Many a great venture has been launched in the backyard, and this was the case with Kenneth Breakfield, who ran his business in a tin shed in his backyard, performing steel welding and fabrication. In 1994, he moved to a more commercial area and set up shop initially as Quality Welding and Fabrication, Inc. Five years later, Breakfield purchased a local machine shop, diversified his product line, and changed the company name slightly to the Quality Manufacturing Group to reflect the broader array of services. A year later, the company purchased an ASME (American Society of Mechanical Engineers) code shop for pressure vessels. A further expansion in 2003 included paper mill equipment production, and then in 2005, added water jet cutting and Department of Transportation (DOT) MC300-MC 400 inspection.
Today, the Quality Manufacturing Group operates a 30,000-square-foot shop in Columbia, Miss . It employs approximately 80 people from a six county area with a payroll in 2006 that exceeded $2 million. Right next door is its sister company, Quality Steel and Supply, which sells pipe accessories and equipment, welding and industrial supplies, and steel in a variety of bar, tube, plate pipe, beam, floor grating, channel and angle forms.
As one of the fastest growing companies in the region, Quality Manufacturing Group was a 2006 Governor’s Cup Award winner for its community service. Governor Haley Barbour said in a press release: “’ I am pleased to recognize the hard work and dedication of this year’s statewide Governor’s Cup Award recipients along with their contributions to the economic growth of our state. Quality Manufacturing…represent(s) the finest in corporate citizenship and deserves to be honored at this level for their stewardship and commitment to Mississippi communities.’” It goes on to state, “Quality Manufacturing honors and recognizes its employees during annual holiday functions and luncheons, in addition to contributing or participating with over 30 charity and non-profit organizations each year. The company was nominated for this award by the Marion County Development Partnership.”
Adding to this laurel, Quality Manufacturing Group was a 2007 finalist as one of the best places to work in Mississippi. It also recently received an Integrity Award given jointly by the Better Business Bureau of Mississippi and the Mississippi Business Journal.
One of the company’s major market segments is oil field production equipment. It makes ASME code shop pressure vessels, line heaters, heater treaters, test manifolds, various filters, glycol towers with heat exchanger, 2- and 3-phase separators, liquid propane separators, and test separators.
It also performs repair work on pressure vessels and is certified by the U.S. Department of Transportation to perform MC-300 – MC 400 series inspections. Additionally, the company manufactures pressure vessels for other oil industry related uses such as propane bobtail barrels, small and large propane storage tanks from 1,000-gallon sizes to 18,000 gallons, and a range of oil, gas, chemical and paper mill refinery containers. Quality Manufacturing Group also has a range of paper and plywood mill equipment and has the facilities to make piping, plating, and structural steel components in a range of customized sizes and shapes.
According to Natasha Baughman, marketing and public relations director, “We have the latest ultra high-pressure water jet cutting system manufactured by industry leader Flow International Corporation. This provides us with the capability to cut virtually any material – metal or nonmetal – up to eight inches thick to make any kind of part in an affordable and timely manner. The advantages of water jet cutting are several: it reduces machining time by as much as 70 percent, it provides a burr-free finished edge, it reduces waste material and costly set-up time. Aluminum, carbon steel, concrete, PVC, granite, iron – you name it, we can cut it the way a customer needs it cut.”
GRAPPLING WITH SUCCESS
The company also recently partnered with the BPG Corporation of Columbia, Miss., a manufacturer of small farm tractor implements, to distribute and manufacture a unique grapple to transport small diameter timber. The Butch Plantation Grappler™ reduces labor, waste, damage and cost with increased productivity for cleanup duty and juvenile pine recovery using a simpler one-cylinder, two-line mechanism with simplified swiveling capability that does the job with less maintenance required of the standard two and four hydraulic systems. The grapple originally was designed to create and maintain clean tree rows on established farms and remove pine plantation thinnings, but became particularly popular after Hurricane Katrina in 2005 wreaked havoc in the area.
Quality Manufacturing Group sells primarily to national accounts through its direct sales force. “We are looking to do some international work,” notes Baughman. “We have done some work for projects in Canada and Mexico, and we’re hoping to address additional opportunities in those countries. The Canadian market in particular is picking up, in part because these days the lower value of the dollar makes American made products very attractive from a price standpoint.”
She adds, “It sometimes happens we make a pressure vessel or piping or some other product for a U.S. company that in turn sells it overseas, or installs it in one of its international subsidiaries. So even though we are a regional company, we do have an international presence that we’d like to build up further.”
Steel fabrication and welding is difficult and potentially hazardous work and Baughman emphasizes Quality Manufacturing Group’s commitment to safety. “Our ability to provide a safe and healthy work environment is an important measurement of our business success. We have a firm set of safety procedures in place, as well as a culture that promotes safety and health awareness. We have always believed in and practiced that safety results from proactive, preventive action that literally pays off in improved worker well-being and productivity.”
Key to the company’s success – past, present and anticipated future – is the first word of its name. “Our founder and president put ‘quality’ at the forefront of the business both in word and deed. We have a very good reputation in our industry because of our willingness to work with our customers to accomplish whatever they need us to accomplish for them. And to do it as quickly as possible, cost efficiently with optimum quality. Some companies might be able to do one or two of those, but a company like us that consistently succeeds at all three is the one customers come to rely on. And doing what’s good for the customer is what is always good for us.”