View This Article in BOSS Magazine
Specialty blade maker AccuTec Blades has never met a material they can’t cut, or a challenge they can’t beat
For specialty cutler AccuTec Blades, staying on the cutting edge is something of a stealthy pursuit. An industry leader in the manufacture of high-performance precision blades for virtually every use, from health and beauty, surgical, and scientific applications to heavy-duty industrial use, their blades are sold under a variety of brands. It’s a good bet that at some point in your life you’ve used an AccuTec product.
AccuTec also serves OEMs, manufacturers, and distributors with innovative blades and bladed solutions. Their distributor list reads like an industry who’s who, from industrial supply powerhouse Grainger to Cardinal Health, McKesson, Fromm International, Sherwin-Williams, Lowe’s, and Home Depot, to name just a few. In addition to its Virginia HQ, design, and production facilities, the firm has a packaging and manufacturing operation in Obregon, Mexico.
A New Vision
As senior VP of operations, Kevin Closky sharpens the firm’s performance. For over a quarter-century he traveled the globe, consulting with the industry’s biggest corporations. When a knee injury forced him to give up long overseas flights, he left that life behind for what he thought would be a comfortable early retirement. That thought vanished in 2018 when AccuTec’s CEO lured him back to the razor’s edge—and his comfort zone as a leader, change agent, and mentor.
“I’d done a project with AccuTec earlier the prior year and helped them reduce costs through productivity improvements. I enjoyed working there and with the people on the floor, many of whom were second-, third-, and fourth-generation employees,” he said.
At its peak, the firm employed 1,000, but over the years before Closky’s arrival, previous ownership moved or sold off product lines with the intent to close the facility, reducing the hourly staff to a mere 120 people. “I decided there was an opportunity to help grow this company and leave a legacy. The people deserved it. I also had an opportunity to mentor and coach people to grow as leaders and improve their lifestyle through knowledge and upward growth, allowing them to make more money … I wanted to not only help them today but build leaders to take AccuTec into the future.”
Under Closky’s aegis the company now employs 300 workers, has negotiated a new union contract, and is on track to double its sales volume over the next several years.
Slicing Through Inefficiency
Closky, a Focused Type “A” Personality Leader, that is a Vet and has been a Change Manager for over 30 years, helping close to a hundred different companies, is passionate about bringing out the best in everyone from the loading dock to the C-suite, with a focus on execution and holding people accountable to results on a daily or weekly basis and challenging leadership to think outside the box in all meetings. His efforts are all about three things, he stressed: “The customer, 300 employees never having to worry about having a job and feeding their families, and that the ownership is making money.” The positive impact of that cultural shift, he added, “is seen by all levels. The employees in our monthly communication meetings see it and now have faith in the leadership team that was not there before.”
Experience working with the world’s heaviest hitters, including the big three automakers, enabled Closky to slice production costs by 30% across the board.
“Companies measure against a standard for costing a product, usually with a small margin. People think that’s all they’re capable of and pace themselves to that expectation. In reality, a standard is usually 50% of a machine or process capability, sometimes as low as 15% and at a high of 70% for the very few. Measuring against that standard, all leadership hears about is the exceptions, not the true controllable issues. So they invest more money into equipment that they don’t need, or start raising pricing—and losing business.”
That proactive approach turned the tide for AccuTec. “I taught them how to properly look at scheduling and break down the end packaged goods to blade numbers, from over 1,000 to 16, then master schedule these to WIP areas so they could react faster to packaging and reduce changeovers,” he noted. He then took to the shop floor to teach proactive leadership and planning strategies and tactics. “Over a year they gained faith that leadership cared. This is after taking the workforce from 120 hourly to 80 and building the same volume.”
A profit-sharing plan followed. “The company shares 40% of the reduced costs from increased productivity with our employees. In year one they were skeptical and weren’t sure about how it would work, but now it’s year two and they’re excited and working together across all functions. Most of the improvements came back to the basics of Management 101, which most companies assume they have but don’t.”
Investments in tech are mostly on the horizon as AccuTec gathers steam; however, the company recently purchased a nitrogen-powered laser cutter that will speed turnaround times for new product developments. They have also added new edge technology and coatings for food and other industry applications. Prowess with specialty blades such as these keep AccuTec a solid market leader.
Smoothing out the roughness in their vendor lists has saved the firm $2 million. “It’s about challenging vendors as if they were your employees, being honest and transparent with them,” he stressed. “We have great relationships with all of our vendors now. We also have added some third-party vendors, such as BC Mechanical, that work with us as if they are a full-time employee and sometimes as if they are a shareholder. With the right partnerships and vendors that can be open with you, it’s unbelievable what kind of service you can get.”
Despite other opportunities, it’s those partnerships and the opportunity to grow people and the company and leave a legacy that keep Closky with Accutec.
AccuTec provides the highest quality specialty, medical, and professional blades for customers worldwide. These bladed products serve diverse industries including Medical and Medical Device Manufacturing, Flooring, Auto Glass, Food Processing, Beauty and Barber, DIY and other Industrial uses.
From our beginnings as the Star Razor Company in 1875 to today’s AccuTec Blades, our people and products have stood the test of time. This legacy stands alone in blade-making. It’s in our DNA. Our portfolio of brands includes GEM®, American Line®, and Personna®, Personna Medical® under license from Edgewell Personal Care, We are also proud to produce a global range of superior cutting tools for OEM and Private Label. AccuTec products are engineered to perform, built to the highest standards, and with exacting tolerances to meet the demands of our customers.
At AccuTec, “Engineered to Perform” is not just a slogan, but a compass, driving us forward. It’s who we are. We are committed to custom solutions. Our passion is creating specialized blades for technical applications. The AccuTec applications engineering team always keeps customer and industry needs in mind as they build the right tool or blade for the task at hand. It’s how we grow. Quality, performance, and service are the pillars of our business.
We are focused and driven to provide exceptional service every day. Our customers have come to expect the best from us, and we are driven to meet and exceed those expectations. We believe in building long-term partnerships with our customers, like we have for the past 140 years. It’s what we do.
1 Razor Blade Lane
Verona, VA 24482