This article appeared in the November 2021 issue of MiMfg Magazine. Read the full issue and find past issues online.
Ideation and innovation are built right into the DNA of Duperon Corporation, a company founded in Terry Duperon’s garage in 1985. The Saginaw-based company manufactures screening equipment for water and wastewater solutions serving a variety of needs such as municipal wastewater, collection systems and pump stations, food and beverage and more.
Being a natural inventor and coming from a background of working with water treatment and pumps, Terry recognized that the bar screens being used to protect pumps from stormwater debris were inefficient and had to be cleaned manually.
Thus, he set out to create something from nothing — a theme that has persisted and become mobilized for the entire company. So how does the company and the leadership team continually innovate and outclass competitors? He says it comes down to the team and their ability to problem solve.
“We need people who can think and create,” says Terry. “We manufacture products and we develop those products, but the thing that makes the company is the people and their ability to dream, to create and to move this whole thing forward.”
Tammy Bernier — who is the company’s Owner, CEO and Terry’s daughter — takes that a step further saying their team is comprised of risk-takers who not only want to succeed for the company and for each other but who want to achieve something great and advance important environmental issues.
“The heart of the company is that we are a group of human beings who have decided to constitute themselves as daring to make a difference for people, for water, for the planet and we do that by having people that care.”
“We are not innovating for the sake of innovation. We innovate for a purpose — to solve a problem, make a difference, be in service and impact water quality. These are worthy causes that unite our team to bring a spirit of innovation to every endeavor,” President Mark Turpin adds.
Sound complicated? Well, according to Mechanical Engineer Steve Dill, it’s not. In fact, their manufacturing design philosophy focuses on simple and robust components that work well and last a long time.
“Our design philosophy is that having two parts is one too many,” says Dill. “Duperon’s innovation really stems from solving customer problems. So, we look at how best to do that, and how to do it with as few parts as possible. And that often leads to something that’s really innovative.”
Innovation and creativity are such important facets to Duperon’s business model that employees have the option to take ‘The Class,’ taught by Terry, that focuses purely on activating that inventive spirit. It teaches participants how to bring something into the future that has never been done before. The entrepreneurial skills taught at The Class help the team reinvent themselves and their departments regularly.
Encouraging creativity, open communication and inspiring new ideas certainly makes Duperon a unique place to work and thrive. That environment also builds a lot of trust and empowerment which helps drive their success, says Bernier.
“When people ask me what makes Duperon successful, I say that we allow the next thing to emerge. We’re looking for the next problem to solve. We’re looking for people to unleash their creativity to solve the most pressing challenges in the water industry with novel ideas,” she says.