05: Shaping the Future of Defense and Aerospace Manufacturing with Eric Shumway of ISC
In this episode, host Andrya interviews Eric Shumway, Senior VP of Business Development at ISC. With over 30 years in the electronics manufacturing industry, Eric shares insights into ISC's role in defense, aerospace, and more. Discover the journey of ISC, their mission-critical manufacturing, and the importance of their work in the current industrial landscape.
- Introduction of Eric Shumway and Overview of ISC - (00:00 - 02:30)
- ISC’s Mission and Eric’s Vision - (02:31 - 05:45)
- Discussing ISC’s Growth and Expansion - (05:46 - 08:20)
- Overcoming ERP System Integration Challenges - (08:21 - 11:55)
- Celebrating Significant Sales Milestones - (11:56 - 14:30)
- Importance of People in ISC’s Success - (14:31 - 17:05)
- Eric’s Personal Journey and Joining ISC - (17:06 - 20:20)
- Future Trends and Innovations in Manufacturing - (20:21 - 23:00)
- Q&A Session with Listeners - (23:01 - 26:30)
- Closing Thoughts and Episode Wrap-Up - (26:31)
- ISC Website: Interconnect Solutions Company
- ISC Services: Custom Cable Harnesses, Box Build Assemblies, Printed Circuit Board Assemblies
- Documentary Reference: James Webb Telescope
Hello everybody, welcome to the Vox Verba show. We are back with another exciting episode in the manufacturing and industrial industries. I am really excited to welcome our guest today, Eric Shumway. Eric is the senior VP of business development at ISC. He is a seasoned professional with over 30 years in the industry. He has a broad knowledge of components, yet it's from a very technical perspective.
and he has a proven track record of driving sales growth and expanding business networks. This started from his previous experience at Vexos where he significantly boosted ISR growth, Eric's expertise in organizational leadership, sales and marketing, and specifically the in-depth knowledge of custom overmolding solutions.
makes him a valuable asset to ISC's ambitious growth plans. Thank you so much for being here today. I'm really excited to chat with you.
Eric Shumway (01:02.936)
Welcome. Nice to meet you. Thank you.
I'd love to start with a snapshot. Could you tell me a little bit about yourself and your organization and the role it plays in the industry?
Eric Shumway (01:18.456)
Sure, you gave me a nice intro on that. I've been in the electronics manufacturing industry since 30 plus years. I guess I'm closer to 35 now. And with ISC, we're a custom manufacturer of cable harnesses and box built assemblies heavily skewed towards defense and aerospace. And so my electronics manufacturing background was a natural fit with ISC.
wonderful. So in that you told us a little bit about ISC. Can you tell me a little bit more about your place in the marketplace but also maybe your addition primary services or products?
Eric Shumway (02:02.712)
So ISC, just to kind of make clear, it's a shortened abbreviation for the company, which is Interconnect Solutions Company. And as our name says, we manufacture interconnects, which is taking two cables, putting them together, the different connector systems, and there's a wide way or array of doing that. And then as we became bigger and better in the cable and harness industry,
into some other areas and we'll probably touch on that later, but more into contract manufacturing, box build assemblies that really are focused in the niche markets that we work within.
Okay, you know, every company has its own North Star. I'm wondering what is the guiding point or the guiding mission for Interconnect Solutions?
Eric Shumway (03:03.208)
I love that question, North Star. You know, we have a saying, and you'll see it printed throughout our organization. It's on every presentation that we provide. Many of our technicians wear shirts that say what we do matters. And for us, that is the guiding North Star. Everything that we manufacture is mission critical. It just cannot fail. And we wanna remind ourselves every day
that what we do at ISC matters. It matters to our customers. It matters to their customers.
This, we would be on the, I believe this would be the fifth episode, maybe fourth. I have to check on the production schedule, but consistently through every conversation and especially around this question, the critical nature of the different roles that manufacturers play in industry seems to come up because it's often overlooked.
And we're in a time that manufacturing seems to be having a revival, more people are talking about it, and so that's really great to hear that part of your mission and what guides you is that your work and your products matter and they're meaningful. They make a difference in people's lives.
Eric Shumway (04:31.504)
Absolutely. Um, you know, before joining ISC, I had spent the better part of 22 years with the majority of manufacturing I supported coming out of Asia. And it was a conscious decision to join ISC because they were a North American US manufacturer supporting industry that was valuable and necessary. And so I consciously joined ISC as part of that. And every day I love the fact.
that we are providing jobs to our citizens, we're supporting our infrastructure here and providing a valued service.
