INDUSTRIAL INFO-TAINMENT s i • Fourstar Connections : e h s T su re • How Not to Recruit Is tu • Grey Beards and Blue Plaid a e F • Wire Wisdom - Minimum Bend Radius Wiring Harness News NOVEMBER/DECEMBER 2012 1 • Guideline for the Design and Selection of Powered and Non-powered Hand Tools JANUARY FEBRUARY 2016 Fourstar Connections By Fred Noer _________________________________ hil Holman is aiming to make Fourstar Connections a five- star company, among the brightest in the wiring harness and cable assembly universe. P One of Holman’s goals is his firm attaining $20 million in sales by the end of 2018. Having closed 2015 with $11 million in revenue, his company will have to grow 82 percent in three years. Fourstar Connections (FC) was founded by Holman, 60, and began oper- ations in 1987 in Hudson, Mass. The company still operates in the city of 20,000 people located 40 miles west of Boston. The contract manufacturer special- izes in wiring harnesses, cable assem- blies, electromechanical assemblies and box builds for OEMs. The more complex a product or project, the more appealing it is to FC. The firm is involved in a variety of industries – robotics, military, aerospace, medical, industrial, instrumentation and computer. No one industry is more than 25 percent of the FC portfolio. For FC to grow substantially, Holman continues to take his firm in a new direc- tion, one that was begun in 2011. “In 2010 we had $10 million in sales but zero profit. Absolutely none,” he said. “That was painful. We bottomed out. Our cables and harnesses had become a commodity that our customers could buy five different ways through bidding. “That was the turning point, and since then we have been rebranding ourselves,” Holman said. “We’re now working on the proposition of value by developing intimate relationships with customers and bringing value based on their needs. We help them improve their products and reduce their costs.” The FC rebranding is based in part on Future State. The model directed compa- ny executives to first develop a prof- itable and sustainable business plan and then base current decisions on it to achieve its goals. The next step of the rebranding was a process called Value Opportunity Pro- file (VOP). A consultant compared FC to a publicly traded corporation and devel- oped a report to address the weaknesses Fourstar Connections employees pinning wires on an extensive array of equipment. of FC and to complement the Future State business plan. VOP mandates FC managers’ involvement in the plan development. In addition to customer intimacy, the plan strategies focus on solution selling, market penetration and continuous improvement. They are carried out by emphasizing how the experience, expertise and equipment of FC can enhance its customers’ introductions of new products and designs for manufac- turing. “We found that companies needed help with new-product introductions and engineering, and that became our new business plan and business model,” Holman said. “We’re a completely differ- ent business now. We have moved up the food chain and followed the market where OEMs are placing puchase orders at a higher level. “The dynamics of OEMs is that they have gone from being vertically integrat- ed in the early 2000s to going outside more and more,” Holman said. “We try to sell as high as we can where there are the most value and the most sales. Besides doing harnesses and cables, we do electromechanical assemblies and box builds. We ask customers what else we can build for them so we can pro- vide one-stop shopping and so they don’t have to go elsewhere.” Holman pointed out FC sales per unit have more than doubled since the change in direction. It prompts his firm to look for opportunities in which, for example, an order for a $60 cable has other facets that would lead to a $1,500 electromechanical assembly. The number of FC customers dropped from 150 to 100 in 2015 because they did not fit the FC business plan anymore. Holman would like to release 20-30 more. “We have set a threshold of $100,000 a year in sales,” Holman said. “Our ideal ________________Continued on page 20 Guideline for the Design and Selection of Powered and Non-powered Hand Tools By Joe Tito Wiring Harness News _________________________________ wo years ago, there was an industry roundtable discus- sion at the WHMA conference on hand tool ergonomics and the reduc- tion of injuries related to their use. T I sensed frustration at the conclusion of that round table and in subsequent con- versations with others in our industry. As such, I set out on creating a guide for design and selection. I am by no means a scientist. The information supplied is from a cross section of industries and researchers, and represents the major points of agreement. But as we know, science is never settled. 1. Introduction Advances in automation and robotics have insulated humans from many of the demanding tasks once performed by hand. New technologies like voice recognition and touch screen interfaces have further reduced the physical demands on the human hand. Still, many ________________Continued on page 10 The 2016 Wiring Harness Manufacturer’s Association Conference will take place at the Chaparral Suites, Scottsdale, AZ February 23-25.