By Joe Hazelton
In 1999: a New Jersey shop that repairs industrial electronics and occupies 7,000 square feet.
In 2021: an international company that repairs or replaces industrial electronics and occupies 312,000 square feet—at its headquarters.
Twenty-two years can make a big difference.
In 1999, when he was 29 years old, Andrew Horner joined the New Jersey shop. Back then, it was Speck Industrial Controls, located in Moorestown.
Today, at 51 years old, Horner is Radwell International’s marketing manager for North America. He works at Radwell’s NJ headquarters, located in Willingboro.
Remembering his early days, Horner added that Speck Industrial consisted of about 40 people. He estimated that Radwell employs close to 1,000 people.
Back then, Speck primarily repaired industrial electronics, but it also sold new products. In that sense, Speck and Radwell are alike. They repair industrial electronics and sell new ones. However, Radwell also sells surplus industrial electronics.
SERVING MANY INDUSTRIES
The added service is much of the reason for the difference between Speck and Radwell.
Whether repairing, replacing, or selling new, Radwell serves many industries. The repair house doesn’t offer a type of product that’s clearly used by the fabricating industry, the metal-cutting industry, or the metal-forming industry, as examples. So, if you’re looking for a stamping press or a lathe or a cold-forming machine, look elsewhere. Rather, Radwell sells parts, mainly industrial electronics.
Now, Radwell may serve the fabricating industry from time to time, if a company in the industry needs a sensor repaired or an overload relay replaced. Which industries Radwell serves depends on which companies call it. The company could be in the pharmaceutical industry, the food-processing industry, or the power-generation industry. “They all have different industrial electronic products,” Horner said.
He added: “Those products, they can fail.” And when a failure occurs, say in a servomotor, a company has to pick an option. One option is: The company can contact the original equipment manufacturer to have the servomotor repaired by replacing any failing parts. However, there’s a cost attached to buying a new part. “You’re going to pay a premium for that,” Horner said.
He added that another option is: “You can find a reputable repair house.”
That’s where outfits like Radwell enter the picture. A company can contact Radwell to repair the servomotor. It can also contact Radwell to ask whether it has a needed part in its inventory of surplus electronics. And if you can buy a surplus item rather than a new one: “The cost is that much better,” Horner said.
SURPLUS ITEMS, REPAIR WORK
Radwell started offering surplus items about 20 years ago, in the early 2000s. According to Horner, the idea for the added service came from Radwell’s president and CEO, Brian Radwell. In 2002, Brian noticed there were a lot of industrial electronics being sold on eBay. “These were like little mom-and-pop, out-of-the-garage shops,” Horner said. “It was very niche.”
However, Brian also noticed that many of the electronics were being sold without warranties. Given that he had a repair shop, Brian reasoned that he could buy malfunctioning electronics, repair them, then sell them as quality surplus, with a two-year warranty. With that thought in mind: “Brian started to go out and buy surplus items,” Horner said. (See FROM SHIPPER TO CEO below.)
And surplus items didn’t necessarily mean used items. “Some of the items we would buy, are brand-new, never been used. It could’ve been 10, 20 years old and still in the box. It could’ve been in a storeroom,” Horner said. “And we’ll sell that.”
Besides the still-in-its-box surplus, Horner mentioned two other types of surplus: surplus that’s brand-new, but out-of-the-box and surplus that was in service but has been repaired. “Those three different surplus items, they’ll have different price scales,” Horner said. “You’re going to pay a little bit more for the never-been-used and so on and so forth.”
Once it started buying surplus parts, the company noticed that those parts enhanced its main work. “We were still doing a lot in repair,” Horner said, but “this surplus started to complement the repair.”
With its surplus parts, Radwell could serve many customers who needed parts right now. In many cases, a company can afford to wait while a part is shipped to a repair shop, repaired by the shop, and shipped back to the customer. Some companies, though, can’t afford to wait during that turnaround time.
