Fort Myers specialty products maker is on pace with ambitious expansion plans. That could lead to more challenges for founder Jeffrey Bonk.
A lot can happen to a business in two years.
In August 2016, for example, Jeffrey Bonk was on the production floor of his new business, Architectural Metal Flashings in Cape Coral. He was working alongside one other fabricator, his only employee.
By summer 2018, weeks after being awarded second place in the Florida Sterling Manufacturing Business Excellence Awards in the fewer-than-30 employees category, Bonk said his next goal was to operate at 100% capacity, 24 hours a day. That would mean more equipment, more space and an increase in his team of 14 fabricators.
With an expansion in production volume of 35% to 40% since then, that ambition is now within reach.
“We haven’t quite gotten that far yet, but we’re working a lot of overtime,” says Bonk, 42, who in addition to running the company also sheds his sports coat and rolls up his sleeves to cut metal and drive the forklift. “The increase is from a lot of new clients and more orders from existing clients. We’re adding hours, we work efficiently and we bought new equipment to handle the volume.”
He can also add new space. Underway is a plan to expand the existing facility by as much as 12,000 square feet for additional fabricating and warehousing room.
Bonk, a former U.S. Army Apache helicopter pilot who grew up locally in his father’s commercial roofing business, returned to Fort Myers from Seattle in 2015 after establishing himself as a roofing materials designer. Armed with knowledge of the needs of commercial roofing companies, he founded Architectural Metal Flashings on a disruptive industry principle: quick turnaround of niche roofing components. Implementing a servant leadership management model, Bonk saw the company grow quickly in no small part because of its ability to fabricate and deliver materials in a four-day turnaround rather than the industry standard of six to eight weeks. Bonk declines to disclose revenue figures.
The company maintained that schedule in the aftermath of Hurricane Irma when such efficiency was paramount, building its reputation with contractors who became now-regular customers. And with the addition of new equipment and putting in more hours, that time frame is even faster despite the greater output.
“During hurricane season we were able to maintain our delivery and fabrication times,” says Bonk. “It’s now between 36 and 48 hours. By doing that it makes the customer happy. When they need it they need it. They don’t want it there in weeks.”
Among the new equipment, meanwhile, is a slitter, which means the company no longer outsources cutting the 13,000-pound spools of metal into sheets, from which the specialty products are made. Cutting the sheets in-house increases time and cost efficiency and provides for greater control of quality and scheduling.
“During hurricane season we were able to maintain our delivery and fabrication times. It’s now between 36 and 48 hours. By doing that it makes the customer happy. When they need it they need it. They don’t want it there in weeks.” Architectural Metal Flashings founder Jeffrey Bonk
Operating the business with his wife, Darla, Bonk partially incorporates the servant leadership model daily by sweating it out on the fabricating line along with his team. He spends one-fourth of the day in the office, one-fourth working with clients and half the day on the production floor.
“The biggest benefit of that is it allows for accuracy of the components that are going out by having more than one set of eyes on it,” says Bonk. “Also, being directly involved really shows me as we continue to expand who we need to hire, what do we need to do differently and how do we continue to maintain the family approach to the business. You actually get to see what their needs are when you are out on the floor with them because they won’t always come in and tell you.”
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