Veethree Electronics executive says he hasn't seen sales volume like this in 15 years.
Company: Bradenton-based Veethree Electronics is part of the larger Veethree Group, an alliance of companies that also includes entities in India, the United Kingdom and New Zealand. Veethree acquired the assets of marine instruments manufacturer Teleflex in 2009 and kept on a good chunk of the personnel as the Manatee County facility transitioned to the Veethree Electronics brand.
Veethree Electronics has 85 employees at its 52,000-square-foot manufacturing and assembly plant. The privately held company doesn’t disclose revenue figures, but it’s currently experiencing annual sales growth between 40% and 60%, largely driven by strong boat sales over the last year. “I have not seen volumes of this nature since 2004-2005, right before the downturn,” says Bill Allen, plant manager for Veethree Electronics.
'Automation is not to take away jobs from people. It’s to make us a higher-quality, better through-put operation than what we did in the past to be able to keep up with growths.' Bill Allen, Veethree Electronics.
Product: Veethree Electronics manufactures gauges and displays used in marine and industrial capacities to measure things like speed, pressure and fuel. The company sells its products directly to original equipment manufacturers (OEMs) such as Sea Ray, Bennington, John Deere and Caterpillar as well as through distributors worldwide.
Pandemic shift: In order to follow CDC guidelines and allow for social distancing, the company went to a two-shift operation. “We felt like to be able to social distance it would be better for us to split our operations,” says Allen, 63.
Veethree Electronics also had to adapt some of its manufacturing cells (or groupings of machinery) to reduce the number of people working within them. The company is now back to a single shift, but masks, increased sanitation efforts and other safety measures remain in place. “We’re still very cautious and very employee health conscious to make sure we keep our employees safe,” says Allen.
Best move for efficiency: The company already had business contingency plans for things like hurricanes, tornadoes and active shooter situations. But the pandemic taught Allen it needed to have a contingency plan for viruses, diseases and other health situations as well.
“We were caught off guard,” he says. “And what we learned is that we need to assess what our risks are for those types of things. We now have in place some type of contingency plan for the next virus that may come along. And to think that’s not going to happen? We can’t be that way.”
Best move for productivity: Veethree Electronics had already begun looking at options for automating some of its processes before the pandemic. Now with the growth the company is seeing that’s become even more necessary.
It’s already invested in faster equipment in some areas of the facility. “One example of that would be we may have had a piece of equipment that placed 16,000 components per hour,” says Allen. “Now we’ve bought some equipment that places it at 60,000 placements per hour.” It’s also invested in some automated surface-mount technology to place small components on circuit boards.
Possibilities down the road include robotic options for complex soldering tasks. Allen says the company has the capability to invest 3% to 4% of revenues in things like productivity-boosting equipment.
It’s hopes to hire around 10 new employees to help the company keep up with growth even as it explores automation options. “Automation is not to take away jobs from people,” says Allen. “It’s to make us a higher-quality, better through-put operation than what we did in the past to be able to keep up with growths.”