Wednesday | 18 February, 2009 | 7:44 am

Prudent planning

By Abbe Miller

February 2009 - Some people have a knack for planning. Take Rodie Woodard, for example. He always seems to be one step ahead.

The story of his foresight starts in 1996. Even though gainfully employed, he has a hunch to embark on his own endeavor but continues to work for his full-time employer. He invests in waterjet technology and opens Maximum Industries Inc., Irving, Texas, his own contract cutting facility. Two years later, his full-time employer divests the division Woodard had worked in for so many years, leaving him in surprisingly good shape.

"I was the national sales and marketing manager for Ingersoll Rand’s waterjet division, which is now KMT Waterjet Systems Inc., [Baxter Springs, Kan.]," says Woodard. "I had a lot of hands-on experience from an equipment standpoint. One aspect of my job took place at the demonstration facility and applications development lab."

That experience positioned him to find success with Maximum Industries, a business that he hadn’t originally considered a primary focus. Luckily, his hunch proved to be profitable--and imperative.

"In the early days, those interested in waterjet technology were sending in everything you could imagine to see if it could be cut with water," he explains. "This was before the good applications were established in the marketplace as far as what was a good application and what was a bad application. People would send in food products, all kinds of metals, ceramics, glass and all types of weird materials."

Woodard’s timely entrance into the waterjet cutting industry was prior to the technology’s current popularity. It was as though he was always at the right place at the right time. Still working with Ingersoll, he opened a sales office in Atlanta and later became the company’s Texas distributor. "I was a Texas boy, but Ingersoll’s division headquarters were in Michigan. After five winters there, I decided that it was time to go south."

Following instincts
Back in his home state, where Maximum Industries would begin, Woodard’s foresight again produced nothing but success. Unlike most individuals, who might start out slow, he decided to go all out. Woodard immediately purchased not just one but two waterjet machines, as well as a laser cutting machine, to start doing contract jobs while still trying to help Ingersoll sell its machines. Later, he added a second pump to increase his capacity. The two waterjet machines were supplied by Romeo Engineering Inc., Fort Worth, Texas, with the pump and cutting heads KMT supplied.

"I actually started with two right off the bat because we wanted to build the business around the idea of being a premium service provider," he says. "People never even call us to cut anything until they need it. Our deliveries are always short. In order to be able to provide that service, you always have to have a machine that’s available. There are only 24 hours in a day, and if you only have one machine, that’s all the work that you can perform, period. So the amount of business that you can do will obviously double with two machines. We’re either able to take on larger projects or keep our deliveries short."

With that philosophy, Maximum Industries was off to a good start. It was able to double as a new business for Woodard, as well as a demonstration facility for Ingersoll. "It was a good way to stay involved with the burgeoning technology," says Woodard. "And it was also a good way for me to sell Ingersoll’s product."

A couple years later, however, Ingersoll changed its business model, and instead of being a total systems integrator, the company began concentrating on the technology, such as the pump and the cutting head, "relying on others to provide periphery devices and automation to make the technology productive." Instead of going through distributors to sell a turnkey product, Ingersoll started working with integrators, ultimately causing Woodard’s distribution business to become extinct, beyond some spare parts that he still handles today.

Calculated growth
Since the initial investment, Maximum Industries has increased its waterjet potential to include four KMT SL4 50-horsepower intensifier pumps with four gantries supplied by Romeo Engineering, the integrator that KMT has worked with since its modeling shift in 1998.

As Maximum Industries’ collection of equipment increased, inevitably, its square footage increased, as well. The company does business in its new 44,000-square-foot facility. "We started off in a 6,000-square-foot industrial park facility," says Woodard. "As we grew, we had to knock out a wall and add another 6,000 square feet. Then we couldn’t go any further that way, so we took 6,000 square feet in the building next to us in the other direction. So then we had 18,000 square feet. I was investing in the business and had added a lot of equipment, and so we got to the threshold where it was smart to just buy a building. That’s what I was able to do about this time last year. We operated the two facilities from about January to April, but we were fully in this facility by April."

The summary of Maximum’s story is encompassed by the idea that not only has it seen growth but also that its growth has been realized because of an almost preternatural knack Woodard has had since the get-go. He recognized the potential of waterjet technology early on and decided to take it on full rein.

Typical jobs at Maximum include thicker stainless steel and aluminum, but recently the company has taken on aluminum armor contract cutting for MRAP vehicles and other military equipment that requires the cutting abilities only a waterjet can offer. Considering his fleet of waterjets, the turnover practically takes place in the blink of an eye.

Despite Maximum’s success, Woodard isn’t through with his predictions. He’s motivated to start a product line exclusive to Maximum if the company’s contract work slows. Although it seems unlikely that sales would falter because of the company’s delivery and quality reputation, a Maximum product line is probably in the chips. After all, Woodard’s gut told him so. MM

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