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Building a Future: How to Invest in Your People and Technology for Resilience

Building a Future: How to Invest in Your People and Technology for Resilience

We have a simple yet profound mission at our shop: We want everyone who joins our team to leave more valuable to the industry and to themselves. We believe that when our employees grow, so does our business.

This philosophy drives every decision we make at DEXCO Machining & Fabrication, from how we train our interns to how we invest in cutting-edge technology. Here’s how we do it:

1. Cultivating Future Talent
One of the greatest joys of my job is working with young talent, particularly those who are still in school. There’s something incredibly rewarding about shaping their early experiences in the manufacturing industry. We often have interns who are unsure of their career paths, and it’s our role to help them find their way. By exposing them to various aspects of our operations, from quoting to order entry and engineering to production, we give them a comprehensive understanding of the manufacturing world.

For instance, our new applied engineering intern Leah Kooy (from A&T University) has been an absolute sponge, eager to learn everything about our facility, processes and the industry. Currently, she’s working with our Quality Management System (QMS) manager, Tara Grisolia, inventorying and learning all our measuring, calibration, and tooling.

Next, she will start helping with quoting and estimating. Quoting is a great way for junior employees to understand not just your business, but business in general. It’s not simply about getting numbers right, but about understanding the downstream impacts of the entire process from start to finish. It is extremely important for females to be given opportunities in historically male dominated industries and I have no doubt that Leah will be a future role model helping pave the way for other females.

2. Embracing Technology for Efficiency
In the face of labor shortages, we’ve had to lean more heavily on technology to maintain our efficiency. For instance, we’ve invested in automated equipment like the Salvagnini P2 panel bender. It requires skilled programming, but thankfully our youngt mechanical engineer and press brake lead have stepped up to this challenge beautifully by attending training at Salvignini’s facility in Ohio, proving the critical role of continual learning and adaptation.

We’ve also integrated Paperless Parts for quoting and estimating. After DEXCO doubled its revenue two years in a row, our quoting resources were too strained to keep up with demand. Features of the platform like AI-powered quote setup, automatic bill of materials breakouts, dashboards, in-app collaboration tools, and more will help us manage our workflow more effectively and focus on driving long-term business initiatives instead of being bogged down in admin work. In addition, Paperless Parts helps us to be competitive and accurate with our pricing.

3. Building a Respectful and Fulfilling Company Culture
What truly makes DEXCO special is our commitment to creating a respectful and fulfilling work environment. As a woman-owned business, Dexco truly believes in diversity and equality because employees are the key to our company’s success. We strive to ensure our employees feel valued and appreciated by offering competitive wages, benefits, flex scheduling that works for their family or educational pursuits, and training to further their skill set. Our approach to management is democratic; we hold regular staff meetings where everyone’s voice is heard. I ask my team, “What do you think about this?” and “What do you need to be successful here?” Our shop team is on the front lines every day and has the best insights into improving processes and reducing waste. An inclusive approach also fosters a sense of ownership among our employees.

Results & Resilience

Our commitment to investing in people and technology has brought us through some of our toughest times. At the beginning of the COVID-19 pandemic, we leveraged our newly purchased CO2 laser to make polycarbonate safety barriers, securing contracts with Purdue Farms, Tyson Foods, and many local restaurants. The risk we took on that investment paid off, allowing us to not be forced to reduce our staff throughout the pandemic and actually hire more employees.

The residual effect of the pandemic was a loss of confidence in overseas manufacturing, which led to a surge in demand for local products and manufacturing. This shift contributed to our growth from $1.2 million in 2020 to tracking $8 million this year. I attribute these results to our commitment to making informed decisions, continous improvement, and strong communication with our employees along the way.

No matter how a business decides to invest in its people and technology, I hope to inspire other manufacturing businesses to never give up. Regardless of the challenges, changes, or surprises life throws your way, remember that the key to success is not just selling products—it’s creating an environment where people feel happy, healthy, safe, and empowered to help everyone around them thrive. The more of that we see across American manufacturing, the better equipped we are to build a stronger, more resilient industry.

Shannon Huffman is the President and Co-Owner of DEXCO MACHINING & FABRICATION as well as Co-Owner of Huffman Sales and Service. DEXCO offers precision metal and plastic fabrication services in North Carolina, catering to a wide range of industries including OEMs in sectors such as energy and construction, automotive, telecommunications, and more. Based in Burlington, North Carolina, and extending its reach to Raleigh and Charlotte, DEXCO owns the largest fiber optic laser in Alamance County. Siemens recognized Shannon with its 2021 Woman Owned Business of the Year award for her leadership.