The story of the rise of family owned Haynes Corp. from manufacturer’s representative in Jackson, Mich., to world-class manufacturer of OEM industrial fuel-injection systems and power precision component parts includes archetypes of the greatest legends ever told.
The company was still new to this competitive and costly sector of manufacturing when Jim and Laura Dixon set up shop at a national railroad show in the early 1990s. According to President Jim Dixon, in a scene reminiscent of David and Goliath, the reigning “king of the railroads” told Haynes Corp., in so many words, to “take your best shot” at them.
Today, Haynes Corp. is looking down from the top of the industry while catering to some of the largest railroad companies in the United States and the world.
“Nobody knew about us, so we went in there and took them out,” says CEO Laura Dixon, Jim’s wife. “Now, we’re the king.”
Haynes Corp. traces its roots back to Jackson, Mich., where Laurance S. Haynes – Laura’s father – founded it in 1960 as a manufacturer’s representative specializing with large stationary, marine and railroad diesel engines, as well as related parts. In 1972, Laurance invited Jim and Laura to join the business, and the company transitioned to a manufacturing firm by acquiring the companies it competed against in the marketplace.
The company’s first acquisition was Adeco Products Inc. in 1972, which gave Haynes Corp. an instant footprint in the heavy diesel fuel injection manufacturing business. In 1976, Haynes grew its engineering capabilities by acquiring the Busch-Sulzer division of Nordberg Manufacturing Co. By 1985, Haynes Corp. added the exclusive manufacturing and distribution rights of American Bosch diesel fuel injection APF product line, acquired from United Technologies.
Haynes moved its headquarters to Naples, Fla., in 1989 when it purchased the diesel fuel injection line of Bendix-Allied Signal. In 1992, Haynes bought FIPCO Products for the General Motors (GM) EMD locomotive fuel injection remanufacturing business. In 1998, Haynes acquired the OEM drawings for the GM EMD injectors for the EMD 567, 645 and 710 series engines from Roger Penske’s Diesel Technologies Corp.
For its next acquisition, Haynes Corp. headed west to acquire Hatch & Kirk Fuel Injection Systems in 2004. Based in Norwalk, Calif., this operation now is known as Haynes Fuel Injection Corp., and it continues to manufacture Detroit Diesel and EMD fuel injection components.
Today, Haynes Corp.’s products include fuel injection pumps, injector assemblies, nozzle assemblies, delivery valves, plungers, barrels and electronic injectors, complete manufacturing facilities, assemblies, parts and complete R&D facilities.
Staying on Top
Haynes Corp. is one of a handful of companies manufacturing fuel injection systems in the United States, according to Jim Dixon. He says this is because of the major capital investments required to remain in compliance with constantly changing federal emission regulations as well as the cost of maintaining the inventory levels to cover the increased demands from the worldwide railroad industry.
In terms of investment, the machinery necessary to perform in this industry requires highly specialized grinding equipment, which can cost up to $1 million per machine, Jim Dixon says. Haynes boasts nine such machines in its Norwalk facility alone. The manufacturing tolerances down to millionths of an inch on critical component parts are required when producing assemblies to meet the EPA diesel engine emission requirements.
“We are constantly reinvesting in our own company,” Jim Dixon says. “We have to maintain specific profit margins in order to purchase the latest technology in manufacturing equipment.”
Another challenge comes from the constant pressure Haynes Corp. faces from OEMs in the industry. Jim Dixon says the company is constantly adding new patents to its portfolio to keep up with technological advances. “If you take a look today, there are more patents filed by major companies continuously than ever before,” he adds. “We look at this and determine if we have another alternative to come up with the same results.”
Haynes Corp. overcomes this obstacle by staying on top of these advances to give its railroad customers other options to pricey OEM solutions.
“We’re hanging on to market share by keeping the OEMs out,” Laura Dixon says. “Big railroad wants alternative to OEM suppliers. If you can be the best, you have a chance to hang in there.”
Just like Laurance Haynes offered college sweethearts Laura and Jim Dixon an opportunity to nurture the growth of a family business, the Dixons have done the same for their two children. Haynes will remain in the hands of the Dixon family for years to come with Laura and Jim’s children obtaining master’s degrees and working in the company’s management.
Brandie Dixon moved to California to take over the Norwalk facility before returning to Naples for an OEM and Class 1 railroad sales position. She transitioned from running a plant to working closely with clients. Scott Dixon currently works in purchasing after starting in sales with Haynes. Jim Dixon touts his negotiating and production planning skills.
However, this isn’t merely nepotism at work. The Dixons insisted their children graduate from college and work at other companies before assuming roles within Haynes. Now that they are firmly entrenched in the business, Jim and Laura are putting together a succession plan that will give their children and other longtime employees more responsibility within the next five years.
“We always told them, ‘If you don’t want to work for us, you don’t have to,’” Laura Dixon says. “It is not a requirement. If you want to, the opportunity is there for you.”