This month, Advance Machinery/Advance Cutting Systems, founded in 1985, celebrates 35 years as a brand in the sheet metal fabrication business. Here, national sales manager Clinton Ray Jr. explains why that type of longevity doesn’t just happen on its own.

When Advance Cutting Systems first opened its doors 35 years ago, what was the market need the company was hoping to fulfill at the time?

We saw a lack in servicing from Lockformer and Cybermation when it came to the plasma tables we sold our customers, so we decided that we could do it better. >> Our first customer was in Birmingham, Alabama, and most of our first installs were in our local five-state area, but that quickly grew to include most of North America. Most of our first machines were HVAC customers. >> In 1995, we saw an opportunity to import the AUTOFOLD Coil Line into our North American market as there were only two competitors at that time. We continue to be the leader in front-end coil lines sold in the North American market year after year.

Where is the majority of your customer base located now? What industries would you say the majority of your customers work in?

We concentrate on the North American market primarily, but we have machines all over the world ... Asia, Europe, Africa and South America. We are in the HVAC, precision, FAB and structural steel markets. These are comprised of contractors and manufacturers.

What would you say is the No. 1 reason contractors seek out Advance Cutting Systems for shop machinery?

Our complete package of service, support and quality products. Normally customers reach out to us because someone else they know has one of our machines, and they have had great service and support. >> Word of mouth is a big part of our business.

In relation to all of the other sheet metal machinery brands in duct fabrication and custom metal fabrication market, what niche do you think you fulfill?

With our plasma table line, it is our open architecture approach — no proprietary software or controls. Our plasma tables will run on any software. With our coil lines, we can supply machines to all of the market ... small shop with limited budget to the large shops producing millions of pounds of metal.

Why was it important for you to develop machinery with an open software system?

So if an existing customer had a sizeable investment in software, they would not have to change and further increase their investment. On the subject of smaller shops, your machinery seems to have developed a niche among smaller shops because of price and size. Our I-FOLD Coil Lines were developed for shops with small space requirements or the customer who would normally buy used, but would consider a new $100k coil line. Our I-FOLD Coil Lines started at $89,900.

Going into 2020, what would you say is your marquee product?

I would say we have several marquee products for 2020... Our AUTOFOLD FABRI-FLANGE TDF/C System — a standalone backend coil line system. Our EVO Fiber Laser and our New FIBER-Pro Fiber Laser cutting machines.

With laser technology’s decrease in price, and as we are able to continue fabricating metal at faster and faster speeds, where will contractors start to see time saving?

Our EVO & FIBER-PRO Fiber lasers will do the work of approximately four to five plasma tables, so the efficiency of the fiber laser allows more production and less floor space than four to five plasma tables and less operators. Thus, you have more time and manpower to assemble.

When working with a customer or a potential customer, what is the knowledge you try to instill in them to get them to make good choices about their sheet metal machinery?

Customers really need to look at a company that has longevity in the industry. With the economy setting records, there are so many manufacturers and importers popping up. >> The big question is will they be there when the dust settles. 

This story originally appeared in the February 2020 issue of SNIPS magazine.