Leland-based Manufacturing Methods has entered into a partnership with an Australian company that has recently located its U.S. headquarters in Wilmington.
Tru Blue K9000 has chosen Manufacturing Methods to produce and assemble all its U.S.-based, do-it-yourself dog wash machines, said Tim Darmanin, founder and managing director of Tru Blu K9000 Dog Wash LLC.
Tru Blue K9000 established its U.S. headquarters
, an office and showroom, at 4305 Oleander Drive in late June. Since setting up base in Wilmington, the company has had about 25 units installed in the American market with its manufacturing in Australia, he said.
Now, the company aims to both sell and manufacture out of Southeastern North Carolina.
“We’ve come back into the market,” Darmanin said. “We have found the need to manufacture here … and grow it from here.”
Since 2005, Tru Blu K9000 has sold over 1,600 machines worldwide. There are about 300 units in the United States from a push into the market back in 2010, Darmanin said.
The relationship with Manufacturing Methods began in August, and will facilitate an even greater push into the American market, he said.
Manufacturing Methods has become the second global manufacturing base for the dog wash machine, the first being out of Australia. The company also has distributors all over the world, including the United Kingdom and Canada.
Through the new agreement with Manufacturing Methods, there are currently about 30 units set to be produced, with 50 to 75 total units expected by the first quarter of 2019, he said.
"The way I look at it is ... this is now. This is the way you wash your dog today. And that's what we're going to try to create here. It's what we have been able to achieve back at home [in Australia] and I'm pretty confident we can do it here," Darmanin said.
Both Darmanin and Pete Peterson, founder and CEO of Manufacturing Methods, said the partnership was the right fit for their companies, with opportunities for future growth.
It was also built on the ability of Manufacturing Methods to meet the specifications and quality of the product, Darmanin said.
“There was never really the plan to manufacture here in Wilmington. We had our eyes out all across the country really, the Midwest, somewhere where there’s more of a logistical benefit from that point of view. But once I met Pete … there was a lot of synergy between Pete and I. And the journeys we have been on in our businesses.
“We had to be confident and comfortable with who we are dealing with … It’s more of a partnership than just someone that’s providing a service for us,” Darmanin said.
Last year, Manufacturing Methods invested more than $1 million in equipment, including a large laser automation machine, at the Leland-based facility.
"It's definitely what we put the equipment in for is opportunities like this," Peterson said.
That equipment included a press brake and AMADA automation unit (pictured right) that gives the company the ability to run its fiberoptic metal laser cutting machine to cut steel unattended.
The new equipment allows for greater ease, efficiency and accuracy in its production, Peterson said, adding that it's an ideal range of equipment for the new partnership.
"We don't have one of those machines in our backyard," said Darmanin of Manufacturing Method's laser cutting and automation. In addition, Darmanin said that the Manufacturing Methods' ability to take concept to design quickly is another advantage to scaling the operation here.
"There's some of these future models that I've had my head, and methods and ways of building the machines. It kind of opens up a new world for me because the capabilities of this place and the equipment and tools even from the design ... which is quite unique," he said.
Peterson said Manufacturing Methods is committed to providing the resources for whatever production Tru Blue K9000 might need in the future, Peterson said. And that could mean expanding space at its 15-acre property and hiring more employees to meet the needs of Tru Blue K9000 sometime in the future.
Manufacturing Methods, through its commitment to the company, has already provided space and workforce for producing the dog wash machines.
Several of its current employees have been moved permanently to fulfill the needs of the project. Peterson said an additional three to five employees are needed to fill positions left open from moving around its current workforce to focus on Tru Blu K9000's production.
Although the partnership isn't changing the core of Manufacturing Methods' business, it is another revenue stream that Peterson said the company could concentrate on that is more scalable than some of the contract manufacturing and job-shop work currently taking place at the facility.
"We are trying to lean more toward the repetitive, consistent revenue streams then the spikes and drops with what we do," Peterson said.
"To be honest, something like this would maybe phase out some of the job shop work. It’s easier to perfect something like this and with consistent employees and skill level. It's more efficient, more streamlined ... I could see a business transition over the next three to five years to things more like this,” Peterson said.
Darmanin said operations are also having an impact on local service industries, including those needed for plumbing, signage and fencing. The business is also shared through all the vendors utilized by Manufacturing Methods, Peterson said.
"There is a wider benefit [of this operation] to the state," Darmanin said. "There will be some big opportunities, there will be some major chains and ... I believe that with these guys and the partnership that we've got here, we're ready for whatever is going to come in the marketplace."