Bill Townsend was on a mission. While at an engraving trade show in Texas
in the early 1980s, he hoped to find an engraving system that would increase
productivity for his North Dakota-based award company. There, he met and
developed a friendship with the man who would eventually design the engraving
system that would take his company to a whole new level.
Townsend discovered him, Jay Hoffpauir was barely noticeable, sitting
alone at a small table. He didnt have a product yet, but he
had a vision of what he wanted to build, says Townsend, president
of Dakota Awards in Bismarck, ND.
sat down with Jay and learned that the self-employed entrepreneur had
bought one of the first computerized engraving systems ever sold, Dahlgrens
System One. Jays Baton Rouge, LA-based company, Hoffco Sales &
Supply, had been producing signs and tags primarily for Baton Rouges
multiple electrical contracting companies and industrial plants in the
chemical rich Southern Louisiana corridor.
rising demand for the tags had compelled Hoffpauir to tinker with the
software that came with his new Dahlgren system. While playing around
with the software, Hoffpauir came up with a revolutionary program with
many of the features Townsend was seeking.
sat down to talk with him, Townsend says. I shared some ideas
that he had not thought of, and he immediately started adding those features
to his software. When we finished speaking, I told him I would buy his
complete engraving system when he got it into production.
in 1982, Jay developed the first software with grid cutout and long plate/tall
plate capabilities. The new system made it possible for nine plates to
be cut out simultaneously, a major turning point for the industry. Hoffpauir
later went on to develop the first graphics-based, mouse-driven software
for engraving and sign-making. This second major accomplishment made it
possible for engravers to see their products first on the screen before
and Townsend kept in touch, calling each other with ideas. I purchased
one of the first batch of Xenetech engravers, an SOT-ie, Townsend
says. Jay would have me test his new ideas on my equipment and give
him feedback, and I would come up with ideas that he would incorporate
into the product.
1987, Jay and several partners formed Xenetech, which started out as a
software developer for the engraving industry but later expanded to include
compatible hardware systems. Still based in Baton Rouge, the company is
now a leading manufacturer in rotary and laser engraving equipment, as
well as the software to drive those systems.
more than 5,000 clients and a worldwide distribution network, Xenetech
sports one of the broadest product lines in the industry, with a full
range of rotary and laser systems, electronics and engraving software.
Customers include small trophy and award dealers, large manufacturers,
government agencies and large, prestigious corporations such as Boeing,
General Motors and Ford Motor Co., to name just a few.
2000, Xenetech was named the Baton Rouge Company of the Year and earned
the coveted Supplier of the Year award from Crown Trophy,
the largest award business franchiser in the industry.
has also purchased Meistergrams engraving-related operations within
the past five years and a manufacturing and administrative location on
Airline Highway in Baton Rouge.
a long battle with cancer, Jay Hoffpauir passed away in 2000, but the
business continues to thrive with his family members at the helm. Jays
wife, Kathleen A. Hoffpauir, chairs the board while her brother, Guy Barone,
leads the company as president and CEO. Hoffpauir and Barone both continue
Jays vision to stay on the cutting edge of technology while providing
state-of-the-art customer service. They both helped Xenetech form in 1986.
Barone assisted in the recruitment of investors and handled all administrative
duties as vice president of operations. He left the company in 1989 but
rejoined in 1996.
major player is Jay and Kathys daughter, Jessica Hoffpauir-Freeman.
During her nearly 12 years with the company, she has helped to recruit
31 distributors in the United States and worldwide and attended more than
70 trade shows. She began her Xenetech career answering phones after high
school and worked her way up, serving in many roles, from shipping clerk
to her present position as director of marketing.
friends ask me what I do at Xenetech, I tell them, I am the glue.
I am the jack of all trades here, she jokes.
true. She does everything from answering phones and cleaning restrooms
to handling an average of 250 sales calls a week, coordinating the companys
participation in all the trade shows, developing the website, placing
ads, organizing photo shoots and producing the companys sales and
Cutting Edge Products
product line continued to grow by leaps and bounds after the companys
formation in the mid 80s.
