Cheshire’s Industrial Heater Celebrates 100 Years
From its inception in bustling downtown Manhattan, to a quaint Cheshire building, and two cities in between, Industrial Heater has manufactured products for 100 years.
The company marked the occasion this month with a celebration, bringing employees together, and taking them back to the Roaring Twenties.
It was then that current vice president Thomas McGwire’s great grandfather, a World War I veteran, started to get creative.
At first they were smaller projects, a heater that went into Times Square’s famous Marlboro Man and co-creating the first injection mold machine.
The company went on to build heaters for leading manufacturers in the plastics industry, such as Natco, Reed, and HPM.
But his patented ceramic-insulated band heater helped the company’s prominence in the late 1950s. Since then, Industrial Heater has continued manufacturing custom-sized heaters for businesses, mostly serving the plastics industry.
“Our heaters are being used to make just about everything out there, all over the world,” explained McGwire.
It’s something McGwire takes a great deal of pride in. During the pandemic, the company sold heaters to companies manufacturing desperately needed personal protective equipment.
Industrial Heater also made more than 30,000 metal wires used inside N95 masks to keep a firm hold on your nose.
“In some ways we are shaping the world, you just have to look at it a certain way,” he said.
That positivity is what McGwire said they have put a renewed emphasis on in the past several years.
Continuous improvement has become the forefront, with process improvements, quality, and a growing customer base.
“We’re trying to build a team and a culture of continuous improvement where everyone is happy to come in and work together everyday,” explained McGwire.
While the company is facing its share of challenges—particularly vacancies and supply chain issues—a close-knit group of employees are there to stay.
“We have a really good, I think, familiar team environment, where everybody knows us and our doors are always open, anybody can come in and have a discussion or present something and we listen,” said company president Helen Lespier.
Lespier first began with the company in 1978 for a part-time summer job. Years later she returned, now holding the steering wheel of operations.
Currently 38 people make up the team on a single daytime shift. Often, Lespier said there are weekend and morning or afternoon overtime shifts. In a perfect world, the company would employ closer to 50 people.
Lespier finds value in the small team they have developed, adding there is not a lot of separation between each other. They genuinely care about one another’s lives.
“I think our customers and our vendors feel the same way,” McGwire said. “We have had the same customers for decades. They know us.”
For Luis Castro, a 22-year veteran with the company, the opportunities Industrial Heater has given him to grow are endless.
From starting work by doing inventory, he explained he now is trained in almost every role.
“I’m really happy,” smiled Castro.
Lespier admits she is seeing a change in employees across the board. People are no longer taking positions at a young age and staying until they retire.
“I think now, we are really happy if we get five years out of a person and that’s a pretty good run,” said Lespier.
The pros? New people are coming into the company with fresh ideas more frequently.
In the end, Industrial Heater is continuing to grow where they can. Over time, the company has acquired additional aspects that allow them to manufacture more custom products.
The 2012 sheet metal fabrication shop brought both new equipment and people.
As leaders look to the horizon, they know post-pandemic challenges will continue, but they are confident the family will stay together.
“We are that small, Connecticut family business, and that’s our story,” said McGwire.
“That’s why we’re 100 years.”
EXPLORE BY CATEGORY
Stay Connected with CBIA News Digests
The latest news and information delivered directly to your inbox.