Vulcan-Hart’s kitchen equipment unit modernizes
LOUISVILLE–The Vulcan-Hart Corp.’s kitchen equipment operations here are housed in a rambling complex, part of which was built by Civil War veterans. Next door is a new streamlined corporate office building, indicative of continuing progress at the division.
Last year, for instance, saw the completion of a plant expansion, reorganization of the facility for better flow and the advent of computers. This year, a new stacking system for sheet stock, costing about $50,000, will be installed.
Of the four main divisions of Vulcan-Hart–in Louisville, Baltimore, St. Louis and Compton, Calif.–the Louisville division manufactures the broadest product line of kitchen equipment for commercial use. It includes a light counter line of fryers, griddles, charbroilers, warmers and hot plates, available in both gas or electric, and a medium-duty and heavy-duty line of products, such as dough mixers, steamers and dishwashers.
“We did fairly well right through the recession because we do a heavy chain business,” Jack Scanlon, general manager at the Louisville division, said. Vulcan-Hart’s customers include such fast food chains as Wendy’s, McDonald’s, Long John Silver’s and Hardee’s.
“They went along okay through the recession and so did we,” Scanlon said.
In general, Scanlon explained, volume improved last year over 1983 and he gave some credit to the firm’s new products–a counter convection steamer, a braising pan–indispensable in Europe but which has just caught on in this country in recent years–and a new dishwasher with electronic circuitry.
“We do a lot of handwork here, providing specialty products rather than volumes of mass-produced items,” Scanlon said. “Our continued success has to do with value of product. We emphasize quality–good, sturdy, tough equipment.”
John Bell, plant superintendent at Louisville, estimated the division consumes 800,000 to 1 million pounds of stainless steel a year.
While many customers are local–hotels, restaurants and even the city’s new convention center–others are as far afield as Singapore, Egypt, Iran and China.
“We’ve been making inroads in China. We’re doing a lot of business there,” Scanlon commented. Approximately 15 percent of the division’s business is done overseas. In June, a manufacturing, accounting, inventory and production control (MAPIC) program was introduced with the installation of an IBM 34 computer. The computer is expected to help in reducing inventory and improving delivery time.
“We have 20,000 part numbers in Louisville due to the number of products made here. We used to keep records by hand, without the aid of a computer, so this program is a huge undertaking,” Scanlon said.
The project involves two years of training for about 80 to 90 of the division’s 300 employees.
To complement an engineering lab for developing new products, the division also has begun to build a test kitchen, where customers can actually try out a product to see if it will be suitable in their businesses.
Other than electrical componentry and castings, the division fabricates everything else itself. “We do a lot of punching, bending, forming, welding and polishing,” Scanlon noted.
When an old foundry was torn down rather than refurbished because it was more economical to buy castings, the fabrication shop underwent a 5,000-square-foot expansion, completed in August.