1390 Twp. Rd. 229 Van Buren Ohio
News about Bena Inc.
North Baltimore News. By Rhonda Honse March 25, 1999
Along a narrow rural Van Buren township road is a successful business which many local residents are either not aware exist or do not know what products are produced by the business. The founder and president, Gary Benjamin, began Bena, Inc. in 1983. The company is a custom dielectric and impulse heat seal manufacturer of a wide array of vinyl, polyurethane, polyethylene products.
Vince Lombardi once said, " The difference between an unsuccessful person and others is not a lack of strength, not a lack of knowledge, but rather a lack of will." Gary Benjamin and his staff posses the will that has made the company a success in the heat seal industry. Benjamin attributes much of the success to finding an industry niche with very little competition. Few companies do the type of work that Bena provides. Benjamin, a native from the Mt. Blanchard Ohio area, uses thirty years of engineering experience to design products that other companies in the field either refuse to attempt or lack success in designing.
Gary Benjamin was previously employed at United Aircraft and then (DLM) Kuss in Findlay Ohio. He designed and engineered for Kuss until, he said, he "became tired of signing off patents for a buck a piece." He bought O&W Products, a company who was doing projects for Kuss, from Carl Weber of Van Buren, and began Bena, Inc. with the help of one of his sons, Keith.
Originally, when Benjamin went to Columbus to set up the corporation, they had wanted to name it Benco, but that company name was already taken. He said, "We had a few minutes to come up with another name, which happened to be Bena. It does incorporate some of our last name and is short and easy to remember." The business was located on the southeast corner of the Van Buren square.
Some of the machines Bena uses today were ones that were there when Benjamin bought the building. Benjamin said this building was too small for ten of the twelve years that they occupied it. He eventually purchased a brick building located across the street to use as a storage area. The original building consisted of two floors , neither ideal or convenient for the company.
The current Bena sight was one that Benjamin had to wait for, but says, despite needing more room, the wait was well worth it. The company relocated , late in 1996, to it's present location at 1390 Twp. Rd. 229 in rural Van Buren. The building once housed a sawmill: therefore, the construction of the floor appealed to him. The floor, which is a foot thick, was ideal for his machinery. The parking lot , 24" of stone, was perfect to accommodate heavy delivery trucks coming into the business. Purchasing the building , along with 6 acres around it was much more cost effective for Bena than a new building.
Benjamin's experience with radio frequency ( RF machines) equipment used to seal products has been invaluable to Bena. He was able to purchase additional machines for ten cents on the dollar and he repairs them as needed. If he did not have the knowledge of the ins and outs of the machines, a repairman would need to be flown in from either Long Island, New York of Chicago Illinois. A company could sink $4.000 to $5.000 into having a machine repaired paying for transportation , lodging, and labor for a repairman for such machines.
Bena is diverse in the products it design and manufactures. Initially, Bena continued to produce the three ring binders that were the mainstay of the former O&W Products. The binders were manufactured for major corporations in the Toledo, Ohio area. The company has since become much more technically oriented and expands it's focus. Bena now designs and manufactures products in the agriculture, medical, automotive, recreational, computer, and chemical related fields. The company will design proprietary tooling. They will not divulge procedures or developed tooling for designs created for such a product. Benjamin stated that if the company would no longer need the product or want Bena to manufacture it, the tooling equipment would be destroyed and could be witnessed by the customer. Although he had been told that no company would conduct business with him in that manner, Benjamin proved the people that stated this wrong. He explained that one needs to find a company when they are at the stage that they need a product badly and can't get it. His method proves successful. He also does not purchase inventory supplies for these products. The customer buys the materials that are then shipped to Bena. Bena then charges the customer labor. Nay Sayers had told Benjamin that customers would not be receptive to this either. They said they might feel that Bena would waist product or have other concerns with this type of arrangement. However, this policy has not caused a work shortage for Bena.
One of his initial projects gave him some of his best history for prospective customers. In the 1980's, a company in Massachusetts hired Bena to manufacture a product for the government which Benjamin can talk about now, but was held to confidentiality during it's production. During the cold war, when Russian and US ships were tracking one another in the oceans, a sonar buoy, which housed a transmitting radio, was created to float in the ocean. A torpedo would shoot out the buoy. It would lie under the water for anywhere from an hour to a month until radio waves activated it. It would then pop up and begin transmitting to satellites. Benjamin said it was actually nothing more that a decoy. The Russians would see the device and think the Americans were near by. They were actually fifty miles away watching the Russians ships.Recreationally, Bena manufactures bladders for portable, foldable kayaks. The bladders, when inflated , keep the kayak from sinking & tighten the kayak skin. The company which has been in business since 1933, produces only 3,000 a year of each size of kayak. Benjamin said that many larger heat sealing companies wouldn't be interested in a mere $100,000 worth of product , however, it appeals to his company.
Bena has also been involves in manufacturing vinyl stadium seat cushions . In the medical industry, Bena manufactures IV pressure "bladders", respirator bags, inflatable splints, & emergency splints. For the computer industry, Bena manufactures protective bellows as well as devices that are used to for chairs with under seat air chambers such as those used in "clean rooms". The device prohibits particles from escaping when sitting down in a chair, as in a normal type chair. Perhaps you have heard of criminals who attempt to steal an automated teller machine. A bag filled with a dark colored ink explodes staining the money & sometimes the thief. Bena also manufactures those bags.
Bena also manufactures a substantial project for the agricultural industry. For such companies as Bush Hog. Gehl & Agco, Bena uses it's RF machines to manufacture a heavy vinyl cover for disc mowers. Benjamin said that that disc on the agricultural mowers rotate at 3,600 RPM, making it extremely dangerous to mow without a cover. The covers, made from the same type materials as bullet proof vests, provides safety by keeping objects such as barbed wire & rocks from flying about. Agco virtually gave Bena a Million dollars worth of free advertising . Bena dose not generally stamp it's logo on manufactured products. The industry was interested in keeping track of whomever made the products & asked Bena to stamp their logo's onto the disc covers.
For one company, Bena manufactures after-market sun visors for Corvettes built from 1962-1966. Interestingly, Benjamin estimates there is probably $5 to $6 of materials that go into making the visors. He said they would sell for up to $85 a pair at trade shows & flea market type sales.
Bena is a small business, which is much to Gary Benjamin's desire. Normally the company employs nine full-time workers. Benjamin believes that if a company gets more than 10 people in one spot it only makes things more difficult. Upon hiring more people, the company would be subject to the bureaucracy of OSHA. Among Bena's employees are his wife Barbara, & three children, Keith, Cathy & Brian. Hard work & ingenuity seem to describe Gary Benjamin. Although he seems extremely satisfied with the company he & his family has built he did offer some honest words of wisdom for anyone who feels running your own company is always a piece of cake.
In 15 years, Benjamin estimates he has missed no more that 4 days of work. Many workdays begin at 5:30 am & go untill 9:00 or 10:00 pm. Benjamin expressed , "When you start something like this at age forty-five years old, you either do it like that or do what the rest do, go down the tube. That's the problem with most businesses. Somebody starts a business thinking "Oh Boy", now I'm my own boss." And if they think that, they are done before they ever started. It won't work. You put in more hours when you are your own boss than you would for somebody else & don't get paid for it... for a lot of years!" Some people complain when they hear the pounding from opportunity knocking. Gary Benjamin has found it to be the steady beat for his successful business.