Yes, that's great. So this helps us get a little deeper into interconnect solutions. Could you tell me a little bit about your primary services and products?
Eric Shumway (05:21.752)
Sure. I touched on earlier that we manufacture custom cables and harness assemblies. For some people that may or may not be familiar with those, these range from sending power between two different machines or signal or data or a combination of all the above. So we manufacture these from relatively simple cable assemblies to incredibly complex harness assemblies that are
running nuclear submarines, running fighter jets or different defense products. We actually have.
built the cables that are used as an umbilical for power to launch the Artemis II rockets on the launch pads, many launch pads actually. So, our products are very rugged. They tend to be mission critical, as I said, harsh environment. And we have a variety of ways of providing that. And that then grew into doing more of a box build assembly. Maybe initially we wanted a control panel
of mechanical assembly, the internal portions with all of the wiring, and that's where our contract manufacturing began. But today we've actually expanded on that and we've brought in the ability to make printed circuit board assemblies. So we've really become a vertically integrated company to support the defense and aerospace and medical industries.
Incredible. While you were sharing specifically the part about being part of launches, it reminded me of, sometimes when I get reminded of things, I really like precision, but I don't remember the exact number or the name of the documentary, but it was a recent one. I believe it was the one on the James Webb telescope. And it was talking about the number of failure points.
how I think it was over 300 failure points. And so I was thinking about how it goes back to that mission critical concept that this, you know, is a failure point and it's gotta work or the mission is a failure.
Eric Shumway (07:35.66)
Can I give you an example? So we build, as I mentioned, nuclear submarines. So we do a number of cables that are used in different class of submarines. But in this particular case, these cables have over
Eric Shumway (07:51.544)
2,600 different unique contact points. And each one of those has to be tested. And this cable has to be done in such a way that literally every little micro inch is being tested or measured to ensure that nothing has been missed. In that testing process, it takes 24 hours. And if that test is interrupted, you have one more opportunity, even if it got interrupted again and you proved that the cable was good.
Eric Shumway (08:22.739)
the ability to do repeatable, those are the hallmarks of what make ISC uniquely different, but also why the defense industry and the aerospace industry are coming our way as fast as we can basically take them on.
fascinating. It makes me wonder and you've touched on this a little bit but I'm curious in what ways as you've responded to the marketplace, how have you expanded your services maybe branching out into secondary or complementary services and products?
Eric Shumway (08:58.656)
So, you know, we, as a company, we've gone through a massive evolution over the last four years, just to kind of give you a little bit bigger picture on ISC. ISC is really now an amalgamation of four smaller.
mom and pop type organizations. But they were systematically approached. We looked at all of the things that we wanted to be when we grew up, and said we want to be able to do overmolding. I want to be able to provide an ingress protection that is above and beyond the norm in our industry. I want to be able to build certain product in-house that can't be done elsewhere, like spinning up custom bolt cable that I use in a big umbilical cord to launch a Boeing.
I wanted to be able to be electronically integrated. And so the ability to do printed circuit board assembly in house. So each one of these acquisitions that we made addressed one of those points. And as we brought them together, professionalize the organization, we've created an organization that is uniquely different than what's out in the industry. We are more vertically integrated. We have capabilities under one roof that provide a, a stream line.
supply chain to these very mission critical products and customers.
Wow, I love to hear the different ways that organizations are able to grow and respond to needs and really ask, you know, it makes me think of appreciative inquiry, this idea of asking what's possible and dreaming and then designing and making that happen. So what a journey. It kind of feeds into the next question.
Could you share a little bit about your company's history and the journey along the way?
Eric Shumway (10:53.116)
If it had started one year earlier, it would have been a great year. But the company and its foundation started in 1971. That was one of those pieces. And that group really grew into being a great box builder, you know, mechanical assemblies, complex harnesses. Another piece, a little bit later down the line, a brilliant engineer, he started a company called ISC Engineering and their specialty and focus was really in the overmold. They manufactured their own tools.
and house became industry experts when it came to how you seal a product while also making it aesthetically pleasing. And so those were the first two that came together to form what we now know as Interconnect Solutions Company. The next integration was of a small manufacturer up in the Valencia area of California that manufactured unique cable, had machines that were able to spin unique cable assemblies.
For us, that's been invaluable as we can address some of these unique, small volume, but incredibly complex assemblies that are used in the space industry. And then lastly, as I mentioned, adding printed circuit board assemblies, that was part of the technology roadmap. We had identified three years earlier exactly where we wanted to be, and adding that gave us another great addition to the family. And we continue to look at acquisition. You know, as a company that
that's owned by private equity. We are, pardon me, we're always looking to be able to expand. Sometimes it's for a particular technology.
