The Step2 Company takes pride in creating high-quality plastic products for the home, garden and toy markets. Gloria P. Cahill tells how this Ohio manufacturer is riding a new product launch to further growth.
In May 2000, US Industry Today published a profile of The Step2 Company, a plastics company that makes top-of-the-line products by using the rotomolding process. The article gave an overview of the Ohio company’s history and product line: lawn and garden products, mailboxes, riding toys, playground equipment, children’s furniture, pools and sandboxes. At that time, Thomas G. Murdough Jr., founder of the Ohio company, commented on the introduction of a brand-new product, the BumbleBee™, a bright yellow riding toy powered by a 12-volt battery. Designed for children aged 3 to 6 years, the durable plastic vehicle features two motors, two rechargeable batteries and a steering wheel that makes musical sounds. It was an instant success.
This spring, a change in executive management — the appointment of John Sinchok as acting president — reaffirmed the company’s commitment to serving its markets with new products and marketing programs. Founder Murdough continues as chairman of the board and chief executive officer.
Step2 has grown steadily since its founding in 1991. Currently, the company has operations in five U.S. locations, with a total of 1,152,500 square feet of space: the Streetsboro, Ohio, headquarters and manufacturing facility; Perrysville, Ohio; Twinsburg, Ohio; Bakersfield, Calif.; and Fort Valley, Ga. Overseas manufacturing in Coleraine, Northern Ireland, adds 336,400 square feet. Licensing agreements add another 190,000 square feet of manufacturing space located in Korea and Hong Kong.
Recent and upcoming events show that the BumbleBee™ was on the right track in more ways than one. The Screamin’ Demon is Step2’s new vehicle for drivers aged 3 to 7 years. Improvements on the design and technology in this new riding toy reflect Step2’s commitment to creating high-quality plastic products.
The introduction of the Screamin’ Demon this fall is the culmination of a process that shows Step2’s commitment to providing unparalleled value to its customers. This highly engineered product is part of the company’s Sidewalk Cruisers™ line of motorized, battery-operated vehicles for children. These rotomolded riding toys are made with tough, double-wall construction that stands up to off-road use and has built-in safety features.
Last year, Step2 became dissatisfied with the gear mechanism in some of these vehicles. The company decided that the imported plastic gearbox did not meet its quality standards — a judgment borne out by gear failure in extreme heat and use situations. The Ohio manufacturer immediately began searching for a new supplier — a quest that brought Step2’s engineers into contact with Seitz Corporation in Connecticut. A manufacturer of injection-molded products, Seitz has expertise in producing high-quality plastic gearboxes.
Seitz worked closely with Step2, acting as an extension of Step2’s engineering department. Step2 has historically surrounded itself with good suppliers, ones that accentuate the positives. In this case in particular, Seitz did just that.
Full Speed Ahead
Thanks to this collaboration, the debut of Step2’s Screamin’ Demon is causing a stir in the market. Already, major retailers have climbed on board, and the Screamin’ Demon has become a major step ahead for Step2’s battery-operated line. This flame-red riding toy features a 12-volt motor, two forward speeds that go up to 5 miles per hour, one reverse speed, the Stop-Lock™ motor design that locks out the higher speed for less-experienced drivers and an easy-grip steering with an electronic “r-r-revving” engine sound.
Anticipating the success of the Screamin’ Demon, Step2 has set its sites on an expanded line of battery-operated vehicles for young drivers. The current Sidewalk Cruisers™ line will be replaced by the Thunderboltz line, with a new logo that will be added to the company’s distinctive red square design on these products.
The products in the program, which has been on the market for about a year and a half, are: the red and yellow Turbo Trike, a single-speed tricycle for children aged 2 to 6; the bright green, one-speed Lil’ Farmers Power Tractor for children in that same age group; the blue and yellow Mighty Mac truck with two forward speeds and one reverse speed for drivers aged 3 to 6; and the yellow and purple Bumble Bee that buzzes along with two forward speeds and one reverse speed for 3-to-6-year-olds.