This article appeared in the August 2019 issue of MiMfg Magazine. Read the full issue and find past issues online.
Manufacturing is dignified work. Hard-working American manufacturers contribute heavily to the long-term good of the nation and its communities. Berrien Metal Products Inc. (BMP), a family-owned manufacturer in southwest Michigan, has served dozens of industries for more than three decades — helping its high-profile customers solve some of their most difficult manufacturing challenges. BMP is now eager to share some strategies for success.
Incorporated by CEO Larry Barrett in 1989 with a single workstation and a $5,000 family loan, the business has become a multimillion-dollar enterprise serving both military and domestic companies, many of whom are among the nation’s most well-known brands.
“We solve top-tier quality concerns that respected brands cannot afford to ignore anymore,” said Joel Barrett, director of operations, explaining Berrien’s value proposition. “Good brands sourcing from overseas often have serious quality issues with the metal components in their product lines.”
In the mid-2010s, the team at Berrien Metals noticed the growing outsourcing of domestic manufacturing to other countries was devastating many areas of the country — old abandoned factories littered the nation like tombstones. Berrien Metals pushed back on this trend by helping companies maintain their high standards in situations where they might otherwise have had to lower quality or raise costs to stay competitive.
“Solving critical problems in the manufacturing failures of overseas suppliers allowed BMP to bring substantial product lines back from overseas in order to ensure quality and deliverability,” Barrett stated. “Our redesigned comparable parts, for example, never rust or fall apart and our end customers smile big.”
From Berrien Metal’s own success, Barrett shared three tips:
- Always Onboard — Using concepts from Geoff Smart’s book Who, Berrien found hiring the wrong person can lead to unanticipated costs and can actually be worse than not hiring anyone at all.
- Proactively Fuse Safety with Productivity — Seek out a retired safety specialist from a larger company and hire them part-time to update your safety program and proactively inspect your facility for best safety practices that are compatible with OSHA requirements but also increase productivity.
- Solve Weak Problems — Problems are best solved when they have not yet matured. “It really comes down to addressing problems early,” explained Barrett. “A weed is much easier to remove if you do it before its roots have a chance to grow. The more you can address a problem when it’s a small problem, the easier it is to keep it from ever becoming a big problem. Most of us would rather pluck a weed than wait until a chain saw is needed.”
Successfully bringing manufacturing work back from Asia, Berrien Metals often touts the benefits of the manufacturing industry to their customers, employees and vendors.
“Manufacturing involves high levels of critical problem solving that matures the intelligence of any culture and the rewards of manufacturing to the surrounding community are generous,” said Barrett, continuously marveling at the capabilities of the industry he loves. “When large factories move or shut down, most communities notice a steep decline in their immediate and long-term financial and emotional condition. The things manufacturers build, the people they help, the service they provide — these are issues that should be aggressively and proactively promoted by communities and government bodies. There’s immense value behind what manufacturers do and their importance should be respected.”