Pennsylvania manufacturer taps into regional resources
J.A. Reinhardt & Co., Inc. is an engineering and manufacturing company located in the heart of the Pocono Mountains in Mountainhome, PA. It designs, engineers and manufactures highly sophisticated thermal and mechanical products, such as heat exchangers, avionics chassis, complex electronic housings, microwave antennas and beryllium products for the aerospace industry.
Through its long-standing strategic partnership with the Northeastern Pennsylvania Industrial Resource Center, Inc. (NEPIRC), an affiliate of the NIST Manufacturing Extension Partnership, J.A Reinhardt achieved international quality certification and secured low-cost financing for plant expansion and capital equipment.
Quality certification is a competitive advantage for a manufacturer. Major industrial firms require suppliers to meet international and national, industry-specific quality standards.
NEPIRC started work with J.A. Reinhardt in 2000 to help the company achieve its ISO 9001 certification. “We saw that the marketplace was changing. We realized that we would have to do business in a different way,” said Gary Reinhardt, president and CEO of J.A. Reinhardt. “Our customers required that we have an ISO quality system, and we reached out to NEPIRC for assistance.”
“We bring our experience of having worked with a number of companies in similar industries,” said Eric Esoda, director of operations with NEPIRC. “This way we avoid recreating the wheel.”
NEPIRC helped J.A. Reinhardt prepare its ISO documentation and develop internal audit procedures. NEPIRC also performed a pre-assessment audit of the company. “We want to make sure that the company is in good shape the moment the ISO registrar walks through the door,” said Don Olszewski, a NEPIRC program director with extensive experience in quality systems and continuous improvement. With the ISO 9001 certification, J.A. Reinhardt is now able to bid on government and commercial contracts and gain market share.
“The ISO certification process forced us to rethink our business,” explained Reinhardt. “We instituted new procedures and controls and documented what we have been doing for years. As a result, the company is more structured and organized.”
NEPIRC has continued to provide internal audit training for J.A. Reinhardt to keep the company up to date on the quality standards. “We transfer knowledge to our clients so that they can transfer it internally,” said Olszewski.
Small manufacturers may be hard-pressed to get all the capital they need to expand facilities or make major equipment purchases. Through its revolving loan fund, NEPIRC has been able to assist J.A. Reinhardt with its expansion projects. The financing allowed Reinhardt to cut the cost of obtaining the capital he needed and, at the same time, purchase the latest technology.
“NEPIRC gave us funds at a very attractive interest rate and helped us through the process,” said Reinhardt. “We were able to acquire high-speed, CNC horizontal machining centers, which give us the speed, quality and precision to meet our customers’ requirements.”
The origins of NEPIRC’s revolving loan fund as a small business loan program can be traced back to a grant from the Economic Development Administration in the early 1990s.
“We decided to start our own fund and run it the same way as the EDA program,” said Esoda. “Our goal is to provide money at interest rates consistently below open market rates.”
NEPIRC can fund up to 30% of any project. This funding helps to attract traditional bank financing and other forms of state, regional or local economic development assistance. A company also must put in their own equity to demonstrate their commitment. NEPIRC builds up money in the fund as loans are repaid.
NEPIRC has established partnerships with economic development agencies in the area, such as the Northeastern Pennsylvania Alliance. “Whenever possible, we hook a company up with other economic development agencies to further lower the gross interest rate,” said Olszewski. “Our purpose is to make the project feasible and leave the manufacturer with enough working capital to continue operations without being financially overstressed.”
The changing workforce
NEPIRC also provided assistance to J.A. Reinhardt in the human resources area, offering diversity training and developing a performance-based incentive program. The center conducted a series of diversity seminars for the company’s managers. “We are more sensitive to our changing workforce, which has been a big plus from a training standpoint,” said Reinhardt.
While there has not been much turnover, the company’s workforce now includes more women as machinists and group leaders.
The workforce is also getting younger. According to Reinhardt, the challenge is getting young people at the high-school level to enter the technical trades. His company conducts internal training and works with the Monroe County Vo-Tech, a vocational technical school in the area.
Change has also come about in the way J.A. Reinhardt communicates internally. “There is much more of an upward flow of information,” said Reinhardt, whose father and uncle started the company in 1947. “We rely on the people on the floor doing the work. By listening to them, we have become more efficient.”
|William J. Desciak is the executive director of the Northeastern Pennsylvania Industrial Resource Center, Inc. He can be reached at (570) 704-0007 or via email at firstname.lastname@example.org . NEPIRC, a not-for-profit consulting firm, provides specialized business assistance to small and mid-sized companies. Information about NEPIRC can be found at its Website: email@example.com . The Economic Development Administration, part of the U.S. Department of Commerce, provides economic assistance to promote regional economic development, innovation and competitiveness. Its Website is|