The business landscape is constantly undergoing several transformations. To survive in this competitive landscape, it is vital to adapt to the transformations swiftly and innovate consistently. Furthermore, experience also helps in staying abreast of the trends. Experience also gives an upper hand to unprecedented market challenges, the recent example being the crisis of COVID-19. Started in 1969, Key Tronic Corporation began its journey as a keyboard manufacturer. In the early 90s, the company transitioned from a full-service OEM to a contract manufacturer. This transition was not easy and another challenge—the recession of ’08-’09—was encountered in the journey. The team focused on maintaining diversity in served markets rather than jumping on the “hot in the market right now” wagon.
Today the company has sustained over five decades of extensive growth. Key Tronic Corporation, which started as a successful Original Equipment Manufacturer (OEM) has transitioned into one of the most successful Design and Manufacturing Service providers in the industry today. It understands the customer requirements and has been manufacturing products overseas for over 25 years. “You benefit from our global facilities while still working with a US-based company. Our customers are some of the world’s leading OEMs. Today Keytronic is located all over the globe and trusted as a full-service engineering design and manufacturing provider,” says Craig D. Gates, President, and CEO at Keytronic.
With more and more OEMs deciding to de-concentrate their supply chains the result has been significant new business for Keytronic.The company anticipated this change years ago and structured itself to take advantage of it, with its continued expansion of the Juarez MX campus and theacquisition of additional manufacturing sites in the US, China and Vietnam. Keytronic offers full engineering services, including product design, manufacturing, test, plastic tooling and a purchasing IPO in China. In addition, Keytronic offers vertically integrated manufacturing with plastic molding, metal processing and coating, PCBA assembly and test, final product assembly and test, reverse logistics andcentralized document control to minimize IP risk.
Keytronic has the capabilities and skills needed to assist at any phase of the product development cycle. It can provide a complete product design that begins with a sketch from your marketing group, or it can assist in completing designs your engineering group has begun or it can provide that last bit of DFM advice that brings the product to successful product launch. The company is also an expert in re-design for product cost reduction. The size of the company allows it to focus on accounts with low to medium volumes and higher flexibility requirements, while its global footprint provides the cost benefits of off-shore locations normally associated with only much larger, Tier 1 electronic manufacturing service providers. This focus allows the company to provide an unparalleled level of customer service and price on mid-size programs.
Since its inception, Keytronic has been constantly focusing on providing its customers superior manufacturing and engineering services at the lowest total cost for the highest quality products, creating long-term mutually beneficial business relationships. This quality has helped the company to recruit very high quality, dedicated people. Keytronic has successfully built a strong relationship with its employees due to its emphasis on in-house promotions and rewarding people based on job performance. The company believes the men and women of Keytronic will always be its most important asset. All employees are encouraged to “run the business like it was your own”. Survival through tough times has created a culture of commitment to success. The company encourages constant communication of the challenge at hand, the plan to meet the challenge, and the success that will result if the challenge is met.
Each team member accepts personal accountability to meet the business needs, improve the systems, and help others improve their effectiveness. The team treats the company’s assets as their own, strives together for the company’s success and is empowered to work together outside of functional roles for the good of the company.
Mr. Gates has fostered an open communication culture at Keytronic. Being a veteran in the industry, he has extensive experience and exceptional acumen, which has benefitted him in the business world. Mr. Gates completed his Bachelor’s in Mechanical Engineering and also holds a Master’s in Business Administration from the University of Illinois, Urbana.Prior to Keytronic, Mr. Gates served as the Director of Operations, Electronics for the Microswitch Division of Honeywell Inc. He joined Keytronic in 1994, and throughout his journey, he has undertaken various executive management positions. In 2009, he undertook the role and responsibility as the President and CEO.
A leader always has multiple roles and responsibilities,especially under circumstances when the company encounters challenging times. As aforementioned, the transition in the early ’90s and ’00s was a challenging period for Keytronic, yet the company survived and has prospered.. “We saved the company by going into production and ramping a consumer product we designed for a customer to a million units per month in one month. Over the years we have developed and implemented several proprietary manufacturing processes that have enabled multiple $100 million businesses,” explains Mr. Gates. Amid the crisis of COVID-19, the team was equally focused on sustaining the extensive growth trajectory. Remarkably, the facility in Juarez (4,000 people and 1.3 million square feet) has gone 5 months without a single COVID case and the company also opened the facility in Vietnam. Despite the challenges, the Keytronic team has delivered exceptional results.