The great philosopher Plato said, “necessity is the mother of invention.” His proverb is timeless and still resonate in our world today. In 1958, R. D. Newman, founder of Mr. LongArm, encountered a problem he wanted to solve. While making a sales call to a paint business in Wichita, Mr. Newman saw the owner, and his customer, a paint contractor, attempting to tape a paint roller frame to a piece of electrical conduit. It was quite a struggle.
When he returned home, Mr. Newman continued to think about the problem. He believed that using aluminum to replace the heavy electrical conduit would be the best solution. Mr. Newman started his company, Mr. LongArm in 1958, and began producing the first-known aluminum telescopic extension handles. Today, the company manufactures over 300 products designed to make life easier for professional and do-it-yourself painters, window washers and cleaners.
Understandably, it takes teamwork and intense behind the scene planning to keep Mr. LongArm competitive, and on track for longterm growth. Cutting Edge Products continues our “Made in America” series by sharing insights from Dere Newman, Company President, and Maureen Newman, VP International & Diversified Markets.
What are the advantages of operating your manufacturing facility in the U.S.?
M. Newman: There are several key advantages for us. For example, the U.S. has one of the largest DIY markets in the world. Being based here allows us to keep our fingers on the pulse of the “movement” and quickly bring innovative products to the market. Globally speaking, another advantage is the “Made in the USA” label is synonymous with quality products. Operating manufacturing facilities in the middle of the U.S. is also beneficial. Probably the biggest tangible advantage of being centrally located is our overall costs are lower than much of the country. The biggest intangible benefit is Midwesterners have a reputation for being hard workers, honest and loyal. We feel that we share a special bond with our employees and they with us; the end result is quality products made with pride.
What impact do imports have on how your company positions its products in the marketplace?
M. Newman: The greatest impact imports have made is the commoditization of entry price point products. We’ve repositioned ourselves to be the only extension handle manufacturer that can offer our retail customers an entire handle program customized to their specific customer base. In recent years, we’ve invested heavily in technology, innovations and being first to market.
What role does research and development play in expanding into new product categories?
M. Newman: R&D plays a vital role; we are very proficient in identifying opportunities for new products. Once identified, we partner with Pensa, a strategic product design company in New York who has been instrumental in the success of several products, not to mention the numerous awards we’ve received for product design, packaging excellence, and more.
How do your products differ from competitors?
M. Newman: Our competitors’ approach to extension handles is to produce one style regardless of who is buying the product and how it will be used. We take a different approach because we manufacture a wide variety of handles with various options specifically designed for how the product will be used, how often it will be used and the type of user.
Has the shortage of skilled labor impacted Mr. LongArm?
D. Newman: Our firm is fortunate to have long-term employees. These highly-valued individuals, skilled in multiple trades, share their expertise in our knowledge transfer training programs. Additionally, we keep pace with the multitude of benefits that are important to the individual and bring those forward so the employee experience (engagement, experience and effectiveness in what the person encounters, observes and feels) is the best it can be.
Company’s often support philanthropic causes. Does your company support any organizations?
M. Newman: We consider it our duty to be good corporate citizens and it is a privilege to support organizations which we feel share our core values. The list of organizations we support is too long to mention. However, I’ll name a few that are near and dear to our hearts. These include the local ROTC chapter, Boys and Girls Club Greater Kansas City, Alzheimer’s Association Heart of American Chapter, and Mission K9 Rescue. One of the more fun fund-raising events we participated in this year was the 2019 Kansas City Polar Plunge for the Special Olympics.
Has your company incorporated Smart Technology into the manufacturing process?
M. Newman: We have a clear vision of where we want to be and a blue print on how to use Smart Technologies to get there. We’ve implemented MOM (manufacturing operations management) software on the plant floor. One example of how we’ve optimized production is by analyzing real time data to maximize the workload and increase productivity.
How does customer feedback help enhance products or improve service?
D. Newman, M. Newman: Our customers are our lifeblood; we strive to provide the best experience possible each and every time we are in contact. Customer satisfaction whether it be in product performance or on-time deliveries, is our top priority. Every Mr. LongArm employee regardless of their job description or position knows they play a role in customer satisfaction. With regards to feedback, whether it be from retailers, distributors or end users, the information is gathered and shared with the appropriate person. A good example of customer feedback improving service happened recently at a retailer buying show. A request was made by a dealer to change our merchandising display header card to better explain the product selections making it easier for the consumer to choose which product best suits their needs. After we made the change, we visited with the dealer who happily reported a noticeable increase in sales. Customer service is individualized at our firm; one size does not fit all.
What is the most important thing you want our readers to know?
We want your readers to know that when they see a Mr. LongArm extension handle, paint or exterior stain applicator, RV and boat cleaning brush, window washing squeegee, or light bulb changer, they are looking at the best product on the market made by people who take pride in their jobs.