Volume 8 | Issue 3 | Year 2005

The news at Penda Corporation is all about expansion, innovation and accelerated growth. Established in 1994 as a manufacturer of thermoformed bedliners for pickup trucks, Penda has become one of North America’s leading bedliner manufacturers and now offers a broad range of other truck accessory products.

But that’s not all. With a keen eye focused on expanding into emerging markets, Penda has targeted key areas in which its proprietary technology in extrusion and thermoforming combined with an extreme focus on quality can further enhance its industry position. The strategy is in line with a recent restructuring initiative that places customer service measures above the need to merely create new products. Explains President Ulf Buergel: “The desire to continue the aggressive growth strategy and to springboard into new markets while continuing to maintain our leadership within the truck accessories segment led to a key restructuring in 2004.”

With premium products such as the Skid Resistor, designed and developed for truck owners that complained of items that too easily moved around within the slippery truck bed, Penda launched on its restructuring initiative, in part, by growing into complementary product categories; this began in 1995 with the acquisition of Tri-Glas Industries, Daleville, Ala. Now known as Penda Daleville, this 166,000-square-foot operation enabled the company to aggressively pursue new sales and customer relationships within the fiberglass truck cap and tonneau-cover marketplace. Penda Daleville today is a widely respected manufacturer of these fiberglass components, as well as van panels for the OE and aftermarket channels.

“We’ve now seen an opportunity to serve our customers better by bringing these product lines together and using our established Penda image,” Buergel says. “We leveraged our capabilities and strengthened our position with a broadened product portfolio. Our new approach is to be more market focused, not product focused.” This new approach enables Penda to accomplish two key but separate goals, Buergel says: achieve continued, profitable growth within the truck accessories market and diversify market participation and product offering.

Through these strategic acquisitions and aggressive organic growth within its bedliner business, Penda Corporation today operates one of North America’s largest and most versatile plastics extrusion, thermoforming and fiberglass production operations, Buergel explains. Moreover, the company is able to leverage unmatched in-house research, engineering, production and finishing operations (all the result of extensive partnerships with global customers) to position itself as the leading provider of full-service solutions for a growing range of product categories and market channels.

Water management And sports vehicles Penda of Portage, Wis., which holds more than 50 product design patents, operates two strategic business units: Penda Truck Accessories and Penda Premier Solutions.

It has been the objective of Penda Premier to expand into markets that hold the most promise for growth; one is the area of water management such as irrigation and erosion control.

“We’re working with a few customers very closely; we consider this an emerging market, and fast growing.” Buergel says. Already, the company has been busy introducing several products, focusing on large surface points with deep draw and significant contour, some up to 40 inches in diameter and up to eight feet long for collecting water or to direct water for irrigation or erosion control. “The key issue here because of our technology and equipment and engineering capability is that we can design parts with integrity but light weight,” Buergel adds. “We believe we will be successful in that area. Most of these parts are made from high-density polyethylene for large surfaces.”

The second focus is in the area of specialty vehicles, such as lawn and garden equipment as well as sports vehicles, including golf carts, snowmobiles and Jet skis. “We see that market growing as people have more time for leisure activities and goods,” Buergel notes.

“In this area we utilize engineering and design capabilities and focus on large parts using different materials, such as engineering plastics and higher value engineered polymers,” Buergel says. The company’s ability to manufacture high gloss, highly aesthetic colored parts right out of the mold eliminates the need for painting while giving the appearance of a painted part. “We believe we can offer a lot of improvements in aesthetics,” Buergel adds.

Other Premier Solutions’ products are fiberglass or plastic components for the heavy truck and bus industry. As increasing gas prices have brought weight reduction back to the forefront of product design, fiberglass components can provide weight reductions while maintaining the structural integrity of steel parts. These parts can also have custom color matched paint.

Accessory essentials
The company’s third market, of course, remains accessories for trucks and commercial vehicles, another area in which the lightweight trend serves the company well because of its years of its fiberglass, paint, and thermoforming know-how.

