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Brewer–Golden Eagle Keeps Focus, Commitment on Customers
Brewer Inc.-Golden Eagle: Brewer, a leading manufacturer of machinery and equipment for pallet companies and lumber remanufacturers, is guided by core philosophy of providing customer satisfaction.
By Diane M. Calabrese
Date Posted: 1/1/2008
CENTRAL CITY, Kentucky — Known widely for the Kentucky Derby, the Blue Grass State has boasting rights to many great attributes. Kentucky possesses a rich mix of arable land, raw materials and picture-perfect vistas. The natural perks produce a genuine, quiet vitality that fuels industries of all sorts. Brewer Inc.–Golden Eagle is one of those industries.
Incorporated in 1969, Brewer-Golden Eagle is fast approaching a 40-year anniversary. Much has changed, but the essential character of the company has stayed the same. Brewer manufactures machinery and equipment for sawmills and scragg mills, pallet companies and lumber remanufacturers.
“The thing we’re known for is our gang saw,” noted Paul Gilles, sales manager at Brewer.
Paul’s father, Mike, purchased Brewer in 1977 and has since retired. Cathy, Mike’s wife, heads up the company as president. She has been in the business for 30 years and first got interested in it through Mike.
The ‘Golden Eagle’ component of the full company name conveys an added dimension of the business, explained Cathy. “We strive to be the golden eagle for the pallet industry,” she said. With its keen vision and power, the eagle is a great symbol of all that Brewer aims to accomplish.
“Satisfying our customer and always being there for them” is fundamental to the business, said Cathy. It is the core philosophy of the company. “We always want customer feedback, even if there is a problem,” she explained.
Indeed, if there is anything that needs to be made right, Brewer wants to do it in the most expedited way. Feedback from customers is also a crucial component in the improvement of equipment. After all, the customers know exactly what they need.
Recent improvements to the company’s gang saw illustrate responsiveness to customers. Customers wanted the capability to cut undersize material, said Paul. Brewer heard them.
“Our customers really don’t want to run undersize material,” said Paul. The change was not about what they wanted, however. “They said, ‘We don’t have a choice.’ ”
Bringing together engineers and the design group at Brewer, as well as production-line personnel from pallet mills, Brewer was able to modify its gang saw. The changes enable the machine to easily accommodate undersize wood. In the development process, Paul served in a sort of liaison role, getting all the interested parties together.
“What we came up with is simple,” said Paul. Simplicity was important, he noted. It would have made no sense to find a solution that was complicated because that would have been trading one complexity for another.
Global Group in Elkhart, Ind. received the first Brewer-Golden Eagle modified gang saw designed to cut undersize material. “In the gang for the Global Group, the rolls have more travel,” said Paul.
The improvements underscore Brewer’s overarching business philosophy. “The customer is the boss,” said Cathy.
The pallet industry increasingly is looking for equipment that is automated and easy to use, she noted. With businesses confronting moderate to high worker turnover and the need to train employees quickly, machinery and equipment that is simple to run is a necessity.
The Brewer-Golden Eagle staff has many years of experience in manufacturing machinery and equipment for the pallet and sawmill industries. The machining department has 36 years of experience using CNC lathes, mills and other equipment to make the precise working parts that go into Brewer machines. Engineering has 32 years with Brewer, and they especially work with customers to get their valuable feedback on actual machine operations.
The heart of the production department is Paul Avery, who has been with Brewer for 15 years. He began working with the company as a builder and service technician. Paul has transformed the production department to an efficient flow of machinery, meeting and exceeding production deadlines for customers and ensuring they receive the best built machinery.
The pre-fab department, headed by Jamie Vincent, who has been employed with Brewer for 23 years, performs all torching, drilling, cleaning and prep work for the builders.
Joining Paul Gilles in sales is Marty Fox, who handles inside sales and has been with Brewer for 25 years.
“We have an excellent parts department,” Paul added. “We keep detailed records on customer equipment, and transfer them over when equipment is sold to new customers.” Marty ran the parts department for years and still has responsibilities in that area; most day-to-day interaction with customers now is done by Wayne Lancaster.
Interaction with customers takes many turns at Brewer. The company sold a nine-head Diamond Eagle horizontal bandsaw system 10 years ago that was “challenging” to install, Paul noted. It was a challenge, he said, because the customer in the case was extremely knowledgeable about machinery. Nevertheless, Paul described the experience as “invigorating.” It was an opportunity for Brewer to test its mettle and demonstrate that it measures up to the highest standards.
