Sometimes lasting success starts off with one really, really good idea.
That’s the case with the Hansaloy Corporation of Davenport, Iowa. In fact, this family-owned business is based on what is perhaps the granddaddy of all great ideas: sliced bread. Hansaloy began making the specialized knife blades used in automatic bread-slicing machines back in 1933. Today, the company is still an industry leader. Its loyal customer base includes large wholesale bakers around the globe.
Yet Hansaloy remains a modest-sized company of only about 60 employees.
How does a small manufacturing company maintain this kind of business success? Hansaloy’s president, Kim Brenner, is happy to share a few of their secrets.
Stick to purpose-driven design
“First, we make sure we fully understand the needs of our customers,” says Brenner. “Each of our blade edges is designed with consideration for the type of crust, texture, and grain of the breads being sliced.”
These razor-sharp blades utilize proprietary steel alloys that produce very consistent slicing and excellent product cycle life. “Our blades are extremely sharp and extremely strong,” Brenner says. “Our technology continues to set us apart from the competition.”
Hansaloy has also redesigned its manufacturing operations over time to better support the company’s evolving business model. As Brenner explains, the company’s global business is now essentially split equally between two major markets.
For domestic accounts, Hansaloy usually builds-to-order and ships the blades directly to the end user in custom package sizes. Customers in foreign countries, on the other hand, are typically served through local distributors who order stock in bulk, maintain inventory, and handle the final shipments.
Products for both markets are made at Hansaloy’s single manufacturing location. “We need to stay flexible,” Brenner explains. “And our current manufacturing systems and processes allow us to quickly accommodate changes in product specs, bill of material, packaging, or routing as new requirements come up.”
Partner for success
Though the customized business systems that Hansaloy had been using in the past once served them well, these aging solutions were beyond their support cycle and not adaptable to changes in manufacturing. Hansaloy reached out to CONTAX Inc. – a global consulting services provider with local offices right in Davenport – to help find a more standardized and sustainable solution.
Establishing this strategic partnership was yet another good idea. “A business transformation project is never just about technology,” says Corey Herchenroder, a Director at CONTAX. “It is also about the process, the business, and the collaboration.”
Together, the Hansaloy and CONTAX teams rolled out an ERP platform designed specifically for small to midsized industrial manufacturing companies to improve production planning, scheduling, and control.
Hansaloy once spent considerable time on tasks such as tracking small components and manually cross-referencing the production and material information to a customer’s shipment. “Now, instead of using an array of user-specific spreadsheets and filing systems, we can focus on the overall process and manage what’s most important,” Brenner says.
Find the right combination
It usually takes more than one good idea to achieve sustainable business success – especially when you’re a small or midsize manufacturing company.
Hansaloy seems to have found a winning formula: Combine superior product technology with agile manufacturing practices and strategic partnerships.
Why, that idea could be the greatest thing since . . . well, you know.Comments