Thursday, November 24, 2016

Ten-Tec Message - Making America Great - One Radio at a Time

"Greetings Friends and Fellow Ten Tec Enthusiasts, 
I wanted to update you on what is happening in Sevierville. The Smokey
Mountains are literally fogged in with smoke in some places as Tennessee has
many wild fires burning. I was there two weeks ago and have never
experienced anything like it. Driving down Jellico Mountain on I75 it became
literally IFR conditions with near zero visibility from the smoke. As some
of you know Ten Tec has been occupying office condominium space behind the
site of the former factory where now a Wal-Mart Express is sitting. This
site is not appropriate for our needs. Starting last week, we are moving
out of this location into a more industrial friendly space. Unfortunately
this location is not zoned for commercial walk in traffic, so the days of
someone showing up at the factory door unfortunately have come to an end.
After an entire year of searching for any possible opportunity to move, this
is all we have been able to come up with. Commercial real estate is
completely out of control in Sevierville county because of the tourist
industry, and unless we have about a half million dollars to invest in the
factory location you can just forget about it. Ten Tec is "too small" to
receive any incentive, tax breaks or help from the local so called "Economic
Development" office. 
My opinion is that the State and local government of Tennessee is about as
economically unfriendly to a small business or start up business as is
possible. For example, in other counties in TN the standard is to create 10
new jobs to get any incentive. Sevier County arbitrarily requires 25 jobs.
By my calculations, 25 jobs would be around a million dollar pay roll if the
jobs averaged 15 dollars an hour to the employee with a 25% more overhead to
the employer. Any business having that kind of payroll better have about 10
million in gross receipts which would put it at DOUBLE the IRS definition of
a small business and QUADRUPLE the IRS definition of a micro business, so it
is obvious that the economic development offices do not have any mandate
whatsoever to support or help ANY small business reason the scale of an
individual person's finances. The fact that Ten Tec must have contributed
millions of tax dollars to the local economy over the last 50 years means
nothing. In many states, these economic development offices are partially
funded by the local Chamber of Commerce. It is my opinion these offices
function as intelligence gathering units to forewarn their members of any
possible competitor entering their area. If small business is truly the
economic growth engine of the United States it is apparent to me why we have
growth problems if we depend on these organizations to help us as
It seems ironic that the company named TEN TEC for Tennessee Technologies
can't get any assistance at all in Tennessee considering the state's
advertising of their "Tennessee Technology Initiative". 
If you are wondering why I wrote all this above it is to head off the
endless string of expert recommendation that I contact TVA and the local
economic development. I've done it and nobody is going to help Ten Tec in
the State of Tennessee. 
To get back on track, I stated above we are moving the remainder of this
month. You all know what that means. Service will be slow this month.
Robert decided not to have you send in radios this month so we wouldn't have
to move them. There is no cause for alarm or speculation. Service will
continue just as soon as we are moved. 
I hear and read all kinds of gossip and complaints and this and that about
our service, and none of it even close to accurate. We have serviced
hundreds of radios this year and have a bunch of happy customers. You will
see in the reflector some guy complaining or saying he is worried and then
five people saying everything was fine. I'm so sick of it. Really it is so
frustrating, especially when some of you call or write me up in Ohio about
your twenty year old radio. I can't help you. I'm not in Tennessee. The
people there run things and do their job essentially under Boyd's
supervision. I don't want to sound condescending or aloof or unreasonable or
unfriendly but please see this from my perspective. There are thousands of
you and one of me. I am responsible to run this company and pay the people
who work here whose families depend on me. I am an electrical engineer and
my time needs to be spent getting the new products developed and out the
door, not with a dial string for your old thing that I neither sold you or
received any benefit of selling to you. Can you directly call the president
of Icom? Does Eric answer the telephone when you call Elecraft? It is just
not possible for me to answer every email and every telephone call about
service issues. If you call me at Dishtronix and leave a message asking me
to call you about your Ten Tec I'm not returning your call. If I answer I'm
going to tell you we have put up the procedure that you email Yes, I have a telephone at Ten Tec and no, you can't
have it. 
We are short staffed because we do not have sales volume at this time to
support a large overhead. This way, Robert can go through all of the email
and respond at one time in the morning, then spend the rest of the day
shipping radios and parts orders without being interrupted. He is there
three days a week, so you don't get answers on Monday or Friday. Sure, I
know some of you don't like it. There is no need to tell me about it. I
don't like it either, but until we start having a lot more cash flow that is
the way it is going to have to be. For those that complain about how long it
is taking, please understand this is a million dollar endeavor and money
like that just doesn't grow on trees, at least for me. Of course any of you
wealthy gentlemen looking for a good cause to donate some money to - I
would love to have the cash on hand to turn things around tomorrow. Until
then I'll be working 16 hours a day seven days a week with no days off and
scrimp and save and spend carefully and build up slowly just like every
other hard working guy has to do. 
What I am going to try to do next is set up sort of an email hotline for
critical cases with Bob if he will do it. I just thought of this and have to
talk to him about this. 
OK, enough about that. Let's get on to some better stuff. Many of you know
that under RFC and RKR Ten Tec quit doing their PCB assembly in house.
Those of you who have known me over the decades at Dishtronix know my shop
suffered heating issues that made it tough for the machinery to run in the
end of January to February arctic blasts. Well, I have a new and very nice
double insulated, heated and cooled free span metal building where I've
