(This story originally appeared in the Ashland Times- Gazette written by Jim Brewer)

Jim Morando, president of Mansfield Plumbing Products of Perrysville, gave an upbeat report on the status of the company to members of the Rotary Club of Ashland on Tuesday.


Crediting its parent company, Corona of Bogota, Colombia, for allowing it to work for improvement in the long term, Morando traced the resurgence of the Perrysville manufacturer of vitreous china products.

"When I arrived with the company in 2006, we were in difficult straits. We were not competitive, we had no cash, our fill rate (for filling orders) was only 65 percent, our sales efforts were not diversified and there was little hope in the company," Morando said. "Our employees were giving up on us and themselves."

"On arrival, I met with our workers and told them that working together and committing to a more efficient operation could save the company," he said.  He added he convinced a customer who suspected the company was about to close to "give us another six months. That customer is still with us."  The resurgence of Mansfield Plumbing came against the backdrop of a declining industry.

"In the late 1970s, there were 48 sanitary ware plants operating in the U.S.," he said. "By 2012, only seven were left, and there were similar declines in other manufacturing industries across the U.S. Today, Mansfield is the only sanitary ware manufacturer in the U.S. who will sell a product for less than $100. At those prices, we have no room for inefficiency."

Another major change was a diversification of the company's sales direction. "From around 1980 until the mid-2000s, 100 percent of our sales effort went to new-home construction, and when construction was down, it killed us," he said. "We made an effort to get involved in other sales directions, including remodeling and institutional building.

"Also increasing our share of the market was the reality that during this most recent recession, three of our four primary competitors closed.

"We also made a concerted effort to concentrate on doing a few things well and stop doing others," he said. "Only adding things is a recipe for failure."

One thing that contributed to the company's success was purchasing new technology from some of its failed competitors, adding to the company's efficiency.

"By 2010, we actually began to produce product at a lower cost than Chinese sanitary ware manufacturers and our fill rate improved to 97 percent," Morando said. "Today, our fill rate of locally produced product is 100 percent. The only losses are from products we purchased overseas."  Employment at Mansfield Plumbing is about 550 and will increase, he said.

"A lot of the work we do is hot and heavy. We require workers with the strength of football players and the finesse of artists. It takes about a year to get our workers to reach this level of strength/finesse.

"Helping us secure workers today is the reputation we have. Used to be only bad things were said about us, while now some people are saying good things about us, plus we are getting people who left the company a few years ago coming back.

"The biggest challenge in the employment has been finding skilled staff, maintenance people, tool and die workers and machinists."

The company now is planning a $9 million, 150-job expansion to meet the newly diversified markets.

"Very helpful in achieving and planning for these objectives is having a parent company, Corona, willing to let us make changes for the long term," Morando said.