Capitalizing on opportunities Featured

4:52pm EDT February 16, 2011
 John W. Grabner, Cardinal Fastener John W. Grabner, Cardinal Fastener

In the past three years, Cardinal Fastener & Specialty Co. Inc.’s sales to wind turbine manufacturers has grown more than 900 percent and also caught the attention of then President-elect Barack Obama.

The growth explosion all started in 1998 when the manufacturing company, under the leadership of John W. Grabner, the company’s founder and president, began its “Lean Thinking” journey, where it started with, what they called, “blowing up the company.” The Cardinal team started a process to eliminate waste from the entire operation — from manufacturing to administration to sales. Instead of bringing in consultants, management got all of the company’s employees involved — after all, that was the best way to transform the culture if it was really going to work. Manufacturing lead times went from six weeks to five days, and half of all sales now come from orders that are manufactured and shipped the same day the order is taken. At the same time, productivity improvements increased more than 50 percent.

With such great strides made, it would be easy to rest on their laurels, but the Cardinal team members kept at it, and the second surge of growth began in 2007. The company’s reputation for fast turnaround of specialty manufactured fasteners brought in an order for a wind turbine project in Iowa. The company quickly realized that there was an opportunity to expand into the global marketplace of renewable energy, and in early 2009, the company’s accomplishments caught the attention of President-elect Obama. The company was asked to be the first stop on his inaugural journey, and when he visited the plant on Jan. 16, 2009, he recognized Cardinal’s accomplishments.

“Cardinal’s owners exemplify the American spirit. And its products, used from coast to coast in the Statue of Liberty and Golden Gate Bridge, are the highest quality and best price,” Obama said at his visit. … “You can’t think of a more iconic company. … (Cardinal) began building wind turbine parts just two years ago and is now poised to make half its earnings that way. … If anyone doubts that we can dig ourselves out of this hole, I invite them here to … look at Cardinal Fastener.”

The benefits to the Cardinal team are great, and as a result of the rapid growth, it has expanded its work force, growing 47 percent last year.

How to reach: Cardinal Fastener & Specialty Co. Inc., (216) 831-3800 or