From garage doors to gift wrap, these companies make things that are used in homes all across the country.
| 2017 Q2 | Story by Emily Mulligan, photos by Steven HertzogThere are literally millions of products manufactured in Lawrence that are enjoyed regularly in homes across America. Two industrial production facilities in two completely different businesses keep a low profile in Lawrence and quietly produce consumer goods that millions of Americans use and value every day.
Entrematic is now the name of the company in East Hills Business Park previously known around Lawrence as Amarr Garage Door Co. The doors are still Amarr brand doors, but the company has been called Entrematic since its purchase in 2013 by Swedish company ASSA ABLOY.
Hallmark Cards Inc. is a brand that needs no introduction. A Kansas City-based company, Hallmark’s Lawrence Greetings Production Center on McDonald Drive produces and packages about 70 percent of all Hallmark’s greeting cards worldwide.
ENTREMATICEntrematic has had substantial operations in Lawrence since 1989 as Garage Door Group. Today, Entrematic’s Lawrence operation comprises several arms of the company, which also has a manufacturing facility in North Carolina and expanded production to Shawnee, Kan., in 2017, including manufacturing, engineering, national procurement, finance, human resources, training and customer service. More than 750 people work for Entrematic in Lawrence, and the company is hiring this year as it expands operations further.
“Our manufacturing facility here in Kansas in the middle of the U.S. allows us to efficiently serve all of our North American customers. Our global presence serves the customers in those specific regions around the world,” says Delbert Phlipot, director of value analysis value engineering (VAVE), who has worked at the Lawrence facility for more than 20 years.
In Lawrence, Entrematic produces Amarr residential and commercial garage doors, movable doors and sectional doors, with mostly steel, aluminum and glass materials. The doors are sold through professional garage door dealers, big-box retailers and online.
“Amarr has built up one of most successful garage door businesses in the U.S., with both a residential and commercial offering. What we also value is the strong footprint across North America with multiple local door centers, along with very skilled and experienced people,” says Juan Vargues, executive vice president of ASSA ABLOY and president and CEO of ASSA ABLOY Entrance Systems.
Besides manufacturing, the company’s Lawrence operations have a nationwide reach. The procurement department in Lawrence, which Entrematic calls Supply Chain, purchases supplies for all of Entrematic’s North American facilities and coordinates logistics and delivery of those supplies.
Customer service in Lawrence is for Entrematic’s 90 nationwide distribution centers, large garage door installation dealers and a call center for big-box retail stores to furnish and install garage doors.
Most of Entrematic’s jobs provide on-the-job training for its proprietary equipment, but many jobs also involve more specialized training in pneumatics and electrical programmable controllers.
“We have good opportunities for people to move up into higher-paying positions and grow and expand their skills and responsibilities. Jobs here can also be a stepping stone to other places,” Phlipot explains.
Amarr started out as a building-supply company in Winston-Salem, N.C., founded by Abe, Morris and Herb Brenner in 1951. They streamlined their operations into garage doors and began manufacturing wood garage doors for supply throughout the Southeast in 1969.
The industry changed from wood to steel garage doors in the 1970s, and Garage Door Group began producing steel garage doors in Kansas City, Mo., then expanded to Lawrence and opened Entrematic’s current facility in 1989. Amarr bought out the partnership in 1998 and has twice added square footage in Lawrence to accommodate demand and product variety.
Products and TrendsThe main constant since the advent of Amarr is that the doors are still installed through professional garage door dealers. The variety of styles, colors, material combinations and purposes for garage doors in residential and commercial settings that Entrematic produces borders on infinite.
“The end users of the products, whether it’s the homeowner or the building manager, is much more focused on design, energy efficiency, quiet operation, safety and low maintenance,” Phlipot says. “The current trend is garage doors with wide expanses of glass. As the indoor/outdoor living trend continues, more and more homes and restaurants are installing aluminum, full-view garage doors to allow for maximum natural lighting.”
Garage doors that look like carriage house doors are also increasingly popular, as home-improvement shows emphasize the need for homes’ improved curb appeal. That trend was part of the reason for Entrematic’s expansion of manufacturing in Shawnee, so the company could better accommodate the more detailed design and assembly processes required.
The globalization movement of manufacturing in the late 1990s did not have much of an impact on Amarr, mostly because garage door sizes and demands are largely country-specific. But the recession of 2008 affected Amarr as residential construction slowed to a halt after the housing crash.
“During the U.S. recession in 2008, we were hit hard like most building product companies. Thankfully, with our continued development of new products, our focus on becoming more efficient and reaching new market segments, we have surpassed our company size before the recession and continue to see more growth opportunity,” Phlipot says.