Eric Shumway (12:38.14)
Other times it's to become a little bit more regionally located. And so we're working that model as well. We've got a number of things that are exciting and that we look forward to the next year, uh, with those in mind. But really they all work, uh, to dovetail together on that master plan that we established years ago that said we were going to be the premier source for the defense and aerospace and medical industries. When it came to custom.
cables and harnesses and especially overmolded cable assemblies.
I love as I listen how somehow naturally these questions kind of fall into each other and you were just sharing the history and I think I felt an answer to this next question in there especially as we got towards the end. So I'm curious when you started with ISC, what were your initial...
goals, dreams, or hopes in those early days.
Eric Shumway (13:43.924)
So, you know, being a part of a private equity family that immediately changes the, you know, it's not like joining mom and pop and they've got limited resources. And that was part of the reason that I decided to join ISC was that I liked the M&A market, the industry. I have been part of that before. I enjoy growing something from little, you know, taking, let me back up a little bit.
mom and pop shop. My father owned a electronics manufacturing company that made membrane switches and I grew up doing that from the time I was little. And I worked for him for a number of years but there came a point where
We decided it was probably better that we part ways in a business sense, but I learned a tremendous amount. I was able to go from there and in a few years, I actually ended up going from working for my dad's company, which was small, to working for a billion-dollar enterprise. The difference in how you operate a multi-million-dollar company compared to a billion-dollar enterprise is drastic. But there were a number of things from a systemic approach that we
never did. And I would often think, you know, if I knew then what I know now, how different could we have been as an organization? What could we have done that maybe would have propelled us to become the leader in that industry? And so I would sit at night and think about these things that I wish that I could go back in time and implement there, but I can't. And so I looked at this and I said, I want to be a part of that. I specifically sought that. And
in doing it, I'm not the only one. We've got a great team at ISC of people, like myself that have worked in large enterprises that are coming together with a common goal that say, we can take these small pieces, bring them together and educate the people in the organization on what you do so that you can provide consistent great service and quality at a reasonable price and not have the lumpiness
Eric Shumway (15:57.738)
of smaller companies have, implement some programs, whether it be
Long-term agreements on material with your customers so that you have supply chain addressed or you know particular methodology of how you approach ECNs or new product introduction These are all things that we're doing now at ISC to take you know These four pieces and really make it a world-class organization and for me on an individual or personal level I finally have an opportunity to be able to put my money where my mouth is and say We're doing those things that I've learned now
as I would have done them if I could have gone in the way back machine and done them with my dad's company.
I love that. Thank you for sharing that. I find it extraordinary the kind of things that when we look back, maybe we can't tell our past self that, but we can tell others who may be at that point of our past self and others can learn from it and our present self can always learn from that revelation. So I'm curious.
Eric Shumway (17:03.849)
Could you tell me about a time, and I think maybe you had mentioned some of these, but maybe there's more, a time that you felt really proud of something that you've done, maybe a milestone, and maybe it's a team, maybe personal team or company. What comes to mind when I talk about big milestones on the journey?
Eric Shumway (17:28.916)
There's a few, you know, I don't want to go into great detail on most of them. There was one where we came in and the company had merged two small companies together and in their infinite wisdom decided that two months into that was a good time to bring in a new ERP system.
So not only were you merging different cultures, but now we had a whole new operating system and it created absolute chaos. I know that's hard to believe, but it really did. It was a very challenging environment. And at that time, there was little that was able to be done to quickly turn it around, but we still had to get sales. We still had to fill the coffers. And so we had begun a program of partner factories in Asia.
I had just come from that environment and rapidly we engaged that and we were able to actually add 14 new customers in that year, the highest that the company had ever seen in a given year and increased margin percentage as a result of that while dealing with some pretty significant headwinds. So I've always been proud of that situation, but the one that I probably take the most pride in just happened.
We had made a conscious decision as we merged these companies together that defense and aerospace was really the primary industry that we were going to serve. And this goes back over three years ago. We didn't have all the conflicts that are going on right now, but.
for who we were as a company, where we manufacture, what we manufacture and the certification levels that we retain, it became pretty clear that this was the space that we needed to put our focus and our energy into. Well, as much as one would like to say, I made the decision, I flipped the switch and tomorrow we're going to start seeing a load of new orders, in that industry, it just doesn't work that way. In most cases, it takes about two years
Eric Shumway (19:33.263)
to get entrenched, find your space, and start seeing those orders come through.
