Behind the Scenes with Steve Dean at Addix
by Brendan Sanders
Addix has quickly burst onto the scene as one of the largest growing businesses based out of Lowell.
After starting out 12 years ago as a relatively small screen-printing business in Mt. Pleasant, with thousands of orders and a multitude of products, Addix is making a name for itself across the nation, and especially within Lowell, with a few familiar names at the helm.
Starting at president/majority owner for the company is Steve Dean, who is the brother of Noel and Dave. The three Deans are all part owners of the company. Steve Dean joined the operation in 2018 and has quickly taken the company to new heights.
“I’ve been with the company a little over a year. I spent most of my life in manufacturing supply chain and logistics. I was asked by my brothers to consider the Addixs opportunity in May of 2018. I came in as an investor/advisor in June 2018. I was basically a paid-for consultant who also invests in the business. Over the course of the last year, I moved from an advisory capacity to becoming the majority owner of Addix Sportswear,” said Dean. “I've run football, baseball, wrestling, and softball leagues and I've been a buyer of sportswear as the president or leader of those leagues, so I do understand from the buyer’s perspective as well and just what it takes to make that happen. I've got some pieces of it. I was one of the co-founders of MYWAY Wrestling, which is a youth wrestling organization that is one of our big partners, and so it's interesting after having been of that company back in the early 2000's to have stepped away from it roughly in 2004. Only to get re-associated with MYWAY as a product supplier for their various events.”
Dean was excited to take on the project that would help youth sports around the nation.
“I’ve spent most of my life in warehouses, truck terminals, factories, and the focus was on parts and the movement of parts and providing services for storing warehousing and assembly and getting parts predominantly focused on the auto industry. To be more focused on what's happening at the youth level across a whole plethora of sports. There's a shininess to it. It is a lot different than what I was focused on in my past.”
With 46 employees to manage, Deans main job is to keep a focused eye on the future, setting the tone for strategic direction. Managing day-to-day operations, along with the cost to go with it, is also a very important part of the job. Dean must make sure that the company is hitting on all cylinders, which they must with the sheer number of products they sell.
“We offer sportswear for 17 Sports, soon to be 18, as we're adding rowing to our menu. We're expanding our product line. We've been in the flag and banner business, but we’ve never really featured that, so we are putting more and more marketing material out there about our ability to make flags and banners for various applications.”
With so many products, Addix has a massive customer base estimated to be at around 15,000 customers. This includes customers concentrated in the mid-west, northeast Atlantic Seaboard, southeast areas such as Georgia, Florida, and as far away as California. They received an estimated 1,500+ orders a quarter. The orders can range from four pieces to much, much larger.
“…A recent order we had from a hockey organization that was 7,000 pieces,” said Dean.
The process of making a product takes quite a few steps. First, Addix gets the design from the customer. This can be done online, thanks to new software that was recently purchased. Once they receive and approve of the design, they print it onto special papers. These papers, with the prints, go through a process called sublimation.
In the process of sublimation, the prints are fed through a heat press or heat transfer machine. There, the paper and ink are subjected to heat above 400 degrees. This turns the ink into a gas that infuses into the fabric that is going through the machine at the same time.
When it comes out the other side, the product goes through an inspection process before going to the cutting table. The cuts are then paired up to the correct size before they are sewn together. Once done, they go through another inspection process before being packed up correctly and shipped out of the factory.
All of this is done under one roof.
“Working in one area offers some pretty distinct advantages because a lot of our competitors are doing the sales and design part of it but then send some of the work offshore so their lead times could be as much as 10 weeks, where we have customers come to us all the time and say they need stuff in six days and just get us your designs, and they're just shocked that you can do it all under one roof.”
“A lot of times we follow up with our own research. If we try to understand who these companies are, and often, they'll take as I mentioned earlier, they'll take and do the design work. They'll handle the sale, but then they're shipping the work offshore. Customers think they might be getting something custom that's made in the USA, when in fact, you're getting something that was custom designed in one area, but then all the other things are shipped offshore, where it's someone else who made it or transfer cut it, assembled and shipped it back here. We have a lot of customers that come to us and they say, ‘Well, because last year our stuff took us like 10 weeks to get it and we were right up against it, we're coming to you because even though you might be a little bit more expensive, you guys have your golden turn around, producing products in as low as six days.’ one of the biggest challenges is differentiating yourself in the marketplace from so-called competitors who say they do all these things.”
Addix is part of many leagues across the nation, helping showcase their products to a larger audience. On an event basis, they are affiliated now with over 60 events where they showcase their products and offer Addix gear. Soon it may be much bigger than that with some of the organizations that they are talking to right now. Because of this, they are always focusing on self-improvement.
“We have a very robust quality lean or continuous improvement program here at Addix. It's really focused on bringing higher quality products for our customers that have been highly expected and insured for the rigors that many of these uniforms go through.” Dean said.
The largest goal for Addix is their delivery time, of which their goal is to be the fastest, most high-quality product in the business.
“I think that our focus is really in order-to-delivery compression. The idea here is to take your order and we'll have it to you in six days. That's our goal. That's what we're working towards. We’re consistently less than 12 days now. We do new orders in 6 days today for customers who call and say, 'hey, we're willing to pay you guys to make our order the number one priority at Addix', and sometimes we do that, we make that work, but we want to consistently be the fastest, best and most cost-effective solution in the business.” Dean said. “Every day we talk about how we get faster, really compress order to delivery.”
As the company continues to grow, Steve Dean is very appreciative of his employees and the community that the company resides in.
“This is truly coming from the heart; we have great people here. Addix has great people or something to be said for the people that come from the community of Lowell and surrounding communities, and the work ethic is second to none.” Dean said. “The creativity, care, to go beyond the expectation to really deliver high-quality products and to make this company better, and I can't say enough about our people here that are so committed to our customers, and it's really been a joy to work with people that have as much care and focus as they do in providing a superior product.”
You can learn more about Addix at www.addixgear.com, or by visiting their Facebook page at Addix.
“We're always a very open door and welcome our customers in here, we want people to understand what we do and how we do it, and it's amazing how much insight we gain from them in terms of how we can make things better.” Said Dean. “We're always open to hearing how we can be a better company.”