A New Breed of EMS Supplier

Conelec Electronic Manufacturing
Written by Robert Hoshowsky

For over thirty years, Conelec Electronic Manufacturing has been offering electronic manufacturing services (EMS) for a variety of industries, including industrial, medical, commercial, and aerospace / defense / security.
Contract manufacturer Conelec prides itself on the quality and reliability of its services and products and carries the same commitment to customers it has had since it was formed in 1983 as Conelec of Florida Inc.

Truly a new breed of EMS supplier, Conelec is much more than a manufacturer. It provides decades of experience, support infrastructure, manufacturing asset capabilities and technologies. Conelec is in the business of seeing its clients succeed. The highly flexible company works with all customers to produce high-level assemblies, electromechanical and full system integration, customized solutions for specific program needs and reduces bill of materials costs through LEAN manufacturing expertise and by accelerating time-to-market.

Through the use of the highest-quality pick-and-place technology, Conelec – its name is derived from ‘Contract Electronic’ – creates printed circuit board assemblies (PCBAs) for leading-edge electronic original equipment manufacturers (OEMs).

“We’re a contract manufacturing organization,” says Michael Sobolewski, president and chief operating officer at Conelec for the past two years. “We don’t have our own products we put our label on; we instead build products for other people who put their label on and then sell to their own customers.”

The company’s high-level assembly enables it to create customized solutions for direct fulfillment (when a contract manufacturer sends products directly to the customer), material sourcing, engineering, test services, the assembly of complex electrical and electronic and mechanical sub-systems, prototypes, Kanban (the logistical chain control system developed by Taiichi Ohno at Toyota), vendor-managed inventory, component traceability, full product serialization, full system assembly, build-to-order and design for manufacturability.

Additionally, Conelec provides aftermarket services for electronic OEMs, including refurbishment, repairs, warranty and post-warranty, depot repairs, warehousing and logistics.

Conelec, an EMS supplier located in the southeastern United States, was acquired by Main Street Capital Holdings LLC in 2011. The Pittsburgh-based private equity firm has a superior track record and a reputation for providing portfolio companies with capital and resources required to achieve the greatest potential. For the team at Conelec, the acquisition was a positive one and revitalized not only the company’s direction, but enabled it to invest in new equipment, facilities, enhanced support services and more under an experienced management team.

“The word that comes to mind is transformation,” says John Hall, director of quality at the company for the past year. The purchase of Conelec by Main Street brought in a new management team with the first significant addition being Chief Financial Officer Natalie Cockayne, who has been with the company for four years. Vice President of Operations Joe Benz and Director of Quality John Hall soon followed.

In addition to building a strong management team, the acquisition resulted in Conelec streamlining its accounting system, financial reporting and other processes. Since Main Street already owned several companies in similar businesses, the EMS company inherited a number of best practices to help it position itself to achieve the next level of success.

“Main Street definitely had a vision of where they were going to take the company,” comments Cockayne. “There is definitely a detailed plan or formula that guides our business strategy which has been proven by other companies in our space.”

Another benefit of the purchase was the move from its existing facility, which was bursting at the seams, to a new one in Deland, Florida, about thirty-five miles north of Orlando. Conelec found a property that was constructed in 2008 to house another electronic manufacturing company, and it relocated in 2012.

The first thing it did was to introduce a state-of-the-art enterprise resource planning (ERP) system to run its business. “The implementation of ERP changed the way we do everything,” says Cockayne. “It changed the way we process customer orders, the way we do jobs and the way we manage inventory.” The implementation of an ERP system also changed tracking, the way it buys materials, planning, releasing jobs, measuring, the implementation of operational metrics such as on-time delivery, return rates, efficiencies by various work centers and other measurements throughout the business.

“From an operational standpoint, it was an entire cultural shift from where we were to where we are now,” states VP of Operations Benz. “From the standardization of processes to locking down the processes, materials, personnel, training, it was an absolute shift that saw us successfully implementing many documented processes and procedures.” Implementing several changes in business practices during the first stage of the transformation, stage two saw the company move into this new home in Deland and make considerable investments in new equipment.