Entrematic has been closely involved with the creation and development of The Dwayne Peaslee Technical Training Center. As with many manufacturing-related businesses, Entrematic has seen a gap in trained labor as baby boomers have begun to retire. The Peaslee Center will offer training in some of the areas that could qualify people for skilled jobs at Entrematic, and the company also has begun coordinating with the high schools to encourage careers in manufacturing and allow students to begin training as part of their schooling at Peaslee.
In addition to Peaslee, Phlipot says the company and employees support organizations such as local Goodwill, the Humane Society, Lawrence Memorial Hospital and University of Kansas research and development.
“Amarr is serving a market with general underlying growth; and having both a residential and commercial line supports the long-term success,” Vargues says. “In terms of our industry, we expect further consolidation in the years to come, and we intend to be one of the driving forces in this development, building further on our fast expansion the last years.”
The Hallmark Greetings Production Center has been in the same location in Lawrence since it opened in 1958. It covers 650,000 square feet and employs about 800 people to produce greeting cards, envelopes, boxed cards and invitations, stationery and store displays.
Although Hallmark will not release specifics about how many cards and items are produced at the facility, the numbers are in the millions of cards per week. The Lawrence center is one of just two U.S. manufacturing facilities for Hallmark (the other one is in Leavenworth, Kan.). Production and hiring in Lawrence have increased in 2017, as popularity of the company’s Mahogany cards and Vida cards, with African American and Latino themes, respectively, has grown.
Hallmark’s cards are sold in more than 100 countries and in more than 30 languages, through more than 100,000 stores. It is a $4-billion company with 27,000 employees worldwide.
Production in Lawrence runs for three shifts during the week, with weekend production that is a little less, and just a few idle days each year.
Steve Eck, who has worked for Hallmark in various capacities since 1999, was recently appointed general manager of the Lawrence Greetings Production Center.
“It is significant to Hallmark to have a facility close to Kansas City. We can stay in tune and change and adapt as we need to. Hallmark feels good about this facility, and we have 750 people who have the same passion for Hallmark,” Eck explains.
Hallmark has developed proprietary technology that it uses in Lawrence to cut, fold, foil-stamp, flock and decorate cards quickly and efficiently.
“One card has many different paths. The advantage of the facility is being able to manage the complexity of the card and getting it through the process,” Eck says.
Because of the many processes undertaken at the Production Center, there are a range of jobs, the majority of which provide on-the-job training and opportunity for advancement.
“The average seniority is north of 20 years. It’s amazing to think about the dedication they have. Our competitive advantage in our manufacturing is all about our people, and that is proven in the amount of people who stay beyond 25 years,” Eck says.
Hallmark was founded in 1910 in Kansas City by Joyce Clyde (J.C.) Hall and his brother Rollie, when they began printing and designing postcards. By 1915, they were selling cards in envelopes for Valentine’s Day and Christmas, and the greeting card was born. They also invented the concept of mass-produced decorative gift wrap. The Hallmark name began to be included on every card in 1928.
The Hall family wanted to keep the company in Kansas City as it grew.
“They bought land in surrounding areas so that as the company expanded, they could expand, as well, but still in the Kansas City region, which they considered home,” says Andy DiOrio, Hallmark’s public relations and social media director.
The Lawrence Greetings Production Center has produced cards since it opened in 1958, although at the time of its opening , most cards were created with handwork. The technology has evolved massively in 59 years, DiOrio and Eck agree.
The company’s manufacturing operations in Lawrence and Leavenworth—where gift wrap, bows and tissue paper are produced—as well as its massive distribution facility in Liberty, Mo., keep its U.S. operations all in the Kansas City area.
Although Lawrence no longer has one, there are 2,000 Hallmark Gold Crown stores in five countries, most of which are independently owned, and thousands of outlets that sell cards and gift wrap nationwide within other retail operations.
Recently, Hallmark has begun offering its products in about 70 stores, including Ace Hardware, for what it calls “a store within a store,” DiOrio says. (note: in the printed edition “stores” was mistakenly listed as only “Westlake Ace Hardware stores”, which is not the case)
“It brings store traffic to the hardware stores at slower times of year for them. It is smaller than a Gold Crown store, but it allows folks to access our product with a local business feeling when they are already shopping,” he says.
There is a strong emphasis on community involvement within Hallmark, DiOrio says, and the Lawrence facility is no exception.
In fact, Eck himself is on the Douglas County Economic Development Commission. There is an employee community-involvement committee that makes decisions about distributing funds from the Hallmark Corporate Foundation, and local Hallmark employees are strong supporters of the United Way of Douglas County.
“Wherever Hallmark plants its seed, the company wants to give back to the community, not just as a thank you, but because it’s the right thing to do,” DiOrio says.