2015 Evolution of Manufacturing


Education and industry make an unbeatable combination for progress

On behalf of our board of trustees, President Alex Johnson, faculty and staff, I would like to welcome you to Cuyahoga Community College and the 2015 Evolution of Manufacturing.

Workforce and economic development form the core of our work at Tri-C. The purpose of that work is advancing manufacturing in Northeast Ohio. It is part of our culture and our community. It informs the way we work and why we take pride in what we do.

Tri-C’s Workforce and Economic Development Division (WEDD) invests in state-of-the-art facilities and skill development for future generations of manufacturing professionals, and we are committed to leading the way in meeting the talent needs of manufacturing companies in Northeast Ohio. As part of Tri-C’s commitment to manufacturing, members of our team work with highly trained faculty and industry experts to develop specialized programs that provide future manufacturing professionals with the skills they need for a promising career.

Whether additive or subtractive, Tri-C offers flexible, in-demand training that meets the needs of industry. But we can’t do it alone. We believe the best way to advance manufacturing is through strategic partnerships. Whether old friends or new ones, we are pleased so many have chosen to partner with Tri-C, and we congratulate each of the honorees on their accomplishments.

neo_ev_WilliamGaryWilliam H. Gary Sr.
executive vice president
Cuyahoga Community College Workforce and Economic Development Division (WEDD)




Chasing the horizon

neo_ev_ScottBeckerChromaflo Technologies
Scott Becker
president and CEO


Chromaflo Technologies represents the culmination of business lines that have transformed a small, Ashtabula-based manufacturer and supplier of pigment and chemical dispersions into a multimillion-dollar global frontrunner in the thermoset composites and industrial paint and coatings industries.

President and CEO Scott Becker, the former president of Plasticolors, a central building block of Chromaflo’s foundation, envisioned the transformation of that small business into a worldwide player. While at Plasticolors, he convinced shareholders to approve the acquisition of Evonik Industries’ Colortrend global colorants business, which would serve as the doorway to a broad range of markets.

Meanwhile, Becker sought out a private equity firm that would help grow the company without trying to control it, and one that already understood the chemical industry. He ultimately chose Arsenal Capital Partners, and with 99 percent shareholder approval, Plasticolors and Colortrend were blended into Chromaflo through their concurrent acquisition by Arsenal in 2012.

Chromaflo is now focused on expanding its global presence. A purchase agreement with Elementis B.V. in 2012 allowed Chromaflo to acquire the Elementis Tint-Ayd® line of colorant products sold in Europe, the Middle East and Africa. And a 2013 deal combined integrated tinting specialist CPS Color’s colorant business with its own to create an independent global colorant system and pigment dispersion platform.

These deals have led to production in European and Asian Pacific markets, and the company is looking to expand into India and Brazil where Becker is investigating startup and acquisition possibilities.

Today, Chromaflo has some 200 product lines representing an estimated 7,000 products, 11 plants, including three in Ohio, and a global customer base.

Triple the sales

neo_ev_ChristopherKarmanDaniel’s Amish Collection
Christopher J. Karman
(330) 359-0400



To sum up furniture manufacturer Daniel’s Amish Collection success, President Christopher J. Karman says, “Good employees, good products — and I can’t stress enough, good customers.”

With sales growth that has tripled over the last four years, the company has outgrown its two manufacturing sites and will add a new one this year, including a new headquarters, doubling its plant size.

The company recently sold its Amish Mills brand, and Karman purchased his brother Ted’s share of the company. Daniel R. Yoder, Karman’s partner since 2009, remains a partner — and namesake.

With no shortage of customers looking for Amish-crafted household furniture, the only hindrance to growth is making the product, Karman says. From starting with seven employees, the company now has 150 employees, with about 95 percent either Amish or Amish-raised.

Karman says a big part of the success of Daniel’s Amish Collection is the workforce.

The company hires the most skilled woodworkers it can find, offers a pleasant working environment, a good wage to live on and lets them do their job. Materials used are mostly from Ohio and Pennsylvania.

“Basically, we make furniture the old-fashioned way but on a large scale. I think that is a big part of what has been our success. We have been able to combine Amish craftsmanship with the use of some select machinery such as air tools. … It’s kind of a mix of the old and the new, which has been great. People want to buy American as long as it is good quality and at a good price, and that’s what we’ve been able to supply.”

