At Bermo, if it’s not good enough for the employees, it’s definitely not good enough for anyone else. Lorie Russo explains how a 50-year-old business philosophy remains fresh for the company in today’s global business environment.
To be a major supplier of custom manufacturing and design services for metal-stamped, injection-molded and fabricated products, a company would have to pay strict attention to maintaining close relationships with its customers. At Bermo Incorporated, that kind of thinking has been a way of life for more than 50 years.
Based in Circle Pines, Minn., Bermo began as a family business in 1947, employing skilled craftsmen and technology in a continuous-improvement environment long before it became the norm. Proof of its success lies in the company’s 25 percent annual growth rate in recent years, and projected sales of $175 million for the year 2000.
From Every Angle
Bermo looks at customers’ requirements from eight different perspectives, encompassing all aspects of the part design, cost, quality and schedule, says Jerry Atherton, vice president of corporate development. This approach ensures clean and consistent communication through all phases of the program, whether it is in the early design stages, prototyping, production ramp, sustained production or end of life.
With its wide range of vertically integrated solutions and ISO 9001-certified processes, Bermo maintains a top spot as a preferred manufacturer of high-quality products, ranging from precision metal and plastic components to fully integrated assemblies, including plastics and tooling. Bermo has invested heavily in in-house tooling capabilities and its tools, dies and molds are manufactured to exacting standards using machine-tool codes generated by CAD systems.
Bermo’s tool capabilities encompass hard and soft tooling, mass-production or prototyping applications, and metals and plastics. In the area of metal stampings, Bermo’s operation runs 24 hours a day, enabling the company to provide quick turnarounds on large-scale production runs. Its plastic-molding technologies include closed-loop injection-molding machines, central drying and conveying systems, and robotics. These capabilities, combined with the company’s statistical process controls, guarantee production quality and efficiency. Bermo’s secondary operations include 16 robots, tapping, PEM insertion and radial staking. Its services in the welding area include resistance, tig, mig, plasma and robotic laser. Bermo also offers hot stamping, pad transfer, heat staking, cold staking, ultrasonic welding and a powder paint line. Through outside providers, the company also furnishes plating, painting, silk-screening, machining and laser cutting.
In final assembly and test, Bermo’s services range from hardware insertion, light machining, welding, labeling, riveting, gasket attachment, testing and materials management of pre-purchased components. Bermo also supports installation, materials management and testing of the following purchased components: fans, ware harnesses, passive back planes (ESD protection available) power supplies and motors, speakers and light-emitting diodes.
Its plants and equipment, coupled with vast engineering and tooling support, separate Bermo from the competition. The company’s objective is to offer customers vertically integrated solutions according to their program requirements. Bermo is also supporting its one-stop shopping approach with plans to increase added-value sales through higher levels of assembly. In addition, the company’s design department offers in-house tool and mold making, in-house part designers, numerous CAD and CNC programming, and complete design from component to full enclosure.
The Quality Network
At Bermo, quality and expertise go hand in hand. Bermo’s manufacturing facilities are globally networked to provide e-mail-capable, online quality for all aspects of the quality function. Customers can access failure mode and effect analysis (FMEA), first-article inspection reports, receiving-inspection data, in-process-inspection data, final-inspection data, the calibration database, corrective action forms, preventative-action forms, deviation-request forms, product-purge forms, process-yield data, pareto-chart data and MRB/failure-analysis reports. Bermo Chassis Products is a special area of the company, which represents all of its core competencies leveraged into a single program. The program has been designed to be totally responsive to customers’ needs and encompasses product design, process development, tool design, plastic and metal component manufacturing, assembly, materials management, product finishing and logistics.
Bermo’s quality engineering function is completely paperless, using a globally integrated quality-system database. The company’s QA engineers, and the teams they function within, are focused on up-front product and process design input to optimize the final product outcome and long-term customer satisfaction. When quality issues do arise, the staff of ASQ-certified quality professionals work hard to ensure that defects are driven back to their source and eliminated through root cause evaluation and effective, corrective action. The company also posts project-specific data on the Internet for easy access.
State-of-the-art software and hardware are duplicated in all plants to ensure that, regardless of manufacturing location, there is no variation in the methods or equipment used to verify product quality. Digital images are embedded in all part-inspection programs to guarantee that every operator and inspector measures every part the same way, time after time.
Bermo takes the team approach to program management. Each account-based program team has representatives from the following areas: new and sustaining program management, project engineering, process engineering, quality engineering, manufacturing engineering, purchasing and product planning. “Program management is one of our strong points,” says Atherton.
At present, Bermo is set on building upon the success it has enjoyed. It has initiated overseas ventures as well as a strategic-development and capital-outlay program within its United States facilities. Bermo opened its first overseas plant six years ago, in Scotland. Since then, it has opened additional facilities in Mexico and in California, representing capital investments of $11 million and $2 million, respectively. “Growth will come through additional vertical integration as we concentrate on global manufacturing,” Atherton says.
All signs point to a strengthening of this business philosophy for the future. So goes the company motto: “At Bermo, quality is not an afterthought. Quality is Bermo. With every step we take, quality is a critical consideration. Bermo is never satisfied unless the process produces the quality we expect.”