner and Mechanical Engineer Aaron Ballard. “For the customer, that’s very beneficial because they talk to one person: the project manager.”
Historically, having a piece of machinery custom built for a factory has not been so simple. Customers would have to contact one firm to design the product. Then it could take several manufacturing firms to create various pieces of the product. Still then, the product had to be tested, delivered and installed – likely all by different companies. Such a fragmented process can have a company spinning its wheels just to have a single piece of machinery fabricated. Machinery that is crucial to their business and their success. Rayco believes it does not have to be that hard. So they streamlined the entire process by keeping everything in house. That kind of one-stop-shop availability is invaluable to the customer. And you don’t have to look far to see extreme customer satisfaction.
Mondelez, the parent company of Nabisco and one of the world’s largest snack makers, is a loyal Rayco customer.
“Recently we had a project manager tell us the reason they always want to use Rayco is because we get it right the first time,” Ballard said. “There’s none of this having to go back and fix things. We almost always get it right from the get-go.” Ballard attributes that “always right” track record largely to open communication with the client, especially during the design and engineering phases of a project. Rayco keeps close contact with each customer during the build, so that they can submit plans for approval every step of the way. By the time a machine shows up on the client’s floor, it is exactly what they imagined, because it’s exactly what was discussed.
The second part of Rayco’s niche is their international business: manufacturing and selling automated pallet nailers. Accounting for approximately 40 percent of total business, the pallet division is headed by Aaron Ballard’s brother, Blake Ballard and Devin McDaniel. This two man team is responsible for the day-to-day operations as well as making long term decisions. The pallet nailer design is an evolved version of a product the original Rayco founder, Ray Poston, helped bring to life. Poston launched his machine fabrication company back in 1975 out of the back of his pickup truck. As his business grew, he was approached by a man with a design for an automated pallet machine. Over the course of several years, Poston created and eventually acquired the patent for the machine. He began fabricating the nailers in the early 1990’s. Though the product has been changed and tweaked over time, Rayco continues to rely on that basic design.
On the pallet side, Rayco practices the same customer service methods that have gained the company so much success in the past. Rayco believes that Devin McDaniel plays a key role in ensuring that great customer service remains at the forefront of their operation.
“We do our best to fill our custo-mers’ needs,” Blake said. Whether that means customizing a machine to be able to adjust to certain sized pallets, or meet other specifications, Rayco makes it happen.
One of the factors that has attributed to the growth and sustainability of Rayco has been the company’s willingness to grow and adapt, without forgetting where they came from.
“We have a bunch of people here that have been doing this for a long time, and they’re very, very talented at what they do,” Aaron said. “We try to integrate them into the 21st century with software, and other things…In a certain respect, that has helped us to stay competitive.” When manufacturing firms refuse to utilize new technology, it often doesn’t matter how great their talent is, they will be phased out. “Some shops are still in the stone age. By bringing on some younger people that know the newer things in the industry has helped us a lot,” Aaron continued.
Meshing the experienced team members with fresh eyes, new tools and technology has led to a natural teaching environment at Rayco. “Our project managers come from the ground up, previously being fabricators. They have to be able to lead and teach about metal work.
Some have 30-plus years of experience,” said Blake. It’s those seasoned project managers that wind up taking the newer fabricators under their wing. Blake added, “They are pretty good at keeping an eye on our less experienced guys, and they will step in when they need to. They take it upon themselves to spread that knowledge.”
The Ballard brothers and Rayco’s co-owner, Bryan Spangler, have always worked hard to keep the shop in the modern era and they plan on continuing that trend.
“In the next five years, one of our goals is to purchase another laser,” Aaron said with a smile. That one laser could cost up to a million dollars, but Rayco is working toward establishing the clientele that would keep the laser busy enough to pay for itself. Rayco envisions one laser working on repetitive parts and pieces while the other laser would be geared for more custom projects. “We’re also exploring several solutions to expand our existing facility, or relocate to another facility within the Richmond area,” commented Aaron.
One of the keys to the anticipated growth is a project Rayco is still keeping under wraps. “It’s still in the early stages,” Blake said, “But we’re in the process of designing a new machine in the pallet sector. I can’t say specifics, but that’s something in the works. We’re looking to be able to prototype in the coming weeks and months.” “With the new machine…if that takes off like it could, we would have to grow. We would have to get a new facility,” added Aaron.
For now, Rayco will continue operations with their 35 team members while occupying the existing facility full of machinery perfect for taking their clients from concept to solution all in one place.
|Company Name: American Welding & Construction Supply|