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Orem manufacturer proves staying local can turn a profit

By Megan C. Wallgren - Correspondent - | Dec 11, 2011
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Lynn Mitchell cuts excess off table tops at Mity Lite in Orem.

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Mity Lite COO Brian Bowers shows table legs manufactured in Orem.

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Lynn Mitchell cools table tops at Mity Lite in Orem.

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Mity Lite has brought the manufacturing of these table legs back from China to Orem.

Mity Lite founder Greg Wilson was asked to set up tables for a church function one too many times. As he lugged the long banquet tables through the church he thought, “There’s got to be a way to make something lighter than this.”

That’s how the story is told at the Utah Manufacturing Association’s 2011 Manufacturer of the Year. The Orem company known for its lightweight folding tables and chairs recently did what many say is impossible — becoming most cost effective while moving manufacturing of some parts back from overseas.

Keeping manufacturing jobs in Utah County is important to COO Brian Bowers.

“A distinct advantage is a workforce that’s educated, with a good work ethic,” he said. “The impact on the local economy is bigger than you’d imagine.”

Bowers estimates that having the manufacturing plant in Orem keeps 48 percent more of Mity Lite profits, roughly $10 million dollars, in the local economy than if all the manufacturing were done elsewhere.

Mity Lite does a $9.7 million in business with Utah vendors and other $8.5 million with other U.S. vendors.

As Bowers moves through the Orem manufacturing facility he greets the workers by name. He knows the products they’re working on and the processes used to make them.

He explains how the table tops are formed and then cut. He proudly points out a stack of table legs that used to be made in China but now are made at the Orem plant.

Bowers said improvements are being made to the manufacturing process all the time. He believes the best changes come from the bottom up. An incentive program tied to safety and production helps floor workers look for ways to improve the process.

Floor manager Courtney Harris has been working at Mity Lite for three and a half years. The former military man said having the ability to change things on the floor helps.

“I can take what I’ve learned other places and make it work here,” he said.

Bowers credits the employee incentive program for making Mity Lite the industry’s best in order lead time, quality and on-time delivery.

Pride in their company and products shows in the workers on the floor.

“It’s a good strong product,” Mike Gali said as he checked on progress of tables down the line. “Nobody in the market compares.”

This pride translates into job confidence in a down economy.

“It’s consistent work. I have faith I’ll be here for a while,” Lynn Mitchell said as he cut excess plastic from a table top.

After being acquired in 2007 by private equity investors Sorenson Capital and Peterson Partners, Mity Lite went through a period of reworking their manufacturing processes and coming up with innovative new products.

Fueled by a 40 percent drop in product demand in the recession, Mity Lite has aggressively gone after market share and seen double digit growth each year for the past few years.

Following the vision of CEO Randy Hales, Mity Lite introduced aluminum and plywood tables and its highly successful line of folding and banquet chairs in 2008. It’s Flex*One chair is now sold at Sam’s Club.

It now offers color customization on many of its products.

“If manufacturing can focus on efficiencies and improvements, they can continue to grow cost effectively and be competitive with other countries,” Bowers said. “We can compete and be the best in the country right here in Utah County.”

Mity Lite by the numbers

Years in business: 24

Employees in Orem: 200

Tables made each year: 120,000

Sells product in all 50 states and on 5 continents


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