Being a Good Neighbor is Good Business

 PM E-Newsletter


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So often in the course of business it’s easy to forget that companies are comprised of people and that helping each other through tough times simply makes good business sense. This article, sent to me by Sunnen Products Company, is a good example of a company reaching out to help a fellow company through a disaster.

When a three-alarm blaze destroyed Carr Lane Drill Bushing Company’s plant in Austin, Texas, last year, Sunnen Products demonstrated that “above and beyond honing” is more than a tagline—it's a business practice. The fire struck overnight and when the smoke had cleared only the outer walls of the plant remained. Carr Lane had lost 33 Sunnen honing machines in the disaster—machines critical to producing the precise bore size, surface finish and geometry required for the company's extensive line of drill bushings.

By chance, at the time of the fire, representatives from Sunnen heard the news while attending a Houston trade show. “When we found out what happened in Austin I immediately called (Carr Lane president) Earl Walker in St. Louis,” says Tom Dustman, international sales director for Sunnen. “I told him to let us know what we could do to help, as any good neighbor would.” Sunnen and Carr Lane are both based in St. Louis, with their headquarters only a couple of miles apart.

Carr Lane’s immediate need was to fulfill existing orders for customers like Boeing, Remington and NASA. So, Sunnen offered use of the machines in its tech center, along with operators to hone the parts. Raw parts were delivered to the Sunnen tech center and finished in a day, allowing Carr Lane to meet on-time deliveries. “We had orders, but no way to produce our parts,” says Carr Lane Plant Manager Mark Badgley. “Without Sunnen's help, we very well may have lost significant business.”

After taking care of the near-term need for parts production, Carr Lane’s next order of business was getting replacement honing machines to its more than 100 Austin employees at a temporary location. Immediately upon receipt of a purchase order only 21 days after the fire, Sunnen sent six MBB-1660 machines and an EC-3500. “Between our tech center and our show display equipment, we had the machines Carr Lane needed to get back on its feet, so we offered our own,” Mr. Dustman says. “This normally would have been at least a 4- to 6-week process.”

“Before we knew it, we had equipment and were ready to get back to work,” Mr. Badgley says. “It was a great feeling to see these nice, clean machines among the soot-covered ruins of the old ones. It really helped our team’s morale to know that we were down, but we weren’t out."

Carr Lane Drill Bushing Company is now in a temporary location in Round Rock, Texas, while a new facility is being rebuilt on the old site.