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Culture of customization lies at the heart of Caster Concepts manufacturing strategy

Friday, October 14, 2016

When it comes to moving heavy loads - an airplane fuselage, a railcar, an overhead crane - off-the-shelf, mass-produced casters or wheels just won't cut it.

The gritty, heavy-duty jobs handled by Caster Concepts call for engineers to design made-to-order wheels and casters to resolve complicated manufacturing challenges and machinists and welders skilled to use the latest equipment.

When a national manufacturer that tests oil refineries needed to move 3,000-pound steel plates, the company turned to Caster Concepts engineers for a solution that couldn't be found in any catalog. Caster Concepts created an angle bracket for each plate, then mounted a Drive Caster® (a motorized caster) to each of the plates, along with a V-groove wheel to guide the movement on a track.

"These design/manufacturing challenges are not easily solved with a simple caster. Caster Concepts' focus is on resolving material-movement issues for our clients taxed with many challenges beyond the ordinary," says Caster Concepts President and CEO Bill Dobbins.

Customization lies at the heart of the Caster Concepts manufacturing process. More than 10 years ago, Caster Concepts changed its approach to manufacturing. The company invested heavily in versatile technology, like laser cutters, computers and machinist, enabling Caster Concepts to fulfill orders on demand and make as many changes and modifications as needed to better meet its clients needs.

It hired a team of talented engineers to work with clients and solve their specific challenges, an approach which at the time, was unheard of in the caster industry.

The company's three manufacturing plants, all within three miles of each other, were equipped with the staff and the latest versatile technology to manufacture orders quickly, whether 1,000 casters or just two.

"Anyone can make the capital investment that we have made over the past 10 years; that is the easy part. Many of our competitors have done this. The tough work is building the culture of getting the customer what they want, when they want it. Caster Concepts does that better than anyone else in the business by a long shot," says Dobbins. "That is the work that I am most proud of."

Earlier this year, Caster Concepts upgraded its online Caster Configurator to improve the user experience. The Caster Configurator is a popular, free, online tool that allows anyone to design their own caster. This unique functionality makes it easy to use while still providing downloadable drawings and models that are part of a customer's design process.

The company also processes its own polyurethane, something that all other caster companies have opted to have outsourced. Dobbins says having polyurethane processing is a critical part of the company's strategy for customization.

"Our flexible manufacturing process allows us to build anything our engineers can design and our customers can dream up. There's no limit to what we can do and how quickly we can turn around an order," Dobbins says.

Competitive caster manufacturers have been fabricating casters the same way for decades: produce in high volume to reduce costs, and sell what's in stock. The old way of buying a caster focused on finding a product that could hold a particular weight, fit an application well enough and could be easily attached.

"That method overlooks the application issues like the impact of the life cycle of the product. Little consideration is given to such details as the force required to move a cart or the potential for failure because the material is wrong for the application, or a myriad of reasons for a caster to fail," Dobbins says. "When every piece you manufacture is custom manufactured, clients know they will receive the right solution for their needs."

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