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B&B aims to grow via innovation

Posted: September 27, 2008 8:15 p.m.
Updated: November 29, 2008 5:00 a.m.

Corey Benoit inspects a manifold valve at the final inspection station at the B & B Manufacturing company on Wednesday morning.

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Oscar Torres poked the touch-screen computer that hung in the middle of a factory floor busy with humming machines and diligent workers focused on assembling parts.

From the small screen, Torres, who works as a machine operator at B&B Manufacturing, demonstrated how an employee can access everything from the day’s work schedule to how to request tools and send e-mails.

“It’s easy, quicker,” said Torres, a Palmdale resident who has worked at the industrial company for three years.

The flat screens are all over the five-building campus of B&B’s home in the Valencia Industrial Center and it’s just one way the company increases productivity through efficiency.

During its 48 years in operation, B&B formed a strong client base that includes major aircraft companies like Boeing.

In 2002, the company teamed up with Honda Performance Development to produce parts for Honda’s efforts in the Indy racing league, Vice President Jeff Lage said.

Ken Gentry started the company under the name KPM in 1960 and ran the business with his wife, Sharon, from their garage.

In 1978, the company acquired B&B (Barnes and Barnes) Manufacturing with the goal of strengthening the company.

B&B Manufacturing moved to its current location on Beale Court in 1980 after spending years in Burbank, said company president Fred Duncan. The move allowed the company, which serves the aerospace, military, semi-conductor, automotive racing and general aviation markets, to expand from one building to its current 112,000-square-foot campus.

And B&B is still growing.

The company recently debuted a new production space that manufactures crankcases for Lycoming engines, commonly used in single-engine aircraft. Within the production area, referred to as “cells,” employees produce a crankcase assembly every 2 hours and 13 minutes, Lage said.

The company projects that the new cell will generate sales of more than $15 million in the next five years.

The business currently employs about 225 people with roughly 30 percent living in the Santa Clarita Valley.

Although a majority of the employees commutes from the San Fernando and Antelope valleys, Lage and Duncan said the employees spend money in the local valley. “These guys shop in the area,” Lage said, adding they eat their lunches locally and even purchase their cars in Santa Clarita.

A major aspect of B&B’s success is the dedication to efficiency he said.

For instance, above each machine is a step-by-step guide for the worker on how to manufacture the part and use the machine.

Efficiency at B&B also affects office organization.

Every employee, including the president and vice president, sits in a cubicle, Lage said. The only enclosed office belongs to human resources.

The design helps boost communication between employees and can create an “open environment” that increases efficiency.

“We’re beyond an open-door policy,” Lage said. “We have no doors.”

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