“We have these customers that are in a dire, machine-down situation where their plant’s down, it’s not producing product, and they need to be back up as soon as possible,” Horner said. “That’s where surplus comes in.” In that case, Radwell can check its surplus inventory for a part. If it’s there, the part can be taken, inspected, certified, and shipped to the company in dire need. “It could go and get there next day,” Horner said, “and that facility can be back up and running.”
Besides buying a surplus part, the facility can also have its bad part repaired by Radwell. The repaired part can then serve as a back-up, just in case the company has other dire, machine-down situations. “We’re able to support a customer in these situations,” Horner said.
Naturally, over time, Radwell’s surplus inventory can become reduced in size. However, it can refresh that supply by looking for factories that have too many spare parts or that are closing, as examples. Those are factories with parts they want to get rid of. “That basically restocks our surplus inventory,” Horner said.
And when a batch of surplus arrives in-house? Radwell checks the items, organizes them, and stores them for retrieval. And like its ready-to-sell, new items, Radwell’s ready-to-sell surplus items are tended by an automated picking system. “It’s able to pick these items very quickly,” Horner said. (See NEW PRODUCT, SURPLUS PRODUCT below.)
According to Horner, after adding its surplus business, Radwell started to grow through additional locations. The first was in the United Kingdom, the second was in Canada. Subsequently, Radwell added other locations in the United States and in Germany. (See RADWELL IS INTERNATIONAL below.)
“So, now we’re up to nine locations,” Horner said, “and we’re looking at branching out to the West Coast. We don’t truly have representation, like a facility, on the West Coast.”
MAKING AND TESTING
Besides repairing parts and selling parts, Radwell also makes parts. Its headquarters has a machine shop with two CNC machines. Horner said Radwell uses the shop to make spares of parts that it knows often fail in the field: “Now, rather than us having to go out and find these, we can make them in-house.”
And if there’s an unusual situation, the machine shop can be turned to other purposes. During the pandemic, Radwell became an OEM of door openers. The Rad Step 2020 is a small, aluminum plate that can be screwed into the bottom of a door, on its free side, not its hinged side. With your foot on the plate, you can swing the door open without using your hands. “We sold thousands of these things,” Horner said. “We made them on our CNC machines.”
Then, there’s Radwell’s testing department. Horner estimated that Radwell has 3,000 test fixtures. Many of them were built by Radwell engineers for the company’s nine locations. The fixtures are used on repaired parts and on surplus parts. “Everything gets tested before it goes out,” Horner said.
WHEN PREPARATION MEETS OPPORTUNITY
In the right situation, Radwell’s surplus inventory can be very useful to industry.
Horner recalled that the right situation once occurred when he was working at Radwell’s booth during IMTS 2016 in Chicago, IL. Horner was approached by a small group of people who worked for an automaker. More specifically, they worked at one of the automaker’s plants, and they had a problem. They hadn’t heard of Radwell, but they were curious about the repair house, about whether it could help them with their problem.
Horner listened as they explained that their plant operated with a number of machines that used a certain type of drive, a drive that sometimes broke down. Consequently, there were occasions when a drive, maybe two, would malfunction, and they’d have to wait while the drive was repaired. The group’s lead said that according to the manager in charge of maintaining the plant’s machines, the drive was obsolete, so it was difficult to repair. The group’s lead also said the manager had suggested the plant might need to upgrade the whole system so the site could be rid of the problematic drives. The lead, though, indicated an upgrade seemed unlikely, given the expense that would be involved.
At that point, Horner asked the group lead, “Do you know the part number?”
The man said he did, so Horner used his computer to access Radwell’s website, to access its parts database. The man provided the number, and Horner provided the result. “The item popped right up,” Horner said, “and the guy’s eyes light up.” Horner remembered the man’s surprise, remembered him asking: “You can repair this, and it comes with a two-year warranty?”
