When the pandemic hit in 2020, C&S Machine Products was on a steady path of growth, with established plans for increasing technology and advanced equipment, relying upon a strong, highly trained team of dedicated individuals to get the job done. COVID-19 introduced unpredictable production schedules and a decline in orders from key commercial customers, not to mention all the other challenges of dealing with a pandemic.
C&S Machine not only met these challenges but thrived and grew during this year of unprecedented global challenge. The company finished 2020 in a profitable position, with a machinist staff that has increased by 20%, and increases in sales today are trending even higher than would have been anticipated based on pre-pandemic conditions. Vice President of Sales Brandon Slisher credits this success to the people, their commitment and intentions, and the company’s emphasis on building a great team. Deliberate investments in innovation and in training opportunities—investments in people and processes—are the drivers that helped C&S successfully navigate the pandemic.
Investing in people
Considered an essential business, C&S remained open throughout the year with some adaptations to scheduling but without drastic cuts in hours. Maintaining a strong and talented team and keeping people working were priorities that led the company to create C&S University.
Space within the facility was set aside, establishing a dedicated learning lab to support an in-house educational program designed to provide the people of C&S with opportunities for personal growth and learning. A complete curriculum has been developed; courses vary in length and cover training in processes and specific industry sectors. Available during the workday, participants can also access the online materials from home. To date, 23 people have made use of C&S University and have taken 233 classes.
Investing in processes
The pandemic’s effects on the airline industry resulted in a drop in production orders for airline and aerospace components. Reduced commercial demand from these key industry sectors opened some capacity for C&S to advance into new areas and new part families, as well as take on an increase in military parts production. C&S has a focus on innovation and continuous improvement and an ongoing plan for adding equipment and technology. In 2020, C&S doubled that investment, adding two new work cells—a $1M manufacturing cell and a $3M complex milling cell that is double the usual size.
The new cells, and in particular the fully automated complex milling cell, are suited to production of parts for the medical, aerospace, and defense industries. A robot that moves back and forth between machines, traveling on 14 meters of track, is just one of the features of the complex new advanced machining cell. The addition of work cells and new equipment also meant new machinists were added to the team in 2020, and the company is still seeking to hire more.
C&S is prepared for continued growth with sales volume increasing in both the aerospace military sectors. As part of their program of continuous improvement and innovation, plans are in the works to add another $1M cell in 2021.
Maintaining the mission
Throughout the pandemic and a period of great uncertainty, C&S kept the focus on their core values—to build and maintain a great team, inspire and invest in people and delivery extraordinary results.
Firmly established in Niles, Michigan, with convenient access to transportation and major cities, C&S believes the company’s success depends on their people—the people of the greater South Bend – Elkhart region.