Making Material Handling a Point of Difference

Jesco Industries, Inc.

Often, the selection of material handling products available from mainstream suppliers can be a bit overwhelming. Jesco Industries, Inc. makes it easy. This company is a leading expert whose bespoke solutions flatten the curve of the ordinary with spot-on innovation and superior quality that set – and elevate – the industry standard.

Jesco Industries’ impressive selection of custom material-handling products and systems are designed to work hard and work well. They improve the capacity of manufacturing facilities for dealing with manufactured goods during and after fabrication, as well as ensure the safety of equipment and staff.

Bonny DesJardin, President of Jesco, while discussing process engineering observes that, “it seems that companies who manufacture specialty machines are great but often don’t think of how to handle the scrap generated by machines.”

International reach
Based in Litchfield, Michigan, the company’s vast reach means customers are spread from Alaska and Hawaii across all of North America to Germany, Malaysia and as far as Vietnam.

Customers also include private label distribution giants such as Arrow Material Handling Products in Kansas, Vestil Manufacturing in Indiana, Material Flow & Conveyor in Oregon, Alro Steel in Michigan, and Crown Equipment in Ohio together with all their branches throughout the United States.

Made to order
A diverse range of requests from the company’s clients has resulted in a wide made-to-order selection of specialized collection units that fit seamlessly under machines and conveyor belts. The company is also well known for its very popular dump hoppers. JESCOHUSKYDUMPERS® fit comfortably onto forklifts and strictly adhere to OSHA (Occupational Safety and Health Administration) regulations.

Each of these steel self-dumping hoppers come standard with a safety retaining chain to keep it safely seated on the forks while chain is attached to the forklift mast, a trip rope, and a safety latch for positive locking position during the operation and dumping processes. This is an excellent choice for machine guarding, essential for safeguarding your people when used around machinery or steel containment panels on the back of pallet racks or for indicating the pedestrian walkways.

To support its optimum all-round safety and quality measures, the company is also affiliated with the American Welding Society (AWS), the National Association of Manufacturers (NAM), and Hillsdale County Economic Development Partnership (EDP), and Material Handling Institute (MHI).

New answers to new needs
Quality fabrication aside, Jesco prides itself on proactive product development that meets clients’ material-handling needs in areas where few others care to venture. Technology plays a huge role in staying ahead of demand. The company recently introduced its very first robotic welding cell, prompted by the widespread shortage of skilled tradesmen.

“We decided it was a perfect time to invest, and we are on a learning curve trying to expand the robot’s capabilities in different areas into multiple departments within the company,” says DesJardin.

This does not, however, mean that Jesco intends to let go of any of its valuable people. With demand as it is, there is always space for new welders and other workers at this busy fabricator. A dedicated training professional provides in-house training to bring new hires up to speed with the company’s certification requirements, ensuring that its legacy of quality will endure in everything the company manufactures.

Women leading an industry
This industry leader is also proudly woman-owned and Women’s Business Enterprise National Council (WBENC) Certified, and Woman Owned Small Business (WOBE) certified with the Small Business Administration (SBA), reinforcing its commitment to supporting women in the industry.

And because this is a people-centered organization where absolutely nobody is just another number, the company also doesn’t believe in diverting its call-in customers with department codes and voice notes. Instead, all calls are answered by a real-life person who assists and connects customers with the relevant individual.

As well as personalized attention, quality is clearly another non-negotiable at Jesco Industries, Inc. “My father built many things and he built them so that you would hopefully never have to replace. [He avoided] built-in obsolescence,” says DesJardin. Jesco Industries’ products are built to last, saving customers time and money and garnering trust.

The company is also well organized. Each region has a dedicated salesperson who handles all initial contact. Once their requirements are established, operational engineers develop a unique solution that matches the client’s exact requirements, in collaboration with, and guided by, the client’s team.

This usually means asking a lot of questions at the get-go, and when clients are presented with a preliminary 360 degree CAD drawing, which is used to open communication to assist in achieving a perfect outcome, thoroughness pays off when the product is installed and the client sees the efficiency and the savings soar.

“We need to make sure we do what is necessary to get it correct the first time and not waste the customer’s or people’s valuable time. Time is too precious to waste,” says DesJardin, who is the third generation of the founding family at the company, and the first female owner.

