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Fab Fours honored for innovation

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Streamlines its business model for new quick-delivery strategy

By Greg Summers

Cutting edge is more than a catch phrase at Lancaster-based Fab Fours.
If company owner and CEO Greg Higgs can come up with a better way to design and produce a high-end aftermarket bumper or accessory for a truck or Jeep, you can count him in.
“Every day, that’s part of our challenge in manufacturing… and Fab Fours is just getting started,” said Higgs, whose company recently was recognized as Innovator of the Year by the S.C. Manufacturing Extension Partnership.
The award recognizes a state company that transforms its business and manufacturing community through innovation, including new devices, ideas, inventions and processes.
“Most folks don’t realize how hard it is to stay innovative. It’s the unsung challenge,” said Higgs, who has seen his company grow from 14 employees in 2010 to more than 100 workers.
The 2007 departure of the Springs Global textile operation in Lancaster County, he said, positioned Fab Fours in the right place at the right time.
“It gave us the ability to choose the best and the brightest from a great workforce who, through no fault of their own, were looking for opportunity. That doesn’t mean I want to entice anybody to come here and take my folks.”
The company has also outgrown one facility.     
In 2015, Fab Fours relocated from the Pinnacle Building on Camp Creek Road to the old Berkshire Weaving plant on Industrial Park Road (Foster Industrial Park) off Riverside Road.
Last year, Fab Fours announced it was adding 88 employees and spending $5.7 million on equipment upgrades.
Streamlined model
The company, Higgs noted, has developed a streamlined business model to provide and distribute its handmade bumpers and parts without carrying a huge inventory of finished goods that require a “crazy amount” of working capital.
Mike Cauthen, Fab Fours production manager, compares it to a fast-food mentality. The company can completely make and then ship a bumper or part to a distributor in about 2½ days.
“In today’s world, you want stuff and you want it now. We’re trying to accommodate that,” Cauthen said.
And production is ultra-efficient. Once the parts are laser-cut, they move on individual jig tables throughout the 146,000-square-foot factory. They go from fabrication to grinding, priming and powder-coating to being shipped out. The process takes roughly 30 hours, with multiple inspections along the way.
Cauthen noted that the industry standard for warranty work – when parts are returned because they don’t fit or work – is 6 to 8 percent. By comparison, Fab Four’s rate of parts that get returned is about 1.5 percent. He credited much of the quality to workers who take pride in craftsmanship.
“We always take employee feedback into consideration so we can improve our products, as well as the overall production process,” Cauthen said.
On Friday, the finishing touches were being placed on massive orders that were getting shipped to distributors in Missouri, Indiana and Texas.
“We can produce about 120 products valued at about $100,000 each day,” Cauthen said.
And there is very little waste in the production process. Leftover steel is recycled.
“We just found out that we’re the fifth-largest user of metal in the Charlotte region, and that says a lot. We didn’t have any idea,” Cauthen said. 
New products
Higgs noted that Fab Fours is looking to expand beyond bumpers into aftermarket wheel, tire and suspension parts.
Having a more diverse product lineup will help grow the Fab Fours brand in the marketplace.
“It’s to utilize our vision of doubling the business…. There’s a lot of people out there smelling what we’re cooking.” Higgs said.
This is the second statewide business award for Fab Fours this year. In April, the company received an Impact Industry Award, which recognizes Palmetto State companies for business success, economic impact and community involvement.  
 
Follow reporter Greg Summers on Twitter @GregSummersTLN or contact him at (803) 283-1156.