Setting the Curve: JanTec takes its curved conveyor business forward with new tech, marketing

Changes are coming to JanTec, a custom manufacturer of curved conveyors for the baking, bottling, food processing, pharmaceutical, textiles and warehousing industries. The company, which has been around Traverse City for more than 40 years, was purchased by Rochester Hills-based Ponos Holding Inc. in September 2021.

So what business rationale fueled that decision?

“We didn’t buy JanTec for what it is right now,” according to Troy Curran, who is a Ponos stakeholder and now serves as JanTec’s president. “We bought it for what it can be.”

Curran plans to re-energize (and, ultimately expand) JanTec. To accomplish that, he wants to invest in new technology and establish a more aggressive marketing and sales effort.

Bob Leusby, general manager with 26 years of experience at JanTec, said he’s excited about where all of this might lead. He said the investments potentially could encompass new machinery, updated design software, re-defined workflows and job responsibilities, and new materials in the production process.

“It’s going to be a gradual transition,” he said, “but we’re interested in upgrading our CNC equipment and improving cutting abilities. We are also looking at software packages that interact smoothly with our CNC equipment in the shop.”

He said the point is to expand capacity and stay open to the possibility of making inroads into other industry sectors.

Leusby recently hired two new shop floor workers, bringing the total number of employees to 10.

“The new guys will be fabricators, but we also cross-train,” he said about the team, which includes experienced machinists and a mechanical engineer. “So most of our staff learns to do pretty much every job in the shop.”

To expand market reach, the company has hired a marketing/sales employee whose job will be to re-engage former clients and develop new business. That person will also work on job quotes and handle social media and JanTec’s website.

“He is an important part of the growth plan. He’s also going to get customer feedback, which can help us become more engaged with customers as far as their needs,” Leusby said.

The sales associate will have at least one more important task.

“We don’t know how many businesses we deal with have gone out of business during the pandemic,” Leusby said. “That’s what he is going to find out.”

JanTec has several obvious strengths. It survived the worst days of the pandemic, then went on to have a surprisingly strong performance in FY 2022. Curran says he thinks that was due at least in part to pent-up demand. Another factor, he says, was that many customers started finding solutions to labor shortages and supply chain interruptions, which enabled them to ramp up production. It also helped that JanTec remained relatively untouched by Covid-related problems.

That’s because the company buys American-made products whenever possible. Leusby said he also keeps a close eye on inventory.

“We may order 5,000 parts for items we use in abundance,” he said. “So when we reach around the 1,200 mark, we reissue an order.”

Another advantage is that JanTec can also rely on selling replacement parts, which accounts for as much as 30% of annual sales. That’s an income stream that doesn’t need a lot of tending.

“Customers who need a spare part for one of our conveyers call us,” Leusby said. “We don’t have to go out to find that business. And it’s just one more reason why our goal is to get more of our equipment in the field.”

The Grand Traverse Area Manufacturing Council (GTAMC) sponsors this column. Its mission is to support a sustainable and globally competitive manufacturing sector for a stronger economy;