HERE'S AN OLD TWIST ON JUST-IN-TIME

HERE'S AN OLD TWIST ON JUST-IN-TIME

Many residents of this quaint, riverfront village don't know where the manufacturer Yardley Products Corp. is located. Therein lies a secret to the company's success.

Stay small.For half a century, the company has perfected the practice of just-in-time deliveries.

This concept is still considered new to many manufacturers. Others, especially the larger corporations, fumble the notion.

''Manufacturers,'' says one analyst, ''too often see no further than their loading dock. They make a good product. But once it's out the back door, they forget about it. A lot of awful things can happen before it reaches the customer.''

Founded in 1946, Yardley is essentially a screw-machine house, turning out patented metal inserts - usually small parts that enable a manufacturer to put a thread into a material that does not lend itself to threading.

Inserts are used widely in the plastics and furniture industries. Your telephone housing likely contains a half-dozen. They fit in soft rubber and tough granite, in baby toys and jet fighters.

At first glance, the unfamiliar would call an insert a ''nut.''

''It looks like that, but there is a lot more engineering that has gone into an insert,'' says Timothy Bailey, vice president of marketing.

Mr. Bailey and President Jack DeHaven are the company's lone executives, both having worked at Yardley, or its parent company, Predco Inc. of Pennsauken, N.J., virtually all of their adult lives. That's 22 years for Mr. Bailey and 33 for Mr. DeHaven.

A shipping manager, Nicholas Grady, and three inside-sales staffers help assure prompt deliveries. The other nine employees are in the shop, turning out the inserts.

Total space is 14,000 square feet, with 10,000 of it given to the manufacturing side. Nearby homes in the company's namesake community, located on the Delaware River across from Trenton, N.J., boast half the floor space of Yardley's entire facility.

ANNUAL SALES OF $3 MILLION

The customer list is in the thousands, from manufacturing giants to small mom-and-pop woodworkers. Annual sales are said by Standard & Poor's to be $2 million to $3 million.

One potential customer explored the notion of using an insert to enable farewell notes to be passed into the side of a casket.

Another oddball application came from an ice sculptor. He wanted to place inserts in ice, then attach bouquets on a threaded plate, onto which the melting sculpture would drip and keep fresh through a wilting gala.

The company makes about 26 million parts in a year, or 100,000 per day, with 5 percent going to customers beyond U.S. borders.

Further tailoring its just-in-time deliveries, Yardley asks the customer how to ship. ''We do it any way they choose,'' says Mr. Bailey.

''The key to our success,'' says Mr. DeHaven, ''is our genuine concern for our customers' needs, along with our commitment to quality.''

The company's mission statement refines down to two words: ''Work together,'' which is simpler with so few employees.

Yardley's might not always the most economical item on the market, but Mr. Bailey says that can be overcome with commitment to just-in-time delivery.

THE REASON FOR BEING

''This has been the thing we have emphasized for, I would say, the 50-year-history of the company,'' he says. ''Get the product out the door when the customer wants us to.

''It's increasingly costing the customer if he has to keep the parts on his shelf before he uses them. If we can do that for him, it costs us less and saves him money.''

How does the company assure shipping is on time?

''We carry over 24 million inserts in stock. Our customers can be assured of on-time delivery,'' Mr. DeHaven says. ''90 percent of our products can be shipped either overnight, second-day or surface.

''If an item is in stock, it will be shipped the same day we receive the order.''

''It's not rocket science,'' adds Mr. Bailey. ''We're small enough that we can stay on top of everything.''

KNOWING THE PROSPECT'S MIND

At trade shows, and during sales calls, Mr. DeHaven and Mr. Bailey are aware of what pops into a prospect's mind when he spots a tray of inserts.

''He says, 'Hey, I need a few of those to fix my fishing reel, or my lawn mower,' '' Mr. DeHaven said.

Yardley encourages the prospect to take samples home to the workshop - inside an envelope with the Yardley name printed on the outside.

The thinking is that down the road, the prospect's company will need inserts in volumes, and the potential customer by then will possess personal experience with the Yardley item.