When Melanie Hart walks the floor of one of her plants, she solves problems.
One technician has questions for Hart about his attendance at NPE. Another tells her that he's experiencing a small, annoying shock at his work station. She and the plant manager discuss both issues immediately. Problems solved.
Hart enjoys the one-on-one interaction. But it bothers this company president that she no longer knows the names of everyone at Tasus Corp. where she has worked for 25 years.
“That's why I'm so bent on no more than 200 employees [per plant],” Hart said during a December visit to Tasus' newest plant in Florence. “Not for me, because that means there are going to be 800 with the four locations, but I want the plant managers and the management team to really know every employee.”
Hart works to keep the small company feel at Tasus. That's not an easy task. Tasus is projected to reach $80 million in sales by August. This from a company that Hart described as struggling with $15 million in sales before she became president at age 34 in 1994.
Much has changed in 20 years.
One plant in Bloomington, Ind., is now four in North America. This injection molder has become laser-focused on the automotive end market, too. The customer list is an impressive group of Tier 1 suppliers and OEMs — Automotive Lighting, Denso, Johnson Controls, North American Lighting (largest customer), Tokai Rika, Honda, Nissan and Toyota.
“We supply almost every carmaker that has a plant in the United States,” Hart said.
Making that supply chain convenient is her goal. Hart's team is considering some acquisitions, but opening a new facility in southern Tennessee seems to be higher on the priority list.
“If our Indiana plant is at capacity and this [Alabama] plant will soon be at capacity — it makes some sense to locate someplace in between the two of them so that location can take some of the pressure off both plants and still be close enough to our customers to meet their needs and not cause increased freight costs,” she said.
Hart tells a great story about becoming president of Tasus. She traveled to Japan to present a business plan to the president and chairman of her parent company, Tsuchiya Co. Ltd. As Hart waited for the right moment to make a formal presentation, they spoke of their families and made lots of small talk. By the end of the conversation, the chairman suggested that if Bloomington could have a female mayor, then Tasus could be led by a woman, too.