By Dave Fidlin | Apr 23, 2023
Engineering, prototyping, and contract manufacturing services
At Hatch Product Development, Schwartz says a bedrock principle has been adopted, and it revolves around the phrase, "client defined manufacturing." It entails gaining a thorough understanding of a customer's intricate needs and desires in sourcing materials for a given product.
"Some customers will say, 'I want to be made in America,' which means the content needs to be 70 percent or higher," Schwartz says. "Some people just want it to be assembled in America, with foreign and domestic parts, so we're able to work with that requirement and get them the best pricing internationally but do the last-mile manufacturing here in the States."
It means being nimble enough to assist customers in meeting their product development goals and needs from start to finish.
"We maintain a lot of flexibility with our customers' cost goals," Schwartz says. "We think this is a very modern way to do things. We're working closely and transparently with the customer."
Hatch's method is to bring all areas of expertise together, in-house. The engineering and product development phases are fused together within Hatch.
"Most manufacturers inherit a design and are asked to build it, and therefore have no history of how it was designed, why it was designed, why suppliers were picked, why it goes together in certain ways," Schwartz says. "That's all defined by the engineers in the product development phase. If you design and build with us, that comes with lifelong support of the engineers that design the product."
Schwartz says transparency is another key mantra within Hatch through a process he describes as "open book pricing" that is geared toward removing unexpected surprises along the way.
"The idea is we can take you from A to Z -- from a napkin sketch all the way through production -- and you know you'll be treated fairly because it's open book," Schwartz says. "Design can take months. You've got to invent it, engineer it, prototype it, certify it. Eventually it makes its way into the factory."
National and global economic forces and changing consumer tastes inevitably will cause fluctuations in manufacturing, but Schwartz says Hatch Product Development is able to withstand widespread challenges by diversifying its client base.
"Our target markets are medical, military, public safety, industrial, and consumer products," Schwartz says. "You like to strike a balance with your customer base. But we do tend to work in highly regulated industries."
One commonly cited challenge among manufacturers -- finding skilled workers in the current labor market -- has not been an issue at Hatch.
"We've done very well in Waukegan with employees," Schwartz says. "We have not had issues getting the skilled workers we need. Obviously, where you place your factory is important. You've got to place it where people can afford to live and work. Waukegan is that kind of place."
Challenges: Even in the best of times, Schwartz says shifting timelines can crop up in product development because of the many intricate steps involved. Factors such as supply chain and shipping delays have pronounced these challenges in recent years. "There are delays in product development, where you'll do testing and find an issue," Schwartz says. "You think it's going to ramp up in the factory in June, and now it slips back to July and August. If you're missing one part, you're delayed -- and that's tricky."
Within Hatch, Schwartz says the goal and intent is to think strategically and several steps ahead to anticipate potential bottlenecks. "That's an advantage to having engineering in-house," he continues. "You have the ability to do that. Most manufacturers are just following a blueprint, and they have no idea why something was picked or what it does exactly. That's the big differentiator."
Opportunities: In 2017, Schwartz sold PDT Inc., a company he founded in 1995. He transitioned his decades of product development experience into Hatch, which he says has enjoyed a momentous start as a company in its brief existence. "We have a really strong sales backlog, so we have a lot of stuff in design that’s going to wind up in the factory, particularly in the summer," he adds.
Some of the products in the design stage will yield long-term contracts by virtue of Hatch's relationship with the military sector. "If you build a military product, you're going to be building it for quite some time -- 10 or 15 years," Schwartz says. "Consumer products tend to turnover a lot quicker. It's all about balance. It keeps the long-term health of the company strong."
Needs: As Hatch Product Development continues to build out and expand its client base, Schwartz says there are several short- and long-term plans on the horizon. "One thing we do in-house is wires and wire harnessing. I have a saying that labels and cables are what screw products up," Schwartz says. Explaining a remedy, he adds, "We are evaluating opportunities for automation."
Schwartz says efforts to find a new home for Hatch also are underway in the greater Waukegan area as the company continues expanding. "We're thinking of constructing our own custom building in Lake County in the next year or so -- a really state-of-the-art product development and manufacturing facility," Schwartz says. "We've started to look around for lots."