UToledo Family Business Center

Member Spotlight: Designetics


Holding it all together: Designetics thrives on innovation and people power

Although Sydney Spraw PhD, president of Designetics, followed her grandfather and father at the helm of the fluid-applicator powerhouse, she’s not sure that she should call herself third generation.

“I say that I’m Generation 2.5 because there wasn’t the usual generational switch between my grandfather, Wally Krueger, and my dad, Craig Williams.”

She characterized Wally as a “creative dreamer” whose strengths meshed well with Craig’s business acumen. Wally’s engineering background drove the quest to help auto manufacturers seeking a better way to apply adhesive chemicals to automotive windshields. Up until then, that application was done by hand — a practice that was messy, wasteful and dangerous to line workers.

Beginning in 1987, Designetics was a family affair from the start. In the company’s early years, home garages in Toledo served as production sites, and everyone — including teens — would be involved at least part-time in the process. From its cottage-industry foundation, the company rapidly expanded through three ever-bigger facilities prior to its current home in Holland, Ohio.

Today’s Designetics is a global company with contracts in 60 countries. Part of its strength is being a one-stop shop, offering services from design to machining to injection-molding fabrication to a lab where customers’ specific manufacturing processes can be evaluated and tested.  

Sorting through a sampling of Designetics’ custom applicators, Sydney explains how each design has to address the specific conditions of a client’s production process: “Because the chemicals are applied, we have to understand a number of aspects in our customer’s process, including chemical composition. And because this is a flow-through process, we have to be mindful of particle content as well as laydown of the chemical on the substrate.”

With multiple engineering specialists on its team, Sydney characterizes the company as ‘super-niche.’ Our self-sufficiency enables us to respond very quickly to our customers, keeps our costs low and keeps us on top of emerging technologies. That sets us apart.

“We have copycats, but our goal is to focus on us and what we can do to set ourselves apart in our industry,” she adds.  

The company’s scientific and technological assets are matched by a dedication to its human resources. “We’re focused on innovation — and on having a diverse group of employees who respect each other and work well together,” she says, noting that Designetics won a 2022 Toledo Blade award for Best Places to Work.

Her pride in Designetics employees is obvious as she walks through the facility, exchanging greetings and quick jokes. The recent Lean Six Sigma certification some employees earned is celebrated with company-wide congratulations. 

“Our employees accomplish so much. We may disagree at times, but we’re always learning, always working toward being better humans.”

She has similar sentiments about running a family business: “Our family is very functional. We all have hopes and aspirations, but they’re focused on the good of the company rather than on individuals. We have things organized well in succession planning — we’re lucky that way because I know other family businesses where it’s not the case.”

Her younger brother hasn’t decided whether he’ll join the company. Sydney’s own background was ceramics and art history (she’s since earned her doctorate in Industrial and Organizational Psychology); it was never assumed that she’d join, either.

“Our goal is what’s right for the company,” she says. “If you want to be part of Designetics, put your time in. I did. People here respect you for what you contribute to the organization. I did most of the jobs here; my position now isn’t because of my family.”

Her own respect for the UT Family Business Center is similarly based in its contributions to businesses like hers. “I’ve been in an affinity group for five-plus years now, I spoke at one of their amazing Women, Wine and Wisdom events, and a number of my employees have completed the Leadership (or other) Certification, I was on the committee and our organization supported the golf outing last year – to say the least, we love the Center!”

She has one more point to make: “The Center is a true community partner. They didn’t bat an eye when I ask for support in our coat drive last year. That’s just a simple example of the valuable work they do!”

Community support is high on Designetics’ agenda as well. Their nonprofit charitable foundation, Designetics Cares, delivers help where the community needs it, via outreach, donations and in-kind services. The coat drive Sydney mentioned is one of many ways the company and its employees create a better world for current and future generations.

Like her grandfather Wally, Sydney is a self-confessed dreamer for bigger and better, saying, “The sky’s the limit. Each day’s different, with new challenges. The business is fun, and meeting challenges is part of that.”

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Last Updated: 6/27/22