Gentle Giants: How “doing the right thing” has made Talan Products, Inc. a world-class leader

CLEVELAND, Ohio – In Northeast Ohio, there is no shortage of industrial manufacturers. Yet, despite their long list of industry peers, Talan Products Inc. has always managed to stand out. Tucked away in an industrial complex on Cochran Ave, Talan Products Inc. is revolutionizing the industrial manufacturing industry.

CEO Steve Peplin founded Talan Products, Inc. in 1986 with just $2,100 and two partners. Today, the contract manufacturing company now sees $50,000,000 in sales annually. Their 34-year history is marked by consistent financial stability, even during economic downturns and sector fluctuations, and their success is only projected to grow.

Their secret to success? Steve attributes much of their success to their partnering philosophy and core values, “We partner with our customers, we partner with our employees, we partner with our suppliers – everyone is on the same team.”

Known by the Company They Keep

Once a single product manufacturer for a single customer, the full-service metal stamping and tooling manufacturing company has evolved to meet the production needs of a variety of industries. Initially, the company offered three processes – high volume progressive die-stamping, aluminum extrusions supply and fabrication and tube forming – but soon after decided to focus on becoming experts at the first two processes.

Along with producing the original product that founded their business, they have retained their first four original customers. This focus on quality and consistency gained them world-class expertise in their field, but their tenacious approach to new and evolving industries set them apart as true innovators and leaders.

Steve Peplin with specialty washers and other stamped parts used in solar roofing installations

Steve explains, “We’ve always been innovative… we identify high-growth, disruptive industries and become involved early on”. Talan sought out collaboration with the solar industry after identifying that the company’s understanding of commercial roofing systems and manufacturing of building products provided an obvious potential for partnership. In 2010, Talan added major contracts in solar and LED lighting. Steve remarks, “We knew [green technology] had really high potential, but it’s succeeded beyond our growth expectations.” Today, Talan has partnered with the best in the sustainability markets.

On the company’s partnership model, Steve explains, “We want to be like a part of their company. It’s beyond just customer service, it’s really about being joined at the hip.” When dealing with conflict, Steve makes sure to maintain this positive relationship, “If there’s a problem, we have a problem – we work together.” Their website echoes this sentiment, advising others, “Partner with your customers. Invest in them. Keep them.”

Collaboration is Key

Talan believes in investing in all their partnerships, especially their 80+ employees, who Steve consistently refers to as “the team.” “Everyone can agree you have to invest in training your people, it’s not controversial,” Steve continued, “but we spend three times as many hours and four times the dollars on training than the industry average.” As a result, their safety performance is outstanding: going a million hours with only one minor injury and over seven years without a lost-time injury.

While all industries have trouble recruiting and retaining employees, high turnover is a particular problem for manufacturing and labor positions. But at Talan, even their workforce is above average. Talan’s turnover rate is less than half the industry average of 22 percent, maintaining a steady 9 percent. Again, Steve attributes these impressive numbers to Talan’s core values, “We’re very much a values-driven company.”

Their core values of Commitment to Safety, Collaboration, Tenacity and Determination, and Respect go beyond buzzwords and appearances and are put into practice in everyday operation. Even more unique, these values statements “weren’t just dictated to the team, they were developed together” and as such, they are behaviors expected from all levels of employees, especially from Steve himself.

Early in operation, Talan introduced and implemented what they call “Open Book Management.” This open dialogue includes transparency in reporting data with employees and more recently “CEO Roundtables” in which Steve speaks directly with small groups of employees on topics from performance to their tastes in music. Steve says, “it makes for a better life” and clearly, a better business.

Doing the Right Thing

Talan’s leadership doesn’t stop there. They’ve long been considered environmental leaders in their field. “We’ve been green since the 90s, before they even called it green.”

The Talan website states that with the industry, comes “an obligation to ourselves and to the rest of the world to constantly be reducing our carbon footprint” Their 210,000 square foot headquarters sets an example that others in the industry strive for – from LED lighting to recycling nearly 100% of their daily in-plant and office waste.

Even as a growing company in a competitive industry, Talan “continuously strives to be as green as possible.” In the past decade, their non-resource quarterly electrical consumption has dropped from around 80,000 kWh to just 20,000 kWh. In 2019, Green Energy Ohio recognized Talan with the Green Achievement Award in Business. Beyond the economic advantages associated with reducing their energy consumption and recycling their waste, Steve concedes, “it’s just doing the right thing.”

More of the Same

In the future, the 10-time winner of the Weatherhead 100 “fastest-growing company” award shows no signs of slowing. As Steve puts it, “There’s only one way to coast and that’s downhill.” The company is expected to continue pursuing innovative processes and industries while continuing to do what they’ve always done best – full-service metal stamping and “doing the right thing”.

By Erin Fisher