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Because success hinges on quality parts, automotive and appliance OEMs rely on the Sisler Manufacturing Group to supply their metal stamping and assembly needs. So much, in fact, that the company is investing some $14 million to enlarge its operations in Dickson, Tenn., its third major expansion since 2012.
“The expansion helps us address growing demand, as well as to further diversify our product offerings and industries we supply,” notes Jon Sisler, president and CEO.
The Sisler Manufacturing Group comprises three business units—Truform Manufacturing, American Hinge Technologies, and Fuentes de Manufactura de México (FMM). In addition, Sisler has strategic partnerships to supply products worldwide with Nuova Star S.p.a., of Bologna, Italy and Tian-Yuan Tian-You Group with operations in Taiwan and Vietnam.
Overall, ISO:9001 certified Sisler provides extensive metal stamping, welding, automated assembly, product development, program management and warehouse and logistic services. Truform is an ISO/IATF 16949 metal stamping and assembly facility that is a Tier 2 automotive supplier of exhaust systems, instrument panels and other modular assemblies. As you might expect from its name, Tier 1 appliance supplier American Hinge Technologies produces engineered hinges and counterbalance systems, slow close and other specialty hinge designs, as well as other assemblies and mechanisms. Both companies are located on the Dickson campus to supply U.S. markets. FMM focuses on custom-designed hinges serving the OEM Major Appliance market in the central Mexico region.
Sisler adds that, “We’re looking to diversify into low volume assemblies in the commercial appliance sector. It complements our sheet metal manufacturing capabilities and allows us to diversify our product mix.”
The expansion of its Dickson operations adds some 40,000 square feet to its existing facility that is expected to be operational in the third quarter of 2019. The addition is warranted in part by Truform being awarded a large program of stampings and welded assemblies for exhaust system and cockpit components in support of the model 2021 Nissan Rouge.
Bigger, Better in Tennessee
In addition to a larger footprint, the company is installing new equipment, including what GM Paul Beaton terms, “The most modern Amada fiber laser cutting machine as well as press brake.” He adds, “We also have the latest in air quality filtration equipment to support our robotic MIG welding operations. Our manufacturing is performed using the cleanest processes and we’re committed to maintain the highest environmental standards.”
While many of the welding and manufacturing processes are automated, the Dickson expansion is expected to create 90 new jobs over the next five years. Sisler previously added some 50 employees this past August in support of Nissan Altima weld cells. The company currently employs about 160.
“Tennessee is a great location for us,” Sisler notes, “both in terms of proximity to our customers and access to the state’s labor pool. We partner with the local technical schools to provide an apprenticeship program to help develop a workforce with the skills required for modern manufacturing. We have a three to one ratio of skilled tradespeople to apprentices, so there’s ample opportunity for hand-on learning directly with experienced people.”
Equally important, points out R. Chris Naumovski, treasurer and CFO, “Tennessee is a very pro-business state. State, local and county agencies have taken us under their wings and helped us with a range of tax credits and grants, as well as various economic development pilot programs. Their support has been essential to our continued growth.”
Positive Culture and Practices
If strategic location, state-of-the-art capabilities, engineering and project management expertise weren’t enough, Sisler points out several additional attributes that make the company standout. First, he says, “We have a unique company culture that fosters a family-like environment that encourages teamwork, continuous improvement, loyalty, creativity and enthusiasm. The sustainability of our business depends upon the success of our employees.”
Sisler Manufacturing is also a proponent of 6D Methodology 5S manufacturing practices. “The 6D Methodology improves the efficiency of our development and execution; it keeps us focused and helps set priorities,” Sisler explains. Each quarter a leadership team reviews strategic and operational objectives both to effectively align activities across the organization and promote open communications and team building.
The goal of 5S is to provide a safe, clean and comfortable manufacturing environment to reduce downtime, defect and injuries and at the same time improve efficiency, employee morale and overall working conditions. “It is an integral part of our organizational structure and a critical tool for operations on the factory floor,” Sisler says.
While price and delivery times are always key customer concerns, one of the company’s key competitive advantages is its ability to handle difficult assemblies. “It’s a mix between customers handing us blueprints to follow as well as asking us to design a solution for them,” Sisler says. “In either case, we’re dealing with two mature industries that are looking for innovations to enable them to be more competitive. We have the engineering and manufacturing competencies to help them achieve these innovations.”
While the manufacturing sector in general as well as the overall economy have been on an upswing of late, the recent imposition of tariffs have put some uncertainty in the pricing and availability of raw materials. Sisler notes that, “Truform has a great deal of experience purchasing and program managing tooling built in China. Recent steel price pressures and tariff rate increases have created headwinds that Truform has been able to minimize through our global network of partners allowing us to obtain best costing for our customer base.”
He adds, “Overall, we’re enjoying increasing demand which we expect to continue, particularly as we diversify further and build on our capabilities. Obviously, we wouldn’t be expanding operationally if we weren’t. What’s also driving our business is that our customers are looking to incorporate the latest innovations and take whatever the ‘new thing’ is to market. Thanks to our advanced engineering systems, quality management using IATF 16949 (a certification that is very hard to get, by the way) and manufacturing capabilities, we’re looking forward to new challenges and new business.