Supplier Highlight

Getting to know ConMet

By Ken Kelley, vice president of North American sales

Please briefly describe the history of ConMet?

Consolidated Metco began in 1964 with its first aluminum foundry in Portland, Ore. It was established to provide lightweight structural parts that were greatly needed in the heavy-duty truck market. Over the past 52 years, ConMet grew by acquisition and the addition of more diversified business interests. Today, ConMet is one of the trucking industry’s leading suppliers for wheel ends, aluminum permanent mold castings, aluminum die castings, and structural foam and gas-assist plastic parts.

Please briefly describe your comapny’s sales structure: what do you sell, who are your customers, etc?

ConMet has three distinct product lines: wheel ends (hubs, brake drums, rotors), aluminum permanent mold castings (fuel tank brackets, suspension brackets, cross members), and plastics (instrument panels, sleeper cabinets, exterior bumpers, exterior farings). Major customers are North American Class 6-7 truck OEM’s, North American semi-trailer OEM’s, and ConMet is now developing an international footprint including a significant presence in the Chinese OEM truck and bus market.

What separates ConMet from competitors in its marketplace?

ConMet focuses on premium value-add products focused on optimizing lifecycle costs.

How do you believe customers perceive your business?
Our customers don’t think of us as a “supplier” of products to the industry. ConMet is perceived as the design/development leader in our respective markets for innovative solutions to existing industry issues as well as leader in future technologies.

How and why do your customers stay loyal to your business?

ConMet has a longstanding reputation for delivering quality products backed by a strong focus on customer service and support.

What is one thing most customers/suppliers don’t know about ConMet that would surprise/impress them?
ConMet was originally a part of Freightliner in the 1960’s.

What makes ConMet a great place to work?

ConMet has an Employee Stock Ownership Plan (ESOP). Because our employees are the owners of our company, ConMet has created a culture of empowerment and continuous improvement. ConMet also has an extensive Talent Development Program, and this continuous investment in the development of employees creates a culture of learning. This constant focus on both employee development and employee wellness leads to positive morale in the workplace, and makes ConMet a great place to work.

How vital is it to have quality employees entering your business from younger generations, and how are you trying to recruit these younger professionals?

One important element of ConMet’s Talent Development System is Recruitment and Selection. The company places a tremendous amount of effort and attention in our interviewing, selection, and onboarding process in order to secure quality employees. This is especially important when attracting young talent to ConMet. To meet our engineering needs, ConMet has been a partner in a MECOP program (Multiple Engineering Cooperative Program) for more than 20 years. This program allows us to recruit and retain talented engineering graduates entering the workplace. Many of our Engineering Managers, Directors, and even Vice Presidents have come through this entry level program.

Does ConMet feel it is in the position to change with the times? If so how?

ConMet has a long history of innovation and of creating new solutions and products for the commercial vehicle industry. Recently, ConMet created a dedicated innovation team to address evolving technology trends affecting the commercial vehicle market. ConMet’s innovation team, in collaboration with many industry technology leaders, is working to create new and exciting new products for the commercial vehicle market.

Do you have any advice for the next generation, as they work in this industry?

Find a few mentors in the industry and ask them about their career experiences: major lessons learned, major accomplishments, major failures and lessons learned. Some of the most successful and influential people often have interesting stories of failure along the way. Most often, these perceived “failures” turn out to be valuable learning experiences. And, it’s just as important to learn from somebody else’s mistakes as your own mistakes.

What are the long-term future of ConMet in the heavy-duty aftermarket?

ConMet will continue to heavily invest in people and innovation to remain the leader in our respective markets for premium value-add products.

Why did ConMet join GenNext? How can GenNext help ConMet’s employees?

Not only can ConMet support GenNext’s mentoring program, but GenNext offers ConMet another avenue of access to professional talent within our industry.

What are the three most pivotal moments in your career that you either learned from and/or that got you where you are?

1. Being promoted into my first managerial position only a few years out of college where I was responsible for supervising 27 people.
2. Resigning from a stable/comfortable position at a rather large company and taking the risk of accepting an exciting growth opportunity at a smaller entrepreneurial company. The breadth of experience I gained working for a smaller rapidly growing company was a defining part of my career.
3. Obtaining the Technology and Maintenance Council’s Silver Spark Plug award, which is one of the highest levels of recognition in the Council. To obtain an award of that magnitude from a group of peers of that caliber is extremely humbling and flattering.

Are there any industry leaders that have influenced you/mentored you? Who were they and how has their knowledge assisted you?

• Kelly Dier, President-Marmon Highway Technologies. Kelly is a well-known icon within the industry and is known for his strong value on customer and employee relationships. Due to Kelly’s unique style and personality, he has a countless number of people who consider him a mentor. Words can’t adequately describe his influence on my career.
• Phil Fensel, Co-Owner-Walther EMC. Phil provided an entrepreneurial environment where I was able to broaden my skills far beyond just engineering and into a litany of other skills including Sales, Marketing, Business Development, and General Management. This environment combined with his professional and personal mentoring was a critical part in my career.