Parts Life Inc.

Iconic Business December 2023: Parts Life Inc.

Parts Life, Inc. actively encourages the next generation to pursue STEM careers by engaging with local students and graduates in dynamic ways

Innovating Military Readiness

When Sam Thevanayagam ventured into the manufacturing sector in 2007, his sights were set on the automotive industry. However, fate had other plans as the global recession hit, prompting him to reformulate his business strategy and ultimately laying the groundwork for what would become Parts Life Inc.’s guiding principle.

“Rather than focusing on a product, I decided my company would be coming up with solutions to existing problems,” Sam T. says. This strategic pivot led to addressing the U.S. military’s most critical readiness issues by tackling supply and material shortages.

“I use the terminology ‘creativity before capital,’ which is basically the promotion of innovation,” he adds. “We offer the government cost-effective solutions by demonstrating our ability to navigate through all the bureaucracy and complicated procedures before we manufacture anything for them.”

Sam Thevanayagam

Based in Moorestown, Parts Life works with the United States Department of Defense, supplying high-quality parts for military equipment, including hard-to-find or discontinued items. The company’s umbrella includes North Philadelphia-based DeVal Lifecycle Support, an original equipment manufacturer of goods and armament support equipment for the military. Another Parts Life company in Moorestown is LC Engineers, Inc., a contract manufacturer and supplier of military, aerospace and high reliability electromechanical and commercial electronic assemblies.

From its humble South Jersey origins 16 years ago, Parts Life has seen remarkable growth. Across the 3 locations, it employs 150 people, their roles spanning from general labor to advanced engineering. With the recent acquisition of a new 40,000-square-foot facility in Philadelphia, Parts Life is set to create an additional 40 jobs across the 3 businesses in 2024.  

Sam T. attributes much of the company’s success to its unique engineering process, Rapid Obsolescence Planning and Execution (ROPE), offering the government a transparent, streamlined and economically viable alternative for sourcing parts. As he explains it, the military’s universal complication is the retrieval of technical data packages vital for the reproduction of equipment and spare parts. Often, data is unobtainable because the original equipment manufacturers are no longer in business or the initially utilized materials no longer exist. Such issues, alongside the complex web of government procurement, can turn the simple act of sourcing a commonplace bolt into an exercise in complexity.

“ROPE is a methodology that lays out our process,” Sam T. says. “It’s like when you go to a Hibachi restaurant, and you get to watch the chef make your food in front of you. What you see is what you get. Our technical data packages are detailed and clear, showcasing the solutions without any ‘secret sauce.’”

This straightforward and open approach not only streamlines the procurement process, he says, but also builds trust and reliability between Parts Life Inc. and the government entities it serves.

The backbone of Parts Life’s innovative power is its culture – a culture that fosters creativity and nurtures innovation. 

“It might sound cliche but when we encounter a problem, an obstacle or a challenge that we need to figure out – especially because we’re dealing with the government – we need to think out of the box,” Sam T. says. “We’re solving these problems every day because of the way we value and reward people who are willing to be innovative and able to work with speed. I’m constantly reinforcing the fact that our team is empowered to be able to do what they need to do.”

The other tenet that is clear to all employees is that their work is important, he adds.

Lenita Jacobs-Simmons of the U.S. Dept. of Labor and Parts Life team members

“We have a very purposeful mission,” says Sam T. “We are servicing the U.S. Military, and we are taking care of taxpayers. This really resonates with our customers too.”

Given the specialized nature of the company’s work and the critical role it plays in supporting the nation, Sam T. champions the importance of developing a skilled workforce ready to meet the industry’s changing demands. The company has embraced multiple workforce development initiatives, including upskilling opportunities for its employees. At DeVal, a machinist training program was established in response to a national shortage, leading to the hiring of a dedicated instructor. 

“Our trainers foster and encourage curiosity and learning within these skill sets, with the goal of improving our workforce’s skills to reach higher paying positions and opportunities,” he says.

With immigrants composing around 40 percent of DeVal’s workforce, the company also offers additional programs like free English lessons, financial management classes and an innovative home loan program called Help U Buy (HUB), in which employees are able to work off their loans through service.

“Our work in inner city Philadelphia is truly transformational as we work with refugees, at-risk youth, veterans, returning citizens and differently-abled individuals – all from diverse backgrounds – to create for them an environment to achieve their God given potential,” he adds.

These initiatives have caught national attention, drawing the interest of Lenita Jacobs-Simmons, U.S. Deputy Assistant Secretary of Labor, who recently toured DeVal. “She told us she wanted to clone me for what we’re doing from a workforce development standpoint,” says Sam T.

Parts Life, Inc. also actively encourages the next generation to pursue STEM careers by engaging with local students and graduates in dynamic ways. During recent visits to talk about the company’s expertise in reverse engineering and manufacturing at the Rowan University Career Fair and at a STEM Meet & Greet at Rowan College of Burlington County, Sam T. showed up in sunglasses that he gave away to participants while drawing a parallel between their manufacturing process and the company’s work.

“I present the fact that we extend the life of expensive and mission-critical assets, one of which is remanufacturing the launchers on the F18 Super Hornet aircraft of ‘Top Gun: Maverick’ fame,” he says. “It connects the audience to our mission in a simple but attention-grabbing way that gets them thinking about careers strengthening the national defense industrial base while creating value for taxpayers. 

“The call to action,” he adds, “is for our young students to consider pathways in advanced manufacturing and STEM, and a purpose that is exciting and contributes to the defense of our nation.”