In a facility on the outskirts of downtown Bay Minette, workers assemble air compressors deemed tough enough for the most demanding industrial uses. Quincy Compressor’s plant had been building, since the 1980s, two product lines for heavy industrial applications — rotary screw compressors and vacuum pumps.
With the recent shuttering of its Quincy, Illinois plant, all the company’s smaller horsepower, piston air compressor output also will now reside at the Alabama site.
One of the driving forces of consolidation was to create the Reciprocating Competence Center for Manufacturing Excellence at the Bay Minette facility.
In manufacturing, a competency center provides expertise in a single location for multiple business areas. This competence center focuses on Quincy’s line of “reciprocating” air compressors, which compress air by using a crankshaft-driven piston and cylinder.
“It allowed all that competence and buying power in one location, ” says Scott Barker, vice president of marketing. “We were able to leverage our purchasing power/partnerships by consolidating all that.”
Establishing a competitive edge is important for any business, says Jacqueline Gay, Quincy marketing services manager, “and in this economic climate, efficiency is top priority.”
In addition to consolidation, the upgraded facility has streamlined the manufacturing process with a single assembly line, Barker says.
Streamlining the assembly line means employees can turn out more products in the same amount of time, Barker says. And those employees are cross-trained so they can do any job on the line.
Another change also will make the production line more efficient. A third party logistics company will now keep parts off-site, bringing items to the plant when they are needed.
That change, combined with the single assembly line, makes for “better flow, ” Barker says. First, the plant doesn’t have to set aside square footage for storage. Second, employees don’t have to move each compressor from the line to another area — to paint it, for example — and then bring it back again.
“Everything is in one line, ” he says. “We’re not having to take the product to different parts of the plant.”
While upgrades to the facility are complete, there are still some additions being made to the assembly line and equipment is being brought in from a North Carolina company location. That work should be completed by the end of this year.
Quincy’s investment in this expansion is to position for growth, which will cascade throughout the community, Gay says.
“Sustainable growth is the aim, and Quincy continues to develop the Reciprocating Competence Center for Manufacturing Excellence in Bay Minette, ” she says. “We are keenly focused on growth.”
If a process requires compressed air, Quincy offers reliable and efficient equipment to meet the need, officials say.
The company’s air compressors range in price from small ones sold for $400 to industrial-sized units that go for about $100, 000.
Quincy compressors are “big, reliable, rugged equipment, ” making them popular for oil and gas companies, Barker says.
“We make very robust compressors compared to other companies, ” he says. “They (oil and gas companies) are a big customer base historically because our products are so reliable, ” Barker says. In fact, the compressors come with a 10-year warranty.
The downturn in the oil and gas industry, where U.S. drilling activity has fallen by more than 70 percent since its 2014 peak, has been a blow to the company.
But, Quincy’s piston compressor division has grown, balancing out the turndown.
“We’re seeing a lot of growth in other areas that compensated for what we lost, ” he says, citing growth in small industries in particular.
Quincy compressors are also used in industries such as food and beverage, automotive, construction and natural gas. Raytheon Laboratories, ENSCO International, Austal USA and Halliburton are counted among its customers.
The air compressors are sold across the United States, Mexico and Canada, South America, South Korea and the Middle East.
ABOVE Workers assemble the housing for a rotary-screw compressor.
Quincy Compressor Co. started under a different name in 1920 in Quincy, Illinois, making a vacuum pump. By 1924 it had expanded its product line and changed its name to Quincy Compressor Co. In the 1980s, Quincy began manufacturing operations in Bay Minette, making rotary screw air compressors. Some of the Illinois employees who moved south at that time are still with the company to this day, Barker says.
In 2014, the company made the decision to shutter its Midwest operation and move those operations to Bay Minette. About 150 positions were affected by the Illinois closure, though displaced employees were given the opportunity to move to Baldwin County.
“We offered it to all employees, and a few chose to come down, ” Barker says.
About 180 of the company’s 400 to 450 employees now work at the Bay Minette facility, but that number is already increasing and will continue to grow, he adds.
Quincy currently offers a number of positions that require technical and mechanical strengths, Gay says.
“For the most part, we need employees who have a basic understanding of operating tools and machinery and the ability to properly use them, ” she says. “We prefer prior experience, but we do offer training to improve the skills of those who join our team.”
Other company employees work in regional sales centers across the United States, including Chicago, Houston, Dallas and California.
Barker says the “best thing” the company can contribute to the local community is “bringing in solid, sustainable jobs.”
The company also makes it a point to hire veterans and participates in Veteran’s Day activities in Baldwin County.
Quincy offers good benefits and a good work environment in a good community, Barker says. “It’s a small-town company but with the benefits of a huge, multi-national organization.”
Tammy Leytham is a freelance writer for Business Alabama. She is based in Fairhope.
Text By TAMMY LEYTHAM