This pulls excerpts from our podcast, Inspiring Innovation: Leaders in Manufacturing featuring Brian Weber. To watch our podcast episode, please visit Inspiring Innovation: Episode 2 or subscribe to our channel on your favorite podcast platform.
Polo Custom Products has been in business for over 75 years. Brian Weber, our Chief Operating Officer, believes that the company has been successful for two reasons: our dedication to customer success and the appreciation of our employees.
The Key to Longevity
Everyone has their own idea of what makes a company successful, and each company is different. There are two things that have contributed to Polo’s success for 75 years. One is that we are dedicated to our customer and ensuring that our customer is successful. And the other thing is that we make sure that our associates feel appreciated and have a safe place to work.
Now there’s all sorts of processes that go into manufacturing; lean manufacturing, Six Sigma, SPC, and others that you could say play a role in success. But what it boils down to is ensuring that our customers are successful. And that means our products are delivered on time at a competitive price with outstanding quality. If we do that, our customers’ products are going to sell well. As a custom manufacturer, our success is really the result of our customer’s success.
We also want to make sure that our people feel appreciated, that they enjoy coming to work, and that they feel heard. Polo’s fantastic HR department has done some great research and surveys about employee engagement, and we’ve initiated some great training so that our associates feel like they’re coming into a career, not a job. No matter what level. We want motivated intelligent associates that are excited, and that contributes to our success.
Diversification of Industries
Polo Custom Products serves many industries, including medical, fire & safety, industrial, and defense. This diversification also contributes to our success and allows us to weather economic downturns. For example, during the pandemic, airplanes weren’t flying, so aerospace was down. However, ICUs and hospitals were packed. The medical industry thrived. People didn’t have a lot to do during that time, so motorcycle purchases were up. Power sports industries really benefited during that time.
When the government is spending money, the fire and safety industry is up, as well as government defense, while perhaps industrial is down. Polo’s diversification allows us to continue to be successful even when one or two industries are down. We are not dependent on any one market or one customer. Because we don’t want to be, it wouldn’t be a smart business decision.
The Polo Difference
At Polo, our ability to offer a variety of different manufacturing processes and in-house solutions differentiates us from other suppliers and competitors. Other suppliers may have similar capabilities; you could find a company that does RF welding, or impulse sealing. They may do thermal contact, ultrasonic, laser or other processes. However, what makes Polo unique is that a customer or prospect can walk into a plant and find RF welding in one area. They would find ultrasonic welding machines in another area plant, an ultrasonic welding machine that is integrated into a sewing line where we’re doing industrial sewing with single needle machines, double needle machines, programmable pattern sewers, and bar attackers surges. In a separate room, they might find thermal forming of plastics or foams.
We have the ability to do it all. If a customer wants to build a backpack to have a semi rigid shell component and they want a polyurethane section and they want their logo debossed into it, we can do that, and do it all in-house. We can sew it; we can thermoform the component. We can emboss the polyurethane panel with RF and we can assemble it and ship it. We can design it. We can also hold it in inventory manage their inventory for them. We can ship it all over the world with our logistics capabilities.
This is such a huge benefit to our customers because we can do it all and we have done it all. Even processes that we don’t identify as our core competency, we have a lot of knowledge of. From the design to quoting to sampling to scaling up volume, on to logistics and delivery, we can help our customers every step of the way.
From Idea to High Volume Launch
A major medical OEM approached us with a product idea. It was a sister part to a product they were already manufacturing in house. Their original design wasn’t designed for manufacturability, so as a result, they were unable to scale up and automate as quickly as they needed.
We were very happy to help them and have that opportunity. We worked on a design that was suited to be manufactured quickly and could be scaled up, while still meeting their needs for product purpose and quality. They had a very tight timeline for full-scale production, so we could not fully automate due to the time it would take to do so. Our team designed a semi-automated manufacturing method, that still requires several operators to do the work, while also progressively moving the product through the process. Some of the other processes were automated as well.
The design was finalized in summer 2019, with the machinery being implemented in December of that year. The first shipment was scheduled for early 2020. This specific product was to be used in a lot of ICUs, and after salespeople were able to show the new product to the market, production needs skyrocketed by the summer of 2020. Now three years later, we have 15 machines running for this product. It is produced in all of our facilities. By the end of 2022, nearly 5 million units had been produced, and we are approaching 6 million units today.
This is how we can help our customers. Whatever the customer needs. This specific well-known medical OEM has told us that this is their fastest growing product and most successful product launch in their history. And it’s great to know that Polo was an integral part of those efforts.
The Future of Polo
Polo Custom Products is geared for growth. Certain markets or segments may grow faster than others. We may see certain markets move to full import, but there will always be products that need to be made domestically. We will continue to look for and take advantage of opportunities that can benefit our customers, such as finding ways to reduce costs while still offering exceptional quality.
Overall, Polo Custom Products’ longevity and success can be attributed to our dedication to our customers, focus on our employees, and diversification of industries, and we aren’t going anywhere. With a wide range of manufacturing capabilities and a commitment to excellence, we are well-positioned to continue to thrive in this industry for years to come.