Becoming a leader
Jesco Industries has a long history of excellence. Its founder, Herbert James Sr. first opened the doors of James Welding in Detroit, 1932. At its inception the company fabricated automotive racks alongside a good sideline in welding repairs. “Grandfather was a skilled artist in both pencil and charcoal sketches and paint, and wrote poetry. My uncle acquired his father’s creative talent,” says DesJardin.

The business passed to H. C. James, Sr.’s sons, with Herbert James Jr. – DesJardin’s father – becoming sole proprietor after his brothers left the business.

The company’s focus evolved to include custom fabrication and material-handling equipment and it soon moved to the current location in Hillsdale County where its improved metal-fabrication capacity was driven by several mergers, culminating in tremendous growth.

Decisive new products included woven-wire diamond mesh (Wire and Iron Products Company Division) and 2” x 1” rectangular mesh – a material particularly in demand in Division 10 building where it is used in specialty construction.

Woman in a man’s world
DesJardin followed in her father’s footsteps, taking over after a valuable succession period during which father and daughter matched each other’s passion for precision. Bonny established her career as a dental assistant but, 16 years into her profession, her father presented her with a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to join the company.

Taking over a business in a male-dominated industry came with huge challenges, and Dad was right beside her as he watched his daughter develop the ‘sea legs’ she needed to take Jesco into the next development phase.

The resilient DesJardin tells of how a client once refused to accept a solution she suggested, insisting she didn’t know what she was talking about. Her father watched DesJardin pass the call on to the company’s Vice President, who suggested the same solution. The client accepted the suggestion that now came from a man.

The following day her dad, who is remembered for his sharp wit and a great (sometimes odd) sense of humor, presented his daughter with a framed photograph of a zipper which read, ‘It does make a difference.’ He made the presentation with a twinkle in his eye and all the while his daughter groaned.

“[My father] told me I would have to work harder and smarter in this good ole boy industry of men,” she says. And she did.

A strong team
Today, her team of over 45 staff members stands testimony to how far DesJardin has come in business and in the industry. Her leadership style reflects her appreciation of the fact that there is more than one way of achieving one’s goals.

As long as both quality and integrity are upheld, qualified team members are given the space and respect in which to take ownership of creating new processes and innovation. To this end, the company supports listening to its experts and respecting their guidance.

With longer tenures being the trend here, the company has recently had to say goodbye to a few of the stalwarts who had proudly served the company for decades. In just over a year, the team has welcomed three new senior members of staff to fill these positions. They include a new Plant Supervisor, Kris Slabaugh, and new Human Resource Manager, Becki Owens. Lori Bever, formerly in HR, has taken up a new position as the Health & Safety – Environmental Compliance Officer.

“Each person has their style of management and possesses different motivational skills,” says DesJardin, who speaks of her team with the highest praise and appreciation. The company is now preparing to employ a new Customer Service Representative and a Sales Estimator as another two are about to retire.

Giving back
Of course, with great quality and motivation comes achievement, and Jesco Industries is no stranger to well-deserved accolades. It was honored with the Economic Development Partnership Investment Award in 2019 in recognition of recent improvements to its facility.

Jesco is a continuing supporter of many local area non-profits, including YMCA Kimball Camp; Hillsdale County Senior Center; Domestic Harmony; Child Abuse Prevention Association (CAPA); and Crossroad Farms. The company also contributes to the King’s Kupboard Food Pantry located at Trinity Lutheran Church, the large animal sale at the Hillsdale County Fair to support several local food banks, Salvation Army – Hillsdale Chapter, the Special Olympics’ Area 29, and many others.

As with any industry, Jesco has faced its fair share of challenges mounted by low-cost, flimsy imports that grab the attention of operators who are driven by cost rather than quality. Together with the effects of the COVID-19 pandemic, challenges have been met with consistent innovation, quality, and a capability in specialty engineering that is unmatched in its field. “Working with companies who work with us has always been mutually beneficial. Good companies are the ones you will always go out of your way to help and work with,” DesJardin says.

Looking ahead, the company’s focus is on bringing in new talent and ensuring that its distributors’ teams remain well-versed in its offering and its engineering capabilities. Because teams that evolve together, win together.

September 19, 2020, 5:12 AM EDT