Davenport Coming Back

I was standing on the dock at the Fort Lauderdale boat show when my cell phone rang. It was Andrea from Tajmac in Milan offering me congratulations on the purchase of Davenport. I told him I hadn’t bought it, but I was trying like hell. He said at that point he didn’t know whether to offer me congratulations or condolences! About an hour later my chief operations officer, Andy Laniak, called to say that indeed, we were the highest bidder, and it looked like we were going to succeed in acquiring the assets of the company.

On October 22, 2002, I was standing on the dock at the Fort Lauderdale boat show when my cell phone rang. It was Andrea from Tajmac in Milan offering me congratulations on the purchase of Davenport. I told him I hadn’t bought it, but I was trying like hell. He said at that point he didn’t know whether to offer me congratulations or condolences! About an hour later my chief operations officer, Andy Laniak, called to say that indeed, we were the highest bidder, and it looked like we were going to succeed in acquiring the assets of the company.

Of course we had been hearing the rumors about Davenport since Dover sold it. In May we got a call from a distributor saying he had heard that Davenport was insolvent and being shut down. To make a long story short, we asked the bank if it was interested in pursuing an asset sale, and months later, we seem to have arrived at a new beginning for Davenport.

The new company will be called Davenport Machine, Inc. Now I know a lot of people asked why we didn’t call it Brinkman Davenport or something like that. But, in fact, the name Brinkman is so solidly associated with the company I didn’t think it was necessary and didn’t want people to think I was on some ego trip. The sole goal is to salvage the company, turn it around and bring it back to the premier screw machine builder that it once was. This will be no easy task, I’m sure. But I can guarantee you right now, we will get it done—and we’ll have fun doing it.

Right after Andy called me with the news, I had a dream that I was talking with my dad. I said, “Dad, I’ve got good news and bad news. The good news is I think I’m buying Davenport! The bad news is that I think you’re going to have to go back to work!” How I wish it could be true. There are so many things that I would like to ask him. I’ll just have to settle for asking other veterans of the Davenport industry. Call me.

The first thing to do is to get our arms around the problem. Cash flow and the severe capital goods recession had hit the company hard. With the bankruptcy out of the way and financing in place through Brinkman International Group, Inc., the ability to produce parts and service existing customers has greatly improved. By combining the resources of C.J. Winter and Davenport we have started streamlining the production process and wringing inefficiencies out of the organization. The distribution facility in Warwick, Rhode Island, will be closed and moved to Rochester. We were looking for a buyer for the B&S parts business including the facility in England, and as I write this I don’t know the outcome.

Rebuilding the company will take a methodical approach starting with improving part quality and availability. I intend to get the company ISO certified as quickly as possible, as all the other companies in the BIG, Inc. group are already ISO. Customer service, fair prices and solutions to enable our customers to meet foreign production will be the key to bringing Davenport back.

I think one mistake made in the past was spending money on improving the LS-522 instead of the model B. The Model B servo, however, is another story. The reduction in parts, flexibility of speeds and feeds and ease of changeover make this machine very competitive in the world market. Another mistake made in the past was to consider all other screw machines competition. In truth there is no competition for a properly priced Davenport except 10,000 used Davenports. So, we will have to address the disparity between the cost of a good rebuild and a new updated, superior Model B.

Finally, we will need help—help from anyone who thinks he or she would like to work for Davenport in any capacity that would be useful; help from customers with suggestions on what to do; and help by buying your parts from us. A machine tool builder cannot expect to sell every spare part, nor can it expect customers to pay higher prices than are reasonable. The cost of parts has to carry the engineering, service, R&D and inventory.