Fourth-generation metalworking shop works to generate student interest in manufacturing careers

Beverage Machine & Fabricators machined part
Part (convector plate) before machining
Beverage Machine & Fabricators part being machined
Part during machining
Beverage machine & fabricators finished machined part
Part after machining

In 1904, George Hewlett founded Cleveland Union Engineering Company in Cleveland’s Flats area. The company handled industrial metal manufacturing, welding, fabrication and steel erection. Hewlett’s daughter married John Geiger, who is the grandfather of the current owner, also John Geiger, and great-grandfather of Jake who also works for the company. In the 1920s, it began to develop and build equipment for the distillery and brewing industries to clean and pasturize milk jugs and beer bottles, hence a name change to Beverage Engineering. In the 1940s, it moved to its current location on Lakewood Heights Boulevard and transitioned its focus from beverage machines to machining for the war effort, and in 1957 it found its current incarnation as Beverage Machine & Fabricators, Inc. What do these changes signify? Adaptability! And, Beverage Machine has found its niche.

Though the company no longer is part of the beverage machine industry, it has continued its journey in the metalworking industry and now machines (cuts or finishes) hard-to-machine metal parts made from inconel, monel, stainless steel and titanium. It also has larger machines that can handle bigger, heavier pieces (up to 10 feet in diameter and 24,000 pounds) for the steel, energy, power, mining, nuclear, aerospace and defense industries. For example, it did a project for SpaceX last year, a company that designs, manufactures and launches advanced rockets and spacecraft. Beverage Machine also only handles one-off pieces and smaller orders rather than high-volume production. Its orders range from one to 25 pieces at a time. Five years ago, it added waterjet cutting to its capability, which broke the company out of traditional metal machining. Using the waterjet, the company has done work for sign and glass companies and machined the glass awards for last year’s Tri-C JazzFest. With one piece of equipment, it expanded capacity and its customer base.

All of Beverage Machine’s customers are regional, and they are served by only 16 employees. The company mainly employees machinists and is looking to and is willing to train a suitable candidate. Josh Smith, Beverage Machine’s waterjet technician, says that the impact on today’s labor problem started years ago when schools did away with shop programs and put the focus on college prep. He’s worked for the company for 16 years, and his dad has been the plant manager for 25 years. He says, “When I went to school, the perception was that JVS [joint vocational school] was where the stoners and illiterates went and that everyone who can think goes to college.” He says that in five years everyone in the industry will be retiring, and there’s going to be a shortage of skilled labor. He adds that the industry has to reach students when they are 11 or 12 to show them that jobs in manufacturing are cool and innovative. To that end, he has started “ThinkSpark,” a grassroots movement to create a foundation in Lorain County to inspire and mentor youth to consider careers in manufacturing, to partner with schools and connect children with technical programs, to develop a makerspace for youth in the program, and to create a robotic competition similar to AWT’s RoboBots that takes place every April at Lakeland Community College.

John Geiger relates that the manufacturing industry in the area is healthy, but that his biggest challenge, which is the same for all manufacturers, is finding skilled labor or even unskilled labor who are interested in technical training. Recently, he met with representatives from Lorain County Community College about bringing students in for an apprenticeship training program.

From Founder John Geiger to his son, John Geiger, a machinist, to his son, John Geiger, a history major and sales specialist, to his son, John, aka Jake, Geiger, a business management major, the company has stayed in the hands of this capable family for four generations. John says about his business, “There is enough domestic need, and our niche gives us enough work. China can’t serve these industries because customers have a part dependency and need it today.” He shares, “I get satisfaction in seeing what we create every day. It’s a tangible result.” His son, Jake, adds, “It’s rewarding to have a part come in and see the finished part leave the shop.” As Josh Smith sums up, “What sets John apart is that he can see the greater good and a need. He sees what we can do for the next generation. It’s not about making money. It’s about family.

Beverage Machine & Fabricators shop with gantry crane
One of two shops and the gantry crane used to lift heavy parts

 

HGR’s 2018 S.T.E.M. scholarship presented to Euclid High School senior

Evan Ritchey (center) accepting the 2018 HGR Industrial Surplus S.T.E.M. Scholarship with his parents
Evan Ritchey (center) accepting the 2018 HGR Industrial Surplus S.T.E.M. Scholarship with his parents

(Courtesy of Guest Blogger Tina Dick, HGR’s human resources manager)

On Thursday, May 10, 2018, HGR had the honor of presenting the 2018 HGR Industrial Surplus S.T.E.M. Scholarship to Evan Ritchey, a Euclid High School senior.

