Each year, Smart Business recognizes more than a dozen regional manufacturers for their ability to adapt to a global economy through its Evolution of Manufacturing Awards. But those organizations aren’t the only ones in the midst of significant transformation. As part of this year’s program, we have also identified 14 manufacturers on which we’ve kept our collective journalistic eye. Each of these organizations is making its own impact.
Alloy Bellows & Precision Welding Inc.
Alloy Bellows was founded in 1935 as a welding, brazing and soldering company that assembled critical industrial bellows and other products. In the decades since then, Alloy Bellows has evolved to include custom engineering and manufacturing of a growing array of hydro-formed, mechanically formed, and edge-welded metallic bellows and bellows assemblies for industries as diverse as power generation, aerospace, semi-conductor, and oil and gas industries. By adapting its systems to meet its product offerings, Alloy in recent years has been able to improve margins by almost 50 percent, make product flow through the plant more efficient, and eliminate wasted time and motion. Today, what was once a cluttered operation is now an open, clean and easy-to-move-in operation with ample room for future expansion. Learn more at www.alloybellows.com.
The American Road Machinery Co.
The American Road Machinery Co. is an original equipment manufacturer that designs, builds and sells vacuum tank trucks and winch trucks for the oil field industry, as well as vacuum leaf collection machines, vacuum catch basin cleaning equipment, snow plows, asphalt and aggregate spreaders for contractors. In late 2011, the company entered the oil and gas industry to take advantage of its location in the heart of the Utica and Marcellus shale drilling space. In addition to new oil field products, American Road Machinery designed and built three new municipal snowplows. This year, the company plans to continue developing new products, with a wing snowplow set to begin production and a complete redesign of its vacuum leaf collector line. Learn more at www.americanroadmachinery.com.
Cobra Plastics Inc.
Rather than hunker down during the recession, in 2008, Cobra Plastics Inc. designed a new building that allowed it to completely transform its production processes, revamp its management system and built a culture that fully embraced lean manufacturing. Cobra averages one kaizen event each month, and from those events have come the creation of numerous innovation, including a “crash cart” similar to what is used in hospitals. In 2011, the company developed a new “supermarket” system, which has become integral to Cobra’s pull replenishment system. In it, each item has a designated address, is reordered at a predetermined trigger point and is organized in “aisles” marked by cards and sorted according to product. Cobra’s “supermarket” has reduced lead time for customers from two weeks to three days. Learn more at www.cobraplastics.com.
The manufacturer of themed terrariums, sprouting and science kits implemented a piecework pay system over the past few years that was to bring down assembly labor costs. Not only did the move rein in costs, it quadrupled productivity on the factory floor. DuneCraft added coaching, mentoring and management training to enhance its employees’ opportunities for promotion and growth in the warehouse. And it supplemented this with a ticketing system that held everyone accountable by reducing errors and improving quality. Combined, these moves shortened production lead-time, reduced backorders and allowed for better capacity so that DuneCraft could expand its private-label products. Today, employees make more money and enjoy a better working environment. Learn more at www.dunecraft.com.
DVUV Holdings LLC
In 2010, DVUV Holdings LLC President Michael Knoblauch saw an opportunity to expand his company because of a need in the marketplace. He founded DVUVSystems LLC as an add-on venture to complement DVUV, which manufactures UV-cured powder coating systems. Building on the company’s commitment to provide “better, faster and cheaper” solutions, DVUVSystems solved an increasing demand for powder coatings in the application technology area by working with companies that wanted to build in-house capacity to apply other products from the DVUV family. DVUVSystems designs, engineers, sells and supports UV-cured powder coating application systems for firms in the U.S. and China. Over the past eight years, DVUV’s sales have increased by more than sevenfold, and the company is now better positioned than ever to continue its global expansion. Learn more at www.dvuv.com.
A pioneer in the liquid crystal display industry, Kent Displays has transformed itself from a research-based organization into a business-to-consumer company. Its plastic LCDs, manufactured under the trade name Reflex, are used in a variety of applications in growing markets such as writing tablets, electronics skins and credit card displays. Among Kent Display’s products is a line of e-writers — the Boogie Board tablets — which were introduced in 2010 by Improv Electronics, Kent Displays’ consumer product subsidiary. In its first year in production, Boogie Board tablet sales exceeded forecast by 10 times because of their successful entry to the Chinese marketplace. By 2011, Boogie Boards were being sold in India. Today, the company is exploring other global markets for expansion. Learn more at www.kentdisplays.com.
Founded in the kitchen by Pat Hurley during the global recession, Mom’s Gourmet has carved out a viable niche for itself as the manufacturer and distributor of healthy, hand-crafted, artisan seasoning brands. Using a small-batch creation process, eye-catching packages and interesting names like Black Dog Belly Rub, Mom’s Gourmet products are gaining consumers’ attention. Sales more than doubled in the company’s second year, tripled the third, and by the first quarter of 2012, sales had equaled all of the company’s 2011 sales. Mom’s Gourmet products are today sold at numerous locations nationwide, including Whole Foods, The Fresh Market, Orvis Co., Earth Fare, Cleveland Clinic’s 365 Wellness Center and Heinen’s. Learn more at www.momsgourmet.net.
