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Portland Company Uses Maine MEP to Help Grow Business

Eastman Industries’ owner and president, Nicholas M. Nikazmerad, recently decided to expand his lawn mower manufacturing company by purchasing Ingersoll Tractors of Wisconsin. Nikazmerad knew it was a great idea to expand his company to riding mowers, but he had concerns about how to absorb the company into his, where to locate his manufacturing facility, and what was the best way to set up his shop to be as efficient and profitable as possible.

“Relocating the Ingersoll Tractor Co. from Wisconsin to our new facility in Maine has proven to be a major task,” said Nikazmerad. “The scope and complexity of dismantling the manufacturing operations in Wisconsin and reconstituting them in Portland has been more difficult than anticipated.”

Enter the Maine Manufacturing Extension Partnership (Maine MEP).

As far as Nikazmerad is concerned, it was just in time. “MEP’s timely and expert assistance in the transition activities and layout of our new facility has been invaluable,” he said.

Moving to Five Times the Footprint
“The acquisition of Ingersoll presented Eastman with the challenge of moving into a new facility that was over five times its existing footprint, moving the Ingersoll manufacturing lines 1,200 miles east, and integrating the two manufacturing operations into one,” said Larry Robinson, project manager for Maine MEP.

“It was the type of challenge that we face all the time at Maine MEP, and it has been a real pleasure working with Nick and his employees in this phase of his growth,” Robinson said.

Located in Portland, Eastman Industries is best known for its Hover Mower, the flagship of its line of commercial-grade lawn mowers. The Hover Mower has no wheels and rides on a cushion of air. It is used on steep and rough terrain where a conventional mower can’t go.

In addition to the Hover Mower, the company manufactures push and self-propelled mowers that are marketed in 28 countries.  As part of its growth strategy, Eastman Industries decided it was time to get into the rider mower category.

“It is our intention to run a lean and efficient operation to cope with global competition, and to provide good manufacturing jobs right here in Maine. We looked to Maine MEP to help achieve these goals,” Nikazmerad said.

Working with Eastman Industries, the Maine MEP project managers assessed what new manufacturing space requirements were going to be needed when Ingersoll was incorporated into the company. They also surveyed both Eastman’s and Ingersoll’s existing facilities.

New Facility, New Manufacturing Layout
From those surveys, the MEP project managers helped Eastman officials identify a new manufacturing space capable of accommodating both manufacturing operations, as well as forecasted future growth. Once the site selection was complete, the Maine MEP project managers worked with Eastman officials to design a new manufacturing layout utilizing lean principles for optimal manufacturing efficiencies.

In the end, Eastman Industries increased its facility size from 7,000 square feet to more than 40,000 square feet. In addition, Eastman went from five to 12 employees, with additional growth forecast for the near future.

“As an aside,” said Robinson, “the addition of the Ingersoll line is also having an impact on other Maine manufacturers, as Eastman expects to locally outsource more than $200,000 of sub-assemblies and piece parts after its first year of manufacturing the Ingersoll line in Maine.”

“I have been very surprised at how much work it has been to move the Ingersoll factory to Maine,” said Nikazmerad, who has owned Eastman Industries since 1999. “We have moved equipment, machinery, and the company’s complete inventory.

“Without the assistance of the Maine MEP, I am sure the transition would not have been as easy or as complete,” he added.

Nikazmerad is excited about the future, however. “Ingersoll is a well-made tractor that is known as the Harley Davidson of tractors. It has been very successful, but we are looking to improve on its design and to modernize the entire line,” he said.

Increasing Productivity & Profits with Maine MEP
The Maine MEP is an affiliate of the NIST under the U.S. Department of Commerce. The national MEP is a network of manufacturing extension centers that provide business and technical assistance to smaller manufacturers in all 50 states, the District of Columbia and Puerto Rico. Through MEP, manufacturers have access to more than 2000 manufacturing and business “coaches” whose job is to help firms make changes that lead to greater productivity, increased profits, and enhanced global competitiveness. For more information on the Maine MEP program call 1-800-637-4634.


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