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50 years of fab

A large fabricator shares the reasons behind its 50 years of success

Nu-Way Industries, a large precision metal product fabricator in Des Plaines, Ill., marked 50 years in business last fall. The company recently shared what it takes to stay successful for so many years. Part of the success includes offering the latest technology and design services along with having a highly skilled work force.

The company was founded as a small fabrication shop by brothers George and Joe Howard in 1968. “The brothers started Nu-Way Industries with a vision for using technology to improve manufacturing, and that’s what has guided the company ever since,” says Steve Southwell, president and CEO.

Leveraging extensive in-house design and engineering capabilities with innovative manufacturing technology, Nu-Way Industries provides custom, end-to-end solutions that help customers succeed.

Today, Nu-Way employs a staff of more than 300 in its 300,000-sq.-ft. facility. The company creates custom, end-to-end manufacturing solutions for businesses spanning all industries. Working with all types and gauges of metal, parts range from heavy-duty enclosures and housings to intricate components and interactive displays.

“We’ve quickly expanded our presence in the fast-growing market of digital displays and interactive kiosks,” Southwell says. “We’ve capitalized on this growing market by hiring senior managers directly from the display industry. This has given us insight and tangible expertise many of our fabrication competitors don’t have.”

An end-to-end planning approach enables the company to provide a broad spectrum of value-added services and manufacturing capabilities necessary to serve a full range of customers. Beginning with design engineering, Nu-Way works directly with customers’ designers or independently to create the assemblies and drawings.

Next on the to-do list is prototype fabrication and tool design where the focus is on producing a cost-effective product through enhanced manufacturability. Then, the product moves through the operations of the manufacturing process – from shearing and forming to welding, finishing and assembly – with attention being paid to high-quality standards at each stage.

This approach relies on the collective efforts of Nu-Way customer teams. The teams, consisting of representatives from business development, customer service, engineering, prototyping and manufacturing areas, combine their talents and expertise to assure customer satisfaction. The majority of these customers has been doing business with the company for more than 20 years.

Customers include Siemens, Schneider Electric, Middleby and Electrolux. Nu-Way products can be found in North and South America, Europe and Asia.

Nu-Way constantly develops new techniques and applications, as with its custom-built robotic welding cells.

The right stuff

Nu-Way’s vertically integrated production facility features cutting-edge manufacturing equipment, including an advanced design lab, automated equipment and the use of robotics, which allow the company to make more than 1.5 million parts each year.

The company consistently spurs industry innovation by deploying new techniques and technologies and by building its own automated processing cells that increase productivity and reliability.

“Technology always leads,” Southwell says. “To create manufacturing solutions for businesses spanning all sectors of the economy, automation is an absolute must. For decades, we’ve been able to compete with low-cost regions by keeping our overhead low through the application of technology. In 2002, we made a major strategic investment by building a 62,000-sq.-ft. addition and filling it with state-of-the-art automated equipment.”

The original building is also home to five laser cutters, of which one is a punch laser combo; three punch shear combo machines with automated load/unload; four standalone turret presses; 24 press brakes from 12 ft., 300 ton down to 2 ft., 28 ton; as well as stamping machines and custom-built robotic welding cells.

“We help our customers succeed by combining robust design and engineering capabilities with innovative manufacturing technologies,” Southwell says. “For us, that means different types of automated equipment selected from the best brands and for the specific work we perform. We were early adopters of combo machines, which fit with our emphasis on technology, and they have been in use in our facility since the late 1980s. We invest in quality and maintenance to ensure that we’re one step ahead.”

Since 2013, Nu-Way has used Epicor as its ERP provider, including use of its CRM and SCM system integrations. This fall, Nu-Way is upgrading to ERP 10. While not formally pursuing Industry 4.0 technology, many of the elements of it are utilized at Nu-Way, including robotics, 3-D printing, the Internet of Things and cloud platforms.

A Nu-Way employee performs a quality check on a self-ordering kiosk for a quick-service restaurant customer.

Nu-Way’s equipment maintenance program ensures employees use equipment properly, that machines are regularly serviced and that plans for capital equipment investments are made years in advance.

“Innovation and ingenuity are at the core of our business and our name, so we’re always up on the latest trends,” Southwell says. “Doing so isn’t inexpensive, so staying profitable is key.”

Workforce needed

The skilled employees at Nu-Way who provide the design and manufacturing expertise and value-added services are the final key to success.

However, “like many other manufacturers, we face the challenge of finding enough workers with the skills we need,” Southwell says. “But, we have a long history of overcoming obstacles and achieving our goals.”

During the 50th anniversary event, where local government and business leaders toured the 300,000-sq.-ft. facility, the company called on local and state leaders to support the next generation of manufacturing.

“Our passion for this industry, our commitment to quality and our endless desire to be better every day have remained unchanged in 50 years,” Southwell said at the event. “But tangible improvements, like more accessible workforce development grants and more vocational education, are needed to ensure Illinois manufacturing stays strong as we move into the future. We’re grateful for the partnership and hard work of our leaders, but there’s more to be done.”

Steve Southwell, Nu-Way Industries’ president and CEO, says a “vision for using technology to improve manufacturing” has guided the company throughout its five decades in business.

For 50 years, Nu-Way Industries has fabricated precision metal products based on its vertically integrated, technology focused product development methodology. To continue for the next 50 years, the company will continue to invest in its employees and technological resources. This will ensure its customers can grow and thrive, as well.

Nu-Way Industries