Morgan Engineering is best known as the leading designer of overhead electric traveling cranes for other manufacturers, but the company also develops transfer cars, ladles, scrap buckets, presses and manipulators. To improve efficiency and competitiveness, Morgan recently invested in upgraded machine tool technology. It has also introduced new automation techniques to manage the man-to-machine interface of overhead cranes and is applying 3-D vision systems to overhead cranes to offer customers tools for automatically picking up and loading produces safely onto rail cars and trucks. During the recession, Morgan’s ingenuity allowed it to maintain full staffing, full shifts and full pay scales and has a record sales year in 2010. As a result, the company invested nearly $20 million to bolster its capabilities, enhance subcontractor partnerships and better position itself for future growth. Learn more at www.morganengineering.com.
PurUS Health LLC (dba Good Greens)
Doing business as Good Greens, PurUS Health has gone to market with two core products that underscore its motto “eat good, feel good, do good.” The first product is Good Greens Z52 Superfood: Greens and Red Formula, which is composed of 52 different superfoods and offers a tasty, healthy supplemental powder. The other product is the company’s Good Greens bar, which includes one serving of PurUS Health’s superfood powder in every bar. In less than two years, Good Greens bars have caught on with consumers and the company is in the midst of a both a physical expansion and national product expansion. Learn more at www.goodgreens.com.
Shearer’s Foods Inc.
During the past five years, Shearer’s has doubled its production, sales, facilities, product offerings and associates. As the largest manufacturer of kettle-cooked snack foods and a leading private-label snack manufacturer, Shearer’s nearly 2,000 associates each year produce more than 230 million pounds of snacks. Three years ago, the company acquired private-label snack producer Snack Alliance Inc., which immediately positioned Shearer’s to distribute products nationwide. In 2011, Shearer’s completed the final development phase of its Millennium Manufacturing Facility — the first LEED platinum snack-food manufacturing plant in the world. Last year, Shearer’s was acquired by Wind Point Partners, a Chicago-based private equity investment firm, which has further positioned the company for its ongoing expansion. Learn more at www.shearers.com.
State Industrial Products
For more than 100 years, State Industrial Products has forged a reputation as a leading manufacturer and distributor of specialty chemical products, systems and programs for cleaning and maintenance markets. In recent years, the company has evolved — adding more green products and focusing on service as a competitive advantage. State Industrial’s most recent green product line is the Ecolution odor remover. It produces a clean, subtle scent and has shown through lab tests to remove a higher percentage of malodors than other brands of odor neutralizers on the market. Because of its commitment to “green,” State Industrial has been recognized as a “Champion in the Use and Encouragement of Safer Surfactants” by the Environmental Protection Agency. Learn more at www.stateindustrial.com.
Talan Products Inc.
When Talan Products Inc. focused on overhauling its operations structure and product offerings at the end of 2009, impact of its transformation was nearly immediate. First, Talan, a contract manufacturer of high-volume metal stamping and aluminum extrusions supply, expanded into the solar industry. Then, it analyzed production lines and established new processes for each of them. This allowed the company to focus on quicker and more consistent set-ups and better performance predictability. By doing so, the company’s safety has increased, quality has increased, and delivery time has become the best in the company’s history. Additionally, Talan was able to add new employees, promote many existing ones and has experienced a series of record profits over the last few years — even with lower overall sales revenue. Learn more at www.talanproducts.com.
Tower Industries Ltd.
As the demand for better shower floors, bases, walls and kitchen surfaces has grown, so has Tower Industries Ltd. The company manufactures multiple surfacing materials, including granite, quartz and cultured marble, for use in the kitchen and bath. Over the past decade, Tower has expanded significantly — sales grew by 50 percent in 2010, alone — and the company saw additional growth in 2011 and 2012. As part of Tower’s 2010 capital investment to satisfy customer demand, the company expanded its solid surface manufacturing operations by acquiring a continuous casting line, which provided the ability to manufacture its Meridian sinks and related items at the rate of one per minute.
It also allowed Tower to expand its leadership position in the area of sanitary, institutional shower products. Learn more at www.towersurfaces.com.
As part of its continual quest for manufacturing excellence, TowLift in recent years has partnered with its global suppliers, educational facilities and industry experts to embrace lean Six Sigma processes and improve its operations. TowLift, which manages materials handling and manufactures storage concepts, has incorporated lean tools to improve information flow, eliminate defects, reduce waste, increase efficiency and provide just-in-time delivery of parts and services for its clients. This has allowed TowLift to better dispatch its 100-plus service technicians throughout its Ohio and Michigan footprint with the latest technology and the correct part in the least amount of time so that clients are able to manufacture better products for their own customers. Learn more at www.towlift.com.