Custom Manufacturer Celebrates 50 Years in Metal Forming
Despite changing with the times, Bazz Houston has never wavered in its commitment to serving its customers.
The Bazz Houston Company, long recognized as one of the West Coast's pre-eminent metal forming companies, has a lot to be thankful for as it celebrates its 50th anniversary this year. The company started in a garage, punching out stampings with a single machine in 1961, when it was founded by Jack Bazz (now deceased) and Chet Houston. Bazz Houston has grown significantly since then, and now operates manufacturing facilities in Garden Grove, Calif., and Tijuana, Mexico. Chet Houston is still active in the company today as Chairman.
Although much has changed over the past 50 years, the basic company philosophy--to offer customers the best overall value, exceptional service, and the highest quality product at the lowest possible price--has remained the same. Bazz Houston manufactures a wide variety of metal parts, including springs, stampings, wire forms, and slide products, while also offering assembly services and tooling. The company's recent emphasis has been on making major improvements to its engineering, tooling, and quality departments and continuing the expansion of its Mexico plant.
Bazz Houston is particularly proud of its engineering department, a multi-talented team capable of providing everything from the initial design of a new or existing product, through prototyping and the finished part. Company engineers work closely with customers, either at their own facilities or at Bazz Houston, and are familiar with the latest 2D and 3D design software. The company has expanded its tooling department significantly with the acquisition of Mark of Precision, a tooling house in Upland, California (see Bazz Houston Acquires Mark of Precision, Inc.). In addition, the quality department is in the process of obtaining AS9100 certification to go along with the company's current ISO 9001:2008 registration of its California and Mexico facilities.
What does all of this mean for Bazz Houston's customers today, 50 years after the company's founding? To find out, we recently talked with one of the company's founders, Chet Houston, and President/CEO Javier Castro.
D2P: Chet, what was Bazz Houston's mission when it started? And how has the company grown since then, in terms of its capabilities and the diversity and depth of its customer base?
Chet Houston (CH): Our mission was simply to survive! Our company has grown from one machine and a small tool room in a garage, to its present locations in Garden Grove (55,000 square feet) and Tijuana (20,000 square feet). Sales have grown significantly since then. Both facilities offer metal stampings, springs, four-slide, assembly services, tooling, and engineering support to our diverse customer base. Bazz Houston's customer list penetrates every sector of the business community, from commercial applications to the most complex electronic products. You will find our products on garage doors, in hospitals, on golf courses, in vineyards, on trucks and cars, in high definition televisions, and in airplanes, to just name a few.
D2P: How have the requirements and demands of customers changed since 1961?
CH: There is no "smoke and mirrors" anymore! Customers today are much more demanding and sophisticated, particularly in terms of quality. For instance, ISO certification is now considered essential, and both of our plants are ISO 9001:2008 registered. We are also actively pursuing AS9100 Quality Management System certification, again, in both Garden Grove, Calif., and Tijuana, Mexico, and hope to complete this shortly. AS9100 is designed specifically to meet the demands of the aerospace industry, from commercial aviation to defense. This standard is recognized by all major aerospace OEMs, such as Eaton, General Electric, Boeing, Bombardier, Rolls-Royce, Pratt & Whitney, Goodrich, et cetera. Bazz Houston is already a certified supplier to several aerospace customers like Boeing, Bombardier, and Eaton.
The other main emphasis is on modern procedures that ensure on-time delivery of quality parts. Price continues to play a significant role, but for many of our customers, it is just one part of the equation. We also recognize that many customers are looking for vendors who can see the entire project through from original concept to finished product, and for this reason, we continue to improve our tooling and engineering design services. Our latest addition was the purchase of the Mark of Precision tooling house.
D2P: For Bazz Houston, what's been the biggest constant through the years, the thing that has sustained the company through changing times?
CH: Hard work and dedication to making our customers happy, and offering them the world class service they deserve. Of course, we've also had to adapt and change. The world has shrunk considerably; we are no longer just competing against companies in our own backyard, but against companies based as far away as China, Vietnam, India, et cetera, et cetera. That was the most difficult challenge we have ever faced, as at one stage, it seemed as though all of our major customers had either moved their production off shore or were in the process of thinking about. We knew that we had to adapt quickly or die! But I'll let Javier talk about that.
D2P: Javier, you joined Bazz Houston at a somewhat difficult and challenging time. How would you describe the major challenges facing you, and what were your solutions?
Javier Castro (JC): My first objective was to develop an effective quality system, develop our staff through in-house training programs, and achieve ISO registration. Concurrently, we identified and implemented a fully integrated manufacturing software program. Once these improvements were in place, the focus was on stemming the tidal wave of customers moving to low-cost countries. Even those customers still sourcing primarily in the U.S.A. had large assembly/manufacturing facilities in Mexico. We realized early on that to better service these customers, Bazz Houston needed to produce parts more economically.
