Beneath the Surface Lies Quality
Lincoln Industries is North America’s largest and most diverse privately held metal finishing company. The company was founded in 1952 in Lincoln, Nebraska, by Dale LeBaron in 1952 as a small custom plating shop, plating everything from teapots to lamps to car parts. Today, the company has grown and operates in agriculture, motorsports, trucking and many other sectors, Lincoln Industries prides itself on delivering the highest levels of customer satisfaction.
The company offers a number of services, such as metal finishing, tube fabrication, design and engineering, global supply chain management, assembly and packaging. We spoke with its new President, Bill Ellerbee, to find out more.
“We have expanded a great deal,” says Bill. “We went from a small hand transfer shop to one of the largest nickel chrome, and electroplaters in North America, serving some of the largest, most recognized brands.”
Lincoln works with a number of leading companies across many sectors, such as Harley-Davidson, Polaris, Peterbilt / Kenworth, Navistar, Daimler, Cummins, John Deere and Case New Holland.
In motorsports, performance and styling provide a competitive edge. Products produced by Lincoln are visibly dominant on the leading heavy-weight bike brands like Harley-Davidson, Indian, and Victory. “As a tier one supplier, we provide nickel chrome, painted and other alternative finished parts that help these brands stand out in a style driven market,” says Bill. “We offer stampings, forgings, castings, full exhaust systems, forward lighting assemblies and more.”
Lincoln Industries first got into the heavy-weight bike industry by developing innovative solutions and solving complex manufacturing challenges with functional and cosmetic parts. The company’s continued spirit of innovation has evolved into the production of approximately 400 components and assemblies that fit on over 280,000 bikes annually.
Lincoln’s expertise in cosmetic finishes and performance coatings allowed the company to expand its business quickly into the heavy duty truck market. It was crucial to be competitive in this market, so Lincoln started by vertically integrating tube bending and polishing to provide stacks quickly to large OEMs. You will find Lincoln’s products on the side, front and inside the engines of all major truck manufacturers. “That’s the way we think; our innovative thought process drives us to ask the question, ‘what else can we do that adds value for our customers?’”
So, how does one go from being a supplier to a strategic partner? “Lincoln’s value goes beyond providing a high quality finished part,” Bill says. “Our customers appreciate that we simplify the complexity of their business through services like design and engineering, global sourcing, logistics and inventory management, assembly and other support services.”
As part of Lincoln’s growth strategy, the company has two aftermarket branded product divisions: Lincoln Chrome and Khrome Werks. “Lincoln Chrome designs and manufactures highly cosmetic parts for class 8 trucks. This brand caters to the trucker lifestyle, providing products that enhance what are practically homes for their owners, who spend more than 80 percent of their time on the road. Khrome Werks engineers high-performance aftermarket motorcycle exhaust and accessories. The brand has roots in the drag racing industry which is clearly evident in its products that are engineered for performance, style and sound.”
Lincoln’s people are at the core of its success. With over 600 people in multiple locations across the Midwest, Lincoln has found a winning combination of culture that drives performance. Not only is Lincoln driving a great culture in an industry that may not be well-known for creating engaging work environments, it is setting the bar high for companies across all industries. To date, Lincoln Industries has been named seven times by the Great Place to Work Institute as one of the 25 Best Medium Sized Companies to Work for in America.
As a component of its workplace culture, the company takes great pride in the health and wellbeing of its people. Lincoln is currently outperforming industry counterparts with healthcare costs that are 50 percent of the industry average and trending downward. These costs are also recognized as a benchmark by HealthNext, one of the leading healthcare consulting firms. “Driving a culture of wellness doesn’t come from having a massive budget,” says Bill. “It comes from having everyone engaged and supporting one another on their wellness journey.”
The company’s culture is a reflection of its core values. “We have a set of guiding principles, called our Beliefs and Drivers, that we use in all of our decision making. These principles have been around for more than 20 years and are proudly hung throughout our facilities. One of the biggest differences at Lincoln is that we live our values every day.”
On the technical side, Lincoln has about 40 to 45 engineers with degrees that span the mechanical, chemical, electrical, industrial and civil disciplines. It is very helpful to have a major university in town – the University of Nebraska – as it offers Lincoln a strong pool of talent from which to recruit.
“As a talent-based organization, we select based on fit, talent, and skill, in that order,” says Bill. We can teach skill in a market where it’s difficult to find people with an electroplating background; we can’t teach talent. Therefore, we select people based on their fit in our culture and their talent to help us reach our goals.”
I asked Bill where he sees the company in twenty years. He sees Lincoln Industries continuing to do what it does best, innovating and creating unique value for customers. “It’s no question that our people are our most valuable asset so we will continue investing in them and their talents, and creating a culture that fosters both innovation and growth,” he says. “You will continue to see what you saw over the last 50 years – a rapidly growing, pioneering company.”