Horner said Radwell could repair the item. He then added that Radwell could also replace it. Horner said the plant’s manager for machinery was right: The drive was obsolete. However, Horner added: “We also have it in surplus inventory.
“We had, like, maybe 26 of them in stock,” he recalled. The group’s lead: “He was just floored,” Horner said. The lead also seemed a bit skeptical. Horner remembered him saying: “So, it’s going to take how long to get that surplus? That’s not in your warehouse. It’s probably somewhere, where you have to go and find it.”
Horner told the fellow what Radwell’s database indicated. “That’s saying there are 26 of these in our facility, ready to go, to be shipped out with a two-year warranty.”
“Completely floored,” Horner said. “He never knew there was a company like this.”
A NEW OPPORTUNITY TO GROW
Despite its growth during the last 20 years, Radwell appears poised for more growth.
In December, Radwell partnered with Greenbriar Equity Group LP (Rye, NY). The venture-capital company has invested in Radwell. “Now, we’re going to grow even more,” Horner said.
And Radwell’s growth target? “The idea is: We want to triple our sales,” Horner added, “and continue to add more locations.”
And Greenbriar’s interest in Radwell? “They see the potential to take that next leap for growth,” Horner said. “They see where we’ve gone and what we’ve done.”
FROM SHIPPER TO CEO
In the early 1980s, at 15 years old, Brian Radwell started out as a shipper at Speck Industrial Controls. The company employed five people and was located in Mount Laurel, NJ. From that start, Brian eventually became the head of Speck Industrial, as recounted on Radwell International’s website.
In that recounting, Brian described Radwell International as selling and repairing industrial electrical devices and electronic control devices with products ranging from timers to circuit breakers to PLCs to motors and “any other devices used to make machinery run.”
When Brian started in the early ’80s, Speck Industrial was led by Jim Speck, but a small percentage of the company was owned by Brian’s father, Jerry. However, Speck Industrial was struggling.
Subsequently, in 1986, Jim Speck decided to close shop. However, by then, Brian had graduated from high school, so he joined his father, Jerry, in taking control of Speck Industrial.
A few months later, though, Jerry suffered a heart attack. With his father incapacitated, Brian ran Speck Industrial. Unfortunately, the heart attack was only the start of Jerry’s medical problems. In subsequent years, he suffered a second heart attack and had to receive emergency bypass surgery. And later on, he suffered a massive stroke that left him paralyzed. Eventually, in 2002, Jerry died at his home in Medford, NJ.
In 2005, Speck Industrial Controls became Radwell International.
RADWELL IS INTERNATIONAL
Radwell International Inc. has nine locations. Six are in the United States, but three locations are in other countries. All nine are mentioned on Radwell’s website.
One location is Radwell’s headquarters, which is in Willingboro, NJ. The other eight locations are in:
- Arlington, TX;
- Franklin, IN;
- Greensboro, NC;
- Krefeld-Uerdingen, Germany;
- Norcross, GA;
- Newcastle Under Lyme, Staffordshire, United Kingdom;
- St. Charles, MO; and
- Stony Creek, Ontario, Canada.
NEW PRODUCT, SURPLUS PRODUCT
“We’re always growing our product line,” said Andrew Horner, Radwell International’s marketing manager, North America.
That line is long and diverse. On the Radwell site, you can search for a product by entering a keyword, a part number, or a SKU. Radwell has more than 18 million items in stock and more than 125 million SKUs available, and the list continues to grow. So, depending on your needs, you could find:
- a sensor from AccuTherm,
- a timing pulley from Cross + Morse,
- a motor starter from Franklin Electric,
- a CNC controller from Heidenhain,
- a pressure sensor from Kobold,
- a limit switch from Namco,
- a bearing from QA1,
- an overload relay from Siemens,
- a degrease aerosol from WD-40, or
- a coupling from Zero Max.
Joe Hazelton is an editor of Fabricating & Metalworking. Email firstname.lastname@example.org.
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