Issue Sept Oct16
Since 1947, Hytrol has established a reputation for high-quality manufacturing, reliability through customer service and durability of its product line. Through innovative designs and custom solutions, the company can manufacture a single conveyor unit to a comprehensive material-handling system for its customers in the warehousing, distribution, manufacturing, parcel and food and beverage industries. Thanks to these factors, Hytrol is one of the largest manufacturers of conveyors and conveying hardware in the world.
But the company doesn’t do it alone. Hytrol goes to market with more than 70 integration partners strategically located in more than 100 locations throughout the world. The serve as its salesforce, helping the company serve its customers much better through a local presence, on-site expertise and instant service.
When a solution contains Hytrol products and services, customers receive Hytrol’s full support through its integration partners. They assist the company’s customers in several ways, including:
* Design review meetings;
* Free product testing for proof of concept;
* Engineering of special items required to make a solution work;
* Set-up and testing of all powered units prior to shipping;
* Project management on all integrated systems projects;
* Guaranteed shipment dates; and
* Performance commitments.
“They develop the closest relationships with customers,” says Chris Glenn, vice president of manufacturing and engineering operations. “They sell all over the place, but most of them are regional. It gives us somebody that’s not only a strong partner but also local to the customers they deal with. That way, they can deal with problems quickly, develop the relationships and grow that business. One of our biggest things is that repeat business is huge for us. Those partners foster those relationships and make us able to continue that business.”
Glenn says Hytrol’s private ownership allows it to react quickly not only to market changes but to customer demands. “As the demand changes or we get into new industries or markets, we’re able to adjust with manufacturing and engineering,” he says.
Hytrol employs a team of 80 product developers and engineers to create custom conveyor solutions for customers. Conveying systems can be integrated with a number of products, including mezzanines, storage systems, robotics, lift trucks and packaging equipment, so Hytrol can design something to fit even the most unique need. The company’s engineers use the latest in technology, including 3-D modeling, to meet complex design requirements.
“We offer the ability to order custom solutions and we can turn that around with our engineering teams,” Glenn explains. “We work through the integration partners, who work with the end-user to develop a solution and sometimes those end up becoming standard products for us.”
In 2007, Hytrol revamped its procedures to become a more lean company and shorten its lead times. From a volume standpoint, Glenn says Hytrol is No. 3 in the industry, processing more than 300 factory orders a day with an inventory that includes more than 50 conveyor models in more than 2,400 sizes. The company will even ship its in-stock products within 24 hours or it will pay for shipping costs.
“We have the best systems lead time in the industry with our full product line offering,” he says. “We have more models than other competitors. We can do everything for a system, warehouse and distribution center. ”
Hytrol also adheres to the Six Sigma model in its manufacturing process, seeking to improve the quality of process outputs by identifying and removing causes of defects. It also strives to maximize the effectiveness, efficiency and longevity of equipment that must be used on a daily basis.
One way Hytrol maximizes its efficiency is through the manufacturing plant expansion the company just completed. The $12 million plant expansion added 62,000 square feet to the 600,000-square-foot plant, along with new lasers and presses that allow Hytrol to react more quickly to the demands of the market and customer needs. Along with the expansion, the company invested in a new facility cooling system and a new paint system that more than doubles the company’s manufacturing capacity.
“One of the things we’ve done is developed long-term strategic plans to grow,” Glenn explains. “One of our bottlenecks was our old paint system that was 20 years old. We looked for the most modular, modern paint system, which allowed us to expand the current building while maintaining the old system and installing a new paint system. Being able to do both allowed for uninterrupted business for our folks.
“I’ve actually been tasked with looking at the next several years in the growth plan, how it equates to the facility and manpower,” he continues. “We may plan an expansion as early as next year.”
One of the benefits to the newly opened plant expansion is that it created new jobs for northeast Arkansas. But this, in turn, creates additional challenges for Hytrol because the workforce has changed. Fewer people take up skilled labor trades, so the company has developed extensive internal training to help new employees develop specific skills for welding or using the CNC machines, for example. “One of the things we do is we empower our employees with information about our business,” Glenn says.
Hytrol takes care of its employees and focuses on employee quality of life through promoting a healthy lifestyle with an on-site gym and medical staff. Additionally, the company installed air conditioning in the facility, which will greatly improve its employees’ working conditions.
“In the Hytrol family, we try to treat each other with respect,” Glenn says. Because of this, many employees stay at Hytrol for their entire careers. Hytrol prefers to promote people from within, and thus, at least 15 employees have been with the company for more than 40 years. “It’s a testament to the company we are and the things we do,” Glenn adds. “We create longstanding relationships with people and promote from within.”
Glenn tries to foster relationships with his employees and promote a career with Hytrol. He was recognized for that effort this year when he was awarded the 2016 Young Professional Mentor of the Year by the MHI Young Professionals Network, which provides resources to young people looking to advance their careers in material handling and the supply chain. Along with his 22 years of experience in the industry, Glenn is affiliated with the STEM Advisory Board for Jonesboro High School and is also a Northeast Arkansas Career and Technical Center board member, a Tek Starz mentor, the program chair for the local ASQ chapter and a participant in “Partners of Education.”
“I was surprised that I was nominated, but it was an honor to be nominated and an honor to win from such a prestigious organization as MHI,” Glenn says. “That’s one of my greatest achievements. I was very pleased by the letters my peers, boss and other folks that work for me wrote and the things that they wrote. They gave a lot of feedback about the young individuals that I’ve worked with here at Hytrol.”
In addition to his award, Glenn is looking forward to the continuing growth of the company. “The growth is the most exciting thing for me,” he says. “We have the opportunity to grow and change the business, invest in automation equipment and invest in new technology moving forward.
“I’m proud of the success we’ve seen in the last few years,” he adds. “We’ve seen every manufacturing record broken in the last few years. In August, we broke our all-time shipping record again. The success we’ve seen has been very inspiring.”