Bonnell Aluminum has been in business since 1953, so the company has seen its share of ups and downs in the markets for its aluminum extrusion products. But they’d experienced nothing as bad as the Great Recession of 2007, when the bottom dropped out of their main markets—commercial and residential construction. With more than 1300 employees and production facilities in Newnan, GA., Carthage, Tenn., Niles, MI, and Elkhart, Ind., Bonnell Aluminum is a subsidiary of Tredegar Corp., a global company specializing in the manufacturing of plastic films and aluminum extrusions.
In addition to the poor U.S. economy, increasing volumes of cheaper overseas imports contributed to reduced profit margins for the company. In the latter part of 2009, domestic extruders were being harmed by a drop in volume of about 400 million pounds annually. This led to a super competitive market place as domestic extruders were competing for business. Bonnell Aluminum’s Brite-dip tub and shower business, once the lifeblood of its Newnan, GA., facility was directly impacted.
The poor economic climate in the U.S. made Bonnell Aluminum a perfect candidate for support from the Southeastern Trade Adjustment Assistance Center (SETAAC), a program based at Georgia Tech’s Enterprise Innovation Institute. The firm was certified to receive funding assistance in 2008 and completed the program in August 2012, completing nine projects and utilizing all $75,000 of government funds provided in the cost sharing program. Bonnell Aluminum matched these funds and enthusiastically implemented recommended projects such as Lean Six Sigma training, management consulting, and individual executive coaching.
Since initial training, the Lean trained Green and Black belts have completed projects exceeding $1 million in savings in each of the last three years. In addition to the Lean implementation, Bonnell Aluminum benefited from sessions with two other managements consultant who transformed Bonnell Aluminum’s leadership team into leader coaches to motivate employees to collaborate as a forward-thinking team. One successful change was in management’s approach to make decision making a detailed process for all to employ. Individual executive coaching encouraged and aided top leaders in their ability to lead effectively.
Andrew Massey, division manager, is quick to credit the grants under SETAAC. “The experience working with three consulting companies helped us transform from being unprofitable in 2009 and 2010 to being profitable again,” said Massey. Savings made a big difference. In 2011, the company saved $1.5 million, in 2012, $1.6 million, with continued saving projections in 2013. And the last few years have “changed the way we think—we’re thinking differently and poised to excel in all markets,” said Massey.