Two large silver-colored buildings at 100 Manufacturers Drive in Arnold represent an impressive heritage of product manufacturing and innovation that few local people may know about. Yet industrial companies worldwide, plus the U.S. military and businesses large and small, rely on LMC Industries, Inc. for specialized products and components without which they perhaps could not succeed.
With two plants on its corporate campus in Arnold comprising more than five acres under roof – one for plastics operations, one for metal stamping/tool and die –LMC Industries serves medical, electrical, electronics and consumer products industries in addition to automotive, agriculture and more. “We do a huge amount of business with agriculture and automobile industries,” says Steve Suellentrop, Vice President of Sales and Marketing at LMC Industries.
His late grandfather, Fred Suellentrop, Sr., a tool maker, businessman, and inventor from Missouri, founded the firm as a machine shop in 1945. The founder’s sons, Fred Jr. and Allan, eventually also joined the company to make their marks as second-generation leadership. Starting in the 1970s, six Suellentrop brothers and cousins joined the firm, helping LMC Industries become a global products company by growing its manufacturing operations and base of customers.
“Today, about 60 percent of our business is for auto industries. We make products such as headlight housings, accelerator pedals, brake pedals, and seat belt components, metal and plastic, for every type of vehicle you can imagine,” Suellentrop says. “Agriculture is also a large segment of our business – for example, we make feeder housings for cattle and swine.”
LMC Industries in Arnold, MO
LMC Industries Employees at Work
Vice President of Sales & Marketing
“In addition, we design and manufacture hundreds of different products for companies in other industries for many different applications.” LMC Industries has manufactured parts and components for products in virtually every industrial category, from toys to office supplies to military hardware components.
Ralph Waldo Emerson, the 19th century philosopher, said, “Build a better mousetrap, and the world will beat a path to your door.” D-Con mousetrap containers are made at LMC Industries. Says Suellentrop with a smile, “I like to think we make the better mousetrap.”
Having two plants with multiple manufacturing capabilities in one location means that industrial companies can realize production efficiencies by dealing with LMC Industries. Its full-service molding company produces stamped and molded products with tooling, CAD/CAM, parts decoration, assembly and specialty packaging services. The company also provides metal processing services that include design engineering, tool and die, production, finishing, welding, sub-assemblies, riveting and passivating (making metal parts less corrosive).
More than 300 skilled LMC Industries’ employees design, build, maintain and operate metal stamping dies, plastic injection molds, jig guides and fixtures to produce the company’s products. Many of those employees trained locally at Jefferson College and in LMC training programs as part of Missouri’s Certified Work Ready Community initiative, which has increased the efficiency and productivity of the workforce and reduced employee turnover.
“We’re very proud of our employees; many have worked here for 20 or 30 years, and some have been with us for 40 years,” Suellentrop says. “We are a family company and we like to consider our employees part of the family.”
LMC Industries, Inc. began in St. Louis with the name Lemay Machine Company until moving its headquarters and manufacturing operations to Arnold in 1995 – the company’s 50th anniversary – and changing its name to LMC Industries, Inc. “My grandfather started with a small machine shop that had an attached office,” Suellentrop says. “He worked in the shop and my grandmother Rose ran the office.”
“My grandfather was a smart, hard-working entrepreneur who saw opportunities to grow his business in the post-war economy, and he did. He never attended college but he had a natural talent with machinery and an aggressive vision for building a company,” Suellentrop adds.
LMC Industries Founder
Fred Suellentrop, Sr. & wife Ruth
LMC Industries Original Machine Shop
Fred Suellentrop, Sr.’s two sons, Allan and Fred, Jr., performed increasingly important jobs when they assumed top management roles in 1960 as Fred, Sr. approached retirement. “My father Fred and Uncle Allan were a terrific management team. They worked together for decades with a singular focus to strengthen the company.”
“When my brothers and cousins and I were very young, we worked in the shop to clean up and sweep up on weekends. When we turned about 16, we started working in the plant on weekends and in summer. We literally grew up with the company,” he says. “My grandfather worked here almost until the day he died,” Suellentrop says.
Fred Suellentrop, Sr. passed away in 1978. Steve Suellentrop’s father Fred, Jr., passed away in 2007. Today, seven relatives named Suellentrop manage the privately owned company. They are:
- Allan Suellentrop – Chairman of the Board
- Steve Suellentrop – Senior Vice President – Sales
- Dennis Suellentrop – Director of Manufacturing – Metals Division
- Gary Suellentrop – Quality Assurance
- Paul Suellentrop – Engineering Manager
- Keith Suellentrop – Chief Financial Officer
- Kevin Suellentrop – Vice President Engineering – Program Management
How do they get along in terms of family members running the company? Steve Suellentrop says, “We make sure that our number one priority is taking care of our customers’ needs. As a team, we are very flexible and nimble. Our family members work together very well, which is unusual for many family-owned companies,” he says. “Let me put it this way, every hunting season all of us go out into the woods with loaded guns to hunt and we all come back alive!”
