Pentaflex serves as one of North America's emerging leaders in precision stamping for the heavy truck industry. Dave Arndt, President of Pentaflex, talks about the history of the company that led them to where they are today, the factors behind a 25 percent increase in both sales and employment over the last year, and the philosophy behind the company's greater presence and commitment to the future of not only their company, but manufacturing in general. Steve Engelhardt reports.
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Established in 1972 by Jack McGregor, Pentaflex began as a small stamping business in Springfield, Ohio. For the next 28 years, the McGregors slowly grew their business from the surrounding area to a national presence and by 2001, the company had outgrown its former facility and moved from downtown into a 123,000-square-foot plant to accommodate surging demand. “We earned a strong reputation from our ability to manufacture high quality, deep-draw heavy gauge stampings and welded assemblies for the heavy truck industry,” says Arndt, adding, “Our success in such has led to many tier-one heavy truck suppliers, and ultimately OEM’s like Volvo, Paccar, Navistar, and Freightliner, relying upon our parts today.”
Investing in the Future
In recent years, the company has responded to their increased demand by making several strategic investments into machinery upgrades, enabling them to not just manage, but excel in their partnerships with their tier-one suppliers. “Up until 2011, our strength was really anything over .125” thick material, but since then we have added an 880-ton AIDA mechanical press, allowing us to drop down to .060” thick and as a result, take on a greater range of parts.” He says that in particular, the upgrades led to Pentaflex picking up a large chunk of business in brake dust shield production.
And yet, while the investment in 2011 helped the company take a big a step forward, the ones made in 2014 have proven to be what Arndt calls, “an absolute game changer for our company.”
In June, the company launched a 330-ton AIDA servo press, which Arndt says, “has done wonders for us on the light gauge side, as we can now go down to .030” coils.” In fact, the company has experienced so much success from their new servo press that they were anxiously awaiting delivery on an additional 700-ton AIDA servo press for their Springfield facility. “With the servo press, many of the parts we used to run on 300-ton mechanical presses can now be produced twice as fast, leading to our operating costs being reduced, which in turn benefits our customers because they can bring parts to the market at a lower price.”
But more importantly is that with 80 percent of all new presses purchased being quoted as servo presses in 2014, Pentaflex is utilizing machinery that is largely viewed as the future of its industry. In addition to the new machinery, Arndt says the company is also looking at the implementation of 3D printing technology in their processes, as the ability to print a component on the spot could lead to advantages in machinery maintenance and production output. “We have always prided ourselves on being innovative, and we feel the presence and utilization of cutting-edge technology is not only important to our operating processes, but our overall identity as well,” he says.
Commitment to Quality
If innovation is part of their identity, a dedication to high-quality manufacturing is responsible for the rest of it. “Here at Pentaflex, manufacturing is at the core of what drives our success,” he says, adding, “whether it’s moving into a bigger facility to accommodate increased demand like we did in 2001, making investments into new machinery as we did in 2011 and this year, or remaining focused upon continuous improvement with lean initiatives each and every year, excelling in manufacturing is our purpose.”
Specifically, Arndt says that every January, he and the rest of his lean Steering Committee, which is made up of cross functional senior management, sit down and lay out approximately 50 “action items” which they view as either areas of production that could be improved, or business opportunities that should be pursued. “We have one Six Sigma Black Belt, and two Green Belts within our staff, and along with the rest of the committee, we focus on how to become better at what we do.” And from this effort, the results have shown.
The Precision Metalforming Association (PMA) gives out seven annual awards for excellence displayed in manufacturing. In 2013, Pentaflex won two of the awards, under the categories of ‘Productivity’ and ‘Quality.’ “This year we won two more awards for Safety and Education/Training and they are something we are extremely proud of, because they speak to the attributes that are most important to our company,” says Arndt.
National Manufacturing Day
National Manufacturing Day 2014 was held on October 3rd, and it’s no surprise that Pentaflex was one of the many manufacturers across the United States celebrating the event and participating in raising awareness about the future of U.S. manufacturing. This year, the event focused on engaging the youth demographic, and driving increased interest in manufacturing careers. In response to this, Pentaflex held an informational event at its Springfield facility where students from three surrounding high schools came in and were able to tour the factory, see the technology and machinery in action firsthand, and speak with both plant floor employees and senior management about the nature and benefits of manufacturing.
“Our goals were to attract as many students as possible in our regional Manufacturing Day events held across Ohio,” says Arndt, who also sits on the Dayton Regional Manufacturing Association Committee. He says that, in addition to giving the students a tour of the internal workings at Pentaflex, he also discussed the history of automotive manufacturing and stamping in general, and how it has progressed to where it is today. “Safety and quality have always been central to our efforts here at Pentaflex, but I wanted to show them just how much the industry has improved over the years, and how we represent one of the companies at the forefront of it all today.” He says that at the end of the day, they gave each of the 75 students in attendance a flash drive with additional data about Pentaflex and manufacturing, to further drive the point home and leave a lasting impression.
Having an active role in not just their own future, but manufacturing’s as a whole, is why Pentaflex is as successful as they are today. In addition to hosting community-outreach events like the one on National Manufacturing Day, the company annually attends conferences held by the PMA and MEMA, and actively lobbies congress about the issues key to successfully functioning as a manufacturer in the state of Ohio. “We were fortunate enough to even have House Speaker John Boehner come visit our facilities in 2012 and speak with us about our company and our needs,” he says, adding, “I think his presence speaks to the significance of manufacturing in Ohio and Pentaflex’s role in it.
Pentaflex’s annual revenues and employment are up 25 percent in 2014, and Arndt says that 2015 is shaping up to be just as good, if not better for them. And why wouldn’t it? With a focus upon quality and efficiency, and a dedication and active role in many of U.S. manufacturing’s greater goals, Pentaflex looks to be a company that will continue to excel and grow for many years to come.