From compression to state-of-the-art molding capabilities, Neff-Perkins Company is consistently making tried-and-true designs work in new ways - always pushing the technology envelope to reinvent old designs for newer, more sophisticated systems. The company has established itself as a leader in a variety of markets. Lorie Greenspan enters the shop floor to see what keeps it moving forward.
Out-of-the-box thinking is a phrase that, as of late, has become the catchall of innovative design. It implies a breakthrough, leaving behind confined, old methodologies, and inviting new engineering and manufacturing systems to enhance new products. “Neff-Perkins Company,” says its president, Robert Elly Sr., “has grown since 1946 due to such thinking and is not about to stop now.” This can-do attitude has resulted in, among other things, a current sales volume of roughly $20 million, up from a mere $6 million 20 years ago, when the company, founded by Charlie Neff with financial assistance from George Perkins, was purchased by a management team led by Elly.
Neff-Perkins now delivers its unique brand of expertise to the following markets: automotive OEM and aftermarket, appliance controls, telecommunications, lawn and garden as well as other industrial applications. Its complete product line includes HVAC products, engine seals and gaskets, brake system parts, control diaphragms and seals, actuators, grommets, health and safety products, medical products, telecommunication gaskets and sporting goods. OE automotive comprises 50 percent of the business; aftermarket automotive, 25 percent; industrial safety (face masks, etc.) 15 percent and controls, 10 percent.
“Initially,” relates Elly, “the company manufactured primarily engine oil pan seals, intake manifold seals and brake reservoir diaphragms.” Today, Neff-Perkins has branched out, leveraging one technology to fulfill a need in a completely new approach.
For example: Its innovation in automotive gasket design has led the company to apply this technology to the telecommunications market for fiber-optic enclosures. “We’re taking our automotive gasket design capabilities and transferring these into a new industry,” says Elly.
Numerous capabilities Under one roof
Before mentioning other new avenues for growth, Neff-Perkins’ current broad offering of products and services should be addressed. In particular, a key capability for Neff-Perkins is the manufacture of thin-walled diaphragms, down to 0.008 of an inch thick. “The application and tolerance requirements that Neff-Perkins is required to maintain in the production of such precision parts require a robust system to ensure performance,” says Elly. “Keeping them stable and consistent is a demanding process.” The company is among industry leaders in the production of brake reservoir diaphragms for the automotive industry, and recently has designed a fully automated slitting/slit verification machine that guarantees customers the presence of a required slit in each diaphragm.
Neff-Perkins specializes in the re-engineering of parts, such as gaskets for the automotive aftermarket (the company produces more than 200 different gaskets and seals). “We enhance the design for any shortcomings and produce a part as good or better,” says Elly. The company produces linear vacuum actuators for use in various automobiles, lawn equipment and automotive HVAC door systems (plans are to expand this production into new markets). Neff-Perkins manufactures many different rubber automotive brake components ranging from master cylinder cups to vacuum booster seals. The company has the capability to produce parts ranging in diameter from small seals of 0.100 inch to parts as large as 48 inches. Neff-Perkins also manufactures rubber diaphragms and seals used in controls for appliances.
A customized Range of services
Neff-Perkins helps its customers custom-engineer precision molded plastic, rubber, silicone, and thermoplastic rubber products. It offers full service polymer molding capabilities that include compression, transfer and injection molding, two-shot injection molding and RIM urethane. The company specializes in combinations in which rubber or thermoplastic rubber is combined with metallic or engineered plastics substrates. In addition to its expertise in silicone molding, Neff-Perkins is currently implementing manufacturing capabilities for liquid silicone (LIM) that would result in faster cycle times, cleaner parts and the elimination of secondary operations.
The corporate center for Neff-Perkins Company is in Austinburg, Ohio with 57,000 square feet with additional manufacturing sites in Perry, Ohio of 45,000 square feet and Middlefield, Ohio of 70,000 square feet. Neff-Perkins’ employees deliver numerous strengths, such as speed to market, design innovation, aiding customers in the design of specialized products and cost reduction. To further its edge, Neff-Perkins is in the process of upgrading its QS 9000 certification to TS16949 by the end of 2003. Elly states: “We’re very responsive to customer needs.”
An R&D lab offering Top technical services
A major player in Neff-Perkins’ services and capabilities is the company’s internal, A2LA accredited materials testing laboratory. This is a full-function facility providing customers with leadership and technical support in the selection, development and testing of materials. Neff-Perkins takes an active role in providing technical support in the final manufacture of polymer parts; its expertise covers a polymer product from inception to completion. The lab can design and develop a thermoset elastomeric polymer compound to meet customer-specified guidelines.
The R&D lab continually receives updated test methods from ASTM, specifications from General Motors, Chrysler, Ford and the Society of Automotive Engineers. Personnel are active members of the General Motors Seals and Gaskets Subcommittee.
What all this means is that Neff-Perkins, already established because of its 50-plus years delivering top products and services to the automotive industry, is never shy when it comes to developing new ways to utilize its existing capabilities. A company that consistently earns awards for quality and performance, Neff-Perkins continually utilizes state-of-the-art equipment to meet all quality needs.
As the automotive industry – as well as other markets and applications – continues to grow into a new century of innovation and design, Neff-Perkins will no doubt continue to supply its own brand of service and product excellence.Neff-Perkins quality statement says it all: “Achieving the highest level of customer satisfaction is our number one priority.”