Oklahoma is the home of M-D Building Products, a company initially formed to keep out dust that has grown to become a national home products producer. Lorie Greenspan has the story.
There are no more dust storms in Oklahoma. Does that mean M-D Building Products stops manufacturing its famous brand of weather-stripping?
Not as long as there are homes. Especially now, since the company that invented weather-stripping has been riding on the crest of a home improvement blitz that shows no signs of letting up. But being the weather-stripping expert isn’t the only claim to fame for this Oklahoma company. M-D Building Products offers a diverse portfolio of engineered solutions, such as plastic and aluminum extrusion technology; an array of commercial and residential flooring products as well as its proprietary SmartTool digital level technology, enabling the production of precision levels as well as fulfilling needs in both the medical and automotive arenas.
Most importantly, however, homeowners working on a do-it-yourself project as well as professional contractors can depend on M-D products, as they always have, to provide excellent results. M-D Products are designed and engineered specifically for durability, ease of installation and fulfillment of application requirements.
Still weather-stripping after all these years
Formerly Macklanburg-Duncan Co., M-D Building Products was formed in 1920 during the “Dust Bowl” weather phenomenon after the wife of L.A. Macklanburg complained to her husband of the thick cloud of dust penetrating their Oklahoma home. Macklanburg configured a piece of bronze metal and nailed it to the window jam – a simple contraption that would, for years to come, become streamlined in its technology and set the standard for energy efficiency. And it kept out the dust, too.
Macklanburg sold his handy invention at the Oklahoma State Fair, no doubt to a very receptive audience. Over the years his company was able to leverage this simple technology to produce a host of other products. “Everything we have now can be traced to the origin of the weather strip,” comments Larry Sanford, vice president of marketing.
The company presently markets its famous brand of weather-stripping specially designed and engineered to improve the energy efficiency of a home or business while increasing the overall visual appearance of a building. Its commercial weather strip is designed to withstand the rigors of commercial applications while maintaining the quality of easy installation and quality appearance. “We invented weather-stripping,” says Sanford, “we can be innovative with the technology and make a better product than anyone.”
Four divisions, one successful company
In its present configuration, M-D Building Products operates under four divisions: hardware (such as weather-stripping) sold to consumer home center giants such as Loews and Home Depot; floor covering; engineered products, including custom aluminum extrusion, and commercial doors. Sales were over $100 million in 2002 with the home improvement trend being a significant contributor to the company’s robust growth. This trend, bolstered by the presence of ever more home improvement centers, has significantly altered the way M-D does business. Fifteen years ago, recalls Loren Plotkin, President and CEO, the home center trend was still relatively new; M-D had 25,000 customers and more than 100 salespeople selling directly to the smaller hardware stores and lumberyards throughout the country. Now, M-D no longer employs a field sales force, but has independent representatives across the country, and sells a significant part of its product line directly to mega home centers. “Right now we’re completely different in how we go to market,” says Plotkin.
To facilitate manufacturing, M-D maintains three plants totaling 800,000 square feet: In Oklahoma City, the company manufactures plastic, foam and aluminum extrusions as well as fabricates its flooring and weather-stripping lines; in Gainesville, Ga., it performs aluminum extrusion and in San Jose, Calif., the SmartTool technology and products are developed.
While the industry keeps on devising new ways for homeowners to modify and rejuvenate their homesteads, M-D Building Products has continued to excel at developing and marketing a vast array of home components, such as vinyl and rubber flooring accessories, the manufacture of which has become a major competency. These products include vinyl/rubber cove base (dryback and self-adhesive) as well as vinyl stair treads, stair edging and transitions.
Aluminum floor and carpet transitions also have been developed in many styles and finishes to match diverse requirements. M-D’s offering includes carpet trim, seam binders, carpet gripper, ceramic tile edger and stair edging. Oak floor and carpet transitions feature oak trim for carpets, floor edging, seam binders and reducers.
Build it smart with SmartTool
Among its most technologically sophisticated applications is the company’s SmartTool, the only level that reads all the angles. Purchasing the company several years ago that invented the digital level technology, M-D Building Products has produced a tool that digitally displays degrees, percent slope and pitch to 1/10-degree accuracy. Also offered are SmartDot laser tools, the most advanced line of laser tools in the industry, employing laser technology to improve accuracy of long distance leveling and alignment projects.
What also has benefited M-D is the ability to sell the electronics portion of SmartTool to different industries, such as companies that manufacture motion instrumentation for orthopedic surgeons or for the auto industry for use in welding high performance race car frames.
In the way of engineered solutions, M-D manufactures custom extruded aluminum products for a wide range of applications, from automotive and heavy trucking to store fixtures, consumer durables and specialty marine products. “We were one of the first companies in our industry to extrude our own aluminum,” says Sanford. With multiple extrusion, fabricating and anodizing facilities M-D offers a range of capabilities and engineering support. In addition, sales, engineering and customer service teams have years of experience working with customers in the design and manufacturing of aluminum extrusions.
New Products for the home
Consumers hunting around for higher-end products have driven the creation of new product lines this year from M-D. For example, a line of metal and wood transition pieces come in response to changes in the floor covering industry that have seen an increasing variety of hard surface floors and ceramic tile flooring. In response, M-D has delivered MultiFloor products to provide a smooth transition between flooring areas; these transition strips are available in either wrapped aluminum with a high-end, decorative finish, or wood to give a room more style.
In the area of weatherproofing, M-D is offering a higher-end weather-stripping product made from synthetic rubber as opposed to the traditional foam tape version. The synthetic rubber product is denser and more flexible, is more UV-resistant and is longer lasting. It comes in six different profiles and three colors.
These new products form only a portion of the company’s breadth of new products, created out of consistent research on how to improve on what it already offers by trying to expand on existing lines. Sanford explains that the company also is seeking out acquisitions of companies that will complement M-D’s core competencies. In this way, the company that invented weather-stripping will continue to outpace the competition by inventing new models to which homeowners and commercial building owners alike will turn when they need solutions.