Forest City Gear
Number of employees – 50
2007 sales – $10 million
Markets served – Oil exploration and production.
Fred Young's 40-year-old Forest City Gear is kept in better shape than most new shops.
Fred Young, president of Forest City Gear, didn’t inherit the business from his parents, he grew into it.
“As a young boy I was involved in the menial tasks of cleaning out the oil sumps of gear equipment, removing chips and cutting gears after being trained by my father and our employees on how to set up a gear machine,” Young said.
“The attentiveness of my parents to all details of the business, their reinvestment and hard work left a lasting impression and a desire to follow in their footsteps.”
Young’s parents continually reinvested excess profits from each year back into the business.
“My folks continued to add both surplus gear cutting machines and at least one new machine each year to expand our capacity in size and types of gears as well as productivity. Early on, it was obvious that the newer equipment offered expanded opportunities technically and was able to produce higher quality,” Young added.
That commitment to reinvesting in new equipment that would expand the shop’s capabilities and productivity became a cornerstone of Young’s management style.
After graduating from college and a two-year stint in the Navy, Young returned to work full-time and soon found himself running the business.
He decided to keep the business modest in size and focused tightly on cutting gears.
Today, the business has fewer than 50 employees, does about $10 million in sales – all of it from cutting gears – and has about $25 million dollars in machines that, for the most part, are less than four years old.
“It always has been extremely difficult to locate talented people to head each production area, and even if you are successful in obtaining skilled workers, getting them to function well on widely diverse manufacturing processes is challenging,” Young said.
“We seek out mechanically inclined people, train them in-house and offer them chances to attend outside gear schools to augment their talents. Limiting ourselves to gear cutting allows us to concentrate our investment in equipment and training and become more productive,” he added.
Fred Young with wife Wendy and youngest daughter Mindy.
Buying new equipment each year, along with its incumbent technology, accuracy and productivity, has become infectious to Young, and he finds the process self-sustaining and profitable.
However, Young also is quick to add that all the new equipment in the world doesn’t add to profitability without educated workers who are capable of using that equipment to its fullest capabilities.
To that end, he often sends his employees for training at the overseas factories where the machines are built to expose them to ways that those machines are being used there.
Young is an active participant in the American Gear Manufacturers Association and is ardent about sharing his knowledge and expertise with anyone who is interested.
Besides sharing his technical expertise, he is willing to open his books and customer lists to others. “There is far more gear cutting business out there than I can handle, and I’d rather help other American businesses learn how to do things better than to see that work go overseas,” Young said.
Forest City Gear’s operating strategy is to continually reinvest in equipment and technology, educate its employees and share its knowledge and expertise.
When the company does do strategic planning, it looks out up to 10 years in the future.
What the future holds is another generation of Youngs who are stepping up to run the business. Fred’s wife, Wendy, has an active role in running the business, as do his three daughters and his middle daughter’s husband.
Recognizing that future challenges will probably be more difficult than past challenges, the new generation is not just following in Fred’s footsteps, it is working to continually make the business more productive and profitable.
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