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Getting to Know Your Designer
In this issue, we examine how fabs work with their design customers, educating them on the critical elements of fabrication needed to be successful, as well as the many tradeoffs involved. How well do you really know your customer? What makes for a closer, more synchronized working relationship?
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Catching up With Midstate ElectronicsMarch 3, 2020 | Dan Beaulieu, D.B. Management Group
Estimated reading time: 9 minutes
Some people might say that I have never met a sales team I didn’t like, and this is true especially for the team at Midstate Electronics—a sales and distribution company located in Wallingford, Connecticut. I recently sat down with Susan Matteo, Joan Allen, and Gerri Wooten from Midstate’s sales team to talk about their company, how long they have been in business, the key ingredients to their longevity and success, and how they see the market today in general.
Dan Beaulieu: Thanks for taking the time to talk to me today. First, let’s start at the beginning. Tell me a little bit about the history of the company.
Midstate: Midstate Electronics Company was founded in Middletown, Connecticut, in 1977 by Mark Fortier. Mark’s first business started out as a storefront television repair shop. As time progressed and relationships were built, he started doing some repair work for a local company, repairing their products and getting more involved in the electronics world.
While Mark began to do small repairs for a few local OEM companies, he also started making contacts with manufacturers offshore. This provided Midstate several opportunities to establish agreements to stock and sell many franchised lines; in doing so, this allowed for kitting of materials for some of the local contract manufacturers. This eventually led him to become a well-known local stocking distributor in the central Connecticut area.
During this time, he was also establishing a relationship with Alternative Manufacturing Inc. (AMI) —an electronics contract manufacturing company located in Winthrop, Maine. The relationship between the two companies continued to grow; eventually, they became sister companies as Mark took a large ownership position in AMI in order to complement the electronics distribution business that he had been developing at Midstate Electronics.
As Mark’s business continued to grow, he relocated Midstate Electronics to Wallingford, Connecticut, which was a primary location for electronic distribution. That, in short, was the evolution of Midstate Electronics—from a TV repair shop to what we are today, 43 years later.
Beaulieu: Describe what Midstate Electronics does today.
Midstate: Today, we continue to be a significant distributor of active, passive, electromechanical, and connector components to customers not only in the central Connecticut area but also throughout the Northeast while serving many international customers in Mexico, Canada, and Europe. We have broadened our offerings to include PCBs, from double-sided to multilayer, flex, and rigid-flex boards; PCB assemblies; high-tech liquid-crystal displays; batteries and battery packs; and ESD services, including supplies and comprehensive solutions to address customers' complete onsite needs. For many contract manufacturers, we offer complete kitting services in which we can provide a complete bill of material for a specific job delivered to their site ready for the production floor.
Beaulieu: What makes Midstate Electronics an outstanding company?
Midstate: We are completely customer-focused. We talk to our customers and listen to them to find out their exact needs, and then we customize our services specifically for them. As a 100% employee-owned company, our mission is to become an extension of our customers’ teams. Striving to build strong partnerships in a rapidly changing market, we continue to work towards the success of our customers, suppliers, and employee-owners.
Additionally, we are a company of values. Our core values consist of a commitment to long-lasting relationships; teamwork; integrity in all aspects of our relationships; respect toward our customers, supplier partners, and employee-owners; and accountability to do what we say we are going to do. We know the customer is counting on us to perform as we have committed.
At Midstate, we worry about servicing the customer first, and then the financial results will follow. Our goal is to have customers for life. We want the first transaction to lead to many more in the long run. We can be honest to a fault—some people might say too honest for our own good. If we are not able to offer a product to meet our customers’ needs, we will help the customer to find someone who can. We don’t turn anyone away. We make ourselves available 24/7. As stated earlier, our job is to get our customers to trust us, whatever it takes.
When a customer is in trouble, we are there to support them. If they find themselves with a line down because of a missing part, we will find that part for them—whether they have ordered it from us in the past or not. When we find that part, we will drive all night to get it to them if we must. That is the kind of commitment we believe in.
Beaulieu: What about your PCB capabilities?
Midstate: Over our many years in the electronics industry, we have steadily grown our PCB business, supporting many different customers’ board requirements. A significant reason for our success is the number of good vendor partners we have developed, which means we are not limited by the brick and mortar of a few different board manufacturers to choose from. We can provide a complete PCB solution to support all technologies and levels of services. We pride ourselves on getting quotes out fast and getting boards to you when you need them, whether that means a very fast turnaround time or not. When a customer needs a PCB in a certain lead time, we will move heaven and earth to try and make that happen.
