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What came first, the chicken or the egg? At Transhield, it doesn’t matter, as long as you understand that even if the egg breaks, there are always more eggs. The lesson in invention serves as an important business trait: Things sometimes won’t work right. So you try again.
Transhield was started in in 1994 in Elkhart, Ind., by Greg Todt, a man described as a “mad scientist inventor type” who was a contract painter with a problem: When carts were shipped they sometimes became damaged.
“He kept thinking there was a better way,” notes Matt Peat, Transhield executive vice president. “He started tinkering and came up with the concept for Transhield, got the seed money, and developed the first patents for shrinkable fabric.” Today, 20 of those patents are designed around the need for companies to have in place a secure and protective “shield” while transporting or storing expensive and delicate machinery. Transhield, now a $20 million company, currently produces 150,000 covers a year and produced its two millionth cover last summer, all built with Transhield’s special vapor corrosion inhibitors (VCI) technology, which works within the body of the cover by emitting VCI in vapor form and bonding to the equipment’s metal surface. Essentially, VCI disrupts the electrochemical reaction that causes corrosion.
Such heady progress is proof of an innovative attitude that remains ingrained in the company’s culture 20 years later. Here’s where the eggs come in. “Greg Todt doesn’t believe in failure,” explains Mindy McIntire, director of marketing. “He has a saying, ‘You gotta break a few eggs to make an omelet,’ and that’s ingrained in our culture. It means that failure is OK, as long as you keep trying.
“As we expanded people-wise we recognized the need for a larger break room, which morphed into a ‘hang out’ room where people can sit around and innovate,” she adds. The room’s features include guitars – never underestimate the creative power of a jam session – and is now known as “The Broken Egg Café.”
And from here, the latest innovations for protective covers are born.
It All Comes From Nothing
As Peat notes, in the shipping of large items, “the biggest opportunity lies in one important fact – nothing is done to protect the product. So we’re competing with nothing.”
That is to say, nothing is done to deal with damage beforehand – it’s all dealt with at the back end, whether it’s the dirt from travel, salt or grime. “We go up against heavy PVC tarps – which only solves the transportation problem, doesn’t solve when the manufacturer makes it, and then it sits outside until it’s ready to be delivered as regular shrink wrap only comes in large sheets.”
What Transhield offers is shrinkable fabric – shrink film on the outside and non-woven fabric on the inside, which can be placed around Class A surfaces and then cut, welded or sewn into a cover that is then strapped to the object it is protecting and is shrunk perfectly to that shape. In addition, Transhield’s shrinkable fabric is made with a violet tint. “With violet as the most reflective color, when the sun hits the fabric it doesn’t heat up the inside of the cavity as much as other fabrics might, which offers further protection,” Peat says, adding, “We want customers with products too big to go into a sea container or closed transport, who need to protect highly technical machines. Our goal is growth in the industrial marketplace – manufacturers need to understand that they can use the solutions we provide.”
He adds, “Our covers are custom fit, made out of highly engineered material, that suits the needs of customers or the user to solve problems during transportation and storage.”
“The inside of the cover is unique, made of soft fabric,” McIntire adds, “even when it shrinks it puckers and creates padding.”
Many Industries Served
Within the industrial marketplace, wind energy has been a success story for Transhield, whose valuable parts receive the protection they need while they are shipped to their destination. As impractical as it may sound to protect a piece of equipment that will spend its life outdoors, the need to shield the turbine from the shop floor to the site is also of utmost importance, Peat explains. For one, he says, a turbine is shipped in parts and assembled on site. “They’re too big to ship assembled and you’ve got to protect them,” he stresses.
In the marine industry, Transhield supplies long-time boat customer Sea Ray, which has been a client since 1998 “because we offered a solution better than what they were using.” The company also provides solutions to Tracker boats and Boston Whalers; as Peat attests, “We own a lion share of that marketplace.”
In aviation, Transhield supplies storage covers for aircraft engines in storage in desert areas to protect the engines until they are put into use. In a marketplace in which regular shrink wrap and tarp prevail, Transhield is seeking to prove that its product is better at protecting these engines from the elements.
For transportation, Transhield produces covers for full locomotives, and in the recreation market, the company provides covers for snowmobiles, ATVs and water crafts, for companies such as Arctic Cat and Yamaha. “We’ve also worked with different companies on transforming how they package their recreational products for shipping,” Peat says.
New developments often arise from customer demand, Peat explains, such as one problem that occurred with a CNC manufacturer, for whom Transhield needed to design and produce a thicker material cover that perfectly suited the need.
Transhield manufactures out of one facility in Indiana measuring 35,000 square feet with 48 employees. Founder Greg Todt, while retired, still “works 40 hours a week,” Peat jokes. Shipping its products to some global locations, the company also has the fortune of being able to expand its footprint in Elkhart, should the need arise.
In the meantime, the company continues to chart the market. “Greg developed the product, and Matt and Jim Glick, president, started the company with duct tape and a dream and a bar napkin,” McIntire notes, referring to plans drawn out one night on a bar napkin. Among them they have 65 years of industry experience, ensuring that their customers stay covered for whatever they are transporting, no matter how far or how wide.