Lean is the answer

neo_ev_BobObornKent Elastomer Products Inc.
Bob Oborn



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

neo_ev_EricLofquistMagnus International Group
Eric Lofquist
owner, president and CEO



neo_ev_ScottForsterScott Forster
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.

New year, new systems


Mar-Bal Inc
Scott Balogh
president and CEO




neo_ev_AaronBableAaron Bable
director of business process systems



Mar-Bal Inc., led by President and CEO Scott Balogh, manufactures thermoset composites components for the appliance, electrical, food service, industrial and transportation marketplaces. The company had been experiencing operational challenges during the past few years because of its outdated customized enterprise resource planning software. This prevented the necessary increase in manufacturing activity Mar-Bal needed to stay competitive in today’s global economy.

As each year passed, it became more expensive to operate the old ERP system because of the specialized support required to maintain and upgrade it. Mar-Bal sought out a new ERP provider that could offer a modern system with more capabilities that wouldn’t add more operational costs. Ultimately, IQMS’s comprehensive, industry-specific ERP solution rose to the head of the pack. EnterpriseIQ installation began at company headquarters in June 2010, and then at Mar-Bal’s three other facilities. Central to that implementation was Aaron Bable, Mar-Bal’s director of business process systems. By 2011, Mar-Bal started using the ERP system enterprise-wide and saw immediate results.
IQMS’s manufacturing ERP solution saved the company $270,000 annually across its four plants as well as nearly 5,000 potential machine hours that were no longer lost to downtime for monthly physical inventory checks.

Savings were realized through more efficient inbound order electronic data interchange processing, capacity for outbound EDI invoice and advance ship notice processing, the elimination of regular and monthly physical inventories, quicker month-end close, accurate production reporting through the RealTime interface, and accurate reporting of global material purchases allowing for more negotiating power with volume purchasing.

Investing in vision

neo_ev_BrianRobbinsMidWest Materials Inc.
Brian D. Robbins



MidWest Materials Inc., a steel service center, celebrated its 60th anniversary in 2012 with the completion of a multimillion-dollar expansion. The warehousing and processing facility in Perry is now home to the largest Leveltek stretch leveling system in North America, a machine that gives the company a considerable competitive advantage.

Since assuming the CEO position in 2004, Brian D. Robbins has led the company his grandfather co-founded to record profits in nine of the past 10 years. He empowered his leadership team to investigate key upgrades and opportunities during the recession, and swiftly analyzed and enacted his team’s recommendations.

Realizing the growing importance of flat, memory-free steel needed in advanced manufacturing processes, Robbins made one of the largest investments in company history with the installation of the Leveltek system. The machine has capabilities over 5/8-inch thick and over 100 inches wide, which gave MidWest a competitive edge as the economy recovered.

The company invested in a new fleet of high-end trucks and trailers to assure on-time delivery to customers and to retain and attract drivers. Robbins also put an emphasis on reviewing suppliers and customers for product fit, which has resulted in improved relations and partnerships.

Robbins has invested countless hours working with his team, and has invested more than $10 million into plant, transportation and office improvements. MidWest will continue to seek growing markets, upgrade and add new equipment, provide the high-quality products and service, and invest in relationships both within and outside the company.

Continuous improvement

neo_ev_HiroyukiFujitaQuality Electrodynamics (QED)
Hiroyuki Fujita, Ph.D.
president and CEO



Quality Electrodynamics (QED), a global developer, manufacturer and supplier of advanced medical equipment electronics, has invested heavily in human and equipment capital to support its increased manufacturing needs as a result of increased sales. The company has relocated twice because of the growth and is starting to explore options for its next move.

Adding people to its organization helps meet market demand while providing a fresh perspective to generate new ideas and strategies. The company has invested in itself, adding top-tier talent and state-of-the-art technology as revenue increases.

QED is an early adapter of additive manufacturing, which it refers to as direct digital manufacturing. Implementing this technology since its inception in 2006 has allowed QED to work in-house on the development of prototypes and production of customer parts that otherwise would have delayed projects and increased costs. The company also has spent a great deal of time creating technology that it uses to design products that have a competitive edge.

Hiroyuki Fujita, Ph.D., company president and CEO, encourages his team to continually push the envelope and help the company evolve by suggesting process improvements. The company’s open office environment puts no physical partitions between the departments to promote real-time communications among employees. Fujita stays involved with his leaders and guides them, but trusts that he has chosen people who understand and are able to carry out his philosophy of “do the right thing as a human being.” When that philosophy is followed all other aspects fall into place.

