Quality Conversations: Houston Wire & Cable

It’s not every day that we get to geek out about quality with a company that truly gets it, but that’s exactly what happened when we interviewed Houston Wire & Cable. HWC caught our attention because its commitment to quality has paid off in spades—not only is NASDAQ singing its praises, but customers have come to trust that HWC will always deliver exactly what they need. We grabbed some time with HWC’s Digital Marketing Manager Gilberto Velasquez, Jr. to find out how Houston Wire & Cable has managed to wire quality throughout the organization—in order to make it shine.


HWC quality management
HWC is powered by a focus on quality and innovation.

To start things off, what brought you to Houston Wire & Cable?

In my professional life, I’ve touched pretty much all touchpoints in terms of government, nonprofit relations, business-to-consumer, business-to-business. This was my first stint on the industrial side outside of the main oil and gas areas of expertise and industry, and it’s been phenomenal. I was looking for a challenge and I would say that, overall, not only does this job provide a great healthy challenge on a day-by-day basis, bringing new ideas to an old industry, but HWC also does a fantastic job of being an innovative leader in all of the categories that we serve. So it’s been a great road.

That’s fantastic. I have to say that, when I first looked at HWC’s website, I was struck by the quality page. I love what you have to say about “establishing quality consciousness in your suppliers”—can you tell me more about that?

Sure, absolutely. For us it’s all about teamwork and collaboration, across the board. We have a robust team with the right experience, and we bring them together to increase our level of quality and service for customers. We run smart, we run lean, and we all talk to each other and know what’s going on in the different divisions. We keep the lines of communication open.

What is your approach to quality?

It’s very hands-on. For example, our product marketing manager will work diligently to pull different samples and take different cuts to labs for testing and verification. And our director of purchasing will visit various facilities and sites to check on them, and he’ll bring other experts in the field with him to make sure our entire supply chain is meeting the quality standards that we’ve adhered to since our founding—and to ensure that we get the right product, at the right place, at the right time to all of our customers.

Can you tell me more about innovation at Houston Wire & Cable?

Innovation is a core tenet of the Houston Wire & Cable brand. One example of this is the new Duckt-Strip—it’s a line of cable that we’re exclusively carrying for HVAC needs, and our relationship started with its inventor. We work with him, and we know what the specs are, and we get direct customer feedback. That’s one way we’re intimately involved in the innovation process.

Another example, where we started as innovative creators: HWC created, developed, and pioneered the concept of the LifeGuard™ cable, a low-smoke zero-halogen cable, in order to better serve our customers. Up and down the field of play, it’s been a mantra of ours to make sure we know what’s going on, and we do that very diligently and methodically. It’s just part of our daily core business value.

That’s great. I can see the passion for quality and innovation all over your website, and it’s clear that your commitment to delivering value for your customers is what drives you.

I’m glad that comes through so clearly on the website and social media, because it’s certainly true.

What are some of the quality challenges or concerns that you face?

As a whole, we all—every single player in the game, regardless of what you’re selling—in the global scheme of things, there’s always a reliance on quality checks and standards, and who’s looking at what, which is what drives responsible companies like ourselves to do lab tests and check on samples. Because that’s how you know that quality is actually being adhered to. How much more are we going to have to invest as an entire industry in third-party checks to make sure that quality control is optimal? We’ve seen what happens in foreign countries when a supplier fudges some specs. That can wear on you mentally, so you have to be diligent about quality in order to avoid those issues.  Is it a challenge? Absolutely, because now you have to take up labor time and all that, but it’s worth it to do it, simply because you’re delivering quality.

That makes me curious to know more about how you vet and choose your suppliers.

Very carefully! We have sets, criteria, and scorecards, which allow us to make value-added decisions about whose products we want to include in our product line. We make sure we’re partnering with top-tier quality vendors—people we know we can work with on a regular basis. We use a methodology and matrix to ensure that what we’re getting is what we really need, and what the customers need—an effective and high-quality product. But it’s incumbent upon all of us who are doing supply chain work, to really enhance that more.

Because the landscape changes. Quality is getting tighter, standards are getting tighter. You have general contractors asking for specifications upon specifications, and you need to be able to meet them. Your scorecard now not only includes “what is my DPPM” and “what is my Sigma performance level” but now you have to ask yourself if you meet other qualifications such as the Canadian standard and the European standard, etc. It’s a difficult road to navigate, but it’s one that you have to navigate in today’s environment.

And you do it all so well! HWC has 99.9% on-time performance and 99.9% order accuracy, along with an impressive quality roadmap, and it’s evident to me that your quality objectives span the entire company. You understand that quality is a team sport, not an individual one.

It has to be. Because everybody up and down the chain, when you are in an environment where you’re serving the needs of so many people across a diverse set of products and you’re there to ensure that everything gets delivered on time, the capabilities are team-based. What that means is constant communication, making sure that all the parts are working with one another. One of the beautiful things that digital has brought us is this ability to look at data from all levels—both high-level and granular—and to be able to work together as a team to solve problems using data, dashboards, and various software systems that our Technology Team deploys.

Collaboration is the name of the game here at ARMATURE, too.

It makes you stronger as a company. If you don’t have that interaction and constant communication across departments, you’re going to lose out on a lot of valuable information internally—gold mines, diamond mines, platinum mines—filled with great ideas, and you have to do this internal mining to uncover the insights. And you get there by encouraging and listening. It’s a beautiful thing.

Absolutely. Are there any particular success stories you’d like to share?

At the 50,000 foot level, I’d say it’s our continual desire to be innovative and look for quality suppliers and exciting new products to serve the market. Realistically, that’s been a big thing we’ve been doing, going all the way back to the LifeGuard™ cable. This product drives value through its safety factor over time, and it leads the industry—so much so that it actually became an industry standard. It all comes back to quality: finding the manufacturers who are manufacturing products that are new, innovative, and high quality.

Final thoughts on quality and innovation?

Just that quality drives the whole story of innovation. Because you can innovate all you want, but if it’s shoddy workmanship, nobody’s going to buy it. And people are going to find out real quick. So you have to have that—while you’re going through the process of exploration—you have to have that cornerstone of quality. Does this product deliver the quality our customers have come to expect from us? It’s a little bit more than a success story, it’s about the success of being able to build upon the idea of quality management, quality product, and quality innovation.

And you’ve certainly done that. Thanks for your time, Gilberto!

To learn more about Houston Wire & Cable Company and their commitment to quality, visit their website, connect with them on LinkedIn, or follow them on Twitter. To find out more about ARMATURE’s quality management software, contact us. We’d love to learn about your quality challenges and share how our customers are using our software to ensure excellence and exceed their quality goals.