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Hart & Cooley Inc.

Not many firms can say they have stayed strong after nearly 120 years in their industry, but Hart & Cooley Inc. (HCI) can. Based in Grand Rapids, Mich., the company specializes in heating and air conditioning products, including grilles, registers, diffusers, vents and chimneys.

Founders Howard Stanley Hart and Norman P. Cooley established HCI in 1892 as the Hart & Cooley Manufacturing Co. Years later, the company began showing its ability to be innovative with “a steel heating register that proved superior to traditional, heavy cast-iron models,” it says.

In 1901, HCI became the first company in the nation to produce warm-air registers from stamped steel. Twenty-seven years later, the firm began serving clients nationwide. “Despite the Great Depression, by the early 1930s, the company had become the world’s largest producer of warm-air registers,” HCI says.

In 2000, Tomkins plc acquired HCI, adding the firm to its group of air distribution companies. Since then, HCI has merged with various firms to enhance its offerings, including Milcor Inc., a buildings products manufacturer.

Today, HCI says it continues to be a major supplier in the HVAC industry with manufacturing locations around the world. “Howard Stanley Hart and Norman P. Cooley would be proud to see that the business they started over a century ago is still thriving today,” HCI says.

Changes for the Better

Although some firms would be tempted to rest on their laurels after more than a century, HCI has not. For instance, in 2010, the company sought to improve its operations by implementing to an enterprise resource planning (ERP) system from Oracle.

According to HCI, the system allows all of its brands to exist in the same computer environment, instead of having each one utilize its own software system. The ERP enables the company to operate in a real-time environment and provide a standardized process that improves its operational functionality, it says.

“Oracle also allows HCI to maintain and further its ‘throw it on the truck’ strategy, since customers can combine products from multiple brands available through HCI,” the company says.

The Oracle system also can adjust to business sizes and is “flexible enough to meet the diverse needs of customers,” it says, citing the system’s Business Intelligence model as an example. “This module will highlight customer buying trends and help the company more effectively distribute resources.”

HCI also has implemented lean manufacturing in its plants, which has allowed it to produce specifically for the customer and not over-produce unnecessary products. The company had found that there was only a small number of products that its customers needed to be replenished.

Leading Its Markets

Based in Denver, Tomkins is a global engineering manufacturing group of companies. “With market and technical leadership across all of our business activities, we manufacture a variety of products for the industrial, automotive and building products markets, focusing on energy-efficient and green products,” it says.

Along with Hart & Cooley, the firm’s businesses include Gates Power Transmission, the world’s largest manufacturer of belts for power transmissions in industrial equipment and automotive applications. “Gates Power Transmission has operations in over 20 countries, with research, development and engineering capabilities worldwide,” Tomkins says.

Tomkins’ Air Distribution division is the leading North American manufacturer of products used to distribute, recycle and vent air.


–Luke Gillespie contributed to this article.

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