We briefly considered China, but the obvious choice for us was Mexico, and in particular, Tijuana. Tijuana offered us many advantages. First of all, it is within driving distance of our corporate facility. The location we selected was very close to several of our key customers, and just as importantly, research showed us that it was already home to a significant pool of potential new customers.
D2P: How is the company equipped to help OEMs and product manufacturers thrive in today's business climate, which includes many cost challenges?
JC: Engineering support is the main advantage Bazz Houston offers, as we are able to work closely with customers on new product development, prototyping, and pre-production samples. With the addition of our Mexico Maquiladora, we are also able to provide customers low-cost local production, reduced inventory levels through frequent deliveries, and shorter lead-times by eliminating cross-border documentation and custom delays, to name a few.
We can also offer a complete range of engineering support to aid our customers both in the early design process and then with "Design for Process Capability" to help them evaluate the feasibility of a wide range of materials, such as exotic metals, including titanium, Inconel®, pre-plated metals, to more common raw materials like stainless steel, low and high carbon steels, and beryllium copper. This then enables us to use the most cost-effective material and part configuration, which will result in the highest quality product at the best possible price. Whenever relevant, we also consider different tooling possibilities. We are also equipped to offer prototypes and short runs, and lead times from tooling to production have been reduced in some cases to a little as three-to-five weeks.
Our Engineering Group constantly reviews productivity improvements that result in cost-saving opportunities for our customers. For example, Bazz Houston recommended an alternate gauge steel with forming enhancements that reduced the overall part weight by 20% while increasing the strength and overall performance of the part. This recommendation ultimately saved our customer over $400,000 the first year alone.
We have also worked with customers to prototype and provide tool-off samples for the next generation of products that allow them to perform functional testing, which decreases the time to market and allows for timely changes and improvements during the development stages. We even provided cost reductions to our customers by having our engineering team work closely with their engineering team to increase tolerances, change radius specifications, eliminate unnecessary finishing requirements, et cetera.
D2P: Chet, by partnering with Bazz Houston on complex manufacturing projects, what benefits do customers gain from the company's 50 years of technical experience in the wire and metal industry, as well as its specialized engineering support and commitment to quality?
CH: Probably, the accumulated experience of our 50 years as a manufacturer of first class metal and wire parts in a wide variety of different industries. And, our experience is really broad based. We work with major OEMs in aerospace; automotive; computers; defense; hardware; irrigation; medical equipment and devices; recreation; and telecommunications. Some of our employees have been with us for 25 to 35 years, and this accumulated experience is testimony to the knowledge gained during those years helping to design, create, and manufacture parts. We constantly critique our processes and employees and are always looking for ways to improve the quality of our service.
D2P: What's on the horizon for Bazz Houston? Are there any emerging or growing industries that the company would like to get more involved in?
CH: Presently we are focused on increasing our customer base and developing the customers we already have. We have always seen this as one of the best ways to grow. Find a new customer and then build that customer into a growing and lasting relationship. We have worked with some of our customers for well over two decades. We are also constantly looking for new opportunities, both in existing and developing fields. In reality, that means today that we are developing business in the aerospace sector, as well as pursuing solar and wind companies.
D2P: Javier, are you confident about the future? And if so,why?
JC: Even though we are experiencing unprecedented global competition, at Bazz Houston we are growing our business through effective customer partnerships, strategic manufacturing locations, exceptional customer service, and most importantly, a dedicated and committed group of employees. We are prepared to meet the demanding expectations of our customers by helping them to identify cost-saving opportunities and by providing the "Best Overall Value." We are very proud of our accomplishments over the past 50 years, and we are more excited than ever about the future of our company.
D2P: How is it to work with one of the original founders?
JC: I am in a unique position, in that I have the pleasure of working closely with one of the original founders. Mr. Houston is a great mentor, providing great business insight, and the support and encouragement necessary to help me perform at my best. By working closely with Mr. Houston over the past decade, I have a solid understanding of what has made Bazz Houston so successful over the past fifty years, and continuing this business philosophy will ensure our success for years to come.
D2P: Javier, finally, what would you like to tell new prospects about Bazz Houston's abilities to "help them get where they want to go?"
JC: Call us, check out our web site (www.bazz-houston.com), and then begin a dialogue with us. We have experienced and talented technical sales engineers who can walk them through all of the many services available to them at a world class company like Bazz Houston. Visit our two facilities and see all of the additional services we can offer, from engineering and tooling design; materials analysis; prototypes and short runs; on-time delivery; and quality assurance. We are as experienced in the design and production of new products as in modifying existing ones.
And, last but not least, we have many years of experience in a wide range of different industries, and a very talented and enthusiastic staff. Times have certainly changed in the past 50 years, and we have also changed with the times. But one thing has remained constant: our commitment to serving our customers.
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