DVIRC & Stockwell Elastomerics: A Look Back at 25 Years of Growing Business Value

April 1, 2013

As DVIRC celebrates its 25th Anniversary, we look back at some of the manufacturers that have been part of our success through the years by allowing us to be part of their success.  During the course of this year, we will examine the ways our region’s manufacturers have evolved, expanded, and—in many cases—grown their business value.  We hope you will enjoy this series as much as we have enjoyed putting it together.

The series begins with Stockwell Elastomerics, a long-standing family business that has been with DVIRC since day one.

Stockwell Elastomerics, a Philadelphia manufacturing success story four generations in the making, traces its roots back to 1919, when Frederick E. Stockwell established Stockwell Rubber Company as a distributor of belting, hose, sheet rubber packing, and wholesale rubber products. The Stockwell distributorship took root and grew through the next 40 years, developing both a solid market reputation and broad expertise in the materials and products it sold.

By the time the space race brought heightened energy to the nation’s burgeoning manufacturing sector, a portion of our region’s manufacturing base had matured and moved their operations to the Sun Belt. Stockwell may have remained in Philadelphia, but their products made extraterrestrial moves—silicone rubber components provided by Stockwell orbited the Earth and landed on the moon.

William B. (Bill) Stockwell stepped into his current role as president in 1980, when his father, Elbridge F. Stockwell Jr., assumed the role of Chief Engineer and Technology Leader. One of the hallmarks of Bill’s time as president has been developing new markets, integrating R&D, materials technology, and investments in new equipment for the custom rubber molding and fabrication operations.

As the business grew through the 1980s, its capabilities, facilities, and quality management systems needed to keep pace with the market; management began looking to outside partners to align the company with new market opportunities.

Stockwell was introduced to the DVIRC when they opened their doors in 1988. In the quarter century since then, whenever the business had a need, DVIRC was on speed dial.

A look back at the partnership:

1990: DVIRC assists with the selection of a consultant to train the business on Total Quality Management and shift from a top-down management structure to a team-based organization.

1991 – 1992: During the recession that marked the early ‘90s, Stockwell’s “responsiveness” model begins to take shape; the company develops teaming and speed, laying the foundation for significant growth between 1993 and 1995.

1995: Stockwell turns to DVIRC for assistance selecting a consultant to resolve a pre-existing environmental condition on their property. The recommended consultant helps Stockwell resolve the issue left by the previous occupant—successfully and for a reasonable fee.

DVIRC creates and launches its consulting services with training and education through public workshops and certifications in Lean and Six Sigma.

1997: DVIRC launches the Manufacturers Council and the Executive Forum, two membership-based network groups (based on company revenue) in which leaders can share and learn from other non-competing manufacturing leaders (peer advisors) in a confidential setting.

1999: Stockwell embarks on its initial ISO9002-1994 registration. DVIRC helps with the selection of a Quality Management System consultant and maintains contact to ensure sufficient, timely progress. After achieving ISO9000 certification and completing the accompanying employee training, Stockwell and DVIRC partner to create a platform for future growth. Today, Stockwell is proud to be ISO9001-2008 registered.

2000: Stockwell expands its facility, using a consulting engineer recommended by the DVIRC to get through a difficult period in the project.

Following its first 12 years in business, DVIRC’s service focus undergoes an evolutionary shift. Following a lengthy period of operational excellence and improvement, the organization begins to incorporate broader strategic services, including succession planning, innovation engineering, organizational learning and development, and business growth services (e.g. new market, product, and customer development).

2001 – 2003: DVIRC and Stockwell remain in close contact and engage in small projects as the U.S. manufacturing sector suffers through a difficult period of economic recession. Despite pressure from major telecom and technology companies to outsource or set up Asian operations, Stockwell holds its ground. The high-quality, custom gasket and seal products manufactured in the company’s Philadelphia facility ship to customers around the globe.

2003 – 2004: Stockwell moves further up the value chain to become more competitive by offering higher-value services through responsive design and engineering assistance including water jet-cut samples to shorten design cycles for customers in the technology sector

2005: Stockwell Rubber Company becomes Stockwell Elastomerics in order to update the company’s market identity. In the years that follow, Stockwell upgrades its website with support from DVIRC’s consulting resources. The website is optimized for search engine visibility, and quarterly meetings help to keep the site fresh and track results.

2007: Launch of the Stockwell 2009 Lean Initiative. DVIRC consultants train a cross-functional team of Stockwell employees in the Kaizen method of Continuous Improvement. Employee cross training and Cross Functional Collaboration helps the company develop a culture of responsiveness, while Lean Business Training and a focus on organizational agility enables Stockwell to weather the 2008/2009 recession better than many others in the manufacturing sector.

2009: Expansion of assembly and packaging work cell by building a mezzanine within the existing facility to open up more floor space. The new work cell design utilizes Lean Practices to effectively add value by removing a production bottleneck. The resulting special assembly and bonding capabilities provide Stockwell with a competitive advantage.

2010 – Today: Stockwell turns to DVIRC for support in scouting potential market opportunities. Using DVIRC’s growth services, management gains valuable intelligence regarding new markets. This enables the company to both identify market segments that are likely to take advantage of Stockwell’s expertise in water jet cutting for fast-turn prototypes and initial production runs, as well as avoiding markets with low growth potential.

DVIRC’s services focus on growing the value of clients’ businesses. Just as the value of any asset can benefit from updates, improvements, changes, etc., so, too can a business. Leaders must be perpetually vigilant about value improvement; DVIRC exists to help in that effort.

“The DVIRC has been a trusted resource for the past 25 years,” Says Bill Stockwell. “They have been a major contributor to the success of the regional manufacturing sector, which is essential to the vitality of our economy in the Delaware Valley. The work they have done for us has contributed to our global competitiveness as well.”

“Looking back over our 25-year history of working together, it’s clear that both businesses have evolved a great deal,” says DVIRC’s CEO, Joseph J. Houldin. “DVIRC would like all manufacturers to grow the value of their business. Stockwell has adopted a competitive business model that includes product differentiation, engineering services, rapid response, and expanded sales and marketing, many of the steps needed to improve the market value of the business.”