Reed Switch Developments Corp.

Racine, WI –

Debra Dahlin’s late father, Harold, and his business partner John Hammond started Reed Switch Developments Corp. 56 years ago in the Dahlin family basement. The three-person company began with standard products but saw a need for custom applications, eventually providing "unique products for just about any industry," says Dahlin, the company's second-generation family owner and president. The company grew from the basement to the dining room to a shared industrial complex to its own facility. 

In 2022, this 100% woman-owned small business celebrated two key milestones: its 55th year in business, and 35th anniversary as a Wisconsin manufacturer.

"Our general philosophy is to try and be proactive rather than reactive," says Jeff Rosenbaum, engineering/QA coordinator. Before, "tribal knowledge would get misplaced." Now they focus on sharing information so that knowledge doesn’t disappear when someone retires or moves out of a particular position.

"Most of our business comes from OEM custom assembly work," Rosenbaum says. "There was a time when we would just do simply what a customer would ask of us, without sharing our expertise." Today, that has changed. "As we work with customers, we get very in-depth, we work with them to define those expectations, we are very honest and open with them: "Yes, this may cost you a little bit more, but here’s the savings that you will see on the other end, with labor savings and a plug and play product," Rosenbaum says. "We’ve actually converted skeptics into customers with this value-added approach."

This past year the company also had its highest sales ever. Dahlin says that their team approach is at the core of their success. Suggestions are encouraged and rewarded regularly. Team members are recognized at a monthly meeting and receive a monetary award for these ideas.

Choosing employees is important as well. "We want someone who is quality minded, detail minded, inquisitive, curious, creative, all things we value," Rosenbaum says. "In looking at automation and process reevaluations, we always want to know, how might we do this better the next time?"

Lean is one key to their success. Internal process standardizations have helped productivity and quality. Continual staff training also helps to make this happen, starting with the first ninety days and ongoing thereafter.

Rosenbaum offers this advice for those looking to improve quality: "My perspective would be to keep an open mind and stay creative. Never rule out someone else’s opinion or the possibility of there being a different answer. It doesn’t always have to be ‘that’s the way we’ve always done it.’ Whatever makes your product a quality product, do it, and stay true to that."

"If you think, ‘we’ve always done it this way,’ you’ll be out of business at some point," Dahlin adds. "We wouldn’t be in business for 55 years if we didn’t continually adapt. Otherwise you’re going to get washed away."