Dynamist Blog

Value-Added Metal Making

The Philadelphia Inquirer's Eils Lotozo reports on how the aesthetic imperative saved an old-line sheet-metal manufacturer. Here's an excerpt:

What do you do with an aging manufacturing concern when it's left in the dust by changing technology and the global economy?

That's the question Adam Kamens faced when he took over the Frankford factory his parents launched in 1965 to make magnetic shielding for the aerospace industry, science labs and medical devices.

Kamens' solution for the floundering business? Parlay its sheet-metal expertise into custom fabrication for high-end, high-design environments.

These days, Amuneal Manufacturing Corp.'s clients include Barneys New York, Anthropologie, and the women's wear chain Lilly Pulitzer, whose 15 shops feature store fittings and floor-to-ceiling cast-fiberglass palm trees made by the Philadelphia company.

Amuneal engineered and installed the interactive displays and architectural features for the Nintendo World Store in New York. For Abercrombie & Fitch's flagship store there, it created a four-story staircase made of metal strips woven on a specially built loom....

"We've been lucky," says Kamens, who now employs a workforce of 80--about a quarter are people with art and design backgrounds. "Our customers have been amazing. They've taught us about this business, and they've been our best salespeople."

Claudia Dominguez, who moved on from Barneys to become head of visual merchandising and store design for The Limited Brands, says there isn't another company like Amuneal.

"They just bring so much to the table," Dominguez says. "You can hire all the architects in the world, and they just pump out drawings. But the people at Amuneal will say, 'I know that's what the shop drawings look like, but I don't think it will work. Let me give you some options.' "

Check out the rest here.

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