An Extension of Your Manufacturing Floor
Aved Electronics Inc. is a contract manufacturer of custom cable assemblies and wire harnesses, battery packs, electro-mechanical assemblies and box builds. Located in the village of North Billerica, Massachusetts, the business has been serving OEMs (original equipment manufacturers) in a variety of sectors since 1979.
Aved Electronics’ clients range from start-ups to Fortune 500s in industries including the medical field, semiconductors, military and defense, and more. Aved Electronics is ITAR registered, to support its military customers. The ISO 9001 and 13485 certified manufacturer of computer, commercial, and industrial products was founded by Ralph Santosuosso.
Santosuosso is a military veteran who decided to start his own business after working for Texas Instruments selling connector products. He started Aved Electronics as a distribution business, selling passive components such as connectors and capacitors.
At the time, OEMs were vertically integrated and did most of their manufacturing in house. By the 80s, that began to change. Vice President Ralph Santosuosso, his father’s namesake, joined the family business during that time in a warehouse position. He later worked his way up the corporate ladder, from customer service, to inside sales, to his current position. In an interview with Manufacturing in Focus, he fills us in on the history of Aved Electronics.
“OEMs began to outsource their manufacturing jobs such as cable assemblies, and because we were already selling connectors and wiring cables, it made a lot of sense for us to begin that value-added work. As that outsourcing market grew, we saw an opportunity,” recalls Vice President Santosuosso.
Into the 1990s, Aved Electronics started to build small battery packs, and continued to grow its cable assembly business, which then branched into advancing its electromechanical and box build services. By the mid-90s, the industry had made the switch to almost 100 percent contract manufacturing vs. in house, a lucrative shift for Aved Electronics.
With its foundation in distribution, Aved Electronics ultimately decided to leave this service behind. It sold its distribution business to Tyco (now known as TE Connectivity) after purchasing Generation Electronics, a small battery company. “We made a concerted effort to make that jump and work our way out of distribution,” says Santosuosso.
In those days, Santosuosso tells us, building a battery pack was as simple as putting together an alkaline cell with a couple of wires. Over the years, battery technology has grown substantially, and Aved Electronics has grown with it.
“We invested a lot of time and money into our NPI group, which is new product introduction. The first time we build something, we create very strong manufacturing process documentation, so that when that job gets through our NPI the first time and hits our manufacturing floor, it is aimed at manufacturability and quality,” says Santosuosso.
In other words, Aved Electronics will not simply take a client’s drawings and raw material, and put it on a bench for somebody to build. “We scrub all of that and put a lot of time and effort into giving our customers feedback on their products, making sure that manufacturability is our focus.”
One of Aved Electronics’ major differentiators is its two specialties: cable and wire harnesses (it is an active member of the Wiring Harness Manufacturer’s Association, or WHMA), and battery packs. Usually, OEMs would have to go to two different sources for these services. This feature makes Aved Electronics a convenient one-stop shop for customers who want to shorten their approved vendor lists.
On the nuances between the manufacturer’s dual specialties, Santosuosso expounds, “When we build a cable assembly, by the nature of the business, customers send us their drawings and material. Though we scrub it, we are building from their prints and documentation. On the battery side, most of our customers come to us at the inception stage of the design.”
With medical clients, for example, Santosuosso explains that many times the battery pack will be going into medical design applications, such as defibrillator products, LVAD products for heart support, infusion pumps, CAT Scan systems, etc. A customer typically approaches Aved Electronics and notifies the firm of how much power is needed, while providing a basic envelope for the packaging. From there, Aved Electronics takes on the task of working through the regulatory issues of battery design.
“You don’t want to design a battery pack and find out later that the chemistry or the DNS—the battery management system—is dysfunctional,” he adds.
Battery packs must be approved and sent out for meticulous testing at the beginning of a design. Aved Electronics facilitates all of these steps and prepares a customer’s order for the market.
“Aside from the duality of our approach to the market, our service level and our quality sets us apart,” Santosuosso continues. “As a family-owned business, much of the team that we have established has been here for quite some time and we have a very low turnover. The people who work here are very happy to be here, and we take good care of them.”
The mid-sized family business, which employs 120 people, is also very agile, lacking the bureaucracy of some of its competitors. “Our customer service team has been trained that way, and I trust their judgment. I constantly get emails and have discussions with some of our customers who say that our team is hands-down the best that they deal with.”
The veteran-owned business has always been proud to provide great service to its customers and maintain great standing in the community. In late 2016, it expanded its recycling and responsible disposal program to include manufacturing waste (electronic components, rigid and film plastics, cable and wire, etc.), ensuring these items have a path for recycling or responsible destruction. This move improves the environmental health of the company’s neighborhoods and reduces waste at local landfills.
Additionally, Aved Electronics promotes the traceability of the minerals used in its electronic components. It sources from socially responsible suppliers when the choice of supplier is within its control, avoiding conflict minerals. The all-American company strives to support the local economy with its ethical practices.
“There’s a premium for the service that we provide and I think that now, with the pendulum swinging back to products being made domestically, people are willing to support the economy. People are not looking for the cheapest product on the market, and that bodes well for us because we are not the most expensive, but we also don’t have any offshore partners,” Santosuosso mentions, adding that this is by design.
“We have been very resistant to, say, opening a plant in Mexico. In spite of the fact that a lot of our competition has done that over the years, we have been steadfast with my dad being a veteran about keeping it here,” he says.
In the last few years, Aved Electronics has invested heavily into taking the company to the next level by upgrading its automation and tooling, working with marketing firms, and hiring a Senior Director of Supply Chain and a Director of Operations. When hiring, Aved Electronics looks for proactive candidates who are unafraid to offer a fresh perspective.
“We try to stay very open-minded as senior management, because we want people to come in and bring their ideas and experience to the table. We have a profit sharing plan with our employees, designed to have people thinking independently about the best practices to make the company successful,” Santosuosso remarks.
Aved Electronics is looking toward a bright future in 2018, experiencing an impressive 20 percent growth in the last six months. This isn’t too surprising with Aved’s customer service expertise and its investments in growth. Additionally, Santosuosso notes that New England is a national hub for medical instrumentation technology. However, all of the major sectors that Aved serves are doing quite well. “Our whole customer base is busy,” he says.
While its battery packs are sold globally and Aved Electronics has customers all over the world, its cable and box build clients tend to be regional. Santosuosso tells us that people like to come into the facility and see, touch, and feel the product. “We like to think of our manufacturing floor as an extension of the OEM’s manufacturing floor.”
Santosuosso expects to see continued growth in the markets covered by Aved Electronics at a good, steady pace over the next several years. “There is a danger to getting too big, too fast. We don’t have a huge sales force—there are three or four of us—but we look for customers who make good partners. We believe that controlled growth is very important.”