Making It In Northern Michigan: Hayes Manufacturing

MakingIt_HayesBuildingIt’s not unusual to find a family-run business in the region.

But there are very few that have more family members involved in the day-to-day operation of the company than Hayes Manufacturing in Fife Lake. And three-fourths of the company is owned and operated by three daughters of the founders.

“The company began as a small job shop and now we make stub shafts, flywheel couplings and drive coupling products,” said CFO and co-owner Penny Challender. “It’s very much a family business. We have 41 employees and most of them are related.”

From its 33,000 square-foot plant on U.S. 131 in Fife Lake, the company ships its products to more than 2,000 clients around the globe. Customers include such well-known names as John Deere, Toro, Zamboni, Case-New Holland, Cummins, Porsche racing cars and others who rely on top-quality drive shaft components. Hayes products are in skid-steer loaders, street sweepers, industrial lawn mowers, ice resurfacing units, road pavers, cranes and more.

A few years ago, Ford Motor Company needed a key component for a project. “Ford flew a helicopter up from Dearborn and landed in our front yard for a $15 item,” said owner and mechanical engineer Mike Lawson.
Other company components have been used at attractions at Disney World, on the TV show “Bering Sea Gold” and in the train featured in the 2013 movie “The Lone Ranger.”

Hayes employees work from 7am to 5pm, Monday through Thursday with Fridays off.

“Being a family business, we put a premium on quality of life,” explained Challender. “Having that long weekend is good for family events.”

Hayes Manufacturing was founded in a garage by brothers Ray and Clay Hayes in 1966 in the Detroit suburb of Rochester. Clay left the business the next year and Ray continued on with the help of his wife, Betty, and their two sons, Jeff and Jim. In 1973, Ray and Betty retired and sold the business to the boys who moved the operation to Manton. Later that year, Jeff’s wife, Carol, became CFO. Five years later, Jim’s wife Marilyn joined the firm as vice president of sales. In 1981, Jeff’s daughter Holly Miller came on board.

During the 1980s, Hayes Manufacturing transitioned from a job shop to producing its own specially-designed components. In 1990, the company moved to Fife Lake. Four years later Marie McDougall (daughter of Jim and Marilyn) joined the company. In 1995, the company stock was reallocated with Jeff, Jim, Carol and Marilyn each 25 percent owners.

In 1999, Sam Runkel became head of maintenance and Penny Challender (Jeff and Carol’s daughter) joined the business. The following year, Mike Lawson was hired to head up engineering.

In January 2012, the company changed ownership again. Company President Miller, Vice President of Operations MacDougall and Secretary/Treasurer Challender each own 25 percent of the stock. Lawson and Runkel each own 12.5 percent of the company stock.

Also in 2012, Hayes implemented lean manufacturing principles, stressed new product development and focused on continual improvement, which drove the company’s growth. Company officials credit the lean principles with helping to more than double sales since 2008. “Lean really transformed our company,’ said Lawson.