November 8th is quickly approaching and it is important that everyone exercise his or her right to get out that day and cast your vote. As an employee owner of Stellar Industries, I personally find this election in particular of great importance. While the intent of this piece is not to sway your vote one way or another, it is to encourage you to educate yourself on the options that will be presented to you on the ballot that day. From my perspective, I wanted to share a few resources that are available to help in that education process. I will say they are slightly bias to the manufacturing world, but let me tell you why I think this is important to consider for everyone in this area.
Manufacturers in Iowa account for 18.3 percent of the total output in the state, and employ 13.7 percent of the workforce1. Manufacturing across the nation supports an estimated 17.6 million jobs 2. Output from manufacturing has been rising and was $31.15 billion in 20141. Exporting the good manufactured here is the strongest part of our Iowa economy, and has the potential to double if Congress would pass more pro-export legislation1. In addition, Iowa small businesses comprise 82 percent of Iowa’s exporters and account for 27 percent of total state exports1. That’s pretty big business for our state. Don’t you think having the right people representing us on a state and federal level is important to continue this success and to encourage growth for our area businesses?
So how do you learn more? There are lots of resources available, especially online. A few I want to encourage you to check out include the Iowa Prosperity Project at www.iavotes.com. This website is a resource to Iowa voters where they can research and learn more on where current elected officials and the candidates stand on issues that are important to Iowa employees, industry sectors and consumers. The goal of this site is to provide nonpartisan, unbiased information where you can learn about the issues, take action thru the use of the tools they provide, and help to spread the word to other Iowans about making educated decisions in November.
Another great resource is www.imakeamerica.com. The Association of Equipment Manufacturers sponsors this site. It is a national association that my company belongs to and participates in. This site will provide information on a national level, based on manufacturing in the equipment and agricultural markets. It strives to advocate for policies that will expand and preserve the economic growth of our nation. Within this site you can learn about various issues that affect the manufacturing world, how the candidates stand on these issues, and how you can support efforts to encourage elected officials to pass legislation that supports the industry.
The final resource I want to share with you today is from the National Association of Manufacturers. It’s another association my company is involved with and it has a great resource section regarding the election that is worth checking out. This site will lie out some of the key issues manufacturers across the US and specifically in Iowa are facing, such as corporate taxes, global trade http://www.nam.org/Election-Center-2016/Voter/
Don’t just be a voter on November 8th – Be a Manufacturing Voter!
2 National Association of Manufacturers
In late May, Stellar Industries, Inc. – Kanawha welcomed a 6K Fiber Laser into the plant. Since then, employees have been watching the installation of the new laser with great interest and anticipation.
The installation of this new laser will be a big step forward in helping Stellar Industries get parts manufactured, assembled, and out the door to the end user in a quicker, more efficient, way.
“We currently buy over 400 parts from other suppliers,” Sara Lang, Purchasing Agent, said. “We are at the mercy of our supplier’s production schedules, and that can limit the availability of some parts and our overall flexibility. The new laser puts us back in the driver’s seat. This is a huge plus for Stellar. That’s what we’re most excited about.”
“To give you an idea how much efficiency we’ll gain, consider this: a CO2 laser will cut 16 gauge flat at the rate of 343 inches per minute,” Dan Beyer, Welding and Fabrication Supervisor, said. “This fiber laser will cut 1,378 inches per minute and can cut up to 1-1/8” thick steel. That’s significant.”
The new laser will be operational mid-June, with the automation portion coming on line in July. Everyone at Stellar is looking forward to reducing the number of parts we outsource and being able to produce our cranes, bodies and demountable products in a more efficient manner so we can get them out to the end user.
We live in a competitive world. Examples of this are all around us, especially for those of us that follow sports. It doesn’t matter if we are Hawkeye or Cyclone fans, Twins or Cub fans; we all want our team to be the best. For our favorite sport teams to be successful, they need to have an advantage over their rivals. These advantages could be attributed to a number of things, but it usually comes down to people.
The business world is a competitive world as well and Stellar Industries competes with many other companies both domestically and internationally. I had the opportunity to see a number of our competitors’ products this past week as I attended the Waste Expo trade show in Las Vegas. On exhibit in our booth were a Stellar® Shuttle hooklift on a Ford F750, a Stellar® Container Handler mounted on a Ford F750 for Republic Waste, and a Stellar® cable hoist and automatic tarping system mounted on a Kenworth for Sprint Waste of Houston, TX. While the products in our display looked great, so did similar products in other booths across the show floor. Besides the Stellar Shuttle hooklift in our booth, there were another 8 competitive units on display. The same could be said of the cable hoist and of the automatic tarping system, plenty of other producers to choose from.