Because of the partnerships we have developed, we can offer many different services, including stocking programs, scheduled deliveries, engineering support, new product introduction (NPI), and quick-turn services. We can handle the complete life of a PCB from design to proof of design, prototyping, pre-production, and volume production; we can do it all, providing you with competitive pricing and confidence in having product when you need it.
Beaulieu: In terms of technology, where do you see PCBs going?
Midstate: We see much more demand for flex and rigid-flex PCBs. Also, tighter tolerances, denser circuitry, and specialized solder mask are areas that we see our customers are demanding. One of the things we do is continually evaluate our customers’ needs so that we can be sure the manufacturers producing their PCBs have the technology required to keep up with them.
Beaulieu: Please talk a little bit about quality. What do you have in terms of qualifications?
Midstate: One of our major objectives this year is to achieve the ISO9001:2015 and AS9100 certification. We recognize that most of our customers require this from the board manufacturers, and we make sure that each of our partners has all the necessary qualifications and registrations required by each customer. We are in the process of surveying and qualifying a few domestic and North American suppliers that not only have the required quality certifications but who are also ITAR-registered so that we can support that business in the future.
Beaulieu: How do you choose your supplier partners?
Midstate: Our supplier partners are chosen to fit our customers’ needs. We research each supplier partner considering their reputation in the market, pricing competitiveness, quality certifications, and customer service/engineering support. We are always looking for supplier partners that help us demonstrate value to the customer in both the actual products we need to purchase as well as the commitment to strong customer service. We are very select about the people we do business with. We must make sure that they have values that completely align with ours.
Beaulieu: What makes Midstate stand out?
Midstate: Our response time. We are on it all the time 24/7. We have no set work hours. When a customer needs something, we pride ourselves on being available to them when they need us. Our customers have come to not only expect that but they know they can count on it as well. We pride ourselves on being very flexible as well. One of our premises is that we are in business for our customers. We are a value-add company, so whatever our customers need, we are here to provide it. Our approach is collaborative and in the spirit of partnership with our customers, as mentioned earlier; we want to develop long term relationships—not just win a quick sale.
Obviously, our customer care level is high. We typically won’t let our customers wait for answers; we get back as soon as possible with answers, address any questions or concerns, and let them know we are working on their needs. We monitor our customers' usage and market conditions as well as lead times to ensure we have their product when they need it. We take pride in the feedback from our customers as it is consistently very high regarding the level of customer service and attention that people at Midstate provide.
Beaulieu: What types of companies as customers are you best suited to work for?
Midstate: Our niche is small to medium customers, non-military, medical (non-life-threatening products), communications, and industrial controls. We work very well with large corporations that use forecasting and MRP systems to drive demand as we are able to set up stocking arrangements to have products positioned to meet the delivery demand.
Beaulieu: What are your plans for the future?
Midstate: We want to become ISO9001:2015/AS9100 certified. Our vision is to be a significant player throughout New England, distributing PCBs and value-added and custom products with a strong franchise line to support the electronics market and to be recognized as a service-oriented company.
Our goal is to continue to see year-over-year growth in top-line sales while improving margins, which we can only accomplish by delivering value to our customers. In addition, we want to continue to diversify our customer base and grow the number of customers we are selling to. To increase sales, we are working hard to expand our customer base—locally as well as outside of Connecticut—and bring on new product offerings. This will require us to stay active and trained in the ever-changing market we operate in.
Beaulieu: How do you sell at Midstate?
Midstate: A good reputation, honesty, and dedication to pleasing the customer have been the cornerstones of our sales success. We are exceptionally good at growing and supporting our customer base. Traditionally, when we get a customer, we keep them for life.
Beaulieu: How do you get the word out?
Midstate: Outside sales and inside sales follow-up have been our means of reaching out to new customers while supporting our current customers. We also rely on traditional activities, such as attending trade shows, distributing line cards, and a lot of word of mouth. It is a significant point of pride to receive a lot of referrals, which supports the strong reputation we have earned with or existing customer base.
Beaulieu: Finally, what are your thoughts on our industry?
Midstate: The industry always has been and always will be very competitive, fast-moving, and evolving. We see a constant change in technology and face many competitive challenges in the marketplace; most recently, the tariff charges, for example, have had an impact on many of the parts and PCBs that are required in the markets we serve. At the end of the day, we are very optimistic. We see a lot of opportunity for a company like ours and look forward to future success.
There will always be business and relationships built. The future is about partnerships and making it a win for everyone. With the fast-moving technology in an ever-changing world, the hurdles of being competitive, being creative, and standing out from the rest will always be there.
Beaulieu: Thank you for spending this time with me today. How do people learn more about your company?
Midstate: Visit our website or email us with any questions or needs that you may have.
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