Is there an echo in the room? Another South Carolina Company hinges success on Workforce

Recently, South Carolina Manufacturing (SCMFG) sat down with Preston Patnoude, the Managing Director of Edgewater Automation in Spartanburg, to discuss the state’s business climate, wants and needs.

  1. (SCMFG) What in-state organizations, fellow manufactures and business service providers did Edgewater Automation utilize to achieve its current market standing?

    Edgewater Automation in Spartanburg, SC

(Preston Patnoude) Getting started, the state and county economic development groups really helped us get acclimated. Prior to purchasing our existing site, we used the Tyger River soft landing complex for six months. This was an excellent way for us to get our business going while validating the optimum long-term site. Local vendors with national exposure such as McNaughton McKay and Cross, were able to help us switch over and supply our parts with little or no noticeable change from our previous vendors in another state. Once we were underway, the local manufacturers helped support our rapid growth. The quality and timeliness of those vendors allowed us to achieve our growth and customer goals.

  1. What could those external resources have done to speed up your growth?

When starting a new company in a new region it was challenging to find vendors that fit our needs. Fortunately, we were able to hire local talent early, who knew the various companies and helped guide us in our search for suppliers. Understanding the abilities and areas of expertise of vendors that work in custom machining and fabrication required additional time to ensure that we selected the right vendor for the correct application. A directory of vendors with references would have helped us grow at a faster rate.

  1. Looking back on Edgewater Automation’s timeline, can you point to any internal or external resource that made your current success possible?

Our success is always through our employees. We were fortunate enough to find talented people in a timely manner.  Although we build custom automated machines, quality people are our only real resource. The state’s focus on Engineering and Mechatronics created a very good pool of potential employees. With the state’s help, we were able to establish an apprenticeship program quickly utilizing Spartanburg Community College’s existing curriculum for our technical staff. Clemson’s school of engineering has been an excellent source for our great staff of engineers. The available quality personnel allowed us to increase our staff by ten times in less than five years.

  1. Going forward, what advice would you give fellow South Carolina manufacturers trying to move up the supply chain, obtain relative certifications or diversify their portfolio?

I would suggest both.  We try to encourage our employees to obtain certifications relative to their positions as well as certifications for the company. One of our goals starting up in South Carolina was to increase the industry diversity of our customer portfolio, creating more balance and stability for our company. Supplying automation equipment to the automotive market has always been and will continue to be part of our business plan, but the diversity of industry in South Carolina and the surrounding regions has been able to help balance our portfolio, increase our growth, and stabilize our business.

  1. At your current state, what South Carolina organizations, fellow manufactures, business service providers or in-house solutions will Edgewater Automation utilize to grow?

At our current state, we are focusing on increasing our apprenticeship program and will be working more closely with the state and the local community colleges.  We are also planning to begin work with the local high schools to better showcase future job potential in our industry. Since we are a technology provider we will continue to work with our supply base to increase our knowledge, development, and deployment of up and coming technologies such as artificial intelligence, deep learning, collaborative robotics, data, and simulation.

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