NAPPANEE — Aluminum Trailer Co. has opened its new factory and headquarters.

The company cut a ceremonial ribbon Tuesday morning on its plant at 751 N. Tomahawk Trail, just south of C.R. 52 and on the west edge of the city. ATC is building its custom and semi-custom all-aluminum car hauler trailers at the plant.

The company now has three plants in Nappanee.

“We have been at the process of creating this space for almost four years now,” said Steve Brenneman, founder and company and its chief executive officer. “We were able to really lay it out based on some years of experience with lean manufacturing and process excellence.”

He said that experience and planning allowed the company’s leadership to start with a blank slate and make the factory efficient, yet having a comfortable atmosphere for the people who work there.

“We wanted to create a space that was enjoyable to work in,” Brenneman said.

The factory features a lot of natural lighting, a large covered porch for parking bicycles used by Amish workers and large workstations for office employees. Outside, a wooded area along the property line was preserved to offer a more natural setting.

Some uncommon features are the see-through walls of the large welding area. The orange-tinted transparent walls allow workers inside the welding area to see the rest of the factory while the tint protects the eyes of anyone looking in.

ATC sells a variety of all-aluminum cargo and specialty trailers across North America. The company’s Quest line is manufactured in the new facility.

“That represents about 60 percent of our business,” Brenneman said.

ATC has vacated its Williams Street plant and old headquarters to move manufacturing and the offices to the new plant. Brenneman said company executives are now looking at how the Williams Street plant can be reconfigured to increase the company’s production and also produce new product lines.

The company employs about 270 employees, according to Josh Sanders, ATC marketing manager. He said more jobs are expected to be added in the next two years based on growth.

“One of the interesting things about this whole factory is that we have really bought into lean manufacturing,” Sanders said. “We understand that the economy is great right now and things are good and when things are good everybody is happy. But we remember 2008 (the recession) and part of this is getting our processes so there is no waste.”

He said the company’s no-waste philosophy covers materials and effort so that if there is an economic downturn in the future the company will be positioned to weather such an event.

Contact Roger Schneider at 574-533-2151, ext. 309 or at Follow Roger on Facebook and Twitter @rschneider_TGN

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