PennTecQ celebrates 25 years in America

STORY AND PHOTOS by PHILLIP A. RAU • Record Argus • 7/19/2013

 

3p1_previewHEMPFIELD TOWNSHIP — After 25 years in America, PennTecQ President Bob Nakatani has seen both good times and uncertain; financial unrest and his company’s dramatic expansion.

Thursday, as the manufacturer of automotive components celebrated its 25th anniversary, Nakatani called its very formation a gamble made by a young, brash businessman.

“Perhaps this was more a foolish or rash move on my part; opening a new plant in the U.S. sounds impressive,” he said. “But in the beginning, we … were in a pretty dire condition. But I was young then. I still had plenty of hair on my head.”

For Nakatani, whose business is manufacturing automotive parts with a kind of precision and reliability that approaches medical-grade quality control, the gamble hasn’t proven to be simple or easy.

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PYMATUNING TOWNSHIP — (Above) Joe Weaver of PennTecQ works on a window sash component at the company’s manufacturing facility at Greenville-Reynolds Industrial Park. The company produces components for cars produced by Honda, Toyota, Subaru and Ford. (Left) Bob Krumpak of PennTecQ works with sections of window trim being produced at the company’s manufacturing facility at Greenville-Reynolds Industrial Park.

“There have been times of celebration and times when I just wanted to cry,” he said.

Nakatani came to America in 1988 to build PennTecQ.

Quality Manager Vicki Coxson, who is one of only five people at the company with 24 years of service, can still remember walking into the company’s current home for the first time, in 1991.

“I remember looking around, thinking to myself, ‘Will we ever fill this building?’” she said.

3p3_previewAsked, and answered this way: Since then, PennTecQ has outgrown its facility three times and been forced to build addons, including a 22,000- square-foot “west wing” in 1999.

It’s gone into business with Sony, manufacturing components for flat screen televisions; deepened its relationship with Newman Technology, a major sup- plier for Honda; and added variety to its automotive manufacturing lines multiple times throughout the years, emerging as a company certified to provide components directly to factory assembly lines.

That’s no small feat, said Mercer County Fiscal Administrator John Logan, who himself spent a decade working at PennTecQ as the company’s treasurer and administration manager.

“To me, the real underlying story is that they’ve created a whole lot of good jobs in the area and taught a whole lot of people how to make perfect parts,” he said. “The complexity of what they’ve taken on … is a demonstration of how much they’ve grown. They’ve grown a culture that can do this.”

HEMPFIELD TOWNSHIP — Joellen Arenas (center), executive director of the Shenango Valley YMCA, speaks Thursday at the PennTecQ 25th anniversary luncheon at The Greens of Greenville, where the company donated $10,000 to be used to refurbish one of Riverside Park’s pavilions. Also pictured are Lyle Huffman from Greenville Borough; Fred Kiser of Greenville Area Chamber of Commerce; and Bob Nakatani, president of PennTecQ. Phillip A. Rau/R-A

HEMPFIELD TOWNSHIP — Joellen Arenas (center), executive director of the Shenango Valley YMCA, speaks Thursday at the PennTecQ 25th anniversary luncheon at The Greens of Greenville, where the company donated $10,000 to be used to refurbish one of Riverside Park’s pavilions. Also pictured are Lyle Huffman from Greenville Borough; Fred Kiser of Greenville Area Chamber of Commerce; and Bob Nakatani, president of PennTecQ. Phillip A. Rau/R-A

The story of PennTecQ might be, in large part, a story of culture: Japanese culture butting up against American individualism; the company’s work building a culture of perfectionism among its

employees; and the insular culture of the automotive industry — where a company like PennTecQ can beg for a chance just to get thrown the toughest job manufacturers have lying around — presiding over it all.

Coxson, in her 24 years, said she’s seen many changes, and not just facility expansions and new product lines added to PennTecQ’s repertoire.

“I have seen many changes in our culture,” she said.

Some of those changes, said Keith Schwartz, the company’s controller, are wide-ranging; PennTecQ operates more like a Japanese company, lean and with little backlog of inventory, than an American manufacturer might.

Others, Logan said, are truly cultural in the way most people think of the word.

“The common thing is for the American worker to defer to the guy with the necktie,” he said. “The egalitarian approach — our way — was to listen to the guy who might have the best answer.”

Greenville and its culture play a part in the company’s rise as well.

With more than 200 jobs, PennTecQ is a “significant enterprise” to the borough, Logan said.

That’s something not lost on Nakatani’s company, which Thursday donated $10,000 to be used refurbishing one of Riverside Park’s pavilions, as part of its anniversary celebration.

For Nakatani, as one might expect, the work is far from over.

“While we have made vast strides, we still have a lot of work to do,” he said; the company recently added its own development wing — a major step forward, company officials said — to its facility.

“I can promise that we will become a company that fully satisfies our customers,” he said.