Archive for Wednesday, June 6, 2007

Heatron Inc. setting pace

June 6, 2007

When Mike Malotte was hired at Heatron Inc., a Leavenworth thermal and lighting manufacturer, he was promised there would be opportunities for advancement.

In just 14 months at the company, he's moved from the factory floor to team lead, evidence Heatron's management holds true to its word.

"So far this place is what I'd hoped it'd be," said Malotte, a Leavenworth resident.

Heatron Inc. has become a global leader in its field since its inception in 1977.

President H.B. Turner said the employee-owned company started with 25 people and made about $1 million in sales. Today, Heatron has about 350 employees company wide. There are about 280 at the three plants in Leavenworth, and Turner said another building is being considered to house another 120 or so employees.

"This year we're close to $40 million," he said. "The company has grown dramatically."

The company was recently recognized and featured in the Kansas City's Business Journal's "Champions of Business."

The company designs, integrates and produces thermal management and heat generation systems for a variety of industries. It makes sleep apnea machines for the medical field and warming equipment for McDonald's.

Turner said most of Heatron's heating products were sold to original equipment manufacturers across the country.

Design manager Craig Schmidling said the best part of working in design at Heatron is that he can try new ideas to fit customer's specification.

"A reason we've grown is because the company is willing to try new things, take risks," he said. "Management accepts that and encourages it, which makes it easier."

Holding steadfast in the heating industry, Heatron also has pursued the lighting side, specifically light-emitting diode (LED) products.

Turner said Heatron has been working on LED lights for four years, a fast-growing industry.

"We're excited about that," he said. "It's been a major focus on research and development. We put a lot of our profits into growing that market."

"We're definitely a nationwide leader and pretty well internationally recognized as a pioneer in LED lights."

LED lights have unique optics and require specific electronic circuits and power supply, so Heatron helps customers with installation.

The company has jobs in design, technical support, production, customer service, accounting and engineering.

"The most important ones, of course, are the close to 200 on the factory floor," he said.

Simple math and reading skills are necessary to work on the factory floor he said, but Heatron also teaches many of the skills. Employees have to learn how to use the custom-made equipment, but it goes beyond that.

Cory Treece, of Lansing, said there are programs at Heatron people can't find anywhere else, "pay for skills" for example. He said people can test on certain skills they learn on the job and accumulate points that adjusts their pay scale.

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