CHICAGO — About 10 years ago, as the makers of K-Tec Inc.'s Blendtec line of professional blenders prepared to enter the consumer blender market, company leaders decided they wanted to change the way they made their machines as well.
“We really wanted to take control of our quality, and who cares more about our quality than we do?” said Craig Taylor, CEO of Orem, Utah-based Blendtec during a March 16 interview at the International Home + Housewares Show in Chicago.
That in turn led them to bringing nearly all production in house, including developing in-house injection molding capabilities that allowed Blendtec to reshore manufacturing previously done in China.
The change was a big challenge, Taylor said. Orem is not exactly a plastics processing hotbed, so the company had to build up its staff and expertise, while also adding capabilities in metals and even the ability to build its electronic motherboards in house.
Blendtec now has nine injection molding presses at its 280,000-square-foot facility along with auxiliary and automation equipment. Out of the 350 employees, 10 percent are engineers, said public relations director Tim Provost.
The change is paying off, not just in quality control, the company says, but in faster speed to market.
For its newest blenders, the company wanted to make a slight change to the shape of its jar, which is molded from Eastman Chemical Co.'s Tritan copolyester. With molding right on the same property as design and engineering, Blendtec brought the new shape into production within two months.
“We can bring it to market quickly because we control everything,” Provost said.
At IHHS, the company introduced new blenders with an organic LED touch screen, with the potential for more than 100 different speed and power settings.
Blendtec operates at a higher end of the consumer line than its mass market competitors, with blenders priced from $299 to $999, but it is seeing growth from consumers who use its blenders as a replacement for juicers, because of the improved blade design and power within its products, Provost said.
Its blenders can also grind coffee and wheat.
Blendtec's founder, Tim Dickson, has even become an Internet star with a video series called “Will It Blend?” in which he uses a Blendtec to grind up everything from marbles to soft drinks (still in the can) and even iPhones and iPads. The series grew out of Dickson's own version of quality control testing, looking for things that would break one of his blenders.