Creston Industrial Sales hits its stride

62-year-old tooling services provider has been hiring during COVID-19 on its march to expansion.
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Creston helps design tooling for manufacturers that cut, weld, fabricate and/or produce parts, primarily out of metal, for things like engines and airplanes. Courtesy Creston Industrial Sales

Creston Industrial Sales is setting an ambitious goal to double its revenue in the next five years, and the company’s new president said he is confident in its ability to succeed.

David Darling, president of Creston Industrial Sales, spoke to the Business Journal last month about his company’s current stable performance and the actions it is taking toward a strategic, five-year growth plan despite the current pandemic-induced recession.

“During a time when most of our industry and most of our counterparts are contracting, we’ve been marching our way toward another really large push in our evolution of the business,” Darling said, adding the company is pulling in annual revenue of over $20 million right now and hopes to double that within a half-decade.

Creston is a tooling, distribution and engineering services company that has about 35 employees and serves more than 700 manufacturers, industrial engineers and end users throughout West Michigan. It is privately owned by CEO Paul Hendricks, who is as bullish on the company’s future as Darling.

“We have the human, physical and financial strength to accomplish our strategic plan,” said Hendricks, who took over Creston from his father Russ in 2015. “Our plan will center on four main categories: continuing our investment in employee education, expanding our sales and marketing team, launching innovative e-commerce platforms and enhancing our inventory controls.”

Darling was recently promoted from the role of contracted COO that he had held since last year and now oversees Creston’s day-to-day operations, allowing Hendricks to focus more on relationship building and new ventures as the company seeks to grow organically and acquisitively.

Instead of laying off or furloughing employees like other companies in the industry have had to do to survive, Creston has hired more than 10 new sales representatives since March, with plans to hire more as part of an initiative to market the company as a “one-stop shop” for tooling consulting, engineering and sales, instead of just a place to buy parts.

Creston recently leased about 6,000 square feet in a second building at 1118 Front Ave. NW in Grand Rapids, adjacent to its headquarters at 1150 Front Ave. NW, so that it could split its operations center and its customer care/sales department into two separate buildings.

Darling said the competitive edge Creston is working to cultivate is best communicated through its Creston Advantage Program — a suite of offerings including coaching, pricing, incentives and customer relationship management designed to build long-term partnerships.

“I’ve been in the same shoes that Creston’s customers are in currently,” Darling said. “They are looking for a partner in the process, not a vendor. Creston’s commitment to its customers is unapparelled to anything I’ve seen. The Creston Advantage Program is going to be just what our customers need when they come back online. We genuinely want to invest in our customers’ needs to give them an advantage. We want our customers to succeed, as that only helps us.”

Darling said Creston helps design tooling for manufacturers that cut, weld, fabricate and/or produce parts, primarily out of metal, for things like engines and airplanes.

He said Creston knew several years ago that in order to tap into the smart technology-driven goals of Industry 4.0, in which automation is king, manufacturers would have to have the right tooling capabilities. As there are millions of tools on the market, Creston recently co-launched with Tools United an advanced, searchable database that it believes is the first central repository in the world that contains three-dimensional data on tooling, including the computer-aided design (CAD) renderings needed for a given tooling system or part. The site, at tooldata.crestonindustrial.com/app/en, allows customers to search for tools using size, material and many other types of parameters, and the database returns results showing “every conceivable tool that meets that specification,” along with 3D models and matching components where available.

Darling said the database probably contains about 300,000 items at this point, and the company is constantly working to add more. Using an advanced inventory management system, Creston is able to acquire and distribute any of the tools in the system to its customers.

To support such a high level of service, Darling said Creston works hard to find the most talented project managers, engineers and sales reps available, then invests in their growth and development.

As of now, its employee educational investments include developing extensive tool cutting training programs through GRCC for new employees and current team members, as well as offering web-based and online learning programs through a Learning Management System with a focus on tool cutting knowledge, new technologies, problem-solving solutions, customer relations and leadership skills.

Darling said Creston’s story is one of “positivity” amid a chaotic time.

“We’re watching great West Michigan companies almost implode, needing to lay off and drastically cut costs, and just the fact that we’ve been methodically preparing for where we’re at right now has put us in a pretty good position to not only weather this (crisis), but to continue to come up stronger on the other side,” he said.

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