David Round Company is not only one of the most innovative material handling manufacturers; it’s also one of the oldest. The Ohio-based organization successfully remained in the game over the long haul by providing an expansive line of standard and custom engineered products, writes Dan Harvey.
David Round Company’s notable attributes might best befit a hyperbolic carnival banner. Its products challenge gravity while its agelessness transcends mortality. But these aren’t the gaudy boasts of a sideshow charlatan. The company’s range of material handling solutions does indeed move customer loads across the floor or overhead in highly effective fashion. As far as age, David Round may be chronologically advanced, but it combines maturity with a youthful, regenerative spark that fosters a timeless vitality.
Matt Downing, director of sales and marketing, indicates that the Solon, Ohio-headquartered organization is one of the oldest manufacturing enterprises in its state. Established in 1869, the David Round Company is, in fact, one of the oldest hoist manufacturers in the entire world. But it’s by no means a long-toothed graybeard. In the business arena, advanced age is an enviable trait that suggests success and resiliency, even immortality.
Today, David Round offers standard handling solutions such as hoists, jib cranes, hydraulic floor cranes, winches, tractor drives and capstans as well as innovative, customized solutions that involve engineered wire rope hoists, stainless steel chain hoists and jib crane motorization kits. The company not only offers standard and custom designs but it also provides comprehensive assistance with applications.
MANY INDUSTRIES SERVED
As the company has evolved, and its product line and services expanded, its solutions have found application in just about any industry. There’s a good reason for that: The products improve handling system efficiency while fostering a more productive and safe manufacturing environment.
As such, the company’s posture is tall, its health robust. “We just went through a five-year period where we demonstrated growth in the 30-to-40 percent range,” reveals Downing. “Most of that resulted from our entry into new markets, such as the pharmaceutical industry for which we build stainless steel hoists.”
In fact, David Round Company products are used in a broad range of industrial settings. “Because we build a lot of custom equipment in addition to standard equipment, we have developed for ourselves specialty niche markets for engineered products. In addition to the pharmaceutical industry, we’ve established markets for food, foundry, waste water treatment, water power, pulp and paper mills, power plant and oil and gas refineries,” informs Downing.
The company also works with customers in the plastics, aerospace, marine and automotive industries as well as the military.
GENERATING GREATER GROWTH
Now the company is poised for even more growth, which will be spurred in part by a recently built manufacturing facility. In 2002, David Round Company tore down its existing 30,000-square-foot headquarters to make way for a more advanced 36,000-squarefoot facility. Construction represented a $2 million investment and the plant sits on a six-acre site in Solon, a suburb of Cleveland. “We see it as a way to achieve a 30 to 40 percent growth rate on an annual basis, rather than just in a five-year period,” says Downing.
Along with the new plant, David Round Company implemented a manufacturing program that provides it with lean manufacturing capabilities, Downing reveals. “For instance, we now manufacture all of our standard products in a work-cell environment. For each individual product, our assemblers have all of the parts they need right in their cell. They no longer have to walk across the plant floor in search of a part.”
He indicates that such efficiencies have enabled David Round Company to speed up its delivery schedules, as well as to achieve aggressive quoting related to those schedules. “Lean manufacturing has also enabled us to get our arms around our inventory process,” he adds.
Two years after the company broke ground for its new plant, it acquired Ruger Industries Inc., a Cleveland-based designer and manufacturer of hydraulic load lifting and material handling equipment. In particular, Ruger is noted for its floor cranes. “That acquisition provided us with a shot in the arm as far as growth,” comments Downing.
Indeed, Ruger Industries is a material-handling pioneer. That company was started by Ken Ruger, who invented the portable hydraulic floor crane for the automotive industry during World War II. As the company grew, it increased its lifting solutions to include lift trucks and transfer carts as well as attachments for all of its products. As such, the 2004 acquisition brought together two of the most respected names in the material handling business, and it helped David Round increase its customers’ own efficiencies with a complete line of full-power and manual floor cranes. Ruger cranes are noted for their versatility, mobility and compact lifting capability.
New leadership should also help the company achieve its desired growth rate. In June 2007, the company was bought by Brad Young who, as president and chief executive officer, has demonstrated a hands-on leadership style. Young’s vision for David Round includes continued updating of the plant and equipment, an increased commitment to customer satisfaction, further reduction of order-to-shipment lead times and development of new products. Further, Young seeks to expand market presence by boosting sales support and engineering capacity and by bolstering the involvement of its 300 employees at every organizational level.
As David Round heads into the future, its largest growth area is its stainless steel product line, which has proven especially useful in the pharmaceutical and food industries. “It’s more crucial in the pharmaceutical industry,” says Downing. “Because of the nature of the product, much of the material handling requirements, whether these involve clean rooms, processing facilities or research facilities, call for stainless steel. You couldn’t use something like a hybrid hoist in pharmaceutical industry environment.”
The food industry has moved in the same direction for similar reasons. “In any food processing areas, where the product is actually handled, stainless steel hoists should be used,” explains Downing.
However, the food industry isn’t quite as far along with this as the pharmaceutical industry. Still, more and more of David Round’s major food industry customers – and these include some of nation’s largest companies such as Kraft Foods, McCormick and Smithfield Foods – are buying stainless steel hoists. “New FDA and USDA regulations require much cleaner environments for handling food products,” Downing indicates. “So, along with the activities in the pharmaceutical industry, changes in the food industry have been really driving our business recently.”
Stainless steel offerings underscore David Round Company’s general direction in recent years. “We’re always looking to develop new products to bring to market,” says Downing. “More specifically, we’re driven to meet market demand for what I call application-specific designs. Different industries have unique environmental concerns – only a few examples include corrosion resistance, hazardous environment classifications, line speeds, overhead beams, and higher lifting speeds. We address those needs through designs that increase the productivity of our end users and the distributors who sell our products.”
That’s why David Round keeps itself in a continuous R&D mode, and that is what has maintained the company’s youthful vigor. When it marks yet another decade in business next year, it will be 140 years young.