In 1959, an entrepreneur, Marvin Johnson, saw an opportunity with a new industrial product that bridged the gap between trucks and warehouse docks, as transportation was moving from railways to over-the-road trailers. He knew his customers would need this product and his company could be the one to provide it. In 60 years the family has turned this insight into an industry.
Johnson Equipment Company (JEC) now sells, installs, and services specialty overhead doors, dock levelers, vehicle restraints, seals, shelters, fans, hydraulic lifts, gates and fencing, and more.
Its services to the industrial market include preventative maintenance programs, concrete work, site surveys, showroom consultations, and AIA accredited presentations.
With headquarters in Dallas, Texas, the early success of JEC had allowed it to enter into an exclusive partnership with Rite-Hite, known as the leading manufacturer of loading dock equipment and doors. Their synergy has enabled the company to expand across five states and into Mexico.
Son of the founder, a youthful Randall Johnson took over the business in the late 1970s and quickly grew the company, developing its service department and introducing overhead and high-speed doors into the market.
Often when a company stretches over multiple locations, lines of communication between colleagues, both formal and casual, are lost, and the sense of team diminishes. The solution at JEC is to make all employees feel an essential part of a group effort, through information and openness and empowering each department member with a voice. JEC is also turning to best practices and procedures as well as investment in technology to help create a more cohesive team.
Distributed across 18 locations, the 220 people employed by JEC today view themselves as a single unit and part of the family, despite the distance between offices. “I think that we have the very best people in the industry and it’s one of the reasons why I love to come to work every day. I really enjoy being around these people because they share the same passion that I do in taking care of the customer. We have very little turnover so it really feels like a family,” said Justin Johnson, CEO of the company and son of Randall Johnson.
Of course, with the growth of the business has come an influx of new faces, but JEC has numerous employees who have been with the company for over twenty years, with an average tenure of ten. The close-knit, family feel of JEC reflects the fact that it has been owned and operated by members of the same family for sixty years, and that employees and management have maintained the unique culture as business expands.
Training methods that emphasize staff learning from one another in a collaborative workspace have also sparked a positive team spirit.
At management level, JEC established a leadership group called the “LEAD Team” that consists of the CEO, the COO, and the head of each department within the company. “We lead with humility, we have a will to work for our customers no matter what the sacrifice, and we believe strongly in empowering our employees to contribute with their own ideas about how to improve our workplace and how to better serve our customers,” said Justin.
In with the new
JEC serves a variety of distribution and manufacturing companies; anyone with a warehouse is a potential customer and this diversity across markets has led to an impressive rate of growth. To keep up, the company is typically implementing a new field-service and installation-management software program that should be up and running by the end of the year. These ongoing systems-optimization programs over the years are rightly considered an essential part of the company’s success, and JEC continually invests in the latest technology to stay abreast of its own rapid innovation, and stay ahead of industry generally.
The challenge to JEC, with all of this new technology, is continual adaptation; incorporating these changes and new practices into its training programs, ensuring that employees have clear understanding and working knowledge of the advancements.
Controlling costs is another major challenge for JEC due to its “customer first” attitude. Competition abounds in today’s market and companies are frequently pressured into marginal bids, which may result in an ultimate loss on the project. “We go above and beyond for our customers and I think sometimes this leads to inflated costs per job,” explained Justin. “However we’re committed to the customer and we’re going to continue to do what it takes to preserve those relationships that we’ve built with the customers that we value so much.”
The annual Arthur K. White Award is prized in the industry. It’s presented by Rite-Hite to whichever one of its distributors reaches the most customers with the best product and service solutions. It basically recognizes the winner for being a great partner in the business. Over the years JEC has won the award more times than any other Rite-Hite distributor.
JEC is grateful for its relationships with the best manufacturers in the industry because this allows it to provide customers with a diverse range of high-quality products and services. “Johnson Equipment and Rite-Hite have been tremendous partners partly because we share the same passion for providing our customers with cutting-edge technology that promises the highest level of safety.”
“Rite-Hite has always invested heavily in researching industry trends with a strong focus on safety,” said Justin. Rite-Hite invented the “Dok Lok” vehicle restraint in 1980 and since that time it has patented hundreds of impressive new safety products that JEC brings to market every year.
Although the Dok Lok vehicle restraint successfully prevented trailer separation, pedestrian accidents around loading docks continued. Rite-Hite developed the Rite Vu product line to enhance communication between the forklift driver and the vehicle restraint with LED lights and motion sensors that signal when it is safe to approach a trailer or to move around the loading dock.
Rite-Hite’s research has also shown that accidents occur, when trailers are backing into the loading dock, because it is difficult for a pedestrian to hear a fifty-foot long trailer backing up. The Approach Vu product uses motion sensors, strobes, and sirens to alert the unsuspecting pedestrian to approaching trailers. “Johnson Equipment’s sales team and technicians take exceptional pride in knowing we are adding value to enhance our customer’s efficiency and safety culture within their operation,” said Bryan Welnetz, Business Development and Sales Manager at JEC.
JEC recently established a separate division of the company called Johnson Architectural Systems (JAS) to broaden the products and services it offers. JAS specializes in assisting architects with their design goals using customized doors. “I give a lot of credit to Chris Hammons, our COO, for JAS’s success as he recognized an opportunity with some very niche products,” said Justin. “Renlita is a door manufacturer out of Bonham, Texas that we recently partnered with – as we saw a unique ability to build doors using custom materials to match the façade of a building – who has engineered unique ways of operation to fit into almost any space.” JEC partners with a variety of other best-in-class manufacturers to offer all sorts of specialty doors such as fire and safety doors.
The basic mission statement at JEC is “to provide value to our customers,” and the Lead Team has also laid out six core values that accurately represent the company’s foundation: family, integrity, discipline, communication, safety, and innovation. “Through personal transformation, continuing education, best practices, and systems optimization, we’ll provide a level of value that our customers simply cannot do without.”
As Justin describes the company’s vision statement, he emphasizes that personal transformation is particularly important because it ties into JEC’s core values. Every employee signs a commitment to observe and embody these values in their daily tasks, and the company has strategies to encourage observation. Every month, it recognizes the LEAD performer who best represents the core values with an award.
The vision of the company will guide JEC into the future as it expands its products and services. But for now, after sixty years of prosperity, JEC feels indebted to those – partners, employees, and customers – who’ve played such a vital role. “I’d like to thank all of our customers and the men and women that work at Johnson Equipment for our success, and again just express that I feel we’ve been blessed to have this opportunity to serve so many customers and we really look forward to continuing doing so,” said Justin.