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Southwire: Wired for Success

Southwire: Wired for Success

Whether an HVACR contractor is installing a mini-split system, a thermostat control or a new motor or compressor, the job will only be as successful as the circuit cables and wiring that connect it all together. That's where Southwire Co. comes in. The Carrollton, GA-based company produces a full line of wire and cable products designed to meet the HVACR industry's wide range of needs.

In fact, Southwire delivers power to millions of people around the world — for residential, commercial, industrial or OEM applications. Its utility cable and building wire carry electricity to virtually wherever it's needed; one in three new homes built in the United States contains wire made by Southwire. The company has become a leader in many of the industries that it serves in large part because of its commitment to developing innovative solutions that make its products easier to install.

Southwire's roots extend back to 1937 when Roy Richards Sr., two years out of Georgia Tech, started Richards & Associates in Carroll County, GA. His business was erecting power poles. Richards & Associates strung 3,500 miles of cable and became the nation's second-largest Rural Electrification Administration (REA) contractor. World War II halted all of the New Deal's REA construction, and Richards joined the U.S. Army, eventually reaching the rank of captain.

When Richards returned home, he found that many of the power poles that his company had put up still were not wired because of post-war shortages in wire. Seeing an opportunity, Richards decided that the only way to ensure a steady supply of wire was to make it himself. In 1950, Southwire began the work of manufacturing wire; two years later, it was shipping 5 million pounds of wire and had already doubled its plant size.

As the company expanded, it continued to make advances in the development of wire and cable design, metallurgy and plastics compounding. That innovation has continued over the years into new technologies and applications. In February 2000, Southwire's advances in superconductor power cable technology culminated with the first real-world application of superconductors.

With a presence in many industries, Southwire is comprised of four divisions — Energy, Electrical, OEM and SCR Technologies. Southwire's OEM Division serves the HVACR market. With Southwire's Electrical and Energy businesses experiencing great success in their respective markets, Southwire sought to expand and diversify its product offering by entering the OEM markets. Beginning with the production of copper and aluminum products for its customer base, the OEM Division added wire and cable products to its lineup about seven years ago, says Donna Graham, Southwire's vice president of marketing and customer service for the OEM Division.

Doing this allowed Southwire to more effectively compete in the HVACR industry. Today, the OEM Division is a leader within its various markets. "It's been pleasantly surprising how fast we've been able to hit certain growth targets," Graham says. "From our inception up to now has been pretty unbelievable."

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When Southwire decided to aggressively grow its OEM Division, the company made sure it had the tools to make this happen. That meant hiring the people it needed to make sales and fill orders as well as strengthening the commitment to developing new products that would lead the HVACR industry. "We have really focused on doing new product development," Graham says. She points to Southwire's D.B. Cofer Technology Center, opened in 1992, as a hub for innovation. Named for D.B. "Pete" Cofer, Southwire's first chief engineer, this is Southwire's R&D center, which houses state-of-the-art facilities for research, product improvements and product testing.

As Southwire continues to innovate, it has enhanced its growth through a series of strategic acquisitions, which have helped bolster its presence in the HVACR industry. Last year, Southwire acquired the assets of Ford Wire, a manufacturer of wire and cable used for HVAC equipment. For Southwire, this acquisition allowed the company to expand its product offering in the HVAC market and develop closer ties to the industry. "With that acquisition, it really helped build our market share," Graham says. "They had some products that we wanted to add to our offering, and it was really a great opportunity for growth."

Graham says Southwire's OEM Division continues to be in "growth mode" for the HVACR market so it can gain greater market share. That means adding distributors around the country. Southwire's sales managers and manufacturing reps are working with distributors to educate them about the company's broad product line and the advantages of doing business with Southwire. Line cards, catalogs and other marketing materials serve to supplement interaction with the reps.

Successful Southwire distributors understand the need for a full product line that appeals to a broad range of HVACR customers. They also share Southwire's focus on integrity and respect for employees. "That's how we are as a company — family-owned and a family-friendly environment," Graham says. Their best distributors also understand the importance of paying their bills on time and in full. "They're as concerned about paying their bills as we are about paying ours," she adds.

Southwire shares another important element with its best distributors — membership in HARDI. Southwire representatives attend all of the regional HARDI conferences because they see them as an opportunity to enhance their knowledge of HVACR and broaden their network of contacts within the industry. "It's a great organization," Graham says. "As you grow within HVACR, HARDI is an organization that can be significant to a company's growth. It's a combination of networking, the speakers they bring to the meetings and the monthly information. You learn so much. It's really the whole package."

Graham says Southwire's sales manager is “100 percent focused” on the HVACR market. The sales manager and the manufacturer reps work closely with distributors to meet the distributors' needs and the needs of the distributors' contractor customers when it comes to cable and wire products. "The reps then funnel that information back to us, and we start building and making the changes that we need to make," she says, adding that regular conference calls provide another way to share information. Annual sales meetings supplement this ongoing communication, providing the reps with an opportunity to meet face to face with Southwire's management team. "They're a really good sounding board," she says of the reps, "and we use that feedback to enhance what we're doing to get better and better."

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Southwire has been able to gain market share in the HVACR market because it goes to market with a wide variety of products for contractors. "We have the most vast product offering for wire and cable in the HVAC industry. No one has a product offering like ours," she says. "On top of that, we stock those products so you don't have to wait for us."

Southwire operates 10 customer service centers throughout North America that can fulfill the needs — within 24 hours — of distributors and their customers. More than just distribution centers, Southwire's service centers provide special services such as cutting to specific lengths, and they operate 24 hours a day.

While Southwire continues to grow organically, Graham says making strategic acquisitions helps accelerate growth of the OEM Division. The Ford Wire acquisition was one of three that Southwire made in 2010, along with the acquisitions of Tappan Wire & Cable Inc. and American Insulated Wire Corp. In 2008, Southwire grew its OEM business through the acquisition of assets related to the water pump business of Centrilift, and through the acquisition of CableTech Global L.P., a manufacturer of wire and cable products used in industrial applications and other markets.

A privately held, family-owned company, Southwire is financially sound, Graham says. “We're here and we've been here since 1950,” she notes. “Is Southwire really focused on the HVACR market, and are we here to stay? The answer is ‘yes.’”

Michael Maynard is a business writer in Providence, RI, who writes on issues related to HVACR, construction and architecture. Contact him at [email protected].

Best Practice

With unmatched breadth of product, manufacturing capacity, cutting-edge research and customization capabilities, Southwire's OEM Division is North America's largest and most innovative OEM supplier. Selecting Southwire as your key wire and cable supplier streamlines your ordering and fulfillment process and ensures you receive the best products and service available.

The OEM Division offers a diverse line of products for a wide range of applications, including automotive wiring harnesses, electric vehicle charging stations, electrical motors, lighting assemblies, HVACR systems, appliances, water and irrigation, electrical equipment, industrial equipment and more. In addition, Southwire can customize products to meet any specification. With Southwire, you really can get it all from one supplier.

Southwire's trained OEM sales force stands ready to answer any questions you may have about production status, shipping dates, inventory checks or products designed to meet your specific needs.

  • EDI — Electronic Data Interchange technology provides an electronic version of the day-to-day documents and processes you need to run a business.
  • SWIM — Southwire Inventory Management — Enhanced with the latest in EDI and Internet technology, Southwire Inventory Management meets the need for vendor-managed inventory.
  • Q-Service — Faster, more accurate wire and cable orders, done at your convenience, with no phone calls or faxes — that's Q-Service, Southwire's premiere Web-based ordering and self-service system.
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