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Where It Started—Design Engineering, Inc.

Posted By: Evan J. Smith
Design Engineering, Inc.
Written by Ainsley Jacobs
Photography courtesy of the manufacturer
When Dale Markley was winding down his decades-long sales career in the automotive industry, he and his wife, Nancy, founded Design Engineering, Inc. so that they would have a project to keep them busy. Now, the company supplies its customers in the performance aftermarket with innovative solutions to help solve their heat and sound control problems.
“He saw a need for heat control products and thought it would be a good niche market and a nice, manageable opportunity to keep him busy on the backside of his career,” noted Dave Markley, Dale and Nancy’s son and current President of DEI. Founded by his parents in 1995, DEI was originally situated in a small space behind a convenience store in Cleveland, Ohio. Within a few years, though, the company had grown to the point where there was a need to double the space to 2,400 square feet.
In 2001, however, Dale passed away and Dave left a lucrative career in the medical field to fill his father’s shoes and keep the family’s company going. “There were times when it was lean,” Dave recalled of the budding business. “We got all of our orders by fax machine, and I would stand around praying it would make the noise that one was coming in.”
The DEI team kept a strong focus on supporting their customers, and their customers supported the business in return. An emphasis on innovation and discussing solutions with end users — the racers and builders — to find out what would be done better has helped spur DEI’s research and development team in a forward direction, and the corresponding sales soon followed.
In late 2004, DEI relocated from its leased location to a new complex in Avon Lake which houses its offices, warehousing, and manufacturing departments with additional room for expansion.
“We’re constantly investing in new methods of efficiency, as well as quality manufacturing for creating products,” added Dave, whose company utilizes state-of-the-art 3D laser scanning technology as well as CNC cutting machines to facilitate producing application-specific items. “We can bring a vehicle in-house, identify where a problem is coming from — whether it’s heat or sound — match a material to mitigate the issue, and then custom cut something to fit the exact area.”
With so many knock-off competitor products available on the market, DEI makes sure to focus on excellence and innovation to serve many industries and fields including, aviation, powersports, racing, marine, and even locomotive. “Unlike other alternatives out there, our products won’t fall apart,” affirmed Steve Garrett, DEI’s Creative Director for the past decade. “Our exhaust wrap, specifically our titanium line, is been an industry leader. The basalt lava rock technology that DEI developed about 12 years ago helped us create turbo shields, spark plug boot protection, line and hose sleeves, and more with the same materials.”
DEI’s careful coupling of technology and materials means even grassroots-level racers can get professional heat control quality results without breaking the bank. “The people who need our products on any given weekend, whether they’re burning through plug wires or melting their racing shoes in the cockpit, can find our products in local retail stores,” added Steve. “We’re proud to be able to offer affordable solutions that are readily available.”


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