Success Story
Equipment and Machinery

Ohio Machinery Remanufacturer Puts Exports in High Gear

DixiTech CNC Equipment

Company Taps U.S. Commercial Service Assistance, Virtual International Partner Search to Sign Agreement with Mexican Representative

DixiTech CNC is a minority-owned business located in Monroe, Ohio, specializing in the designing, custom-building, and remanufacturing of equipment for various industries, including aerospace, defense, and automotive. Originally founded in 1984, the company was purchased by Devin Flowers in 2020, who now serves as president. The firm continues to expand its export sales and, most recently, with the help of the U.S. Commercial Service in Cincinnati and Mexico, signed an agent in Mexico to find new sales in that market. In the below Q&A, Devin provides insights on the firm and its exporting story. 

Q: Could you give some background on your company? How did you get started? 

We remanufacture all types of equipment for numerous industries, focusing on precision gears and bearings. We heat-treat to reshape and strengthen metals to enhance the equipment’s performance, tolerance, and long-term life. It’s like those automotive TV shows where they take an old car, strip it down, and completely rebuild it to a new model with updated performance features. 
Most of our customers are from the aerospace, defense, and automotive industries. They require us to help them meet tight industry standards (AMS2750 and CQI-9) with custom designs, features, and integration. For example, one aerospace defense customer had us design and build two custom machines. One of these combined the elements of their original machine (which is no longer being manufactured) and others to create a unique, one-of-a-kind machine  only they have. Many customers like having a state-of-the-art machine at lower prices than a standard new machine. In assisting these businesses, our solutions help manufacturers continue their production uninterrupted. 

Q: How did you become interested in owning this particular business?

I bought the company in 2020 because of my background and interest in engineering. I earned my bachelor’s degree in chemical and mathematics from Alabama State University and my Ph.D. from the University of North Carolina in chemistry and polymer Science. For several years I did consulting work with an eye on owning my own business, and when the opportunity arose, I bought the company; it was a dream come true.

Q: Did you have any initial reservations about exporting? If so, what were they, and how did you overcome them? 

I didn’t have any reservations about exporting. When I bought the company, it was already selling internationally, but it was mainly reactive, fulfilling inquiries from U.S.-based companies doing business internationally. These exports were critical to the bottom line, and I wanted to pursue a more proactive approach to increase our global customer base by finding and selling directly to new international partners. 

We knew we had more export potential, but the real challenge was finding the most suitable sales agents and getting expert insights on navigating the Mexican market. This market was particularly interesting to us based on our preliminary research. So, our next step was to seek help. 

Q: What federal and other export promotion services have been particularly valuable in your global sales success? 

We turned to the U.S. Commercial Service in Cincinnati, where we received export counseling. We also participated in online business-to-business (B2B) and business-to-government (B2G) meetings and webinars coordinated by the agency’s Advanced Manufacturing Team. I participated in a virtual trade show sponsored by the U.S. Commercial Service for the Mexican automotive industry sector that helped begin the process of connecting me with the Mexican market. We then used the International Partner Search (IPS) with virtual introductions.

As a result, we signed an agreement with a Mexican representative, Ingenieria Maxima, and we’re now doing business in the Mexican automotive sector. We also got guidance on issues such as using incoterms for shipping to Mexico. 
In addition, participating in the Discover Global Markets (DGM) event gave us great insight into export planning and how to sell to specific markets. We continue to apply the skills learned from the DGM to pursue new international opportunities. We’ve become familiar with the U.S. Export-Import Bank, trade insurance brokers, international attorneys, and freight forwarders though the Commercial Service.

Q: What was your interest in the Mexico market?

Mexico piqued my interest due to the transition to onshoring and moving U.S. supply chains away from China. I thought the USA and Mexico would also benefit from this due to the proximity and the USMCA free trade agreement. In addition, Mexico has an extensive automotive sector industry with many in the business already in that country.

Q: What has exporting meant to your company?

We would not be in business without our U.S. customers getting their sister facilities in foreign countries to buy from us. In some years, exports have accounted for over 90% of our sales in heavy industrial equipment due to bulk orders to one or two countries within the same year. Then, one or two more companies in foreign countries would place an order the following year. Last year, we decided to more actively pursue foreign orders through foreign companies in their countries to help us to grow our business and stay competitive globally. I believe this proactive approach to exporting will allow our company to weather changes in the domestic and global economy.

Q: What were some export challenges in your industry that you overcame? 

There’s always the challenge of understanding the machine and taking it apart. And internationally, there are dramatically different standards of quality in meeting the customer’s performance requirements. Also, some foreign customers have different price and performance expectations. That means we must offer them options as to which upgrades on equipment they are willing to pay for. 
The other challenge is more on the marketing side. When we upgrade something, the product meets or exceeds the machine’s original capabilities and often performs better than the new one. However, customers sometimes have a degree of mistrust about the remanufacturing process in general. They need to be reassured that there is no compromise in quality compared to buying a brand-new product.

Q: What are some lessons learned?

Adjusting for the different markets in terms of their requirements to do business. Some countries have tariffs, and in others, we can enter tariff-free. Some countries require a certain percentage of manufacturing to be done in their country. Understanding these factors is critical to competing price-wise.

Q: What do you see on the export horizon for your company?

More export sales! We’re very interested in markets such as Hungary, India, Poland, Singapore, and Italy. We have met virtually with potential partners in these markets through introductions by the U.S. Commercial Service in Cincinnati and U.S. embassies abroad. It’s a work in progress. 

Q: What’s your advice to those companies on the “export fence?” 

Don’t be afraid and consider different pricing strategies depending on the customer. Also, be sure to take advantage of U.S. Commercial Service and other resources to help develop your export plan. For over 2 ½ years, we worked hard to learn all aspects of global selling with the support of the Commercial Service. They’ve made us aware of many resources available to minority businesses like ours to help us proactively increase our global sales. They helped me find markets, potential leads, and partners much faster than if I had tried alone, saving my company valuable time and resources. We look forward to entering even more markets with their support and services.