Back in 1904, when the Schuster family started its electrical contracting business in Cincinnati, electronic apparatus was a lot less complicated. Parts were simpler and there were fewer of them. Now, with the proliferation of electronic products, devices and systems, the array of components runs into the thousands and includes a multitude of complicated parts and assemblies.
Fortunately, the Schuster business stayed current through the decades. It has since evolved into a distribution company that supplies high-quality components to a broad customer base throughout the Midwest, Canada and Mexico. Ted Ludeke, Schuster’s president, notes that Schuster has grown into a company that was recently named to the Top 50 Distributors list by Electronic Buyers’ News.
“Industry megamergers and consolidations are helping us,” Ludeke says. “We have found, through surveying our core customers, that they feel ignored by the larger distributors.” Schuster has remained a family business, and Ludeke is a member of the third generation in charge. He and John Ludeke took on management in 1971 from their uncle Bill Schuster, the founder’s son and the person who guided the company into becoming a distributor of electromechanical components.
A Networked Operation
With 2001 sales projected at approximately $25 million, Schuster has built its success steadily over the years by offering quality products and first-rate customer service. Wade Crise, director of product marketing, describes the company’s approach to its customers as follows: “We have focused on the Midwest as our core region, with people on the streets covering only their territory. This offers us the advantage of one-on-one service and a face-to-face element. Our mission is to do this not only with top-tier accounts in each territory, but second- and third-tier accounts as well.”
From its Cincinnati headquarters, Schuster operates a business that employs about 100 people in nine locations. The company’s branches are located in Columbus and Twinsburg, Ohio; Livonia, Mich.; Lexington, Ky.; Indianapolis, Ind.; Pittsburgh; Chesterfield and Kansas City, Mo.; and Chicago. An 800-number sales office serves other areas of the United States, Canada and Mexico. Warehouse/distribution space at these locations totals 20,000 square feet.
An ISO 9002-compliant business, Schuster has incorporated high-technology innovations into its operations. These include electronic data interchange (EDI), database marketing/sales systems and Internet communications. Ludeke states that this technology facilitates the distribution process for the company and its customers. “By developing our own contract management software, known as IMPACT, we have been able to dramatically reduce our customers’ total procurement cost,” he says. “The total procurement-cost equation now includes not only components costs, but also shipping, handling, quality control and inventory management. We also offer our customers the opportunity to list their excess inventory on our Internet searchable database.”
Schuster also provides the following value-added services to its customers:
• Custom connector, switch and cable assembly
• High-density terminal block assembly
• Parts-marking, engraving and packaging services
• Custom rail and terminal block assemblies
• Bar-code and customer labeling
• Quality assurance testing for cable assemblies
• Custom modification on printer, LCD and interface modules
• Strip product cut to customer specifications
• Printed circuit board modification
• Electromechanical assemblies
• Same-day shipping and just-in-time delivery
The company’s product list runs the gamut, with categories that include: batteries and holders, cable assemblies, capacitors, circuit breakers, connectors, fuses and holders, hardware and accessories, heat sinks, IC sockets and carriers, lamps, LEDs/displays, semiconductors, sensors, surge-static protectors, LCD products, magnetics, power supplies, switches, crystals and oscillators, electronic enclosures and housings, fans, filters, printers and interfaces, relays, resistive products, terminal blocks, terminals and contacts, thermal paper, transducers/sound products, transformers, wires and cables.
Recent expansions to the Schuster business include the addition of seven new lines this year: Crouzet automation control products; Central Semiconductor surface-mount conductors and end-of-life semiconductors; Transducers USA transducers and sound products; Unity Microelectronics lamps, LEDs and displays; Topin Battery sealed lead acid batteries; Song Chuan relays; and Song Long zinc-oxide varistors. These lines join other top names handled by Schuster such as American Zettler, Amphenol Aerospace, BI Technologies, Cosel USA, CTS, Harting, Hirose Electric, Kingbright, NKK Switches, Phoenix Contact, Samtec and Wima.
Commenting on future expansions of service and products, Ludeke states, “Through continued development of our contract management system, we will be able to provide ever more valuable service to our customers. We are constantly searching for lower-cost, high-quality sources of product so that we can assure customers that they are building their products with components that represent the lowest overall cost.”