Small Business Automation is KEY — Sutter’s Mill KeyChain Case Study

Delta Technology Sutter's Mills Client Success Story


When you first think about automation, large projects are what is usually first to come to mind; however small automation solutions can be implemented quickly and rather inexpensively and can improve individual process productivity from 80-100%. This is a significantly higher return on investment than traditional big automation initiatives.

One case below, illustrates the benefits of one of Delta’s small automation clients, Sutter’s Mill.

Sutter’s Mill is a local Arizona company established in 1986 that produces promotional gifts and advertising products of the absolute highest quality and distributes them efficiently with superior customer service. By manufacturing and distributing products themselves, they ensure these principles are always at the forefront of everything they do – and the products and service received by their clients are the best the industry has to offer.

Their US made, in-house manufacturing capabilities rival those oversees and allow their clients to receive quality, unique services with very little turnaround time. One of their best selling promotional products is their laser, engraved keychain which they sell to many automotive companies in the car dealer industry. The keychains have a metal tag plate, which is laser-engraved on two sides and set against wood, leather and more.

Even as one of their best sellers, Sutter’s profit margin on the keychains continued to shrink smaller and smaller as cost on goods went up, minimum wage continued to grow and it was very hard to compete with competitor pricing oversees.

One operator would produce 200 keychains during an 8 hour shift by hand placing them into the laser marker one at a time, engraving one side, flipping over to engrave the other side, then removed and hand polished. Sutter’s Mill decided it was time to pursue automation for the keychains as they were all done by hand. They approached Delta to see how they could increase productivity of the line.

In a matter of weeks, Delta designed and built a solution for Sutter’s Mill which is a custom machine that can complete 9 keychains at one time which is an 8-fold productivity increase. One employee can now produce 1500 keychains in their 8-hour shift. (They would need to hire 8 additional people to get to this level of productivity.)

Sutter’s new automated machine has the capability of having 1-9 logos printing at once, allowing much more flexibility on projects, jobs and the opportunity to work on smaller projects at the same time as a large production run. Orders and artwork are digitally sent straight to the machine, which is now an automated process instead of a by hand project. They are then engraved, polished and come out just a few minutes later allowing Sutter’s Mill to produce a great quality product that is  customized and ready for a 1-2 day delivery window.

“We could not be happier with our partnership we have formed with Delta Technology,” says Daniel Paull, VP of Operations at Sutter’s Mill. “It’s very apparent how knowledgable their team is about automation. Each and every team member we came across were very personal and had very specific roles throughout the process. I have worked with a lot of engineers over the years, and Delta’s engineers are some of the smartest people I have ever met,” says Paull.