Conelec’s equipment includes Panasonic pick-and-place equipment and Kurtz Ersa machines for selective soldering. With 62,000 square feet in its facility, 10,000 square feet of office, 35,000 square feet of finished manufacturing and warehouse space and 17,000 square feet of unfinished space ready for expansion, Conelec is well-prepared to meet current and future needs of all its customers.

The company’s full-time staff of about eighty-five provide an exhaustive range of aftermarket services and solutions for clients. The company presently runs two shifts: from seven in the morning until 3:30 in the afternoon and a second from 3:30 PM until midnight.

Striving to improve its services and capabilities every single day, Conelec Electronic Manufacturing achieved AS9100 Certification for aviation, space and defense in late March of this year. The internationally-recognized quality management system certification will enable Conelec to build and expand its partnerships considerably with OEMs engaged in defense and aerospace. This, and Conelec’s other certifications including ISO 9001 and ISO 13485 for medical, put the company in a prime position from a marketing standpoint.

“The AS9100 certification continues Conelec’s commitment to quality and regulatory compliance,” said the president and COO. “It will allow Conelec to expand market presence and stimulate continued growth within the electronics manufacturing industry.”

In a business where you are only as good as your last job, Conelec takes great measures to ensure precision and quality from inception to completion. It is, after all, helping other companies achieve success. Taking this role very seriously, Conelec realizes the importance of its manufacturing processes for products used in such critical areas as security controls, medical applications like patient monitoring systems or in industrial, avionics and military uses.

“Quality starts early in the process,” Director of Quality John Hall says. “We will sit down and have new product introduction meetings; go through products with all the cross-functional teams that are in-house; identify potential stumbling blocks and any clarification points that we need to get back to our customers. We will review all customers’ flow downs and requirements, and the program from what they want us to do from documentation to inspection, or just the classification of the product that they want us to build and how they want us to build the product, be it lead-free or standard lead.”

From there, the company continues to the actual new build, which is documented with first article inspection process at each step of the operation. After completion, staff meet to discuss lessons learned; review where they thought they were going to be; talk about any process recommendations they have; and provide feedback, which can include special labels, installing procedures or testing.

Its mission is to provide advanced technologies and services that surpass those of large electronics manufacturing suppliers. Often working with local suppliers, the company provides many more advantages than others in the field.

“Compared to our Asian competition, the amount of flexibility and personal attention that we can provide is just unmatched,” says VP of Operations Joe Benz. “With Asian businesses, there are hard orders which are inflexible; that flexibility doesn’t exist with our competition. With Conelec, we always have the customer’s best interests in mind and will make the adjustments the customers need, and it is that kind of attention that our customer base wants.”

Conelec often works with others on projects for the military, which must be undertaken in the United States, ruling out Asian competitors.

Conelec’s customers put a great deal of faith in the company. Many of them have been in long-term relationships with the company for over a decade, collaborating on everything from design to end-of-life. Its industry-wide reputation for quality, flexibility, reliability and consistency garners it new customers through word-of-mouth, direct sales, manufacturing representatives, an expanded on-line presence and personal recommendations from existing, satisfied clients. The company’s attitude is that it is a relationship-builder that seeks to be an extension of clients’ operations while forming sustained partnerships founded on integrity and respect.

“Trust in our business is critical and one of the most important things they have to have in Conelec and vice-versa,” comments Sobolewski. “If they cannot count on us and trust us to deliver their product on time, their business is going to fail.” In fact, many customers consider the company to be so reliable and consistent in quality, trustworthiness and honesty that it has been described as a ‘trusted extension of the customer’s organization’.

Primarily working with American clients, Conelec also has international customers. It ships products to locations such as Germany, Canada and the United Kingdom.

The team at Conelec knows that the company’s best years are ahead. Conelec has positioned itself to be the premier southeast regional electronic contract manufacturing provider.

“When you look at regional providers and you look at the southeast, there’s really no one that steps out from the pack that everyone thinks of when you think of a regional provider,” comments Cockayne. “And when we think of the vision of what we want as a company, we want Conelec to be the southeast regional provider of choice.”



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