And in the same period of time, we're trying to grow and become a more professional organization. Well, we've seen continual growth. We have grown year over year. We haven't gone backwards in our quest to be what we wanted to be, but we knew that there was a new pinnacle. There was absolutely another level that we were going to achieve. And at the beginning of this year, we booked
on a pace of about 15% growth year over year for the first half of the year. And that's great. And we were happy with that, but in quarter three, we booked $2 million more in the quarter than we had the first six months of the year.
And we're on a trajectory that is exactly like we anticipated, but you never know exactly how it's going to come or when. And in this case, we got shot out of the rocket come the second half of the year. Well, that wasn't accidental entirely. A lot of that had to do with the efforts that were being done last year. And even some at the beginning of this year that made the flow of product better.
that made the communication with the customers better, that gave them a higher level of comfort and security. And then all of a sudden it was like, we have no more questions, we know who you are, here you go. And so we're, again, as I said, we've reached another plateau, and that means that we've got more work to do. We wanna keep going higher and higher.
Oh, it's great. Sometimes it's so validating to reach a plateau, right? Because then you can look back and say, well, what's next?
Eric Shumway (21:21.488)
Exactly. Well, you take, you know, I've had people on my team say you don't celebrate things very long. I said, because there's no time in that. We got to turn around and look up again and say, now what?
Yes, yes, okay.
Eric Shumway (21:36.768)
But we do take a minute to smell the roses. It was very sweet. I was incredibly proud of my team and all the hard work that they put in.
That's really exciting. Congratulations to you and your team on that. I have, my next question is not as exciting, but in some ways I think it helps, you know, when others hear the answer to this question, at least for me, I want to know when it's not a great time, when maybe there's been a failure or the team's just having a hard time. What?
Eric Shumway (21:49.12)
acts as an anchor for you to keep going.
Eric Shumway (22:19.628)
Well, those days never happen except for the ones that end in Y. Every day's got its challenges. There's no doubt about it. And in manufacturing, those challenges are plentiful. You know, we can't always control the supply chain and sometimes errors are made on the floor, which creates other problems. So
Eric Shumway (22:41.204)
You know, every day is a unique challenge and I've got team members that theirs are each uniquely different. But one of the things is, I guess I'm, I don't know that anyone's accused me of being the most nurturing, empathetic type person. I usually have a tendency to think, well, come on, dust yourself off, rub a little bacon on it. Let's go.
But in truth, especially in the world that we live in, a lot of people are remote. We have people that are.
dealing with their own challenges. And so we certainly don't do that. We wanna make sure that we understand why, what is going on, how, if there's anything that we can do together to affect it. But I think really one of the things that I try to get into my team's head is that the highs are never as high as we think, the lows are never as low as we think. Most of the time we always kind of exist in this middle range here.
And if we just try to remind ourselves that, you know, this too, if we're in a bad situation, this too will pass. You know, I, I've got the benefit of a lot of gray hairs in my beard these days. I've done this for a long time. And I can remember very clearly when the world was coming to an end, everything was going to end. I was probably going to lose my house because a particular deal that I knew was going to happen had just gone sideways.
But yet here I am still doing this. Didn't lose the house. Things didn't end. The sun came up tomorrow and the, you know, the day and after, and so on. That it becomes a lot easier to say, take a deep breath. Let's take a step back from this. Don't respond to that email right away. You know, don't make that call out of anger because someone just left you a voicemail that says, I'm not giving you the order.
Eric Shumway (24:41.536)
Take it a step back. Think about what's really going on. What can you do? And if you can't do something, let it go. You know, I believe in what they teach in the serenity prayer, you know, teach me. I'm gonna butcher it here, but you know, the essence is help me understand the things I can control and the things I can't and the wisdom to be able to let go of the things I can't.
That's right. Oh, it's really wonderful and comforting advice to anyone going through it or just unsure about the current path. When you've been in an industry for a while, you start to see common misconceptions, or maybe we'll call them myths, things that people may commonly think, but might be off.
Are there things like that about your industry?
Eric Shumway (25:39.732)
Well, from an industry perspective, I'm not so sure. And a lot has changed as things are beginning to onshore more. There was certainly a perception that in certain industries that domestic supply chains couldn't support them. I think that perception is changing as more and more companies are onshoring.
