By Eric Peterson | Jan 26, 2015
Industrial Automation Technology
President and CEO Mark Coy is leading the company on projects ranging from roller coasters to ammunition manufacturing automation, with bullseye results. The company literally wrote a book on project management.
Joe Cornwall and Joe VanDenBerghe were making thrill rides before they started Setpoint in the early 1990s. "Joe and Joe worked at Arrow Dynamics building roller coasters," says Coy.
A decade before Arrow declared bankruptcy and sold its assets to Logan-based S&S Worldwide, the Joes set out to modernize manufacturing automation, first at Autoliv and next at a wide range of manufacturers looking at upping production and lowering costs. "We build automation," says Coy. "Watch that TV program How It's Made. That's what we build."
Clients are looking to not only to save money, but improve quality and safety, and it's led to sustained growth. "Setpoint went through its teething years with this high-growth, automation emphasis," says Coy. Today the company is riding a different wave. "Now we're seeing a lot of companies insourcing manufacturing back into the U.S."
There's a big tie-in between the reshoring/insourcing trend and Setpoint's services. "When you automate, you can actually bring down your labor costs and it becomes a United States-made product again," says Coy. "That's the true value of automation."
Setpoint has developed custom automation equipment for manufacturers making everything from batteries for electric cars to medical devices, as well as rides for Disney and Universal Studios amusement parks.
Despite a staff that's one-third engineers, Coy says, "We're not an engineering company -- we're a project-management company. We wrote a book about it. It's called Project Management for Profit."
In 2009, Setpoint moved into automated ammunition-manufacturing equipment for ATK and the U.S. Army. The goal: eliminate inventory and implement one-piece flow. "That was a vastly successful project," says Coy. "Brass cases are made on equipment that's 80-year-old technology. We've totally revolutionized that."
Coy says adherence to the principles of open-book management have been critical to the company's growth. The method calls for transparent accounting and weekly huddles where the company's books are reviewed, covering weekly profit and loss and year-to-date profit sharing.
"The numbers are organized so clearly, you can easily understand how and why we performed the way we did," says Coy.
And the numbers are good: Revenue for 2014 was about $20 million, up 60 percent over 2010. Coy projects 20 percent growth in 2015.
Challenges: Staffing in a unique niche. "Our growth is so fast, we don't have enough high-tech employees to process it," says Coy. "Our business is so unique it's best to bring them up from within."
"Then here are technical problems we have to solve to get through every project we do," he adds. "It's like building a brand-new airplane every three months."
Opportunities: Ammunition manufacturing automation. Coy says the company is fine-tuning designs for installations by March 2015. "The ammo industry is like the auto industry in the 1970s," says Coy. "It's a gigantic market."
But there are plenty of industries that could use Setpoint's expertise, he adds. "We view the opportunity of customers who want low inventory and Lean manufacturing." Food is one target, and others are "internal secrets."
Needs: A willingness to automate and invest. Lately, the cost of healthcare has catalyzed growth, as manufacturers look for as much efficiency and productivity as possible.
Coy points out an irony: "We're a company of conservatives, but we flew through the latest recession because we were building for the electric car industry, which is subsidized by the federal government. And healthcare reform is bringing in an incredible incentive to automate."