We set out a few years ago with a goal to enable our distributors
to walk into any engraving company and provide them with a custom solution,
Barone says. Whether its a question of supplying the latest
laser or rotary system, updating an existing system or offering cutting
edge software, we are always trying to offer the best technological solutions
1992, Jay learned how to convert text to Grade II Braille in response
to the American Disabilities Act, thereby developing the Grade II Braille
translator and incorporating it into his software at no charge to his
customers. I called him to tell him I needed a Braille system, and
it took him a month and a half to learn about Braille and write the code
so that his software could translate text into Grade II Braille,
recalls customer Townsend.
before the advent of Microsoft Windows software, Xenetech system users
were engraving with software with a Windows-like feel running under the
GEM operating system.
accomplishments during the 1990s included the first Microsoft Windows-based
engraving software, micro-stepper electronic technology for new and existing
customers, the ability to hatch-fill TrueType® fonts and the first
software package designed specifically for laser engravers.
1998 Xenetech became the only manufacturer of a full line of rotary engravers,
laser engravers and engraving software and surpassed industry-standard
rotary speeds two years later by more than 300% with the Servo System
Series. Also, in 2000, the company achieved laser engravings century
mark with speeds of 100 inches per second.
seems to give the company a competitive edge is its ability to produce
compatible hardware systems for its software programs. Xenetech originally
started as an engraving software developer and distributor then decided
to manufacture hardware systems around its software.
are inherent advantages to purchasing software and hardware created by
the same company, Barone says. For instance, when a customer has
a question about the software, the company where they bought their equipment
almost always has to refer them back to the software company, he
says. But when a customer has a question about our hardware or software,
we can get to the bottom of it right here.
companies that supply engraving hardware rely on third-party software
to drive their systems rather than developing their own programs, says
Xenetechs president, Guy Barone. Most of the software was
originally developed mainly to serve graphics environments for the sign
industry and others, he says. Engraving system manufacturers
then convert those programs to engraving applications. Our software is
designed from the beginning as engraving applications.
says the companys premiere XGW 32 Bit Software system has evolved
since the mid-1980s in response to the growing needs of customers, starting
with features like multiple plate and grid cutout and expanding to provide
the ability to perform multiple tasks.
whats so special about them, says Paul Todisco, president
of Crown Specialties in Garwood, NJ If somethings not working
right for me, they dont say, Thats too bad. Thats
just the way our machine is, and youre just going to have to make
do. As problems and needs come up with their customers, they listen
and incorporate changes into their later versions. Thats why I stay
with them. They are never satisfied with their products. They are always
looking at how they can make their products better, and part of that is
listening to their customers and accommodating their needs.
selling point for Xenetech software is the companys ability to retrofit
its most technologically advanced electronics and software to its oldest
machines. Customers do not want to spend thousands of dollars to
buy new machines every time theres an upgrade, Barone says.
Our technology moves so fast that the hardware is obsolete before
the customers get full use from their machines. Thats why we are
committed to retrofitting our new electronics and software programs to
the old systems, which is much less expensive for our customers. They
get the advantages of the new technology while still getting good use
out of the old hardware.
of the key components driving us over the years has been a strong desire
to make sure we do not harm existing customers, says John Lundberg,
vice president for research and development, who has been with the company
for 15 years, working alongside Jay in creating the companys products.
Lundberg played a major role in every Xenetech product design currently
in use today and led the design effort behind the revolutionary XLT and
XLE laser engraving systems, as well as the new Viper electronics system.
that, I mean that our vision was to never punish the customer just because
we come up with something new, he explains. Take our engraving
tables, for instance. Our table line has been the same since the early
90s. Our 1313 and 1625 tables look exactly the same. Sometimes, people
ask us, Doesnt that hurt you? I just answer, Why
change a good thing? Our goal is to give our customers tools that
facilitate engraving at a much lower cost than a complete new system.
adds, This is part of our commitment to specialize in bringing the
latest technology to companies. When they buy into a partnership with
us, they are making an investment that ensures their continuation in keeping
up with the latest technology.
Jones is setting up a cylindrical attachment to be tested on the Aurora
laser engraving system.
Weaver is building z-axis assemblies for Xenetech's line of rotary
purchase of Meistergrams engraving machine division in 1998 provided
Xenetech with laser technology through an engraver capable of producing
15 inches per second (ips). Xenetech immediately began devoting a great
deal of resources to improving the technology. The companys software
developers were able to bump the speed up to 100 ips by the year 2000.
