Beverly Bleicher likes the idea of outsourcing.
because her company, Bitec Inc., has enjoyed 20 percent
revenue growth in each of the past three years by
picking up the work many of her existing clients were
looking to unload.
Traditionally a tooling and machining shop, Bitec has
added services such as inventory management and assembly
work. Bleicher started to offer the new services when
her company's growth slowed after the terror attacks of
Sept. 11, 2001. She leveraged her long-term
relationships with customers to identify new services
her company could provide.
The new approach is helping Bitec boost revenue about 22
percent this year to $3.5 million. The company has 40
employees, and Bleicher plans to have hired another 10
employees by this time next year. In addition, the new
services are fueling a planned $1.25 million expansion,
which mostly involves the purchase of high-tech tooling
equipment to modernize the shop.
"You have to try to fill more needs other than just
being a components supplier," Bleicher said.
Bitec started 20 years ago as a tooling shop, making
parts for customers mostly in the aerospace and defense
industries. But changes in the defense industry,
including the end of the Cold War in the 1990s and the
terror attacks in 2001, stalled the company's growth.
There was a shift in military weapons production, and
many of Bitec's federal clients were not ordering any
new work in the transition.
That's when Bleicher decided to look deeper into her
relationships with current customers, which include
major industry leaders, such as General Electric Co.,
Procter and Gamble Co. and John Deere. She was able to
identify new services Bitec could offer each that would
make each company more efficient and boost her own
Foremost among her efforts was creating an inventory
management service where Bitec would manufacture the
components for its customers and then warehouse and
manage the inventory and deliver the intricate machined
pieces on an as-needed basis. In one case, she said such
an arrangement freed up an entire department for a
customer, which then was able to expand its work in
another area with the extra employees.
Bleicher said the company's inventory tracking system
allows it to cater a program to meet the customer's
need. For example, some companies receive monthly
inventory reports, some have direct access to Bitec's
system to track their stockpiles on their own, and some
depend on Bitec workers to access their systems and
completely handle their inventory needs.
Among the products Bitec makes are nonmetallic parts for
John Deere's outdoor farm equipment, advanced composite
pieces for the blades of Sikorsky Aircraft Corp.
helicopters, and engine pieces for the space shuttle.
"The great thing about being small is that it allows you
the flexibility to meet the need or to come up with
innovative solutions," Bleicher said. "And in there is
Working with her customers, Bleicher also saw an
advantage of providing more kit work, meaning that Bitec
now makes several components for a particular assembly
process and packages them as a kit. So instead of only
making one or two of the components for the customer,
Bitec now may make six or seven pieces and sell them as
a package to the customer. She said she was able to sell
the kits at a better price while helping increase her
customer's efficiency on their assembly lines.
In addition, Bitec is getting into assembly and testing.
In the past, before customers could move into full
production, their product would need to be strenuously
tested to industry standards. In some cases, Bitec would
create the pieces, assemble them, and then have to ship
them back to the customer or even off to another company
to be tested. Now Bitec can test locking systems, such
Angelia Erbaugh, director of the Dayton Tooling and
Manufacturing Association, said Bitec is among the first
of the smaller shops in the Dayton area to apply supply
chain management techniques similar to those used by
"Some of the large automotive suppliers have been doing
that for some time," Erbaugh said. "It's unusual and
probably a very good thing that Bitec's watching that
type of technique and is setting it up within a smaller
organization. Our industry needs to have that kind of
vision and understand that if they keep doing what
they've been doing, they're not going to be around that
This transformation to accommodate multiple tasks has
done more than deliver revenue, Bleicher said. Having a
more steady revenue stream has freed up time to track
down more work, and the additional capabilities and
equipment have helped Bitec cut costs.
"It's what they used to call your bread-and-butter
work," Bleicher said. "It covers your overhead and gives
you the ability to be more competitive to attract other
business, and that's where you'll find your growth. If
you're out there constantly hustling for that new
contract with a new customer, it's a way to survive, but
it always leaves you in survival mode. And that can
really wear on a small-business owner."
The additional services, most important the inventory
management, also makes Bitec and its customers
co-dependents, she said. The agreements make Bitec
concerned about the longevity of its customer for
continued work, and the customer in turn becomes
concerned with Bitec's health to be able to continue to
maintain their supplies.
"You become critical to a company's success," Bleicher
said. "You want to be the one they're depending on."