Manufacturer builds on solid foundation

October 11, 2005

Benlee of Romulus, which makes trailers used in recycling, sticks with a robust product.

Greg Brown

"We are getting out and visiting customers more, and we are getting new customers calling," President Greg Brown says.

ROMULUS -- Greg Brown, the new president of Benlee Inc. -- which manufactures containers, roll-off trucks, trailers and dump trucks for the scrap metal and recycling industry -- expects a growth rate in excess of 15 percent this year.

"We are getting out and visiting customers more, and we are getting new customers calling," said Brown, who purchased Benlee about nine months ago.

Brown has a management background in mechanical engineering issues from places such as General Electric, Guardian Industries and Honeywell. When retiring Benlee founder Bill Wolok put Benlee up for sale, Brown thought it would be a good fit. "It seemed like something I'd like to do, and there's a great market demand for a good product out there."

Brown said the changes he has made at Benlee have sprung from the company's solid foundation. "Probably our most valuable asset here is our wall of file cabinets with specification and drawings of trailers going back to the '70s.

"Metal is very heavy, and this company has built a very robust product, and we've maintained that design as opposed to cheapening it up. In fact, we've only improved on the product."

Benlee has expanded its hours to meet customer demand -- and curry favor with the West Coast market -- has gotten into rentals and has updated and expanded its Web site to include pictures and specification of products and parts.

Besides the manufacturing part of the business, Benlee also services vehicles and parts and sells spare parts. "We can ship 99 percent of any spare part of any unit, going back to the late '70s, the same day."

The containers, trailers and parts are sold throughout North America. Brown most recently visited two Benlee customers in New Orleans who had units underwater. "We're pretty confident that when they get drained, those units will probably be out on the road. They are meant to take abuse."

Dan Sandoval, Internet and senior editor of Recycling Today, an online trade publication, said this is a good time for the scrap metal industry, after a long market drag. "When the markets were really bad, a lot of people who buy the equipment couldn't justify the purchases and there was a long time when there weren't any purchases.

"When it improved, people found they needed new equipment yesterday," Sandoval said. "Going forward ... the demand for scrap iron is very good."