Penda Truck Accessories is the number-one supplier of drop-in bedliners globally, and was the first to market with many unique product features – premium skid-resistance, static dissipation, etc. – and continues as an innovator. This year, the company has enhanced the Skid Resistor and also plans to add new models to its already extensive tonneau cover and cap product lines. Market-leading products such as the Breeze, the ST and the Tri-Wing tonneau cover or the Raven, the Outfitter, have enhanced the product offering over the last 10 years.

Penda Truck Acces- sories, QS-9000 and ISO/TS16949 certified, is also qualified to serve OEMs and is a certified supplier for almost all OEMs in North America for painted fiberglass products like tonneau covers as well as bedliners. “The light-truck bedliner category has become increasingly ‘commoditized’ by low-quality competitors,” Buergel says. “Penda has stood alone in continuing to invest in new technologies at the premium level, which has enabled Penda retailers to more clearly differentiate their products and earn healthier margins in this critical product category.”

As a company with more than 30 years of experience, Penda has seen many trends come and go; for example, explains Buergel: The fiberglass truck accessories market was very fragmented and ready for consolidation in the early 1990s. Penda acquisitions and consolidation of the two companies and the consequent integration into Penda Truck Accessories helped to reduce the number of suppliers and created a market leader with a broad product portfolio and economies of scale.

Penda also provides significant marketing support and sales training to enable retailers to capitalize on consumers’ overwhelming preference for proven, high-quality truck accessories. “Penda will continue to maximize the appeal of its products through award- winning marketing programs,” Buergel explains. “The brand has achieved aggressive sales growth through a full array of marketing support materials, including in-store point of sale materials, counterman training and incentive programs, cooperative advertising, and consumer promotions.”

Equally committed to driving retail traffic through aggressive national and regional advertising, Penda’s brand targets key truck owners through lifestyle-based broadcast and print advertising, with particular emphasis on hunting, fishing and other outdoor media.

Enhanced portfolio
New developments include enhancements to the company’s “value” product line with an all-new Pendaliner model. This bedliner will feature “best in class” skid resistance as well as a broad range of other features.

Penda also is leading the tonneau category with the Breeze, the first fiberglass light-truck tonneau to combine the sculpted look preferred by the world’s best automotive design studios and advanced engineering and construction that ensure fast, easy push-button functionality. The Breeze is the industry’s most user- and dealer-friendly hard tonneau, with an array of innovative design features that dramatically reduce installation time and eliminate the extra steps and effort required to open and close conventional tonneaus.

The Penda difference
As Buergel attests, Penda sets itself a part from its competitors in a number of ways, through a “relentless commitment to quality and continuous improvement.” The company has received several awards, including:
¥ Toyota Distinguished Supplier Award (seven times)
¥ Toyota Supplier Excellence Award
¥ DaimlerChrysler Gold Pentastar Award (four times)
¥ Ford Q1 Quality Award

The company also employs an aggressive Kaizen and lean manufacturing philosophy to continue to improve systems and reduce costs. A formal cost reduction program has allowed Penda to be very competitive over the last several years.

“Our company philosophy is simple; it’s all about our people,” Buergel says. “Our people are the unique asset that differentiates us from other companies. Companies can buy new equipment and invest in new technology, but people make things happen. They provide the personal relationships that are needed to provide the best customer service possible.”

“When I came to Penda,” he adds, “I integrated a proven philosophy for our employees – the ‘3S’ Guiding Principles: Safe, Smart, Successful.” Safe involves working in a safe and clean environment and making safety a “way of life;” smart entails fostering an organization that promotes learning, training and teamwork. “We hire only the best people with the right skills for our facilities,” he adds.

Finally, success is a principle that extends well beyond the company’s doors. Adds Buergel: “We want everybody to be successful. When our customers and employees are successful, Penda Corporation is successful. Each person’s success contributes to the team’s success, which ultimately affects our customers, suppliers, shareholders and communities.”

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