KWS Manufacturing

KWS Manufacturing Achieves 500 Percent Growth in a Decade

As Seen in the May 2014 Manufacturing Digital Magazine


KWS Manufacturing Achieves 500 Percent Growth in a Decade

KWS Manufacturing has been a player in the bulk materials handling industry since 1972, primarily focusing on mechanical conveying equipment such as screw conveyors and bucket elevators. The company has always enjoyed a good reputation in the industry, however its status has been elevated in the past decade. Bill Mecke bought the business 11-years ago and during his tenure, KWS Manufacturing has achieved 500 percent growth.

For Mecke, growth at the business is down to three core principles: "We need to have a quality product that is better than our competitors; we need to deliver world-class customer service, and we have to consider our price," he says. In order to achieve these three goals, the company aggressively pursues continuous improvement on a daily basis. "The purpose of continuous improvement is to add value to the customer. If it doesn’t add value for the customer it’s not worth doing," says Mecke. "Put another way, any change we make or process we put in place has to improve speed or accuracy."

As part of the company’s continuous improvement journey, it has invested a lot of time in lean best practice and training. In 2012, KWS employees underwent 4,000 hours of training, 1,000 of which were focused purely on lean. The company ran three workshops called Lean for Leadership, Principles of Lean Manufacturing and Value Stream Mapping. From a production point of view, the company also helped its employees qualify in Set-Up Reduction and Total Product Maintenance for Lean courses. As a consequence, KWS has been able to reduce its labor and materials cost by up to 60 percent, achieving two things: increased profitability and reduced costs for the end-user.

People Management

KWS Manufacturing Achieves 500 Percent Growth in a Decade

KWS currently employs about 150 people and Mecke truly believes that they are the lifeblood of the business. With this in mind, there is an underlying culture of mutual respect. "As a business owner, you have to show loyalty to your employees before you can expect loyalty in return," he says. "We provide our people with safe working environments, quality tools and competitive pay and benefits, for example, we run a successful 401K program."

As previously aforementioned, the company is also hot on training, and believes in up-skilling its workforce as much as possible. KWS periodically runs Project Management classes, Leadership Development courses and a workshop called, Seven Habits of Highly Effective People. Just recently, the company invited an external trainer to come and show the engineering team the full capabilities and power of its software application Autodesk Inventor. This level of investment is not only good for the company and its end users, but also its employees.

Mecke is adamant that the skill of his people sets the company head and shoulders above the competition. "We have 10 degreed mechanical engineers and four of those 10 are professional engineers – that is more than our competitors put together. It’s one of out key differentiators," he says.

World-Class Customer Service

KWS Manufacturing has a very flat management structure, giving it the flexibility and agility it requires to be a world-class customer service provider. Mecke and other members of his executive team are extremely hands on and personally respond to any customer queries or complaints. "Every day we receive feedback from our customers and we use that to run and modify our business. What differentiates us is we listen to our customer and make the changes as required. We wouldn’t have grown 500 percent if we weren’t listening to our customers and that has translated to better service, quality and delivery," says Mecke.

In terms of acquiring new business, KWS relies heavily on its deep knowledge of the industry. "We know the sector and we are constantly abreast of the latest trends," says Mecke. As an example, the company recently became aware of a growth in the alternative fuels sector so promoted successful projects already completed in that field, thus opening up the business to more potential customers.

On top of this, the company is also dedicated to investing in its infrastructure, so that it can offer clients the best technology and equipment. In the past three years alone KWS has invested more than $3 million in capital improvements.

With its three core principles guiding the company, its looks set to achieve even more growth in the years to come.