“It all changed when Pringles moved into town,” Jeff Cupples says as he pulls onto the highway and away from the group of metal buildings bearing his family name. Driving across West Tennessee from Cupples’ J&J Company’s headquarters in Jackson to a satellite facility in Dyersburg takes about an hour – enough time for introductions and some background, beginning with how opportunities to help make the machines that make the potato chips fueled greater ambitions for what was then a simple tool and die shop.
A walk through the 65,000-square-foot satellite plant reveals how far Cupples’ J&J has come. Equipment here ranges from mills, lathes and EDMs to press brakes, CNC rollers and robotic welders. All this, and we had yet to see a more expansive, more sophisticated mirror of the same capabilities at the nearly 40-acre, seven-building main campus, which also boasts a field service operation and some of the first Eagle and Bystronic fiber laser cutters of their kind on this side of the Atlantic. Suddenly, Jeff Cupples’ earlier use of the term “one-stop shop” no longer seems so cliché.
However, what truly sets this nearly 400-employee company apart cannot be found in the equipment itself, either in Dyersburg or in Jackson. The diversification and expansion of machining and fabricating capabilities have been driven in part by adhering to one central idea. As Cupples puts it, “Every part has its own identity” – that is, a way to shape the metal that, at a particular point in time with a particular set of resources and customer requirements, is more cost-effective than any other option.
Finding each part’s “identity” is a distinctive strength of Cupples’ business. How does a shop scale and diversify its capabilities without losing the full efficiency of each of those capabilities? How can capabilities as different as laser cutting and CNC milling be used effectively together within the same organization? For Cupples’ J&J, the answer begins with a job quoting system that recognizes and leverages the strengths of various manufacturing processes and equipment.