Rafter Equipment Corporation

Made in America and Built to Last!

 Interview by: Lisa Barry Senior Editor - Written by: Monique Rivers Associate Editor

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Rafter Equipment Corporation

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         Rafter Equipment Corporation is one of North America’s oldest metal forming machinery manufacturers. It is also one of the last tube mill manufacturers in North America. They design, build and manufacture custom tube mill and pipe mill equipment and accessories along with roll forming equipment. Rafter Equipment Corporation has a diverse customer base. They have clientele in the automotive industry, energy, oil, steel, as well as the appliance industry, just to name a few. Basically, any company that produces steel tubing and pipe would benefit from Rafter’s expertise.

Where it all began

       Originally founded in 1917 as the Rafter Machine Company, the company has evolved and grown through the years. In 1988, three former employees from a competing manufacturer purchased and relocated Rafter Machine to Cleveland, Ohio. They were Walter Krenz, who served as the President, Paul Rohde, assumed the role as VP of Operations, and John (Jack) Brandli, was the VP of Engineering. The company was also renamed to Rafter Equipment Corporation. In 1992, the company expanded and moved to a larger facility in its current location in Strongsville, Ohio. It was at this point Rafter was transformed into a premier designer and manufacturer of tube mill machines and equipment.
Rafter achieved another milestone in 2013 when the company was sold to Daniel Whitehill who serves as President and John Hostetler who is the company’s Chief Financial Officer. Dan began his career with Rafter in 1994 and John came on board in 1999. In 2002, the two men began acquiring ownership in the company through an employee stock option arrangement. This continued until 2013 when they officially acquired full ownership.

Streamlined and Responsive

“Almost all quality improvement comes via simplification of design, manufacturing, layout, processes, and procedures.” - Tom Peters

       Rafter Equipment Corporation proves this quote to be true every day. Rafter is a smaller organization, therefore they have few management layers. There is no complex hierarchal management structure like you see at many organizations. Their structure is more streamlined. This allows them to be more responsive. Decision making is faster and easier and less time is wasted trying to find the right person to talk to. This is a quality that Rafter’s customers truly appreciate. This especially comes in handy because Rafter’s main line of business is building custom machines. “Rarely do we build the same machine twice,” explained Mark Prasek, Vice President of Sales and Marketing. So, the ease of access to one of their engineers or managers is both extremely beneficial and crucial for their customers.
     Those who have needed a custom machine built for their business know that it can be a painful, lengthy process. Rafter’s streamlined management structure helps make this process as pain-free as possible. With 14,000 sq. ft. of space dedicated exclusively to manufacturing, Rafter has a staff of 25 team members, 5 are engineers, 15 are directly involved in the manufacturing and production process and 5 in the front office providing administrative duties as well as customer service and support.

Customers First 

      Rafter Equipment Corporation’s focus is their customers. They build relationships with the people and companies they do business with. Rafter relies on their customer feedback in order to continuously improve. “We think more about the people operating the machines…We think not just about the immediate sale but we’re thinking about the long term viability of the machine.”
     One factor that sets Rafter apart is their ability to help their customers by servicing their machines once they have been installed. This is something that their competition from overseas cannot do as easily. For the companies that depend on these machines for their production, this simple differentiator can be the difference between profit or loss. Because if a machine does break and the organization does not have the replacement parts on hand, or worse yet, is unable to obtain the parts, production and revenue screeches to a halt. While those who work with Rafter can pick up the phone and be back in business before they know it. But make no mistake – Rafter’s equipment is top-of-the-line. “We build machines the way people used to build machines – and by that we mean robust,” highlighted Mark. Proof of this is that since the company began nearly 30 years ago they only know of one of their machines that has been retired! Rafter knows they will never be the cheapest due to overseas competition, so they believe they should be the best.

Key Initiatives

     As far as the future is concerned, Rafter believes that continued investment in modern equipment is key. In the past seven months, they have purchased four machines in order to improve productivity and capacity. Including two 5-axis CNC lathes as well as two CNC vertical machining centers. They are continually increasing their manufacturing capabilities. Their philosophy is, in order to maintain their quality, it is best to keep as many processes in-house as possible.
     A new and major initiative is Rafter’s Mill-Flip® machine. This is a patented quick-change technology that allows for mill changeover in 15 minutes or less in most cases. Rafter is now in production with the first Mill-Flip® machine and needless to say it is generating a tremendous amount of interest. When operational, this new revolutionary technology will not only be very beneficial to Rafter but to this entire industry as a whole.
     Rafter purchased the license to this patent from a European company. Therefore, they have exclusive rights and is the only company in North America able to utilize this technology and incorporate it into its product line.

Strategic Partnerships

     Rafter believes strategic partnerships are essential. “There are certain things that we don’t do in house. We have a great network of local companies…These companies do something very specific and they do it very well,” explains Mark. Keeping things local also allows Rafter to spread their economic impact throughout the community.
     A perfect example of this type of strategic partnership would be their relationship with FADA Industries. FADA specializes in CNC machining and precision grinding to very tight tolerances and they are one of the best in the business. “Our relationship has spanned more than eight years and in this time they have always exceeded our expectations.”

Industry Trade Association Affiliations

     Rafter is an active member of three distinguished Industry Trade Associations. The Fabricators & Manufacturers Association, International (FMA), the Tube & Pipe Association, International (TPA), and the International Tube Association (ITA). We consider them valuable assets and they provide many benefits not only to us but to all of their members as well as to the industry as a whole. These associations provide many excellent educational and networking opportunities as well as a platform that allows us to showcase our products.

  • FMA - Fabricators & Manufacturers Association, International
         The FMA is a professional organization with more than 2,300 individual and company members working together to improve the metal forming and fabricating industry.
  • TPA - Tube & Pipe Association, International
         TPA informs and educates tube and pipe producing and fabricating professionals through conferences, expositions, magazines, networking opportunities, and more. TPA is the technology affiliate of the Fabricators & Manufacturers Association, International.
  • ITA - International Tube Association
    The ITA is the world's largest and most influential personal membership association for the tube & pipe industries and offers a unique range of benefits, services, and events to promote new technology and growth within our industry.


Trade Shows

      Rafter will be exhibiting at FABTECH 2017 which will be held on November 6th through the 9th at McCormick Place in Chicago, IL USA. Mark explained the significance of the show, “this is a very important show for us and one that we look forward to attending.” FABTECH is North America’s largest metal forming, fabricating, welding and finishing event. Additional information can be found on the show’s website: www.fabtechexpo.com

Parting Thoughts

“We are a small company that is doing a lot of good things. And more and more people are beginning to realize this. We think it is important to keep manufacturing capabilities in the United States and that has been our passion,” praised Mark.
We believe that Rafter Equipment Corporation is the epitome of “Made in America” and it is what our nation was founded on – good, honest, hard-working people.


fadalogo
Company Name: FADA Industries, Inc.
Hedquarters: 12855 York Delta Drive North Royalton, OH 44133
Phone: 440 237 4010
Fax: 440 237 4810
Email: This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.
On the web at: www.fadacncmachine.com

 

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