New lighting and new state-of-the-art factory grade flooring serve the dual purpose of increasing safety and efficiency for employees, while also providing space for both Loveman Steel & Fabrication and Plastic Machinery Group’s customers to come see the equipment they offer.
Competition among trench safety product manufacturers can be fierce.
Depending on market conditions, even companies with a firm foundation and excellent products can face more than their fair share of challenges.
Loveman Steel Corporation experienced this when they entered into receivership in the summer of 2015. Established in 1931 and located in Bedford Heights, Ohio, Loveman Steel Corporation, manufacturers of stone and safety trench boxes, was a family-owned business, specializing in the design and fabrication of products for such diverse industries as construction, mining and material handling, scrap processing, petro-chemicals, power generation, and transportation.
A list of recent clients included Metso Minerals and Mitsubishi-Hitachi Corporation, as well as several leading steel manufacturers and energy corporations. Still, in the summer of 2015, it was apparent that a change was needed if the company was to survive.
Another Company Looks for Change
At the same time, Donald A. Kruschke, president and CEO of Solon, Ohio-based Plastics Machinery Group, whose primary business is purchasing and selling equipment for its customers and also is involved with mergers, acquisitions, plant liquidations and appraisals.
The company had experienced significant growth and the change Kruschke had in mind was the addition of a warehouse to store and show machines under power for customers to demonstrate the equipment.
His search led him to Loveman Steel's facility, boasting high bays, heavy crane capacity and high power availability which seemed more than adequate for his needs.
Kruschke hadn't planned on getting into the steel manufacturing business, but as he learned about Loveman Steel and its capabilities, he was impressed with the products and, more significantly, the positive attitude and work ethic of the company's employees. He felt there was a great deal of potential and Kruschke entered into negotiations with the receiver and by late 2016, took ownership of the company, now known as Loveman Steel and Fabrication.
Reviving Loveman Steel
The job ahead was no small task. Loveman Steel enjoyed past annual sales volume as high as $52 million, but by 2015, the company's sales had fallen to approximately $17 million. With his primary goal of getting Loveman Steel back on a profitable track, Kruschke contacted and met with the company's customers to share his vision and secure new business agreements.
Concurrently, Kruschke initiated a plan to update the plant and office space and to streamline the operations. So far, he has invested more than $1.5 million to upgrade the facility from the ceiling to the floors, and to improve the visibility and workplace environment within the plant. The once dark facility has been painted and new lighting, as well as new state-of-the-art factory grade flooring are being installed.
According to Kruschke, “The renovations have not only improved safety, but made operations more efficient, they've also gone a long way toward boosting the attitudes and enthusiasm of our employees.”
A strong focus on employee morale is an important part of Kruschke's management style, and he added, “I believe in taking care of the employees. There's no separation here between the office and the factory, we're all part of the same team.”
Although Loveman Steel and Plastic Machinery Group will continue to function as two distinct businesses, both will ultimately be co-located at the facility.
Like Loveman Steel, Plastic Machinery Group's began in the 1990s as a family business managed by Kruschke, his father and his late brother. The company, named Stopol, consisted of four divisions and in 2009, Kruschke went independent, purchasing the assets out of receivership in 2009 when the economy went down. Buying the company's thermoforming and extrusion division; he renamed the operations Plastic Machinery Group.
Taking a New Approach – Customized Stone and Safety Trench Boxes
Many of the products and services provided by Loveman Steel will remain the same, but Kruschke has introduced a completely new business approach. As he sees it, equipment quality must be matched by customer service that go well beyond a standard business transaction.
According to Kruschke, “If a customer wants something in ten days, we'll deliver in seven.”
The company is also offering custom painting services with stone boxes and safety trench boxes featuring the customer's logo and colors, making each piece into a billboard for the company.
As a means of adding value and making ownership of Loveman Steel & Fabrication products more attractive, they're also offering self-financing with 24, 36 and 48 month terms. As Kruschke explains it, “The equipment we offer is an asset for our customers which qualify for the Section 179 tax deduction and the option to purchase as opposed to rent converts an operating cost into an investment for our customers.”
According to Kruschke, communication is key to understanding and anticipating customer needs. The approach also incorporates a strong reliance on data, which enables the company to track its customers' businesses and brand preferences while informing future product advances.
Two long-term Loveman Steel employees are playing an integral role in the company's turnaround.
Rob Campbell has been with the company for more than 20 years and has been named chief operating officer, while Tom Bristow, who joined the company nine years ago, serves as operations manager and sales. For the construction industry, Loveman Steel & Fabrication engineers help fabricate a wide range of durable safety trench boxes, stone boxes, portable bridges, street plates and offers custom fabrication services.
For more information, visit http://www.lovemansteel.com/ and http://www.plasticsmg.com/.
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