In 2007, the Suellentrops welcomed Paul Lemke, a management consultant who earned an MBA from Vanderbilt University, to LMC Industries as an outside member of its Board of Directors. Over the years Lemke had served as interim President and CEO of several manufacturing firms experiencing transition.
In 2013, Lemke was named Chief Executive Officer and President of LMC Industries. Lemke recently told Manufacturing Today magazine, “We are creating a culture that’s more outwardly focused on customer needs and competitive realities. We expect to build a future based upon employees’ contributions. Everyone’s orientation needs to be focused on how we can best meet the customers’ needs.”
“Our product lines change frequently,” Lemke said. “As a contract manufacturer, we are an extension of our customers’ manufacturing facilities. So, we are operating as part of an overall lean-thinking supply chain.” Since most of its machines are used to produce more than only one type of product, LMC Industries utilizes equipment with maximum flexibility.
The company’s mission is evolving as it works to reduce time to complete setups and reduce the amount of work-in-progress inventory stored. Some customers require made-to-order items with short lead-times, while others utilize LMC Industries as a make-to-stock supplier. “While balancing all those competing customer requirements, we have maintained an on-time shipping value above 98 percent for each month,” Lemke said. “Everything has to be delivered to our customers on time, whether they’re 20 miles away or 8,000 miles away.”
Manufacturing Today magazine noted that LMC Industries maintains an entrepreneurial culture with a can-do attitude, growing into its markets and expanding globally with 40 percent of its products shipped internationally. Customers range from the world’s biggest automotive suppliers and consumer goods companies to entrepreneurial firms. As industry standards have changed, customers have become more demanding with their suppliers about quality levels, services, and additional value-added services. “Because automotive quality requirements have increased significantly over the last few years, LMC Industries has (adapted) to deliver higher-quality products, adopting a zero-defects culture initiative. The company constantly refines its systems, equipment, training techniques and operational capabilities to meet these standards,” the magazine noted.
Steve Suellentrop admits that his family’s 73-year-old company is operating in a very different industrial environment than it did just a few years ago. More companies based overseas are producing competitive products for similar industrial markets; LMC Industries is constantly on the watch to protect its position as a global industry leader that it has maintained for years. “Foreign competition, especially from companies based in Asia and the Pacific Rim, has intensified, particularly in terms of industrial parts and tooling, and lower costs,” he says. “Among other innovations and strategies that we have implemented, our employees are using statistical analysis tools and statistical analysis data to ensure that products coming off our manufacturing lines are exactly precise to customers’ specifications.”
Suellentrop says LMC Industries often receives foreign-made parts and components that the company will use to make finished products, but that some foreign-made parts often do not exactly reflect customer specifications. As a result, LMC must resolve errors in those foreign-made parts before introducing them into LMC manufacturing processes. But LMC Industries did not become a leading global manufacturer by avoiding challenge and new innovation. Over the years it has set new standards and procedures for the industry, as it did when founder Fred Suellentrop, Sr. developed the mechanical parts process that enabled Reddi-Wip® to be dispensed from an aerosol can.
What Goes Around, Comes Around
Steve Suellentrop remembers the days when Stan “The Man” Musial often visited the plant to play baseball with the plastic toy bats that LMC developed for his company Stan the Man, Inc. “I used to pitch to him,” Suellentrop says with a grin. He remembers when LMC made piggy banks featuring pictures of The Flintstones® cartoon characters, and Looney Tune® beverage cups for kids. The company even developed a portable charcoal filtering system for application to bottles of cheap whiskey that would transform the cheap stuff into a smooth premium version. “That system didn’t really work out too well,” Suellentrop admits, “but I do keep a couple of bottles at home as souvenirs.”
From his office filled with hunting trophies and photos of his children, Suellentrop is asked to describe LMC Industries in a few words. Reflecting on the company’s history, he says, “This is a family-managed company that has grown by responding to customer needs from the very beginning. My grandfather grew the business of his small machine shop by producing whatever type of component or product his customers requested.”
“As the founder, he instilled the qualities of dedication, hard work, pride, innovation, and top quality design and production into his sons and grandsons. In a sense, but in much bigger ways, those qualities define what LMC Industries is today – a family-owned company with skilled employees committed to satisfying whatever component or product need the customer requires in a high quality way.”
“As a global products company, we are proud of the resiliency and flexibility of our family members and employees who successfully deal with industrial change and different customer priorities. We don’t back away from manufacturing challenges, and we always come through for the customer.”
Story by Jeff Dunlap