Why Manufacturing Still Really Matters
By Kevin Allen South Bend Tribune SouthBendTribune.com Posted on Oct 26, 2014
Schafer Industries has grown steadily since Bipin Doshi, the company's president and CEO, bought it in 1988. SBT Photo/Santiago Flores
SOUTH BEND -- Much has changed in manufacturing since Bipin Doshi bought Schafer Gear Works in 1988. Much has changed at Doshi's company, too.
Under his watch, the company now known as Schafer Industries has branched out from one plant in South Bend to five locations in Indiana, Illinois and Ohio.
Schafer's employment has grown to 320 workers, including 110 at the flagship in South Bend's Blackthorn Industrial Park. About 50 people worked for the company back in 1988.
Revenue has risen as well -- from $3 million in 1988 to about $80 million this year.
With numbers like those, Doshi wants to get the word out that manufacturing isn't a dying part of Michiana's economy.
For manufacturers that have navigated the shift from old-fashioned methods to advanced automation, the biggest challenge is finding people who can work with the sophisticated, computerized machinery of modern factories.
"Manufacturing is still not perceived as a career objective for many young people," Doshi said. "There's a concerted effort to change that, but it's a long road. It has taken a long time for it to fall off the pedestal, and it's going to take some time to get back on."
Doshi was born near Mumbai, India. He came to the United States in 1960 to attend Missouri University of Science and Technology, where he earned bachelor's and master's degrees in chemical engineering.
He worked for Uniroyal in England, Massachusetts and Connecticut before moving to Mishawaka in 1982. He had been a vice president of Uniroyal's division in Mishawaka, but he didn't have experience owning a business before he took the leap in 1988.
Schafer has established itself as a go-to source for precision parts for the transportation industry . For example, the company makes gears for Segways and aircraft instrumentation as well as axles for golf carts and all-terrain vehicles.
"I think we (in the United States) are getting competitive with so-called low-cost countries. We certainly can provide better value in terms of the cost-and-quality combination," Doshi said. "I think there is tremendous opportunity for not only our town but our state and our country to grow in this area."
And that's important, he said, because a healthy economy can't be based solely on the service sector.
"With services, we are not creating wealth. We're just swapping dollars," Doshi said. "With farming and manufacturing and technology businesses, we are creating wealth -- we are adding value. I think to be a good community, we need to maintain a balance."