Q&A with Trace Hill

President, Loudon Industries, Inc.

Tell us how you came to found the company.

In the early days we were just doing subcontract work, taking on anything we could handle just to keep the doors open. Then one of our clients needed us to manufacture gears for overhead hoists, and that was a real education in terms of the nomenclature, the processes, and the types of equipment we’d need, so from about that time on we began specializing in spur, helical, and splines, cutting both internal and external teeth on all three. Our basic rule in terms of size is that if a person can pick it up, we can make it.

Describe the markets you serve, and your relationship with your customers.

We’re involved in construction, transportation, and a little agriculture. Most of our customers are found throughout the United States and Canada, and we rely on our own inside sales staff. Gearing is a pretty specialized industry, after all, and people will spot it right away if you don’t know what you’re talking about. We try to be as diversified as we can, and our goal is that no one customer should represent more than 10 percent of our revenue.

We also seek customers who aren’t doing what we do, so that we don’t become an overload facility where the work is sporadic and dries up unexpectedly. The good thing is that we’ve developed longstanding relationships with our customers that are built on trust, mutual respect, and a proven track record. We know what they need, and they know what we can do for them. Those types of relationships have really helped us weather the recent economic downturn, too. We took a hit like everybody else, including our clients, and even when they had to downsize and reduce their orders they still gave us everything they could, which made all the difference.

I can’t think of a single customer who left us during that time, which really means a lot to us. We had to trim back our operations a little, but we’re rebounding, and we have a really positive outlook on the future. And I’m proud of what we’ve built together. My sons work here, and we’ve launched three companies, so this truly is a family run operation.

What other services do you provide, such as heat treating and quality control?

While we have the volume to justify doing heat treating ourselves, we have relationships in place with companies that are so good at what they do that we’d rather continue relying on their expertise. Probably 85 percent of the parts we manufacture require heat treating, but these guys are the very best at what they do, so they’re a great resource for us to have. As for quality control, we’re ISO certified and have our own QC lab that’s equipped with a Zeiss PRISMO CMM with gear-checking capability. It’s a terrific machine, and I really have nothing but good things to say about Zeiss.

Our customers feel the same way, too, and sometimes knowing that we have a Zeiss machine is all they need to know about our quality. Still, we’ll check their parts at any stage in the process they need us to, and we’ll do a final inspection at whatever level they require and send them the paperwork for their records. We also provide engineering services to our customers who need them. We can work straight from the plans they’ve created themselves, or we can work with them to develop drawings for the part they need and then handle all the prototyping and detailing.

And if there’s a particular type of test stand needed for their part and we don’t have it, we’ll either build it ourselves or go out and get it. Whatever level of assistance our customers require, we’re prepared to deliver it, because we want them to understand from the very first order that we take what they do as seriously as our own work.

MORE INFO: Call (888) 776-2546, e-mail sales@loudonindustries.com, or go to [www.loudonindustries.com].