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DS Handling Systems Ltd

Ontario, Canada

Customer Profile:
DS Handling Systems Ltd is a leading provider of case and pallet handling conveyor systems, based in Orangeville, Ontario. As a systems integrator with the capability to engineer and build both custom and standardized components, DS Handling excels in the delivery of tailored, turnkey conveyor solutions in design-build partnership with their clients.

Among DS Handling’s core competencies are engineering and metal fabrication. They have an electrical engineering group in-house, as well as a Canadian Standards Association (CSA) certified electrical panel fabrication shop. They build many of their own custom electrical control panels to optimize quality and control costs.

A strong and growing line of business for DS Handling is the manufacturing of package handling systems for courier and postal clients, including Canada Post, Purolator Courier, DHL, FedEx and Midland Courier.

“Data Cable’s core business is making box builds quickly and efficiently, and the’re extremely competitive at it.”

Business Challenge:
DS Handling’s product line for the package handling marketplace includes a modular, flexible, expandable conveyor system with individually controlled zones. Each zone is three feet in length and has its own electrical panel and cabling. An 80-foot long conveyor can be closed down to 15 to 20 feet when compacted, so cabling needs to loop to ensure nothing is damaged.

While DS Handling’s panel fabrication shop is competitive at building complex, custom electrical panels, these modular package handling conveyors require building many smaller, identical panels. Recognizing that it would confront significant speed-to-market, build quality and cost challenges to mass-produce these panels in-house, DS Handling considered – for the first time in its history – outsourcing part of its manufacturing process.

“They crash through the work in a tenth the time it would take us. Their labor cost is therefore much lower than ours would be.”

“We knew about Data Cable because they’re also in Orangeville,” explains Steve Marr, President at DS Handling. “When we developed this new product line and had concerns about whether we could do repetitive panel builds efficiently, we called them. We ultimately asked them to bid and have gone back to them ever since, for about three years now.”

“Data Cable’s core business is making box builds quickly and efficiently, and they’re extremely competitive at it,” Mr. Marr continues. “They crash through the work in a tenth the time it would take us. Their labor cost is therefore much lower than ours would be.”

But while speed-to-market is vitally important, Mr. Marr emphasizes that “Reliability is absolute!” His company’s packaging handling customers have two windows of operation each day. When freight comes in, it must be sorted and sent on its way by morning. End customers have paid for on-time delivery so delays are unacceptable.

“If one of our systems shuts down, our customer misses their window for sortation,” Mr. Marr clarifies. “That whole delivery is faulted to the next day. So not only do they lose revenue and upset their customers, but then they have double the work next shift. Downtime is simply unacceptable.”

“They suggested different ways of doing things that not only helped make their process more efficient, but also resulted in a product that we could assemble in the field more efficiently.”

Business benefits:
Data Cable is up to the task of delivering top quality work quickly and at low cost. “Every piece comes in identical,” Mr. Marr asserts. “I don’t think we’ve ever had even one ‘oops’ in the hundreds and hundreds of units they’ve built for us. 

“Repetitive work causes quality problems for many manufacturers, but not Data Cable. They are also able to make their processes highly efficient, so we realize enormous cost and lead time savings, versus doing the work ourselves.”

Mr. Marr cites as a further advantage the fact that Data Cable is “a mile down the road.” “With offshoring, build quality is a major concern. A local business needs to maintain a reputation worthy of keeping customers,” says Mr. Marr. “Outsourcing to a local partner makes it much easier to deal with engineering changes, too.”

“Right from the beginning we saw that the benefits of partnering with Data Cable
went beyond just getting the job done.”

Partnering with Data Cable:
“Right from the beginning we saw that the benefits of partnering with Data Cable went beyond just getting the job done,” Mr. Marr relates. “They suggested different ways of doing things that not only helped make their process more efficient, but also resulted in a product that we could assemble in the field more efficiently. They put a lot of effort into creating the best for their manufacturing, for our assembly – and for the operation of the conveyor.”

“Each job reflects different requirements and options from customers,” adds Mr. Marr. We give Data Cable the drawings and requirements and they build and test a prototype for our approval before proceeding with the order. This comes to us as a finished, working product – absolutely no questions about it. We do the final terminations, turn it on and start it up.”

“When we create a new product we encourage the customer to take the first piece for approval,” explains Kyle Nichol, a Technical Support technician at Data Cable. “We want to confirm they’re satisfied before we move forward. Many other contract cable houses just build your order, ship and if you don’t like it, too bad.”

“We want to keep our customers involved with us, and us involved with our customers,” Mr. Nichol adds. “With DS Handling we do our best to participate in their design and development, at least with regards the details on products that represent our core expertise.”

Final thoughts:
“The only thing we do at Data Cable is build what our customers require -- and we do it better than anyone else can,” states Mr. Nichol. “Part of that is our ability to make recommendations that improve the quality, reliability and longevity of our customers’ designs. That’s one way we differentiate ourselves from, say, just ordering something off the Internet.

“With partners like DS Handling, with which we have long-term relationships, we’re finding more and more that they want us to assess the feasibility of what they want us to build, and if we think we can help them do it better, say how.

“Having that kind of dialog with customers makes us an extension of their company,” concludes Mr. Nichol. “This deeper level of partnership benefits both our companies, as well as the end customer.”

"I chose Data Cable for its quality reputation. The one thing that separates them from all the rest is customer service. They respond in a timely fashion, they are able to manufacture high complexity cabling and they can shift priorities when engineering samples are required."
TL, Director of Operations, Telecommunications Test and Measurement Equipment, Mississauga, ON