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Adam Klein didn’t grow up in the metal industry. He didn’t study metallurgy or mechanical engineering in school. He didn’t even work in the industry prior to purchasing AMS Metal. So, what made this government business veteran think he could succeed in a new business with no background experience? Pure grit and thoughtful leadership. It’s clear when you meet this entrepreneur that his calm, mild-mannered persona is just the outer shell of a man who is bringing fresh ideas to a mature industry and has the work ethic to back it up.
We met at NeoCon in Chicago for a chat over lunch, more on the reason for the location later. Just over 24 months ago Adam was feeling the entrepreneurial itch and as fate would have it, a chance came up to purchase AMS from a metal industry veteran who was ready to retire. Klein pounced on the opportunity and has never looked back.
“It has been a huge learning curve wearing so many hats,” Klein admitted.
A theme that kept coming up over and over during our lunch is problem solving. Klein has always considered himself a mechanically-oriented guy who likes to work, so metal fabrication and powder coating is a natural space for the Texas native.
“Knowing there’s a problem and working together with my team to find a way to solve it is very satisfying – it’s all about grit and sticking with it,” Klein said. “At the very least you’ll learn from the experience.”
This perspective has served him well as he wears those hats, ranging from President, CFO, production manager, sales and everything in between. Klein is disrupting in a mature industry simply by questioning “norms” and challenging his team to think beyond typical solutions and processes.
For example, AMS previously could only powder coat one color per day. The line was set up, color chosen and then the operators went to work – one color all day long. This ridged process was increasing lead times and causing downtime between runs. Adam asked why the powder coating process worked this way and when he didn’t hear a logical answer, he challenged the team to find a way and become faster.
Today, AMS can change powder coat colors within 15 minutes which allows them to coat multiple projects in a single day. Productivity and machine utilization is up, which is also driving increased customer satisfaction.
“Customers demand faster lead times than ever, without compromising quality,” Klein said. “We understand this and we’re not stopping with the powder coating improvements.” It’s this relentless pursuit of speed and quality which sets AMS apart from the competition.
Another way AMS is differentiating is through turnkey production capabilities. Instead of using multiple different vendors, AMS offers clients a single source for high quality metal work. The Fort Worth based operation can now design, laser cut, brake, machine, weld, powder coat and integrate complex finished products in-house.
“The buck stops with us – there’s nobody else to blame if something goes wrong,” Klein said. “Our customers love having a single source and they keep coming back.”
In addition to being easier to work with, AMS can turn complex projects faster by keeping everything under one roof.
“We try to think more as a partner with our customers, not just as a vendor,” Klein said. “We want to sit down and understand their goals and plan together proactively. Our team has a Laser CMM that can help our customers design their products.”
Klein is backing up the talk with action, literally. We’ve met up for this interview at NeoCon in Chicago because Adam is visiting with a client, Clarus Glassboards, at their biggest tradeshow of the year.
Why fly across the country to visit a client event? Just another example of how committed AMS is to collaborate with their customers and understanding their business.
“The more we dig in and understand, the better we can serve our customers,” Klein said.
AMS is sharing this type of knowledge to make the entire operation better. Instead of just learning these details and producing to one customer’s high spec, Adam is leading the team to share and collaborate on best practices, which extends quality production throughout the organization.
It’s not all people and process at AMS. In manufacturing and powder coating business, you need machines to do the heavy lifting, and AMS is investing in the future. In the last year the company has purchased a new Fiber laser, QC Laser , CNC brake press, Haas VF-3 milling machine and expanded the powder coating lines. Previously there was a tight limitation on size for powder coating, now AMS can coat up to 25 linear feet, and with redundancy.
When asked about China as a competitive threat to his metal working business, Klein offered a balanced response. “It really depends on the client and the size of their projects. You’ve got to have projects on the larger side to consider China. If you don’t mind lower quality and longer lead times, then China might be a good fit. You also must remember inventory carrying costs will be higher when sourcing from China. We see growth in demand for domestic production because our clients expect top quality and rapid turn times.”
As we wrapped up our lunch, Klein offered up a positive outlook going forward. “We see continued growth and expansion of the business with additional equipment and capabilities, to serve our clients even better. Most, if not all of our clients, are growing and demand is strong.”
When asked where he sees himself personally in five years, Klein adamantly said that he could not see himself settling into a desk job.
“I always see myself as a hands-on leader,” Klein said. “I really enjoy working with the team, solving challenges and training new talent.” It’s this mix of energy and commitment to quality which has the future looking bright for AMS.