No Part Leaves Town Unchecked

April 28, 2003
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JENISON — It’s hard for Ron Dykstra to say how many thousands of plastic components and parts go through his Jenison plant in a given week.

The same applies to the river of metal parts that flows in and out of the building’s doors.

“We have so many different projects going at the same time,” he said, “so the number is always changing. But it’s always high-volume.”

In fact, the volume is high enough to keep AccuServe Corp.’s full-time equivalent of a staff of 70 busy checking each of those parts, sometimes as many as 150,000 a day …

… and then to do a follow-up 5 percent audit.

AccuServe, an ISO 9002 registered firm, is one of several West Michigan companies that inspects all items that suppliers manufacture for the office furniture, auto and hardware industries. The firm also is a Level 2 Controlled Shipping service provider for Delphi and General Motors.

Dykstra, AccuServe’s president and CEO, and his wife, Carole, the business manager, acquired the firm 5 1/2 years ago. AccuServe was founded in 1994.

Dykstra told the Business Journal that though the company does some light assembly work, it owes its existence primarily to the pressure for perfection from original equipment manufacturers in the automotive and office furniture industries.

“It’s all an outgrowth of a lot of changes, where quality issues require looking for the root causes of problems,” he said. “Bad parts can be very damaging to machinery and they can destroy dies. They can stop assembly lines. These are things that can be exceptionally costly.

“So Tier 1 or OEM or even Tier 2 SEQs — supplier quality engineers — work with suppliers to determine those root causes and to make corrections,” he added.

“Meanwhile,” he added, “we fulfill the role of containing the problem.”

He explained that every single part coming through the 16,000-square-foot plant is subject either to electronic examination or by the naked or assisted eye — whether by a magnifying lens with either a 3X or 11X diopter lens, or a stereomicroscope with 30 to 40 times magnification.

And after an inspector has finished a box or carton of parts, an auditor does a random double check by re-inspecting 5 percent of the inspected parts.

Dykstra said the number of rejected parts ranges from low to none.

“It depends upon the problem the manufacturer may be experiencing,” he said. “Sometimes there’s virtually no fallout. In fact it’s so low that it has been referred to in parts per million. Parts per million has become the standard frame of reference — zero defects.”

He said that the most challenging inspection is any precision work that requires inspectors to use a microscope.

And that, he added, implies the need AccuServe feels for a special type of employee who, among other things, seek part-time work.

“The average shift here is about 4 hours,” he said. “People remain fresh. Shorter shifts minimize the fatigue factor, especially if some project is particularly stressful.

“Our work force make up is special,” he added.

“About 80 percent of the people who work here as inspectors are stay-home moms who work around their families’ schedules. They do commit to a schedule, but the schedule is dependent upon the needs of their family.

“For example, they get their kids off to school and then come in to the plant at 9 or 9:30 and work a three or four-hour shift and get home and get back to their home responsibilities, and then meet their kids at the end of the day.”

Dykstra said that AccuServe some time ago established a psychological and physical work environment that would help attract such workers.

“We have a clean, well-organized plant. And we’re people-oriented. We have an open environment psychologically, and the golden rule is practiced.

“So, as a result, we’re able to attract some very high-quality workers who enjoy working here.”

He said some of the older workers in the plant have recruited their daughters for employment at AccuServe.

“And we usually have had a waiting list of people wanting to work here,” Dykstra added. He said the waiting list existed even a few years ago when unemployment was running only 2.5 percent or 3 percent. “AccuServe is a niche employment opportunity,” he said.

He said the balance of the firm’s inspectors are college students and some people who are seeking a second, part-time income opportunity.

Not all of the firm’s work occurs in the Jenison plant.

Dykstra said AccuServe has teams of inspectors in five suppliers’ plants and that, during busier times, that number has exceeded a dozen.

Dykstra said that having intelligent, trained workers who aren’t afflicted by the fatigue of inspecting through an eight or10-hour shift has given AccuServe a reputation for high quality work.

He indicated AccuServe has remained healthy during the long slow-down and that the company is beginning to consider establishing a second plant.

“There are no dates or sites,” he said, “so it’s not a plan yet.

“But there are opportunities for us to grow and add more facilities. We do have that vision in mind. You bet.”

He said AccuServe contemplates establishing a second facility in Battle Creek or Grand Rapids, or possibly in Norton Shores.

“Norton Shores would be a nice location to serve suppliers both in Muskegon and Grand Haven,” he said, while noting that plenty of inspection work would likely be available in Battle Creek and Grand Rapids, too.           

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