Lean is the answer
Kent Elastomer Products Inc.
Kent Elastomer Products Inc. was a traditional rubber company in Northeast Ohio, and realized it needed to change its presence as a dirty, dangerous and autocratic rust belt business to a world-class manufacturer that emphasized quality and service.
The reinvention process was accomplished over the last 10 years, and was no easy task. But with the leadership and vision from former President Murray Van Epp, the company broke down internal barriers and built an infrastructure that would empower employees to change their involvement with the company.
“We knew we needed to change how we managed our business and how we engaged our employees,” says Bob Oborn, Kent Elastomer’s current president. “We found our answer was in lean manufacturing.”
The organization, waste reduction and employee involvement in lean manufacturing was exactly what Kent Elastomer needed. Employees as well as management were trained in the lean operation system. A total cultural transformation began.
There was a significant investment in time and equipment to reach the lean operation goals. But it more than paid for itself. Departmental efficiencies skyrocketed as employees designed their own work centers. Turnover decreased from 50 percent to nearly zero.
“Employee morale is at an all-time high, and we are considered a great place to work,” Oborn says. “We increased our sales by a third and only added two people.”
Over a year of training and adjustment, the level of trust and communication between employees, departments and managers has exponentially improved.
“My vision is to have clear and open communication throughout all levels of the organization,” Oborn says. “That will be my nirvana.”
A natural pivot
owner, vice president and COO
After Magnus International Group shifted from recycling petroleum products to manufacturing natural animal feed ingredients, natural waxes, glycerin and other oleochemicals, the opportunities for product expansion and diversification have increased considerably.
In 2007, Magnus had one product: natural wax. Today it has 16 natural products. Headed by Eric Lofquist, owner, president and CEO, and Scott Forster, owner, vice president and COO, the company says its goal is to release one new sustainable product per quarter.
Between 2007 and 2011, Magnus experienced more than 2,700 percent revenue growth, a portion of which it’s investing back into the business.
In 2014, the company brought online one of its distillation towers for the advanced processing of food industry raw materials and its glycerin refinery for producing U.S. Pharmacopeial Convention-grade glycerin. This evolved the refinement capabilities of its Hardy Industrial Technologies business to encompass other oleochemicals.
The company also invested in solutions and systems to improve plant air quality control, the final engineering and implementation for which will be completed this year.
Additionally, Magnus is breaking ground on a state-of-the-art lab, plant management offices and employee campus, which will also include additional upgrades in property landscaping and entryway design.
Magnus’ revenues have increased 25 percent from 2013 to 2014, with net profitability remaining above 15 percent. This year, sales are projected to grow by 40 percent.
Total employment at Magnus has grown 52 percent from 2013 to 2014 — from 48 employees to 73. The company anticipates 8 to 10 percent employment growth this year.