The $2,000 HGR S.T.E.M. Scholarship is awarded to students who have a desire to receive a higher education in a science, technology, engineering or math field.

Evan received his scholarship at the Senior Awards Dinner at the Irish American Club held to honor more than 300 Euclid students in grades 8-12. While students in grades 8-11 were awarded medals for academic excellence, graduating seniors received scholarships from more than 41 organizations.

Evan, who also received seven other scholarships, will be attending Cleveland State University where he will pursue a degree in electrical engineering.

 

Local manufacturer eliminates noise and moisture issues for the construction industry

Keene noise reduction Quiet Qurl sound control mat
Quiet Qurl® 55/025 MC sound control mat designed to limit impact noise between floors

 

Jim Keene Keene Building Products

How did Keene Building Products get its start?

Keene was started in 2002 as an importer but quickly began development of its production line. Although educated as an accountant, Jim Keene, the founder, became involved in the engineering of the system to produce the materials — a unique plastic extrusion process. Sales were simple since he was involved with many of the customers in the market.

Why was the decision made to locate in Euclid?

Jim’s home town is Richmond Heights, up the hill, but his father and mother went to Euclid High School. Euclid is a great place to manufacture, and Jim wanted to be a manufacturer.

How are the products that you manufacture used?

Keene Building Products is a manufacturer of three-dimensional filament products for the construction industry. Its noise products are designed for construction projects, such as multi-family apartments and condominiums to stop impact and airborne noise, while its building-envelope products can be utilized in wall, masonry, roofing, and foundation applications to eliminate moisture issues.

Starting as a plastic manufacturing company in 2002, Keene has innovated new construction tools in an effort to improve product performance for the market. At first, it only manufactured entangled net products in applications that had coatings and concrete all around them. Today, its capabilities include blending powders and creating chemicals. In addition to plastics extrusion, the company has expanded its expertise to floor-preparation products, below-grade systems, roofing, plastic fabricating and 3D filament.

How many employees work in the facility in Euclid?

30 employees but it will be increasing to 50 in the near future.

Tell us about your building expansion. How many square feet and why?Keene Building Products expansion

25,000 square feet for warehouse purposes that will allow us more room for manufacturing.

Are there ways that the company participates in the community?

Not yet!! We will soon.

What do you think is the biggest challenge that manufacturing currently faces?

Skilled labor

What does the future of manufacturing, especially in Northeast Ohio, look like?

The future is very bright here but we need to educate our young people better. Our schools are not up to par, and our workforce doesn’t graduate ready for the positions we need to fill.

What inspires you?

Helping the people in our organization realize their career and financial goals.

Are there any interesting facts about Keene Building that most people don’t know?

  • Weatherhead 100 four years running
  • Two businesses in the award
  • Holder of 20 patents either issued or pending
  • Family business with other family members as part of the team
  • More likely to sell product on one of the coasts, with full North American coverage and sales in every state
Keene building envelope
Driwall™ Rainscreen 020-1, a drainage mat for exterior wall systems

HGR offers $2,000 STEM scholarship to Euclid High School senior

HGR Industrial Surplus Scholarship Application

2017 HGR Industrial Surplus STEM Scholarship

HGR Industrial Surplus Inc. annually awards a scholarship to a high school senior who has been accepted by an institution of higher education for the next academic year to pursue a degree or certification in a STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering, or Math) field. This includes, but is not limited to, the fields of engineering, engineering technology, electrical, mechanical, welding, manufacturing, or construction. This year, one student from Euclid High School will be awarded a $2,000 scholarship.

Scholarship guidelines are as follows:
1. The applicant must be active in any facet of STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering, or Math).
2. The applicant must be in good academic standing at his or her high school.
3. The applicant should be a senior.
4. The applicant must be accepted into an institution of higher education or a trade or technical school for the next academic year.
5. Financial need will be considered.

Those applying for the HGR Industrial Surplus scholarship should submit the following materials when applying:
1. A completed scholarship application.
2. A 350-word autobiography.
3. A 350-word statement explaining why this scholarship is important to you, including your financial need.
4. A minimum of one letter of reference. Up to three letters of reference will be accepted. Letters of reference should be from teachers, counselors, coaches, employers, mentors, etc. rather than from family or friends.
5. Scholarship Submission Deadline: All materials should be submitted here by April 15, 2017.