Kaman Industrial Technologies has successfully teamed with AES Engineered Systems in the design, development and manufacture of a wide-range of innovative, high-quality technical products for the paper and pulp industry.
Kaman supplies AES with everything from motors and reducers to bearings and belts. "We supply the parts they need for their 20 different product lines," says Mike Wendling, Kaman's Glens Falls, NY branch manager. "AES buys about 40 percent of the 5,000 items they need from outside vendors like us. They make the rest themselves." Sales have increased by some 40 percent over the last two years, says Wendling.
AES, located in Queensbury, NY, is a division of Thermo Fibertek, a subsidiary of Fortune 100 company Thermo Electron. The company, which is ISO 9001 certified, has been a customer of Kaman for the last four years.
But Kaman's involvement begins very early - often before the new product is even on the drawing board, while it's still in the engineer's head. "It's a true partnership," explains Jesse Freebern, AES buyer-planner. "We work together every step of the way in selecting and developing new products for the marketplace. We communicate well. They understand our needs, and we understand their needs." Freebern, with AES for 31 years, encouraged and helped build the remarkable partnership that now exists between the two companies.
The key is Mike Wendling, says Freebern. "He has a technical background - but he is also a people person who understands how partnershipping works," he says.
"He also knows our system and the paper business, and he responds to our needs. He has built up a great deal of credibility over the last three or four years. He does his homework. He takes an idea and runs with it."
As a result, says Freebern, "Mike gets first crack at all of our new products. He gets involved at the very beginning - in the design and development stage. No other salesperson has that opportunity. He cuts down our design time unbelievably. Instead of going through four people, our engineers go right to Mike."
Says Wendling, "Our understanding of the pulp and paper industry is a tremendous asset. When we team up to select future AES products, we focus on those which will best meet the requirements of the industry. Our emphasis is on quality and cost-effectiveness."
"I visit AES at least twice a week," says Wendling. "First purchasing, then engineering. An engineer will say, 'Don't leave. I need to see you.' And I talk with him. Then I talk to the next guy. And I look at their projects, what they are working on, and tell them what I can do to provide parts that support them. I like solving problems."
In addition to Wendling's expertise, Kaman offers AES significant financial incentives. At the heart of the partnership is an inventory management program Kaman developed working with AES's purchasing department.
For example, says Wendling, "We reduced AES's inventory of stock parts for the EMO III electromechanical oscillator by $190,000 a year." He explains that the EMO III controls an AES pressure shower which cleans off paper residue during the paper-making process. It is the most important product that the two companies team up to produce.
Office Manager Tracey Lawson explains, "Our ordering system translates their part number into our part number, making it easy for them to order. And our inventory system - based on the 'Just In Time' philosophy - makes sure they have what they need, when they need it without the expense of maintaining large, costly inventories." She adds, "We could not do all this without the help of our vendors who share the responsibility of inventory load and timely delivery with us."
Wendling says, "The AES engineers know paper making inside-out, and what they want to accomplish, but don't always know where to find the components they need to do what they need to do. That's where I come in. I don't know as much about paper making, but I do know where to find the exact gearbox you need to give you just the torque you need - no more, no less - and get it to you when you need it. It makes for a great partnership."