Western's bi-fold door is often used in residences such as here in a bar top window application.

Western Window Systems in Phoenix was profiled recently on Fox Business Channel as being a “Manufacturing Marvel.” The series consist of two-minute profiles that spotlight American manufacturers, their products, as well as the companies’ processes and customers.

“It’s fun to be at a company where that is the case,” says Scott Gates, marketing director, speaking of the company’s growth and the 40 percent increase in sales in 2011.The company sells sliding wall systems such as multi-slide and bi-fold units, a product category that is growing in popularity. So does that account for the company’s strong growth?

“It’s a combination of factors,” explains Gates. “The average consumer is developing a better understanding of the availability of these products.”

“We didn’t introduce any new products last year but more people are becoming aware of what we do,” says Gates. “That is a testimonial to the power of marketing. Some people are coming to us and saying Western has improved its products, etc. We didn’t. We just market them more. We always had a great product but now everything supports that.”

He adds that the high-end contemporary niche hasn’t necessarily grown but the company has increased share by increasing marketing dramatically. For example, the company has identified the architect as a key customer.

“The features and benefits we offer, the CAD details, etc.–all that is designed to make the product appealing and easy to specify,” says Gates. “Being able to add to our list of partner architects has been a big part of our growth.”

Getting lean also played a role.

“The biggest benefit of the economic downturn was how to get lean and mean,” says Gates. “It doesn’t mean that we weren’t trying to be efficient before but when the market turns you have to learn how to do more with less. We went back and reevaluated the entire layout of our plant, how materials flowed, etc. All that was done during the downturn to gain efficiencies. It has kept our costs down, allowed us to remain more competitive, and has made us a better company.”

Aside from marketing and applying lean principles, DWM asked Gates what he believes makes the company a manufacturing marvel.

“It’s not so much that we have equipment or technology or a hidden secret that is vastly different, but what makes us great and helps us grow is that the employees who work here love working here,” he says. “The culture that exudes is outstanding and creates an energy on all levels. When you love the place you work you want your customers to love it, too, and in turn the customers have a fantastic experience.”

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