ALBANY SHEET METAL | Product Development, Technology Scouting
Drawdy Roofing and Vinyl Siding has been an integral part of the Albany, Ga. community for more than 40 years. Fifteen years ago, Ken Drawdy took over the family business and two years ago acquired Albany Sheet Metal, a sheet metal fabrication business serving industrial, residential, and commercial customers.
Drawdy, who is an avid hunter, realized a need in the marketplace for a portable deer feeder that was easy to ship, break down, and put back together. Since he owned a sheet metal fabrication business, he thought this was the perfect opportunity to blend his two interests together to customize a unique and marketable product to an existing market.
Drawdy began researching deer feeders to determine where there was a gap in the market. What he determined was that most deer feeders were made of plastic and that for a deer feeder to be both durable for shipping and easily broken down for packaging, it needed to be made of metal. He began sketching rough-draft design ideas, but knew Albany Sheet Metal did not have the technology or capacity to mass produce the number of deer feeders the market would demand.
Around this time, Drawdy hired Vince Dettore to handle Albany Sheet Metal’s marketing and business development. During a project with the Albany office of the University of Georgia’s Small Business Development Center (SBDC), Dettore mentioned Drawdy’s plans for a new product line. His contact, Debbie Finney, director of UGA’s SBDC office, recommended contacting Art Ford, the South Georgia region manager for the Georgia Manufacturing Extension Partnership (GaMEP) at Georgia Tech. Ford and Dettore discussed the need to find a manufacturing partner in the United States, and more specifically Georgia, if possible, to assist in finalizing the design and manufacturing the product.
As a next step, Dettore met with Patrick Wilbanks, a project manager with the GaMEP. To find potential partners, Wilbanks began researching Georgia-based manufacturers that utilized lean techniques. After identifying three viable candidates, Dettore and Wilbanks visited their facilities and eventually agreed to terms with Advanced Metal Corporation (AMC) in Swainsboro, Ga.
While a partner was being scouted, Bob Wray, another GaMEP project manager, began working with Drawdy and Dettore on the design. As modifications were made, the changes were sent to AMC, which tweaked the design to suit its production equipment. This was a continuous process until the design was finalized both for market needs as well as for production constraints.
Along the way, Wray served as a resource in numerous ways, educating Drawdy and Dettore on both the design and the manufacturing component, which included coaching on how to work with a partner company. Wray also helped Dettore prepare a patent application, acting as his advisor throughout the process.
Currently Albany Sheet Metal is testing distribution options and markets for additional business growth opportunities.
Since developing the portable deer feeder in early 2012 and going to market approximately six months later, Albany Sheet Metal has realized the following results:
- Launched the product in four states.
- Sold more than 250 portable deer feeders, equating to approximately $80,000 in new company revenue.
- Had a profitable product within six months, taking only direct expenses into account.
“Georgia Tech made the whole process easier and has been a great resource for us,” Dettore said. “Patrick and Bob made it possible to produce our product in the United States at a competitive price and for us to be conveniently located within a three-hour drive of our manufacturing partner. We would recommend the GaMEP service to anyone that is looking to take a product to market.”