THE SHOP

December '18

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58 THE SHOP DECEMBER 2018 Companies hire Prefix to bring new designs to reality in the form of concept vehicles, prototypes, full-scale mockups and even spaceships and planes for movies like Batman and Transformers. It has four facilities located in Eastern Michigan and more than 250 employees. Its three Rochester Hills facilities include 24 private and confidential build studios, a CNC center, Lighting department, Rapid Prototype department, interior trim, com- posites shop, metal fabrication, software and electronics, and an area dedicated to Low Volume Vehicle Production. Its Auburn Hills facility houses a com- plete performance division that conducts a variety of engine development and testing services, builds race engines for the Trans Am series and performs a wide range of per- formance, power and styling enhancements for a variety of vehicle brands. This facility also includes a world-class, 100,000-square- foot production, paint and finishing center. "Although the majority of our work is within the automotive industry, we are also actively involved with aviation, amuse- ment, exhibits and a wide range of indus- tries," explains Eric Zeile, Prefix president. "There are two different ways that our proj- ects usually start. Sometimes we receive CAD data from the client and we begin to build from that. Other times we start with nothing more than a sketch or rendering and our Design & Engineering teams start from the very beginning." STARTING FROM SCRATCH In the world of concepts and prototypes, there are no off-the-shelf parts. Everything you see in Prefix concept vehicles (like a recent Lincoln Navigator) needs to be cre- ated for the first time. For instance, wheels, grilles and dash buttons are designed and CNC-machined, body panels are molded from fiberglass or carbon fiber, headlamps and taillamps are all created from scratch using 3D printing and creating lenses with silicone molds, and all interior trim is done by hand. Even touchscreens, infotainment com- ponents and software are developed by a team at Prefix, sometimes allowing clients to operate the entire vehicle with an app on their phone or tablet. When asked if there was any advice that could be shared with aftermarket and per- formance shops, Zeile made it clear that Prefix doesn't have all the answers. "As with any business, you continually try to improve, pay attention to market trends and treat your employees like family so you have the strongest team possible," he says. "Just like in life, there will be ups and downs, but by constantly setting goals for improvement we've been fortunate to enjoy the success that hard work brings." He did agree to share some of the ways Prefix has upgraded its efficiencies and the ongoing improvements it is making to con- tinue its growth pattern. Maybe some of its best practices can help spur growth at your shop as well. #1 INCREASE EFFICIENCY At a company like Prefix where projects and programs are very complex, requiring mul- tiple staff members and numerous depart- ments, it is crucial that teams communicate and develop ways to cut wasted time. Get Creative Communication is a vital ingredient to the success of any business. Well-informed employees who understand how their work helps attain company- wide goals will be more productive. Companies can improve efficiency by assigning specific tasks to individual employees as part of an overall team effort, and then pitching in if things fall behind schedule.

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