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Ovation 2014: Excellence in Manufacturing

Liz Engel Clark
Tuesday, Jul 1, 2014

Honoring innovation, environmental stewardship, quality work environments, corporate philanthropy/citizenship, and consistent or extraordinary growth.


Warren County/Tire manufacturer

The Bridgestone Firestone plant in Morrison has been repeatedly recognized over the years for its environmental and educational initiatives. But a recent expansion has put the tire maker on the map for what it does best – manufacturing truck/bus radial tires – to the tune of 9,000 a day.

The expansion – which began last January, was completed in October and cost $36.6 million – increased plant capacity by 11 percent. The company was able to hire 45 additional teammates for a current enrollment just under 1,100. And it keeps the Morrison facility on the forefront when it comes to technology.

“The Warren plant is a flagship plant for Bridgestone Americas,” said plant manager Mitch Burke. “We have the latest technology here, we’re highly automated, and our culture is one of teammate involvement.”

He said their star-point system encourages teammate involvement in different aspects of the company – quality, human resources, administration – and because associates closely follow the Japanese philosophy “kaizen,” for continuous improvement, the Morrison site has improved on its metrics every year. One goal in particular for 2014 is to achieve zero landfill status, meaning all waste generated from the plant would be recycled.

“We work very hard, and every year we have goals to improve,” Burke said. “Next year will be our 25th anniversary, so that means us coming up on 25 years of continuous improvement, and we continue to get better.”

725 Bridgestone Drive

Morrison, TN (931) 668-5500




Cannon County/Upholstery manufacturer

Employees at Crane Interiors in Woodbury are quite proud of their reputation, as a world-class upholstery manufacturer for the marine industry.

But it wasn’t always that way. Before Crane Interiors was Crane Interiors, and before it was based in Woodbury, it was Crane Manufacturing in Nashville, and a company financially distressed. Along came Larry Bucklin and Tom Evans in 1984, two former General Electric executives, and the rest is history.

A renewed focus was placed on quality – and a new market targeted: higher-end, premiere marine manufacturers. Today, Crane serves as a supplier for the likes of Yamaha, Sea Ray, Boston Whaler and Cobalt.

“Those are definitely the better boat builders of the industry,” said Crane general manager Chris Anderson, markets he said they had to tap over time.

“Our biggest competitors are (boat companies) who do their own upholstery (work) inside their plant,” he said. “But we can do it better because we have a lot of different economies of scale. We also provide a three-year warranty on workmanship, (which is) very rare in this business.”

Components like fishing chairs, buckets, benches, bunks, sundecks and decorative panels are all hand-sewn and hand upholstered at the plant on Alexander Drive. Crane Interiors employs about 170, ranking among the top employers in the county.

“We go for overall total cost and quality, and we will beat anybody,” Anderson said.

200 Alexander Drive

Woodbury, TN (615) 563-4800

Putnam County/Electronic countermeasure equipment

Mysterious or simply misunderstood? Either way, Research Electronics International (REI) is about as different a UC company as they come – even if most people misconstrue what they do, which is developing and manufacturing electronic test equipment for counter- surveillance. Not spying equipment.

Company officials believe they are the largest manufacturer of that kind in the world.

“We make equipment that’s used to find illegal surveillance devices,” owner Tom Jones says. “You can sort of compare it to firewalls and cyber security. Our business is very similar, in that we protect a physical room, to make sure no one has planted a bugging device or a surveillance camera or anything electronic that can cause harm or damage.

“We primarily target corporations with high-end security concerns with industrial espionage,” he added. “Government agencies and law enforcement organizations. Sometimes even wealthy celebrities or individuals who need to protect their privacy. Anybody who can be a victim of spying for whatever reason.”

When it comes to actually manufacturing those devices, REI is very much high complexity and low volume, Jones said. That’s because in many cases, the counter-surveillance equipment has more components than your average laptop.

“We don’t have a normal automated assembly line, but our equipment is still very sophisticated,” he said. “We are very much a niche market. We really control the market very well.”

All production work is done on site in Algood. REI employs around 60 people.

455 Security Drive

Cookeville, TN (931) 537-6032

Cumberland County/Tile manufacturer

Metrics are certainly one major measure of success, and in terms of sales, production and quality, Crossville tile manufacturer StonePeak Ceramics is coming off its best year ever.

In 2012-2013, StonePeak reached a production goal of 700,000 square meters, more than double its numbers four years ago, and more than the originally projected maximum production capacity when the factory was built in 2004/2005.

StonePeak has invested millions in technology, but credits the milestones to its employees and looks forward to continued improvement in years to come.

238 Porcelain Tile Drive

Crossville, TN (931) 459-2500




Putnam County/Fabrication and welding


Stone Steel LLC has certainly grown and evolved since its original founding days. What began in 1978 as Stone Brothers Welding, a hometown welding and fabrication shop, has evolved to include larger and more complex projects, more than 30 full-time employees and five steel packages.

Among its services: retail steel sales and fabrication, on-site welding and cutting services, crane services, custom and ornamental stairs and rails, BBQ smoker sales and rental, in-house detailing, CNC plasma and acetylene cutting and more.

“One of the greatest accomplishments over the past years has been balancing the continuous growth of our company without sacrificing our quality or customer service,” Stone Steel President/ COO Randy Keifer said recently. “Our project list continues to grow. Stone Steel, LLC is unique, because we not only do large commercial structural steel projects, but we are still available to do the same hometown welding and fabrication that the company was founded on. We have tried to maintain the best level of customer service to our clients.”

715 E. 15th St.

Cookeville, TN (931) 526-1063

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