And in 2002, they upgraded the laser again to 120 ips and named it the
XLT was developed as a result of a rising demand for increased speeds,
says Lundberg. At the same time, customers were having trouble with their
machines because they were forgetting to lubricate the standard bearings,
which often leads to premature bearing failure.
answer proved to be switching from roller to polymer bearings because
roller bearings cannot achieve high-speed accelerations and polymer bearings
can, Lundberg says. Roller bearings also require lubrication,
which attracts dirt and leads to breakdowns. The polymer bearings took
care of both problems. They allow us to go up to 120 to 150 ips, and they
do not need lubrication.
has pushed the outer limits again with rotary engravers. The company offers
five types of engraving tables and recently added the Viper electronics
series to their industry standard and Servo Series systems that drive
was less than three years ago that the company increased the rotary speed
of the industrys standard rotary engraver by three to five times
with the Servo Series.
with the Viper series, they have changed the definition of rotary engraving
with even faster engraving speeds of up to 10 ips and an easy-to-use touch-screen
key pad. And the system is completely retrofittable to older rotary engraving
Viper electronics, our customers can now drive the stepper system as fast
or faster than a Servo machine, Barone says. It gives the
user total control over the jobs. This creates a much more productive
and less stressful work environment.
priority is to stay plugged in to meeting the needs of its
customers with an extensive, highly knowledgeable customer service staff
that is well trained and experienced in the business, says Barone, who
stresses that customer service is one of our core competencies.
Hoffpauir, who helped her husband build the company, says Xenetechs
customer service, without question, is the greatest contribution to its
success. Weve tried to make all our employees understand that
when our customers are down, their businesses stop, she says. Jay
and I owned an engraving business before we got into the software business,
and we know what engravers need and the problems they face.
Hoffpauir-Freeman worked for her parents engraving business as a
teen. I learned to fear what could happen if something went wrong
with the machines, which is what drives me today when dealing with customers,
she says. I want their machines up and running. I want them pushing
out jobs. My goal is for them not to fear impending doom because they
know we will get right on any problem they have.
adds, It is not uncommon to see one of our customer service representatives
personally drive a package to Fed-Ex at 7 p.m. so a customer doesnt
experience down time or for our development staff to create a product
feature that a customer requested earlier in the week.
looks at the product from the cradle to the grave, Barone
says. From the introduction of a new product, he explains, Xenetech makes
sure it supplies ample support documents, help files and other resources,
such as videotapes and maintenance posters that customers can hang on
their walls. That way, they have easy access to immediate help and the
tools they need to survive.
we are always available to answer questions and help them if they cannot
figure something out on their own, he says. They can always
fax or e-mail us, too.
also has strict training procedures for distributors so they can help
customers apply the equipment to their individual needs. The company even
provides a pager service and a beeper service during holidays.
says Xenetech is fortunate to have talented and dedicated staff members,
partner-vendors and distributors factory-trained to sell, install and
support all Xenetech products. In addition to the Hoffpauir family, other
employees have made major contributions.
Solomon has contributed as the chief architect of Xenetechs information
systems infrastructure and has written a number of installation programs
currently in use by Xenetech customers.
starting as a Xenetech customer service representative in 1992, Jim Brown
made significant contributions to the software product offering. Promoted
to software development manager in 2000, he led the project team that
upgraded XGW 32 from a 16-bit environment to a 32-bit application. He
has written a driver to allow CADlink products to output to Xenetech rotary
DuBose already possessed production and sales experience with Xenetech
equipment when he joined the company in 1996. After serving as a customer
service representative, he became Xenetechs sales manager and has
created a customer following from his years as a trainer and workshop
Drew Brown worked his way up to production manager from his entry into
Xenetech in 1995 as an assembly worker. He has earned respect from people
inside and outside of Xenetech for his responsiveness and ability to make
of the big things missing in corporations today is the personal touch,
says Jessica, who is grateful to work in a family business where she can
give a little extra to each customer. We want our customers to succeed
because we feel like we are an extension of our customers.
customer Bill Townsend is impressed with the way Xenetech continued moving
forward after Hoffpauirs passing. I admit, some Xenetech customers
wondered when Jays health went downhill what would happen to the
company, he says. There was concern that the company might
not have the strength to continue without Jays leadership. But Xenetechs
customer service and technological excellence continue to be unsurpassed.
Jay built a great team with a lot of talent. Im sure he would be
pleased. I have tremendous confidence in Xenetechs future.