A Knack for Staying Ahead of the Curves
SNX Technologies is a very successful manufacturer of U.S.-made contour edge banders and importer of industrial-grade CNC routers. They serve customers in the closet and storage, commercial furniture, retail display, custom wood products, and even the recreational vehicle markets. SNX has machine systems in many of the top-300 firms in woodworking, and they have their eyes set on capturing the rest. They’ve made their mark in the industry with their ability to innovate and align product lines to match what’s going on in shops across North America. SNX is dedicated to providing the “next thing” in equipment and supplies to help customers stay ahead of new production challenges.
But the company didn’t start out that way. “Some people thought we were ‘repo men’ when we walked through their shop door,” laughs co-owner Craig Sexton.
Most people wouldn’t consider opening a business during an economic downturn to be a prudent idea. Especially amid one of the worst recessions in U.S. history. Then again, most people aren’t like Craig Sexton and his partner Mike Noelting. As lifelong machine tool professionals, they had seen their share of business swings over the years. The pair was confident that opportunities still existed–though different ones–as the Great Recession began to take hold in 2008.
Craig and Mike formulated a daring business model for the times they saw coming, jumping to new occupations far removed from what they knew working for a major European machinery builder’s North American CNC equipment unit. “During those pre-recession years, sales of new equipment pretty much began to dry up in the woodworking industry,” stated Noelting. “We knew we had to rediscover ourselves and make some tough decisions – and do it soon. So, we thought if selling new wasn’t working, then we’ll shift to selling used.”
While family and friends may have been somewhat concerned about this risky-sounding change, Craig and Mike felt absolutely confident about their ultimate success. They left their high-level corporate jobs and made their plans.
They formed SNX Technologies, Inc. in 2008 and based themselves in Sauk Rapids, Minnesota, homebase for both men. Their business model needed ample space to accommodate machinery and parts, so they chose a 15,000-sq. ft. facility that once housed machine tools. A perfect fit.
From 2009 through 2012 they focused on the used equipment market, augmenting income with more and more new machine sales as the economy improved. “One thing we did that made us stand apart from other used machinery brokers in those days is that we would retrieve the machinery and set it up in our facility, then make it work. Customers loved that. We did a lot of repair work ourselves across a huge mix of machinery types, too. This gave us tremendous insight into processes and machines we’d never experienced before. It would turn out to be a great advantage for us later,” says Noelting.
Sexton adds, “The North American market for used equipment – good stuff – became depleted by 2012. There wasn’t a lot of it we felt comfortable enough to repair and put our name on. And, really, by that time we didn’t have to rely solely on the used machinery part of the business.” The time arrived for yet another major business decision.
Almost overnight, SNX Technologies transformed itself from used sales to new machinery sales.
Today, SNX offers two main lines of new machinery: their imported nVentor nested base CNC routers, built exclusively from SNX’s specs; and their nVision semiautomatic contour edge bander line, which they manufacture in the Sauk Rapids, MN area. The addition last year of the SNX-made Roundit corner rounder helps fill a gap between manual banding operations and more expensive banding machine systems.
“It’s funny, after being so deeply involved in CNC equipment for so many years, it turns out we’ve become more well-known for our emphasis on edge banding machinery and supplies. A clearly sizable percentage of our business is now our nVision series of contour edge banders,” said Sexton.
In 2015, SNX entered the edge band chemical market to supply cleaners and glue separating agents for not just their nVision banders, but any other maker’s machine as well. The chemical line, branded XCEL-EDGE, is compounded in the US and shipped nationwide.
The XCEL-EDGE brand grew quickly and in 2017 comprises a growing family of edge band-related products all under the banner of XCEL-EDGE Products. This includes SNX’s “Li’l Pucker” hand-held edge band scraper.
To reach customers, SNX works with a few selected machine dealers. Most sales are made direct with Sexton, Noelting and their sales manager Jeremy Manea. “We are relationship salespeople,” notes Noelting. “That extra time getting to know a customer’s business or doing demos for them using their products to verify processes with our machines really pays off in an install that starts to pay back day one.”
Sexton adds, “We would like to expand our dealer network but dealers are really busy with their major core lines right now – which is great. It makes it difficult for us to get the attention, but we’ll keep letting them know we’re around.”
SNX has discovered design changes taking place in some markets recently, and they are showing some fantastic opportunity and interest for the company’s nVision edge banders. “This is the exact market area we want to partner with dealers to answer the needs of those markets and customers, smaller in size, but who make up the high-end of need for contour edge banders,” says Noelting.
“We have grown so fast in the past two years, we recently hired a fourth service technician in the field to free up both Craig and myself for additional sales coverage,” stated Noelting. “Besides the sales and service side of the business, we are looking at how we can engineer and build more machines!” In addition, SNX is working on two new machines that they will be introducing at IWF 2018 in Atlanta.
SNX Technologies’ future is exciting–to say the least.
“We continue to grow and expand our line of contour banders because the market is dictating the various options they want to see on our machines,” explained Noelting. “So, we are building price-competitive machines that incorporate unique features that satisfy different customers.” Noelting continued saying that large firms want to incorporate innovative ideas into the equipment where other suppliers are too hard-line and cannot, or will not, alter their product offering. The large firm customers want the contour edge banders to be used in smaller cells, rather than in large ones, and SNX is set to fill that need.
“I want to stress the fact that our nVision line of contour edgebanders is 100% made in the U.S., here in Minnesota,” stated Noelting. “You can imagine how proud we are of that. And that speaks loudly in the sense of service, parts, and keeping manufacturing of that product line here in the USA.”
Sexton smiles and ends by saying, “We’ve come a long, long way from being a couple of machinery ‘repo men,’ and we are only getting started. We have plans. Oh, yes we do.”