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Eco-friendly formula fuels Sussex Wire for 40-plus years

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CONTRIBUTED PHOTO
The production floor at Sussex Wire's Palmer Township facility.
CONTRIBUTED PHOTO The production floor at Sussex Wire's Palmer Township facility.

A Palmer Township manufacturer of miniature and micro-miniature metal parts is poised for growth and expansion, stands behind its lean and green practices and supports a far-reaching customer base that includes the medical, aerospace, computer and electronics industries.

Sussex Wire Inc. is gearing up to build a larger, more efficient company with an acquisition earlier this year of another company that makes complementary components, a production-led effort to implement lean manufacturing processes and an aggressive approach to hiring skilled workers during a shortage in the industry.

Tim Kardish, CEO and president of Sussex, said the company has a small carbon footprint.

“About 94 percent of the raw material that our facility takes in goes out to the customer as a billable product,” he said.

Marian Watkins, director of marketing at Sussex, said the company uses a cold-forming technique, which is a green process that takes all original material in the product and restructures the material grain to form the part and eliminate scrap.

This is in contrast to the traditional machining method used by other companies where the metal is cut, pressed and pulled off the original piece.

Sussex also focuses on lean manufacturing. Donna Warman, production manager at the Palmer facility, is lean-master certified and encourages the daily use of lean manufacturing.

DIFFICULT TO MAKE

The company began in 1973 as a sole proprietorship and was acquired in 2012 by the private equity firm Argosy Private Equity, based in Wayne.

The company uses cold-forming, cold-heading and roll-forming technologies to create precision components or metal parts such as nuts, bolts and fasteners, as well as very small pieces that are difficult to see without a microscope.

These hard-to-manufacture components often are used in medical devices, health care-related operations and in computers, electronics and consumer goods.

Watkins said Sussex’s revenue ranges from $20 million to $50 million annually.

STRENGTHENS THE PRODUCT

Sussex has been involved in cold forming for more than 20 years. Recently, the company invested “hundreds of thousands of dollars in much more sophisticated machines and equipment” to meet market demand and increase production exponentially, Kardish said.

The company uses cold forming to reduce waste, scrap and lubricant so the parts can be produced at much faster velocities. Cold forming strengthens the product, since it is being formed rather than reshaped or altered in some way.

Sussex Wire’s process helps customers get their parts at a much more reasonable price, Kardish said.

“Anywhere from 6,000 to 10,000 pieces per hour come off our machinery,” said Kardish, noting it is a significant increase from the 500 to 5,000 pieces per hour with more traditional machinery.

STRATEGIC ACQUISITION

This year, Sussex acquired Marox Corp., a family owned company in Holyoke, Mass., that makes orthopedic implants and aerospace components. Marox also has a manufacturing facility in Warminster.

Kardish said Argosy approached Marox to establish a partnership that would benefit both parties.

There are no plans to put the two companies together under one roof. Each will operate separately.

Jack Nugent, partner and chairman of Sussex Wire, said at the time that “Sussex Wire and Marox will have increased manufacturing capabilities and more engineering horsepower to solve our customers’ more difficult challenges.”

TRAINING THE NEXT GENERATION

At the Palmer Township facility, Kardish said, one of the company’s greatest challenges is the shortage of skilled workers to staff the machines and work with the technology on the production floor.

Sussex has about 50 full-time workers at its Lehigh Valley location and doubles its employee base when necessary. Kardish said he is working closely with schools such as Northampton Community College and Career Institute of Technology to hire graduates with a technical background.

He added he is spearheading an initiative to populate the talent pipeline.

“It is about investing in people, processes and systems,” Kardish said. “We are expecting the business to grow in a healthy way over the next five years.”

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