One on a very personal level is that we manufacture in Southern California. And there's always a perception that because California is expensive to live in, that therefore all manufacturing is expensive. I would contend that it's not that different. We've actually looked at everything from the labor rates to shipping and how these factor in. And although there is a slight premium,
considerable enough that you say, okay, we can't consider it. Where you really start to get into the cost drivers is what type of certifications you retain, what type of internal regulations you have to be able to support a given industry. Then it's really a factor of, are you positioning yourself in the right industry that values who and what you are?
Mm, yes. When you think about interconnect solutions and what makes it special, it's unique strength. What comes to mind?
Eric Shumway (27:13.128)
I know this sounds cliche, but our people, you know, you can have an organization with all the equipment in the world.
that does really remarkable things. But if you don't have the right front end support to develop your work instructions and your travelers and how to make a particular part repeatable, you're setting yourself up for failure. If your engineering wasn't done well or correctly, you're setting yourself up for failure. If your support, whether it's customer service, inside sales, purchasing, again, if they're not responsive and providing good communication, both sides are set for failure.
And so for me it comes down to the systems and the people that operate those systems within ISC
to hear that and even though people might say it's the people that's cliche, what it makes me think of is that the people that come together for something, it's never a mistake. Those people are attracted to that group and to that mission for a unique and compelling reason. And so it goes back to that mission, that what you guys do matters. And so
your people are on a mission that matters and I think that makes a huge difference in how people interact with you.
Eric Shumway (28:36.94)
For sure. And I know that the customers perceive that as well. Because of the industries that we support and the type of programs that we're on, it is commonplace for very high powered people to be in our facility on a regular basis. And we've had military colonels that have been in our facility because of a particular program. And the consistent thing that we hear is how pleasant it is to work with our team
everyone gets along and that's not entirely true not everyone gets along every day you know it's like family you're going to have conflict but the way that you conflict is different it's not chaotic it's not all over the place it's like a motor yes there's friction but harness friction gives you power and chaos gives you know unharness gives you chaos so we take that and we figured out how do we communicate with each other how do we support each other because at the
whatever we do is to support our customers and you know, let's face it it's to make money because we're a for-profit company and we know that that's how we continue in doing this
Absolutely. In today's conversation, what have we left out that people need to know or anything that you'd like to share about Interconnect Solutions or about yourself or the journey, anything?
Eric Shumway (30:09.068)
Well, I'm good with me. I don't think anyone cares enough to hear more about Eric. The company, you know, it's interesting. We get a lot from very large corporations, you know, in the defense industry. How come I haven't heard of you? And the answer is because I was four different names until with, you know, some of them until early this year.
Eric Shumway (30:34.944)
But the name Interconnect Solutions Company or ISC is starting to get some cache. We definitely have been able to make inroads. And I'd like for anyone that's in those areas to think about us, look us up. I think they'll be duly impressed with who we are and what we can do. We're very committed to the defense aerospace and really the burgeoning space industry. We always laugh every time we say it, but it is the new frontier.
And there's a substantial amount of growth that's taking place in that area. And we're excited to be a part of it.
Absolutely. Yes, I am, as a galaxy nerd, I am really excited about the growing space industry. But the paths towards it, I was just speaking with my husband about this morning, it's all the other transportation-based industries that connect and lead us there, right? And so it's aerospace. And even before that, you know, rail.
And so we're walking that path and it's exciting to be on.
Eric Shumway (31:46.004)
Yeah, it's, you know, what's fun with the space industry, since you're a fellow space enthusiast. We almost monthly, there is something else that we take a look at where we begin talking to the, no one in our company has ever considered thought about even realized that it was feasible. And things like space Uber moving satellites on command by contract. What?
you know, but it's there and we're building parts that go in it. You know, these fueling stations where satellites can refuel. Seriously, this stuff is all it's all happening. And, you know, for us to be able to say, yep, we're in that. It's great.
I'm so glad you shared that. How incredible to hear and for listeners to hear. And for anyone that's listening today, we have a audience of people in manufacturing industry. And if you're listening and you know someone that would be interested in this show, send it their way. Also, anyone can connect with Eric or Interconnect Solutions by going to interconnectsolutions.com.
In the show notes, there'll be a link so you guys can have access and you can always reach out to me and I will get you guys in touch with Eric and his team. Eric, thank you so much for joining me today. I have loved today's conversation, learned so much to take home to my kids, but also to apply at work. And that's why I love these conversations. So thank you again.
Eric Shumway (33:24.928)
Been a pleasure, thank you and good to meet you as well.
Good to meet you. So that's the end of the show, guys. We'll see you in the next episode.