Volume 11 | Issue 2 | Year 2008

The unofficial golden rule of entrepreneurship essentially states that no one becomes rich and/or successful working for someone else.

Eugene William (Gene) McGrane, the late founder of The Homac Companies, apparently possessed a keen, visceral grasp of that concept. However, he was driven as much by practicality as personal pride. When he started his company in 1963, he and his wife just had their eighth child (the couple eventually had nine offspring), so McGrane needed to succeed.

Starting out with a small investment ($200 dollars contributed by his mother) and sheer force of will – not to mention a knack for innovation – McGrane established a company that would eventually become a leading supplier of electrical connectors and cable accessories.

Forty-four years later, Homac remains a privately owned, family operated business. McGrane’s son Mark is now president of the Ormond Beach, Fla.-based enterprise that includes 400 employees, and he has guided the company to expansive levels of success. Today, Homac manufactures and markets products for electric utilities and contractors, industrial companies, and electrical equipment OEMs in more than 38 countries. “We produce connectors for literally thousands of different applications and just about every use, from electrical substations to the home, office or factory and for overhead and underground power distribution applications,” says Mark Hammer, Homac’s Vice President of Sales and Marketing.

The company specializes in innovative electrical power delivery connectors particularly for submersible and underground applications. “Our largest product group is our family of underground connectors,” points out Hammer.

INNOVATION TRADITION
Innovation has been a key element in the company’s evolution. Taking its lead from its founder, Homac became well known for creative engineering and a slavish dedication to customer satisfaction. “We have an extensive heritage as far as being responsive to client needs and applications. Many of the innovations we developed for customers have gone on to become industry standards,” informs Hammer.

Gene McGrane’s reputation as an innovator is well deserved. His unique ideas translated into design concepts and products that revolutionized the power industry. Among the many developments he brought to the industry table, McGrane developed cost-effective solutions designed to protect aluminum connectors from the natural ravages of oxidation. McGrane also electrified the industry (figuratively speaking) when he invented the hub connector, a sixsided aluminum block that could be used in either a pedestal or junction box. It was the first product designed for secondary underground applications. Previously, most connector manufacturers simply modified overhead connectors for underground applications. In addition, Homac advanced the use of EPDM rubber in insulating and waterproofing underground cable connectors and developed impact extrusion technology for the manufacture of copper and aluminum connectors.

Gene McGrane passed away in 2001, and Mark McGrane has been at the company’s helm since 1995, but the founder’s inventive spirit lives on. Homac remains a thriving and vital industry force due to continued innovation.

For instance, in late 2007, the company introduced its Storm-Safe® technology, a unique product designed to protect people, residences and electrical apparatus when natural calamities occur, according to Hammer. “It’s for overhead applications, when overhead electrical service lines are affected by hurricanes, ice storms, or similar events,” he says. “Basically, it’s a disconnect system that enables power lines to come down de-energized and then reconnected safely, quickly and cost-effectively.”

During storms, falling branches and flying debris often snag utility service entrance cables between the utility distribution pole and the customer’s building or home, the company explains. Further, depending on how they fall, cables can still be energized, which can create an extremely dangerous hazard for emergency response teams, utility personnel and the public. Storm-Safe provides a solution. When a service cable is struck by debris, the product’s breakaway link immediately releases the service mechanical support and disconnects the electrical service. As a result, the service cable comes down de-energized. There’s no damage to the utility equipment or customer premises, and the safety hazard is eliminated.

Storm-Safe’s two primary components include the mechanical breakaway link and the mating contacts for the electrical service. The breakaway link breaks at a prescribed force to prevent damage. The mating contacts separate after the line breaks, safely disconnecting power. When the storm subsides, power can be quickly and cost-effectively restored by installing a new link and re-inserting the contacts.

In the same direction, Homac provides an extensive storm damage inventory available 24/7 during an emergency. This inventory is placed in a separate, dedicated stocking location, so that it can be immediately accessed during storm emergencies. The specialized inventory includes hundreds of thousands of connectors – Htaps, service entrance splices, terminal lugs, pin terminals, C-taps, semi-tension neutral splices and full tension splices – that help speed up emergency service restoration.

SERVING SIX MARKET SECTORS
Originally, Homac targeted its main activities (the design and manufacture of electrical connectors and cable accessories) toward electric utility companies. But as its core competencies increased, the company expanded into several distinct market segments. Today, the company, which has experienced double-digit growth over the past several years, is considered the leader in the electric utility market. “The utility market breaks down into two segments: utility-distribution, or the distribution of power, and utility-substation, where we provide connector solutions for electrical substation construction and maintenance,” says Hammer. “Homac also serves customers in the construction and industrial, OEM/private label and international markets. In addition, to enhance our future growth, we will offer a new line of products for customers in the telecommunications market in early 2008.”

Homac’s utility group workforce designs and manufactures connector products that fall into four major categories: transformer connectors that are attached to a transformer and bring the reduced voltage to homes and businesses; pedestal and handhole connectors, which connect to main cables coming from transformers; underground connectors, which provide water-tight connections in direct burial or submersible applications; and overhead connectors, for splicing, tapping and terminating overhead power distribution cables. Utility customers include electric utility companies, utility standards engineers and utility linemen as well as substation “packagers,” which are typically turnkey firms that specify, purchase and install products used in electric utility substations.

In the construction and industrial market segment, Homac serves the electrical contractor community as well as industrial MRO facilities, says Hammer. “In addition, in our OEM market segment we serve equipment manufacturers,” he says. “These customers specify and purchase our connector products and use them inside their own equipment, which they then sell to their own customers.”

Further, Homac serves customers in developing international markets that are expanding and upgrading electrical infrastructures.

IN-HOUSE PRODUCTION
All product design, engineering, manufacturing and testing are performed in-house. In all, Homac has more than 220,000 square feet of production space where it manufactures its time- and cost-efficient connectors. During a typical year, Homac ships over 5,000 SKUs.

Manufacturing processes that come into play during production involve machines that cut, knurl mark, ink mark, chamfer, taper, flatten, punch, de-burr, grind, upset (cold head) and anneal. Capabilities include CNC machining, injection and compression molding, PVC dip, tin plating and assembly.

The company’s Ormond Beach headquarters houses its corporate offices as well as 140,000 square feet of production space, where all manufacturing functions except plating are performed. Homac’s second Ormond Beach location includes an 18,000-square-foot, state-of-the-art electro-tin plating facility and a 26,000-square-foot CNC facility. To serve its West Coast customers, Homac established a 37,500-square-foot manufacturing and distribution facility in Corcoran, Calif., where it produces most of its substation line of connectors as well as various other connectors. All facilities are ISO: 9001-certified.

The company’s stated goal is to maintain its prominence as a leading manufacturer and supplier of connectors and accessories. “To help meet our objectives we have a number of metrics in place designed to ensure that we stay on track and perform to expectations and adhere to our business plan,” says Hammer.

These metrics involve six key strategic indicators: safety, innovation, quality, cost, flexibility and customer satisfaction, he adds. “For instance, in the area of customer satisfaction, metrics include on-time delivery, order fill rates and measuring product returns due to internal error which help us continuously improve service to our customers.”

Taking its founder’s lead, Homac’s greatest strengths remain its knack for creativity and its commitment to customer service. As far as the future, the company plans to launch new products on a consistent basis through robust R&D and product development initiatives. Homac is the industry leader in power delivery connector technology, and it will not relinquish that status.