As seen in Manufacturing Today, Spring 2009 issue
HQ: Rolling Meadows, Ill./Employees: 70/Services: Electronic contract manufacturing/ Jeff Cosman, president: “We strive to provide our customers with a competitive alternative through high quality.”
After undergoing a rebranding effort, QCircuits positions itself to provide further customization of its product.
By Brooke Infusino
When a company works with as wide of a range of clients as QCircuits does, its easy to understand how the manufacturer has come to depend on its experienced work force to create highly customized electronic devices for its customers’ applications.
“We view ourselves as a service business, but we don’t think of ourselves as a technology business,” President Jeff Cosman explains. “We try to help our domestic industrial customers make their products in a timely manner, with a quality product.”
An electronic contract manufacturing firm, QCircuits’ principal business includes board assembly, box build and magnetics. Based in Rolling Meadows, Ill., QCircuits’ clients range from small businesses to Fortune 500 companies in several markets, including agriculture, IT, HVAC, transportation, industrial controls, healthcare and electronics.
“Our largest customers are broadly defined as those working in industrial controls—applications in air and fluid handling, heating, x-ray equipment, lighting controls and many other applications”, Cosman says.
QCircuits’ roots date back to 1953 when the company – formerly known as Bel-tronics Corp. – was founded as a manufacturer of custom electronic devices. Through its evolution, the company’s electronics products have been adapted to several different applications. In May 2008, the company changed its name to QCircuits to better reflect its core competencies and it relocated its corporate headquarters from Addison, Ill., to Rolling Meadows. The company’s manufacturing facility remains in Flora, Ill., where it has operated since 1966.
QCircuits offers multifaceted services making it a one-stop-shop for its customers. Not only can the firm finalize a clients’ product design into something that can be manufactured, it is also capable of prototype development and testing and final manufacturing of the product, as well as managing the logistics of the product. QCircuits’ contracts are split 80/20 between repeat clients and on a project-by-project basis, respectively, Cosman explains.
What truly sets QCircuits apart from the competition is the experience and dedication of its work force, Cosman says. “In our plant operations, there are many people here with 25 to over 40 years of experience. It’s a large fraction of the people” he notes. “ From my past experience, that’s very unusual. It speaks to the work force being highly capable in dealing with the wide range of electronic products that our customers require.”
But just because its work force has longevity doesn’t mean the company is content to rest on its laurels. QCircuits provides employees with professional development opportunities and reviews its employee skill set annually. “Not only do we have an annual safety review, but we also have a skills review at the first of the year,” Cosman says.
Collaboration has almost become a requirement between QCircuits and its customers to better understand how its components work within the overall application. QCircuits’ team of skilled engineers can help a client manage a project from early on in the production cycle, or step in late in the process to provide more subtle inputs, depending on the technical requirements of the product and customer preference.
“We also work with our customers to do whatever teaching is necessary for them to understand the components. The business we are in involves an interactive process between the tech people on each side of the equation. That’s one of the advantages of contract manufacturing.”
Seeing the Positive Side
Although the economy has caused a general slowdown, some of its business is resilient to the recession because there will remain a need for some projects. “For example, someone who has a control problem in the plant heating system is forced to fix that even though the economy might be bad,” Cosman explains.
The global economic meltdown might actually have a positive impact on QCircuits sales. “To continue to be stronger in a down market, we can help people replace and repair things rather than purchasing new,” Cosman explains. “The aftermarket sales can also be strong.”
QCircuits Finds a Better Way
When Ron Slager, CEO of HARC Mercantile Inc. and owner of Kazoo Ink Inc., both of Portage, Mich., developed his Room Valet product, he needed assistance building the product. Room Valet is a primary system to alert hearing impaired persons to wake up, answer the phone or door, and a secondary system for smoke and central alarms. Since Slager needed to meet niche market demands, he wanted to find a circuit board and assembly supplier that:
• Could start with modest volumes,Featured flexible, modular capabilities, and
• Emphasized quality.
Fortunately, he found QCircuits Inc. He combined forces with QCircuits and transferred parts and inventory to begin the first production run.
Slager soon found he needed assistance with some engineering changes. When stock components became obsolete, QCircuits found new parts to substitute for the old. Then QCircuits made the necessary modifications to accommodate the new parts. Over time, QCircuits made three or four modifications, each time improving the product or preventing total redesign, an expensive prospect.
One time, however, a modest redesign was necessary. One of Slager’s products utilized a strobe, and he was experiencing a short product life with it. The strobe tube was soldered in and therefore replacing that strobe required a full-blown repair situation.
QCircuits’ engineers developed a replacement option that allowed the strobe to be removed without soldering. In the process of searching for a better way to build the product, QCircuits also found another solution. This solution cost more, but the resulting life of the product was so much greater, Slager thought it was worth increasing production costs to get a better product. QCircuits engineers trumped their own improvement with an even better one, according to Slager.
Another time Slager found his offshore source for custom-made LED blocks was out of business and he had a hard time finding a replacement source. QCircuits took the lead and found a couple of sources that allowed Slager to continue production of a quality product with a minimum redesign.
Slager prefers to have a nearby capability like QCircuits so he doesn’t have to go offshore. He likes to help boost the regional economy and he likes the convenience of physically getting together with QCircuits to meet face-to-face.
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