Brewer recently completed custom manufacturing for a BR-8112 gang saw for Tasler, Inc. in Webster City, Iowa. “Part of the tire feeder is built into the gang” on the Tasler machine, said Paul.
While the gang saw is the signature machine of Brewer’s product line, the company manufactures a wide array of other sawmill and lumber remanufacturing equipment, including multi-trim saws, slab edgers, bandsaws, cut-off saws, merchandising saws, circular and band scragg mills, chamfers, notchers, and various log and lumber handling equipment, such as decks and conveyors. Brewer–Golden Eagle can design and build a complete automated production or customize just one piece of equipment.
All fabrication work is done at Brewer’s headquarters in Central City, Kentucky. The town, located in the west-central part of the state, has a population of 5,000.
The capability to build and make adjustments is an aspect of the Brewer approach that benefits customers. For example, Global Group wanted to test the new gang saw while it was still at the factory. The company brought a pick-up truck-load of wood to Brewer’s plant to test the new machine, said Paul, and Brewer made adjustments to the machine accordingly.
Mike began working for Brewer as an employee in 1973. Cathy began working with Mike shortly after he bought the company four years later.
“I’ve done a little bit of everything — bookkeeping, in-house sales,” said Cathy. Now, from her vantage point of company president, the focus of day-to-day operation remains unchanged, she said. “Satisfying our customer and always being there for them” is the goal, she said.
Before Mike went to work at Brewer, he was a draftsman for Texas Gas Transmission. He did not have prior experience in the forest products industry, but he quickly embraced it, including professional participation in associations. Brewer has been a member of the National Wooden Pallet and Container Association since 1977.
Paul earned a degree in marketing from the University of Kentucky in 1988 and joined the family business. He already had an interest in the forest product industry that was cultivated by visiting pallet mills and attending trade shows with his father. “I always liked the industry,” said Paul. He has had the opportunity to work with a lot of good people. “You work with a lot of family businesses,” he noted.
Brewer–Golden Eagle Equipment has sold and installed machinery across the U.S., and international sales now extend to eight counties. Whether selling near or far, the objective is always to make a positive difference in a customer’s business. “We get a lot of repeat customers – a compliment,” said Paul.
The Golden Eagle gang saw that Brewer customized for Battle Lumber Co. in Wadley, Ga. in 2005 represented a quantum shift in engineering of the machine. Each part of the machine was analyzed, including the welded junctures. The design was enhanced for durability and strength.
The core Golden Eagle gang saw design illustrates the Brewer commitment to produce durable, dependable machinery, and improvements have made it even easier to use and maintain. The bottom roll bearings of the gang saw are tap base mounted on the outside of the machine, which makes it easy to grease the bearings. Arbor door t-nuts are easy to replace. And the top and bottom feed roll shafts can be driven on one end or both ends; that makes it possible to flip the rolls and get longer life from them.
In addition, the basic Golden Eagle gang saw is designed so that even with all the guards in place, visibility of the drive train is good. The operator can see the machine perform and has the ability to anticipate problems.
The Brewer gang saw design meets all Occupational Safety and Health Administration requirements, according to the company. OSHA scrutinizes industrial machinery and equipment, particularly for moving parts, which it wants guarded. The agency also expects feed rolls to be enclosed by a cover over the top, front and open ends, except where location serves as the guard.
Providing appropriate guards without obstructing the view of the machine’s inner workings was no small challenge. Every bit of ingenuity built into a machine pays off, though. The concept is simple: the more a machine works, the less downtime there is. Less downtime means more productivity.
Mike and Cathy live on a 500-acre farm in nearby South Carrolton they bought with Paul and his wife 10 years ago. The farm has a guesthouse that is made available for business. When customers visit Brewer’s facilities for training, they can stay at the guesthouse. Depending on the time of year, visitors may also get to enjoy some recreation, like fishing. Some of the land is set aside for wildlife, including turkey, deer and bobcat. Mike and Cathy also raise buffalo, emus, cattle, goats, miniature ponies and donkeys.
For business trips to customers or trade shows or industry meetings, Mike and Cathy prefer traveling by recreational vehicle. “I enjoy getting to travel,” said Cathy. “We have made some very good friends.”
Cathy is confident about the future of Brewer. “We’re going to be here for a very long time,” she said.