Q&A with Marc Strandquist

President for the Americas at Optimas Solutions

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What did you see coming that helped you map out the future of Optimas Solutions Americas’ market?

There were a lot of unfinished projects, but there was a really good base with excellent resources and great people. We put together a plan to challenge everybody to be best in class in the marketplace. We wanted to be able to offer a full range of products and services.

Tell us about Optimas Solutions’ renewed strategy for the Americas market.

Our strategy is to really focus on innovation and technology, because we have a variety of things we can and will offer in addition to fasteners. For example, we went from focusing on simple VMI programs to offering sophisticated programs like RFID.

Internally, we installed demand planning tools to help manage the ebbs and flow in our distribution business. That is a dynamic change for us, and that’s something that we think is best-in-class in the marketplace. We’ve really focused on our manufacturing side, too. We installed a new ERP system in our Wood Dale, Illinois, facility. Those are the types of innovation that we’re working on in order to separate us from the competition.

How can your Manufacturing Solution strategy apply to gear manufacturing?

There are three things that we enhanced that would be of great use to your audience:

One, we have an eCommerce platform that is at the top of the industry. It offers customers convenient and quick access to manufacturing consumables.

If customers want standard fasteners or MRO products for their facility, they can log-in as a customer and order those items from their production floor. Hand sanitizer and safety products, as well as other PPE items, are available as well. In this coronavirus atmosphere where contactless interaction is preferred, there is no better solution. A few clicks and orders arrive at the dock however the customer wants them shipped. We’re able to source ample supplies of quality products and quickly provide them from our mobile-friendly site, so customers don’t have to go to a distribution warehouse or retail outlet. 

The second thing is our unique, cold-form, manufacturing plant. We offer an integrated solution — engineering, rapid prototyping, cold-form production, and quality testing — from a single location near Chicago. Our capabilities include six-die machines. That allows us to produce 16 mm and below. And, what’s unique about this is when you are looking for a near net shape form or a blank that a gear manufacturer would screw-machine the rest of the way to their tight tolerances, we can save them money.

Typically, today, they would get rod or bar, and let’s say it’s one inch in diameter. They would cut off a piece and machine it down. There’s a lot of steel that’s wasted by that machining process. But with Optimas Manufacturing, we can produce multiple diameters, so there is much less cost on the steel side. We can do a near net shape of a gear that they can finish off. We can give them all sorts of high-volume opportunities to make blanks with tremendous cost savings.

The third thing is, if a gear manufacturer has a higher volume product that they’re making, whether it’s a gear assembly or another offering, sometimes it comes with a high-quality fastener that has to be a grade eight, super-strong part because of its application. We can provide an individual part number for a male-threaded fastener they might need to be part of the component they are making.

What have you done at Optimas Solutions to help combat the economic impact of COVID-19?

I asked everybody to stay focused. So, in the second quarter, which was a disaster, we did not hide in our offices. Everybody was working hard making the kind of improvements that would help Optimas be ready for the next generation of doing business. We were perfectly suited for the old way, but now, customers do not see you at their locations. We’re doing Teams and Zoom meetings, all sorts of new things in order to communicate with audiences.

We have to make sure we present our products and services in innovative ways that attract and engage audiences — wherever they are located — as opposed to the classic outside salesperson showing up with a box of doughnuts. It’s just not going to be that way anymore.

We want to make sure we’re able to present solutions and support customers with the technology we have.

We’re going to always be there for our customers and give them the benefit of being a good partner and help them generate higher profits, more cashflow with their inventory, as well as help them manage their inventory, so they can focus on their own demand, innovation, and production.

Looking forward, how do you see using this strategy to handle future challenges in a post-COVID-19 world?

I’m not so sure there is a post-COVID-19 world; I think there’s a post-crisis world. I think, 50 years from now, this virus is still going to be out there. I think we’ll have controls in place, but we never got rid of the common cold or the flu.

It’s going to be another thing that we have to deal with globally, but I still think business will thrive. Hopefully, people are going to start going back to the office. If not, I think Optimas is well on its way to adapting to this new environment.

And I think there’s going to be, in terms of manufacturing, which — and this is just an educated guess — has been 80 percent direct selling and 20 percent direct marketing. We’ll see it go 50/50, or it might even go 60 percent direct marketing. And that’ll just be the reality of life. No matter what, Optimas will continue to innovate and serve its customers.