New design center latest story in saga of starting small, dreaming big

by BETH ALTENA

Tim Warwick, director of innovation for Byrne Electrical Specialists, shows off one of the products that is the result of employee innovation and idea brainstorming. He said developing new products is part of the company’s strengths. Byrne launches six to seven brand-new products each year and currently holds 140 patents.

Byrne Electrical Specialists began in 1970 in the home basement of Norm and Rosemary Byrne, and now, with Byrne Tool and Die, is a venerable business employing 250 people in addition to staff at Wee Folk, a child daycare center started for convenience of employees.

On January 16, the family company celebrated an open house of a newly designed planning center, a state-of-the-art facility for product innovation and client collaboration. A company tagline that states, “Our products may come out of a box, but our thinking doesn’t,” has never been more true given the super-tech and beautiful facility at 320 Industrial Drive.

In an upstairs space that was formerly more of a break room than a place to break out new ideas, before and after pictures barely do the space justice. According to Tim Warwick, director of innovation for Byrne Electrical Specialists, the company has grown every year and been profitable every year, continuing to reinvest in equipment and keep and increase employees.

The Byrne company is proud of its heritage as an example of starting small and dreaming big. First as Byrne Electrical Specialists, the company acquired the tool and die portion of the business in 1997 and kept the employees in place. Today the two companies work closely and will share the design center.

In addition to the four full-time designers on staff, the space is available as a think-tank setting, for training and as a showcase for product available from the two Byrne companies. It also will be used for product development, a culture of innovation that Byrne encourages.

The design center has a flexible design that can be arranged for larger training groups, or arranged in relaxed, intimate settings.

“It’s comfortable, it’s not rigid,” Warwick said. “I think people think better when they are comfortable.”

The space includes examples of options available from Byrne, such as raised floors, which are a great option for retrofitting an older building for a new use.

Warwick said the company encourages employees to submit ideas for new products and from the 100-plus submitted annually, a half dozen are usually chosen to refine and redesign to a successful, brand-new product. He said six or seven are submitted to the United States Patent Office each year, and currently the company holds 130 patents.

Warwick said coming up with great ideas and making them become a reality faster is a trademark of Byrne Electrical Specialists and Byrne Tool and Die. He said last year the company was recognized as best in the nation in lead time for mold making.

The design center is important to the two companies, Warwick said, because design is a vital part of the companies’ success. He said merging form and function is so important to a successful product.

“The whole company is built on innovation,” Warwick said. “Some people have design sensibilities, others can conceive the function but not the design.”

Warwick said knowing how to merge the two into one plan for a product—without waste—is what Byrne can offer. “If you have a problem, send it to Byrne and we’ll help you out.”

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