So, with so many products to choose from, what sets our products apart from our competitors’ products? I can proudly say that our designs are top notch. However, our competitors make similar claims about their own products. The fit and finish of our display units were great. But the rest of the trucks on display were “show” quality as well. While the obvious differentiator amongst competitive makes and models are the physical characteristics of the products, it is the team behind these products that make the real difference at the end of the day. I’m proud to say that we have a team that none of our competitors can match.
Teamwork is critical in all facets of producing our products. And it is not just the working together that defines a strong team. A truly great team will excel in communication between team members. For us to be a successful team here at Stellar, communication amongst ourselves is critical to our success. I’m not referring to idle chat but words of assistance to our fellow employee. How to lay down a better weld, secure a better routing for wiring on a chassis, or get better results on a complicated paint job are examples of the type of conversations that need to occur in a successful team environment. Even more important is to make sure information gets passed on to fellow team members involved in other aspects of the organization that need to hear input from other players on our team. It is important for our engineering staff to listen and respond to input from our sales staff regarding customer needs and how they use our product so we can improve product design to better suit the users’ needs. It is important for sales and engineering to listen to our fabricators and installers to make sure that what is on the sales order is a product that can actually be built. It is important for ALL of us to communicate with our co-workers if we ever see a potential quality issue with any product. It is important that communication move freely up and down our organization so that we can provide our customers the best products possible that will in turn provide them years of trouble-free service.
What sets a successful team apart from a mediocre team, is the people. We have a successful team here at Stellar, but to stay ahead of our competition we need to continually strive to improve and build upon those strengths that have made us a successful company. Open and constructive communication is a known quality of successful teams. The best way to improve as a team is to improve our communications. To stay ahead of our competition, we need to continue to hone our skills as a team.
Stellar Industries is fortunate to be a successful ESOP company. When I say successful, I mean successful in a number of ways. We are successful in being a profitable company that consistently brings positive returns to our shareholders. However this quality should be present in any well run company. At Stellar Industries, I feel the success we have achieved in educating every employee of the importance of being an owner is our real success.
When every employee understands the importance of working together to minimize mistakes and maximize quality all while working to maintain a safe environment, management of the enterprise takes on a different role. Management’s role at Stellar Industries is one of reinforcing the benefits of ownership through the ESOP and emphasizing the positive outcomes that come from a positive workforce.
We have a great crew here at Stellar. That’s what makes us the successful company that we have become and validates our advertising tagline of “Our People, Our Products”.
January 1, 2016 will be a big day in the history of Stellar Industries, Inc. On that day, we will officially christen the former Kiefer Manufacturing facility in Kanawha as Stellar Industries – Kanawha. Not only will we be adding a great factory to produce our Stellar-branded products, but we will be welcoming a large number of former Kiefer employees to join the Stellar Industries, Inc. team.
Stellar Industries, Inc. finalized our purchase of the assets of the former Kiefer Built, LLC in March of 2011. Over the nearly five years of Stellar ownership, many changes were implemented at the Kiefer facilities in both Kanawha and in Sneedville, TN. Unfortunately, the substantial investments in new production equipment, designs, and people could not save the legendary Kiefer line of trailers. In the last year, it became evident that success in the design and building of cranes, hooklifts, and service bodies does not automatically translate into success in the trailer industry. The decision was made to close the Sneedville facility and exit the horse and livestock trailer business.
But that is not the end of this story. In Sneedville, Kiefer is an important employer. With the help of the Hancock County Mayor, Thomas Harrison, and a successful local businessman, David Greene, a proposal was made to Stellar to purchase the assets of the discontinued horse and livestock trailer lines and assume the factory in Sneedville. We will close on the sale of these assets to the Greene family on 12/31/2015.
Kiefer Built was founded by an entrepreneur, Arden Kiefer, in the early 1970s. Under Arden’s daily presence and stewardship, his company grew quickly and flourished. His untimely death in the 1990s lead to the company changing ownership numerous times over the next 20 years. With the purchase of the horse and livestock lines by the Greene family, ownership is getting back into the hands of a true entrepreneur that will be able to devote full attention to rebuilding the storied Kiefer trailer name. All of us at Stellar Industries, Inc. wish our former co-workers in Sneedville and the Greene family many successes as they take control of the Kiefer line of trailers.