moved my PCB assembly operation and this is something I'm very excited
about. The building has a metal skin totally covering the inside with good
overhead fluorescent lighting and conduit encased electrical outlets every
12 feet around the perimeter. I have retired the older Contact Systems
placement machines in favor of newer MYDATA (Micronics Sweden) placement
machines. I installed the first MY9 machine this last June and have been
using it to build boards for the RX340 commercial orders we have been
fulfilling. Ten Tec did have a MY9 when they were building boards in house.
The MYDATA machines are the choice for high mix medium volume production,
especially when equipped with the Agilis quick change feeder system. Feeders
usually cost more than the machines in this business, and I've been growing
my collection all year. I am about a third of the way to having the
collection of feeders I would like to have. 
Earlier this month I got lucky and was able to purchase the bar code
software which will allow me to load and unload components from the machine
by just scanning with the barcode reader, and it is done off line. It will
help with inventory control and component management which is a real
nightmare considering Ten Tec has over 7000 different line items.
The MY9 machine has a capability to hold up to 96 different components and
has a single mounting head. As I write this, an air ride big rig is getting
closer and closer to Ohio, hauling a MY19 machine in from San Francisco
which can hold an additional 160 different components (total 256 8 mm tapes)
and has 8 mounting heads! Hopefully this machine will be brought online
successfully and not be damaged or in bad shape as I've bought it sight
unseen. I've also moved the 8 zone, lead free capable, pin chain conveyor
equipped Electrovert Bravo 8105 oven to the new building last weekend. This
gives us the capability to process double sided surface mount and the
ability to reliably process BGA chips. I've also purchased this summer but
not yet installed an X ray machine to do 100% inspection of the BGA reflow
soldering process. With the existing equipment (stencil printers, board
washers, etc.) this will give us what I believe is the most well equipped
and modern PCB manufacturing of any amateur radio manufacturer in North
America. I believe the other guys outsource their board assembly. It may
be the smart thing to do, but I personally prefer to buy and house my own
components in house and to have total control over my assembly process. I
find it requires more time to outsource and get constant bids for things
like this than to just own the equipment and do it myself. I think you get a
better product at less cost. 
Of course the best reason in my opinion for doing it all in house is I can
do as small of a production run as I want, IF I am willing to spend the time
to set up and do it. Hence the decision for the quick change capability of
the MYDATA system. 
So, all in all what this means is the Phoenix is rising. I am rebuilding Ten
Tec and preparing to do some serious manufacturing, which brings me to my
next point. 
Most of you know we have been bogged down and overwhelmed with the
commercial side of our business this last year since I officially assumed
the helm in January. With trying to replenish the hard to get / long lead
time / last time buy / obsolete parts, rebuild the PCB assembly
operations, moving, and so on we just haven't had the horsepower to build
any amateur transceivers. Well, the good news is we have caught up on our
commercial contracts. Be glad we did this. You know all the stuff I wrote
about above? The commercial contracts paid for that. Without this TEN TEC
would not exist right now. We are at a very important cross roads right now.
What do we do next? 
Some of you know we are developing new products. Those are still off on the
horizon. What I need to know is how many of you would purchase Eagles if
they were available? I'd like to do a run of 100 of them next. It is a
great radio. I like mine every bit as well as my Orion II. The DSP
function is superb. We have to talk a little bit about price. When the
Eagle was launched it was a $2100 radio with no accessories. You all know
the story of the blow out sales and the liquidation as the previous owners
sold everything that wasn't nailed down on their way out. Some of you got
fully loaded radios for $1299 or whatever. You know they didn't even cover
their assembly cost on that, right? Some of you got real bargains. Of
course only the last 35 radios or something were sold at that price but you
get the point. You will never see a price like that again. If I have to
sell an Eagle at that I will close and lock the doors and be done with it.
A strip model needs to sell at 1699 at least. The more you are willing to
pay for a radio the faster the new radios can come out. We want to build
radios and sell them so we can keep the production team in place so we can
meet the demand when the new radios come out. Everything we do tomorrow depends on how much you support us today. 
I'm certain some of you have heard that I and two partners acquired Alpha
and that I've been officially at the Helm since August. It is a separate
company from Dishtronix / TEN TEC. Of course I will be building the circuit
boards for those products as well. I'm after something business people call
economy of scale, essentially having enough product flow through the doors
to totally occupy the machines and infrastructure. I'll be making a post on
that reflector as well to update those customers also. 
By the way, we do have RX340s available to build on short notice now. Let me
close by wishing you all a Happy and Safe Thanksgiving holiday, one of my
favorites and of course the reason I see my dentist in November for my
pre-feast tune up. 
The Sevierville team and I appreciate your support for TenTec, where we
believe we are once again Making America Great - One Radio at a Time.


  1. That's too bad. I remember getting an opportunity to look at the old factory, maybe 15 years ago. Being able to "walk up" seems like one of the advantages of being in a tourist center like Sevierville.

    Without allowing for walk-up traffic, they might as well move their ops out of that area and into a part of the state that is a little more economically "depressed" and affordable, regardless of whether there are direct government assistance.

    I've spent a lot of time in the Tri-Cities. I wonder if they've considered moving operations to somewhere like Kingsport? At the very least the cost of living is about 5-10 percent lower in Sullivan County, mostly because real estate values are much (20 to 25 percent) lower.

  2. I am sure Crossville or Dunlap would love to have a great Company like Ten-Tec.