Issue Jul Aug 15
For much of its history, Weiler Corp. has been viewed as a traditional manufacturing company. The description wasn’t so far off. After moving from New York’s Long Island in 1957, Weiler’s operation has been nestled in rural eastern Pennsylvania, where the company has built a highly regarded reputation for power brushes and abrasives. But with a recent rebranding and a multi-million dollar investment in expanding its Cresco, Penn., Headquarters, the company will soon look more the part of a major tech player. “It’s something you would expect when you walk into the Google headquarters, as opposed to a manufacturing company in the Pocono Mountains of Pennsylvania,” says Bill Dwyre, vice president of strategic marketing.
Since being incorporated in 1944, the company has become a leader in metal finishing solutions for a variety of markets. Weiler began with power brushes before expanding into abrasives about 26 years ago, bringing the first flap disc to the North American market with the Tiger Disc, a product that grinds and blends metal. Weiler’s products, which are used to clean, grind, and finish welds, now mainly serve the industrial production and welding and fabrication markets. The constant challenge is to help customers improve their own product quality and productivity, CEO and President Chris Weiler says.
To meet those customer needs, Weiler is soon launching its newest version of the Tiger Disc, called the Tiger X. The high performance flap disc features industry-first X3 technology that combines an advanced anchoring system, dual flap design and engineered backing, which provides a more aggressive cut rate and lasts 50 percent longer than the previous model.
“Weiler takes pride in involving end users in product development,” Chris Weiler says. “Innovation is not only about product, it’s also about the process.”
The company dedicates time to interviewing customers and end users to learn how they use products and what challenges they experience. Weiler then marries those needs with the latest technology and production experience to drive new product solutions. Tiger Paw itself was a result of this process, Chris Weiler says, as Weiler engineers designed the flap discs after watching other discs grind edges and rip cloth while end users worked. The company also partners side-by-side at the user level to ensure the right products are used on the right job.
Weiler has worked with distributors like Grainger and Affiliated Distributors to deliver products across the United States, but now the company is entering the international market. Weiler opened a manufacturing facility in Suzhou, China, in 2001 and has expanded its sales team with an office into Mexico. In 2013, the company purchased a bonded abrasive business in Vinhedo, Brazil. The most recent acquisition was part of a market entry strategy for Brazil, as the country enforces large import duties and tariffs on foreign companies. Now that Weiler has a footprint in the South American country, it can sell its full range of products to Brazilians.
The global strategy coincided with a rebranding effort Weiler undertook last year.
“We were a little timid to talk about who we were and how we create value,” Chris Weiler said of the company’s prior message.
Weiler now has its first new logo in 20 years and has renewed efforts to teach potential customers about its products and range of services. The refresh has given Weiler a more progressive look to match all of the other advancements going on at the company.
Perhaps no change is more significant than the one going on inside Weiler’s headquarters. The first phase of a facility expansion has increased factory floor space by 25 percent, which will allow Weiler to add more machines to support future growth. The next step is underway and aims to overhaul the building’s office space. Once the renovations are complete in October, Weiler’s headquarters will match a new corporate philosophy to encourage discussion and innovation.
“We wanted to create an environment that helped to facilitate collaboration,” Chris Weiler says.
The high cubicle walls and heads-down work Weiler valued in the past don’t foster the creative environment the company wants to build. The renovation will significantly change the atmosphere, as departments that were once separated – including information technology, human resources, accounting and sales – will be mingled in one contiguous space. Chris Weiler believes the seating shift will allow employees to react faster to customer needs without needing to bounce between distant departments.
Further, meeting rooms will be coated in a white board-like paint, allowing workers to write ideas and sketch plans on the walls. An in-house café also promises to create more opportunities for employees to naturally collaborate while a grandstand in front of a video wall will be used for company presentations.
Although the expansion project at its headquarters is ongoing, several of those features are now in place and Chris Weiler says he has already noticed faster decision making among Weiler staff.
“I’m amazed at how this space has helped us to change our behavior,” he adds.
The shift to a global company has made it an exciting time to be around Weiler as the company sets aside its sleepy small-town image.
“We’re lucky,” Chris Weiler says. “Not many companies go through a process of reinventing who they are or looking at who they need to be moving forward.
We all get stuck on what we need to do every day,” Weiler continues. “When we focus on our future, it gets everybody engaged.”