Napoleon company finds ways to grow during recessionWritten by Duane Ramsey | | firstname.lastname@example.org
Leader Engineering Fabrication Inc. managed to grow during the recession and is expanding its custom design-build business located in the Napoleon Industrial Park about 40 miles southwest of Toledo.
“We had one of the best periods of growth during the recession due to quality, competitive pricing and service to our customers. They refer to Leader as a partner, not a vendor. We want to be their partner and build successful relationships,” said Sales Manager John Cichocki Jr.
“We came out of the recession a better, stronger and more efficient organization. We looked at it as an opportunity, not a reason to fail. We leaned down and now revenues are up. We’re looking to expand our business in-house and with acquisitions,” Cichocki said.
Leader recently acquired a small local machine shop and is incorporating it into its business. It plans to add one or two new employees for the additional operation, he said.
The biggest challenge for the team at Leader is finding qualified, skilled technical workers who are analytical in their processes. The company has an immediate need for an experienced design engineer, Cichocki said.
The company has been seeking a design engineer for six months without success. Its recent ad for the position generated four responses which is more activity than in the past, he said.
It has assembled a team of engineers with expertise in mechanical, automation, hydraulic, and electrical systems to help customers analyze their needs and develop concepts to meet those needs. Of its 35 employees, five are mechanical engineers and eight are electrical engineers.
Leader designs and builds custom equipment and machinery for automakers and Tier 1 suppliers to the automotive industry that comprises 90 percent of its business. It has supplied machinery to General Motors, Ford, Chrysler, Hyundai, Kia, Toyota, BMW, Mercedes-Benz, Navistar, and Caterpillar.
The company has supplied equipment for the production of components at GM’s Powertrain plant in Toledo and other components for the GM casting plant in Indiana.
It is preparing to hip a leak tester for valve covers to American Metal Technologies, a Tier 1 supplier to Navistar, according to Cichocki. Jamie Brink, a machine builder with 25 years of experience, designed and helped build the leak tester.
In addition to automotive, 7 percent of its business is building equipment for the food processing industry. Hirzel Company in Northwood is one of its biggest customers in that category, Cichocki said.
Leader also has a small printing operation which comprises the other 3 percent of its business. It processes its own plates for flexographic printing of boxes and plastic bags.
The company was founded on the idea that it will assist its clients in formulating new ideas and turning them into equipment that helps them overcome their manufacturing challenges, according to Cichocki.
Charles Leader founded the company in 1984 with John Cichocki Sr. after the pair had worked together in a similar business. They began operations with six employees and a 6,000 square-foot facility in Napoleon fabricating stainless steel equipment for Campbell Soup and other companies.
Leader serves as president and John Sr. as vice president of operations for the privately owned company. They asked John Jr. to join the business after he graduated from college and he has made a career of it.
About 20 years ago, the company built a new 24,000-square-foot office and manufacturing facility with a development grant from Henry County and the City of Napoleon. It continues to operate out of that location.
The mission of Leader Engineering Fabrication is to provide quality services to its customers, employees and the community by practicing the golden rule of “do unto others as you would have them do unto you,” according to the company.
For more information, visit www.leaderengineeringfabrication.com.