Five Questions With: Ray Surprenant

Davico Mfg. in New Bedford prides itself in supplying hard-to-fit catalytic converters. A company started in a bay of a muffler shop in 1987, it’s been in the exhaust industry in various forms since the 1950s.

For many years, President Ray Surprenant has been outspoken about the company’s challenges in dealing with Environmental Protection Agency regulations, which vary state to state. For example, managing cost differences and the difficulty in having products certified under different rules depending on location hasn’t been easy. But despite that, Davico continues to grow.

PBN: Where is the need for hard-to-fit catalytic converters?

SURPRENANT: Davico Manufacturing supplies warehouse distributors all across the United States. The overall market for catalytic converters continues to grow, with stricter emission standards and more-complicated vehicle-emission systems.

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PBN: Davico moved into a new, 32,000-square-foot building in downtown New Bedford about 10 years ago. How has the company grown since then, in terms of services and employee numbers?

SURPRENANT: We have expanded within our existing building to approximately 80,000 square feet, as we have expanded our sitting-on-hand inventory. We’ve also steadily added more employees: Where we were probably around 25 [10 years ago], it’s now around 80.

PBN: A few years ago, you were interviewed for a news article on EPA standards’ effects on your bottom line. Could you explain, and tell us the status of that situation now? 

SURPRENANT: It is still an active and ongoing situation. We know the EPA is looking at it, as well as some states, but our concern is that neither have come to a program [in which] required emissions reductions can be enforced – which could be a frustration for companies [such as] Davico that do it right.

PBN: I understand Davico adopted lean practices with help from MassMEP. What would you tell other companies that haven’t done that yet?

SURPRENANT: Ha! I would say that it’s the way that I load my dishwasher. Meaning that once you see it is mostly a process of simplification and communication, there’s no other way. We still have a long way to go, but the process of trying, in itself, creates positive results.

PBN: I read somewhere that you personally visit two customers every month. Is that still the case?

SURPRENANT: As the company has grown, we have great salespeople who are getting in front of the customers, maybe a little more than me. But because many of these customer relationships go back decades, we talk whenever anything comes up. They all have my cellphone number. And it becomes a pretty informal relationship.

Susan Shalhoub is a PBN contributing writer.