We are all very aware that customer satisfaction is a “key” element to a healthy business model, but how does a company accomplish happy customers on a slim staff? Quest Engineering in West Bend, Wisconsin seems to have no problem balancing this equation in today’s challenging business climate. Quest Engineering was founded in 2001 by Chris Lefeber, President and Todd Lefeber, V. President – brothers and partners. Chris explains, “Our Company utilizes four team members; two in the office and two in production. Although we may only have four team members, we produce a lot of product. The physical space of our facility is 6500 square feet; 5400 manufacturing and 1100 office. Besides a lot of hard work our investment in CNC and automated equipment, Microvellum software and our constant efficiency systems improvements, are the reasons for our success!”
“Building a solid reputation is the foundation for our success…it is all about the customer. We founded Quest on the principle of customer service; we take care of the customer. Our customers are busy; they have many aspects to cover on every project. With Quest, the millwork isn’t something they have to worry about. We get the an order, engineer and manufacture the product efficiently, deliver on time, every time, and follow up with any issues before the customer has time to ask. These are basic principles, but they certainly set us apart. Quest Engineering builds commercial casework and architectural woodwork, along with custom closet systems. We specialize in the casework; our plant is set up for efficiencies in casework manufacturing. About 80% of our work is plastic laminate commercial casework,” states President Chris Lefeber. Since customer service is such a high priority for Quest and with a staff of only four they knew the only way to continue to provide this type of “Customer First” philosophy was to take a proactive role in automation of their facility. Chris explains, “We did our research, and a lot of it before we made the leap to Microvellum and CNC at the same time. Our Microvellum was installed prior to receiving the CNC, so we could be familiar with the software and so we could be using the CNC right away. After working through communications with the software and the CNC, we were producing product. I think the most important part of the leap is to learn the software before you get the CNC. Believe me; having that big, costly machine in your plant for the first time is a jaw dropping experience. Knowing that we can get it working right away is a huge comfort.”
When asked the question by our staff, “What lead you to choose Microvellum as your manufacturing software solution?” Chris says, “For casework, there is no better tool. The parametric engineering capability of the software is where it stands alone. When you draw a library based product. That software already knows every part and every machine process involved in building that product. There is no making cut lists and such; it is all done for you and done perfectly, and according to how you want to do it.” What sort of learning curve did you undertake when you first got started with Microvellum? “Knowing that it is such a powerful tool, we were a bit nervous. After the install, we started working Microvellum on sample projects to learn the software. The library based platform is great. The products are there, just define all the parameters, and you have your product. We were experienced in AutoCAD, so the platform was familiar. We did not attend any of the training, and although we do not use all of its capabilities, we were using Microvellum efficiently in a month or two. There is no way we would go back.”
Chris describes the process prior to automation, “Quest handled all their manufacturing manually. Parts were all cut on a Holz- Her vertical panel saw, then bored on a separate machine, then the back dado was cut, then to assembly. With Microvellum driving the Holz-Her machining center, parts go from the CNC to the bander, then directly to assembly. They run a Holz-Her Uni Master Meta. It is a Hybrid machine. They nest all case parts, then either bore components on the machining center, as a point to point, or on a secondary boring machine. “Our company owns a Holz-Her CNC that links seamless to Microvellum. The service we receive from both Holz-Her and Microvellum is great. We sell on service, we buy on service. We could have bought less expensive machines and software, but it wouldn’t have allowed us our current success.” When asked about the current and future of Quest Engineering, Chris explains, “We have been keeping up with 2008 sales through September, although 4th quarter may tail off a bit. We have the potential to fi nish strong, if some of the projects that we are contracted for can start soon. In 2010 our plan is to further market diversifi cation and expanding our customer base. Again, the relationships we build with customers are win-win for both parties. They trust us, and we do what we do so they are not let down We continue to grow with control. We don’t want to grow too fast; you can’t maintain our level of customer service in a rapid growth module. Something always gives. We work on relationships with our customers. It is a trust and comfort thing. As we continue to work through the economic downturn, our relationships are key. I tell our customers and our vendors the same thing, “We all need to work together in these times and stay fl exible. I am no good without you, and you are no good without me. If we need each other’s help, it only takes a conversation to make the difference.”
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