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Sunday, May 1, 2016

Local industry: MI Home Products

Friday, September 19, 2003

Of all the thousands of parts that go into the construction of a home, many Brazil homeowners may be surprised to find their windows may have come from right down the street.

MI Home Products, located on East Hwy. 40, has been manufacturing windows that are shipped around the central and south U.S. for over 30 years now, though the operation is on a much larger scale than it once was.

"I remember the place used to be a lot smaller," Drew Thompson, a 20-plus year employee of MI. "And they shared the site with the old 7-Up bottling plant. They only made window and door screens then, and they had around 23 employees, including one truck driver.

"Now we employ 153 employees, counting office workers, drivers, etc. Grown quite a bit, hasn't it?"

Thompson's two-decade job at MI has spanned many duties and titles, and he's been happy to fulfill them all.

"I started out on patio screens, and since then I've been foreman of window lines, I've been on repair, construction, about anything you can think of. Right now I'm kind of head of quality control."

Thompson and two other employees, Mary Kent and Darren Rupnick, now check all of the components necessary to make a window and make sure they are in good working order. If they are not, it is Thompson's job to contact all other MI branches and let them know the problem.

"We make sure all the little things are in order," he explained.

JT Walker Corp., MI's parent corporation, owns "upward of 30 plants," according to Thompson, and 12 of those are MI. MI factories span "from California to Florida," he said, and make vinyl products and other items that the Brazil branch often utilizes.

"Some stuff (used in window fabrication) comes from MI, and some comes from other companies," he said.

On a good week, the company will make 12 to 15 thousand windows a week for their customers. These clients include such "big name" distributors as Great Central Lumber, based in St. Louis, and Wick's.

"We have several other big names on our list," Thompson said, "important customers." MI, as a company, sends products to places like Lowe's, though plant manager Scott Hayes says that the Brazil plant doesn't ship there.

Hayes said that August was a groundbreaking month for the company, in that they shipped 58,000 total windows to customers.

"You get highs and lows, just like in any type of sales position," he said. "Usually you'll have a big drop in the winter, though that isn't as bad anymore. August was just a great month for business this year. This whole year has been great, actually."

Hayes estimates that the company has sent over 500 thousand windows during its time in Brazil, and that "over 95 percent of those windows were vinyl."

The site, which is now a massive building covering a large area, has been vastly expanded since the company's original implementation in 1971.

"I remember in the 80's we did a lot of expanding, even before I started here," said Thompson. "But most of this big part is fairly new -- added in the last seven years or so."

MI has partially earned their success through diligent observance of five checkpoints the main office finds very important: Safety, Quality, Inventory, Scrap, and Cost Per Unit (CPU). In fact, the plant has done so well with these aspects that they have been awarded with the title of "Five Star Company." Each category is marked on a chart on the wall, and each one that is handled extraordinarily well gets a star.

"It's a pretty big deal, really," Thompson said. "The program's been going on for about three months now, and all the plants compete to get all five stars. We put out quality stuff and this is pretty much a safe working environment, so we got all five."

Hayes, the previously-mentioned plant manager, says that he enjoys the job, though it would be a lot harder if it weren't for people like Thompson around.

"This guy knows more about this plant than I ever will," Hayes said, motioning to Thompson with a laugh. "He's lived it. He's done everything. I really appreciate his work."

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