Owner Reflects on More Than 30 Years of Service
Since first opening in 1989, Ken Mullet and the team at Northern Indiana Axle in Nappanee have always looked for ways to improve. Three decades later, the family-centered business is constantly learning, innovating and giving back to the community.
Mullet bought the business in 1989 after working for a number of years in the fencing industry. Since fencing is a seasonal business, Mullet began looking for year-round work and eventually purchased his current company.
According to Mullet, Northern Indiana Axle is a slightly misleading name. The company makes a lot more than axles – customers can find buggy axles, cable and hitch products, and even gun components. The staff also offers consultation on how to engineer better parts for all of these products.
Business has boomed as the company has added machines to their shop and expanded throughout the years. Northern Indiana Axle been growing consistently since Mullet attended his first International Manufacturing Technology Show (IMTS) in 1994.
“I had all manual equipment and I knew nothing else, but when you walk in, it was like a little boy in a candy store,” Mullet says of the IMTS.
1996 was a big year for the company. Mullet invested in his first Okuma machine after seeing one at the IMTS two years earlier.
While programming the machine initially seemed to be a challenge, Mullet learned both on his own and through classes in Indianapolis. The machine affected production immediately. Mullet went from making 20 axles per day manually to making 80 axles per day on the Okuma machine.
Mullet’s business has grown in plenty of other ways. In April of 2014, the company expanded to its current location, a 60,000-square-foot facility in Nappanee.
The shop was originally housed in a facility spanning 7,500 square feet. The current facility operates on a natural gas generator, which allows Mullet to regulate operation costs. The expansion to a larger space also allowed for an increased number of machines – the company has grown from having one automatic machine in 1996 to 21 automatic machines today.
Four of Mullet’s 16 employees are his children – three of his four sons and his only daughter – and he looks forward to handing the business on to them someday. The workplace environment at Northern Indiana Axle is one of mutual appreciation and respect.
“We walk through the shop and everybody says good morning to each other,” Mullet says. “We’re glad to see them. They don’t dread coming to work because they know they’re part of a team.”
Mullet and his team also enjoy giving back to the community. The staff offers support to the local Special Olympics, and also sponsors local events. Additionally, Mullet has served on the local chamber of commerce for the last six years.
Northern Indiana Axle is located at 1780 West Market Street in Nappanee. You can reach them at 574-773-3039.
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