Speed to market

neo_ev_RichardSeamanSeaman Corp.
Richard Seaman
chairman and CEO



neo_ev_JohnCrumJohn Crum
president and COO



This past year was big for Seaman Corp., a developer of coated fabric technology. An office makeover and new equipment investments were among the changes that greatly impacted how Seaman does business every day, and how it will operate and transition into the years to come.

Under the guidance of Chairman and CEO Richard Seaman, and President and COO John Crum, Seaman has invested $50 million in the past decade to update its manufacturing equipment and another $5 million to improve the office structure at its Wooster headquarters.

An emphasis on organic growth spurred the decision to create an innovation and technology department, the idea for which was first formed in January 2014 and executed the next month. The new department works in an open environment that allows information to be quickly exchanged internally and presents opportunities for collaboration.

Speed is also being emphasized outside of the office to get to the crux of a product problem a client is experiencing so that it can be solved. In order to gain that speed, Crum has begun shifting the culture, redefining the responsibilities of some of the technical positions. Seaman technicians now go to a customer’s job site more often, learn how that customer is applying its products and work to make improvements to better suit the application.

Seaman is focused on acquiring younger talent while still maintaining a rigorous screening process. As Seaman continues to grow, the emphasis is on building good bench strength for the future.

From humble beginnings

neo_ev_StevePeplinTalan Products
Steve Peplin



neo_ev_PeteAccordiPete Accorti



In its 29 years of business, Talan Products, led by CEO Steve Peplin and President Pete Accorti, has seen the expansion of overseas manufacturing change the industry, and it’s had to adapt.

Talan has employed automation, expanded its presence and focused on metrics to drive continuous improvement.

At its inception, the company’s batten strip production line was run by three people on out-of-date machinery utilizing an inefficient process that produced several hundred pieces an hour. Today, investments in automation mean one person, working on a modern, efficient machine, can produce 800 pieces an hour in a tightly controlled process that ensures uniform product quality.

The company has branched into new markets that include automotive, military and renewable energy. Attention to these high-growth markets, coupled with Talan’s focus on efficient manufacturing process management, helps safeguard the company against the ups and downs of the marketplace.

Talan has become a highly metric-driven company, measuring everything against the operational benchmarks it’s set to emphasize efficiency and results. The company is in the 90th percentile in both value-add per employee and sales per employee, the latter of which is more than double the industry average.

An emphasis on metrics has played a major role in feeding what it considers its most important statistics: revenue and employee retention. The company started with three owners, no employees and $2,100 in initial capitalization. It now boasts a workforce of 60 employees, all pulling in the same direction for a company that has grown its annual revenue into the millions of dollars.

Small but growing


Ventrac by Venture Products Inc.
Dallas Steiner



neo_ev_RandyKitzmillerRandy Kitzmiller
president and COO



Over a five-year period, Ventrac by Venture Products Inc., manufacturer of compact utility tractors, has averaged 31 percent in annual sales revenue growth. CEO Dallas Steiner and President and COO Randy Kitzmiller attribute this impressive growth of the small but growing company to three key areas:

Flexible manufacturing processes. The company uses flexible, efficient, “grow-able” and repeatable processes. This puts Venture Products in a position to handle just about any customer demand.

Quick prototyping processes permit engineers to create new designs and have them prototyped within days, if not hours. 3-D CAD models can quickly be transformed into machine code for laser cutting complex shapes.

In the last five years, there has been a transition from a shop with paper blueprints to an electronically controlled database driving the workload. A combination of software packages and in-house software development has increased efficiency by automating processes.

Diverse marketing and distribution strategies. In order to diversify its market, Venture Products has launched four-season products, expanding its winter products such as four-wheel drive tractors with an array of cabs, snow blowers, snowplows, power brooms and salt spreaders. This permits the organization to capitalize in several ways on the resulting stability.

Good quality employees. Attracting and retaining quality people is a priority.

“We strive to create an atmosphere where people feel respected, valued and are treated fairly,” Steiner says. “What does that have to do with growth and success? When people feel valued, they stay engaged. When they feel valued, they feel less stressed, they work smarter, work harder, take more pride in their work and take ownership of what they’ve been entrusted with.”