President Marla Grey won customers’ trust through her commitment to quality control.
D.J. Grey Company was founded when Grey’s husband, a mechanical engineer in the electronics industry, suggested that they start their own electronics assembly company. Grey agreed enthusiastically as she learned about electronics and soldering as a child by helping her father, a TV technician. He taught her a lot and she thoroughly enjoyed the work.
At first, they operated the company out of their home, but within five years they had grown to five employees and moved into a standalone shop.
Their business grew through word-of-mouth. “Salesmen would come by and try to sell us products,” Grey recalls. “And when they got to know us, they started spreading the word. When talking with their clients they would ask… ‘Are you familiar with D.J. Grey Company? They do high-quality assembly and maybe they could assemble that for you.’ And that was great because they wanted to sell ‘to us’, and they ended up actually ’selling us’ to other customers and building our customer base.”
Parts of a Larger Whole
D.J. Grey Company makes custom cables and harnesses, box builds, distribution boxes, junction boxes, control panels and control cabinets. Typically, these components integrate into much larger systems or pieces of equipment. “We don’t see the end products very often,” Grey notes. Sometimes, though, a customer will invite her to visit their factory and view their finished product. “And then you’re so in awe looking around at all their amazing equipment.”
Grey works with customers in many industries, including telecommunications, aerospace, medical, flow and motion control, solar, marine and payment automation systems.
There have been some ups and downs over the years. Orders slowed following the 2007 recession, then bounced back, and when the pandemic hit and lockdowns were announced, Grey had to prepare to close down temporarily. But after a one-day closure, customers got in touch and told her that they were continuing to operate because they were designated as essential, and that they needed D.J. Grey Company to reopen. “The next day everybody came back to work, and we stayed very busy throughout the pandemic,” Grey says.
Recently, orders have dropped, and Grey estimates the business is at two-thirds the volume of the previous year. However, she isn’t alarmed because she’s noticed that many years have one quarter that’s particularly slow, which often happens when customers have a short-term budget freeze.
Company Reputation Buoys Business
“If things go as they usually do, this will last a few months, and then we will be crazy busy again!” Grey says. She views slower periods as a chance to make changes and improvements. “There’s always a good side to everything.”
The company’s manufacturing environment occupies 4,500 square feet with plenty of assembly space. The floor has machines for cutting cable and wire, crimp machines, shelving for specialized equipment and tooling, and aisles for inventory. There is also a quality inspection area, where products may be electrically tested in process and again when completed. Then products are visually inspected, and finally, products go through a shipping area and are sent off to customers.
D.J. Grey Company has built its reputation on extensive quality control. When Grey and her husband started the company, they learned that their competitors tested only a small sample of their products. “If they have a hundred assemblies, they’ll put 10 (or 20) of them through the test process,” Grey notes. At DJ GREY…“We test 100 of the 100 assemblies! We always test one hundred percent.”
After a physical inspection of the assemblies, the ones that require an electrical test are tested using a continuity tester, ensuring all wires are connected correctly. Some assemblies require testing with an OHM Meter or a Hi-Pot Tester. A few products aren’t meant to be connected to electricity, so those only get a physical inspection.
At DJ GREY… we do our best to ship finished product to meet our customer’s required dates. When a customer places an order and gives us an in-house date, we usually meet that date. We also have two systems that work very well for many customers.
One system is “KANBAN”. The customer specifies a quantity of a particular assembly that they want ready on the shelf at all times. When needed, they call and release the quantity they need, and we ship right away! Then we take the required time to replace that quantity in the KANBAN for next time.
The other system is “JIT” or “Just-in-Time” In this case…the customer requires that we have adequate materials in-house to build that assembly when they order usually we have four to seven days.
Challenges: “The logistics of getting parts for jobs can be difficult and time-consuming,” Grey says. And after finding and ordering parts, she has to wait for them to arrive. This problem was particularly bad at the height of the pandemic when container ships were stuck off the coast of California for long stretches at a time.
Opportunities: The growth of the electric vehicle market presents an opportunity for D.J. Grey Company to assemble parts. Currently, most EVs are made in a few large factories, but Grey predicts that will change. “We think as time goes on, there’s going to be more factories close by and smaller, and we may end up providing harnesses for them,” Grey says.
Needs: As electronic components continue to shrink, D.J. Grey Company may need to invest in additional microscopes. “Connectors are getting smaller. Wire gauges are getting smaller because the cabinets that they use to put the equipment in are getting smaller,” Grey says. “Nowadays, a lot of companies do everything through a microscope.”
In the past four decades, we have always accommodated our customers’ requests and needs and are looking forward to many more years doing the same.