The issue of environmental protection is on almost everyone’s mind these days. But how many people alive today realize it was an issue for “Lady Bird” Johnson, wife of President Lyndon B. Johnson, back in the mid 1960s when Al-jon Manufacturing was founded by Allen Sharp and Jon Kneen, who combined their first names to create the company name. Initially, Al-jon “specialized in the manufacture of stainless steel conveyers and container equipment,” says Don Thompson, Manager, Al-jon Central. “A customer had asked Jon and Allen if they could build him a Car-Masher, which was a routine request. But when the product came to market the following year, Jon and Allen knew it would revolutionize their family business.” And it did. More than they ever could have imagined.
“Lady Bird had initiated a ‘Clean up America’ campaign, targeting roadsides,” says Curt Spry, Scrap Sales Manager. “At that time, there were thousands of abandoned auto hulks littering the countryside.” The Car-Masher flattened car bodies, which allowed for easier transportation to the shredders and enabled auto recyclers to perform their jobs with less difficulty. “Al-jon’s car crusher was historic in that it got special recognition from the Johnson administration,” says Spry. “We got a call and a letter from the White House thanking us for the development of the machine that was gathering up so many of those hulks and removing them. And we didn’t even know the term recycling back then. We were doing it because it made economic sense.”
Today, Al-jon manufactures scrap processing and solid waste equipment for a variety of uses. It is an industry leader in the scrap, auto recycling and solid waste markets manufacturing car crushers, car loggers, metal balers and the Advantage Series landfill compactors. Although Al-jon has earned its stellar reputation, it is always on the look-out for new methods and new products to better serve its industries.
AN EFFECTIVE MOTTO
“Keeping it Simple, Building it Strong.” That’s the motto that this family-owned and operated company lives by each day. “It is not merely printed words, but a way of life for Al-jon,” says Thompson. “All the books on customer relations say to ‘listen to your customers and identify their business needs and seek ways to meet them.’ That is what Al-jon did from day one, and it became the drumbeat that we followed and continue to follow to this day.”
Listening to its customers has served Al-jon well. It updated and improved its initial car crusher and developed other processing equipment for the refuse, scrap and recycling industries such as the “580 Car Logger, a fully automatic one-man car logger and an end-of-life recycling system,” says Spry. “Al-jon also manufactures three landfill compactors for the solid waste industry, including the heaviest, most powerful compactor in North America.”
Located at the Ottumwa Industrial Airport in Ottumwa, Iowa, Al-jon “moved from building about 75 machines per year in the 1990s to 110 machines annually by 2006,” says Thompson. “This positive direction encouraged Al-jon, in February 2006, to help finance its future growth by partnering with Republic Financial of Denver, Colo., for additional capital and manufacturing expertise.” As a result, Al-jon unveiled a new 40,000-square-foot assembly facility in the spring of 2007.
Al-jon engages aggressively in research and development so that it may continue to develop new equipment to meet the changing needs of its customers and to satisfy market demand. Al-jon’s in-house R&D Marketing group meets quarterly to discuss conceptual ideas and potential new products. This group consists of engineering, production, sales, and marketing personnel with approximately 25 percent of the engineering staff dedicated to the R&D process.
As an ISO-9001-2000 certified company, Al-jon meets quality standards on a consistent basis and ensures its tolerances are tighter and its welds are stronger than its competitors. Al-jon also implemented lean training, which resulted in increased employee knowledge and “provided valuable input into the quality of our machines,” says Thompson. “Al-jon strives to make ourselves better each day, thus our products become the best in the industry.”
In addition, Al-jon employs a qualified Supply Chain Manager who is “responsible for sales relationships, quality, analytical/problem solving, determining strategic needs and removal of all obstacles to strengthen processes,” says Thompson. “This manager organizes, informs, coaches and mentors employees and partners to progressively move the company forward.”
A MARKET TREND SETTER
Al-jon growth has exploded over the past few years and the company credits this to an increase in staffing and overall manufacturing capacity. However, what makes Al-jon a market trend setter in both the scrap and solid waste industries is its ability to listen to and respond to its customers’ “needs, wants, wishes and demands,” Thompson says. But listening is only the first step in the process. Al-jon takes the information it gathers from its customers and implements it into a desired product.
In response to the increasing overseas scrap demand and high domestic scrap metal markets, Al-jon constructed its new 40,000-square-foot facility, which enabled it to double its production and explore the development of new products. And “with landfills being under everyone’s microscope, Al-jon has remained the market leader within the landfill industry,” says Bernie Melcher, Solid Waste Sales Manager. “The advantage series landfill compactor provides the most efficient and effective way to process waste in the modern landfill.” Al-jon prides itself on employing hand-picked craftsmen who are “the best of the best” and has earned bragging rights regarding its employees. “We don’t know what turnover is and rarely have to advertise for new employees,” says Thompson. That is rare for any industry, particularly in today’s workforce. “The personal pride of everyone at Al-jon goes into each unit that goes out the door,” Thompson says. “And customers are fiercely loyal to Al-Jon because our equipment stays on the job longer with innovations that produce more revenue. Its uptime exceeds 99 percent, and it costs less to maintain. Our used equipment often outlasts some of our competitors’ brand-new equipment.”
THE ULTIMATE GOAL
Al-jon’s ultimate goal is customer satisfaction, and it is achieving this goal through the manufacture and maintenance of its high-quality equipment. Al-jon believes in finding a solution to all its customers’ equipment necessities and works hard to proudly serve its customers. Its regional service centers provide prompt attention to customers’ needs; its parts department stocks a multi-million-dollar parts inventory; and its training school educates customers on the service, operation, and function of Al-jon’s machines. Al-jon’s specialized design and manufacture of equipment coupled with quality after-the-sale service and support make Al-jon a solid leader in its field. In the market for scrap processing, auto dismantling and solid waste industry equipment, Al-jon has met its customers’ needs for over 40 years.