Printer Friendly

Colt - more than just a legend.

At the 1991 IWA Show in Nuremburg, Germany, some of the executives from Colt's Manufacturing Company in Hartford, Conn., were walking down in the street wondering about the popularity and acceptance of their products. In order to test the company's appeal, they approached a woman, pointed to themselves and simply said, "Colt."

The woman made a motion like a pistol with her hand and replied, "Ah, Colt!"

With 156 years of tradition, the fact that Colt's Manufacturer Company is rated the seventh most recognized company name in the world should come as no surprise.

Expanding The Market

"We aim to make Colt's an active participant in the firearms industry again - to deserve the esteem in which our name is held by the buying public," said Company President Ronald E. Stilwell.

That task is not going to be easy. In years past the company went through a period of "absentee ownership," and they literally walked away from markets where they had once been strong.

Colt's is coming out of your and a half years of bitter disputes labor and management that were nasty enough to make the evening news several times. Now, the two camps are both part owners in the company - two union representatives sit on the board of directors - and there is a developing relationship between workers and executives that is being carried through every aspect of the company.

"Because of these new cooperative attitudes, we've been able to do things many said couldn't be done," Stilwell said.

When military sales declined union contract requirements for layoffs would have cost Colt's a fortune. Working together, the company and the union arrived at more economical ways to survive the downturn. Today, Colt's production is not arranged on the traditional supervisor/worker structure.

"We call it 'World Class Manufacturing," said Senior Vice President for Commercial Operations William A. Heske. "The factory is being organized into small, group-centered work teams including machine operation, maintenance, and supervision."

Instead of one worker to set up a machine, another to push the buttons, another to perform maintenance, and someone else to supervise, the machine operator is involved all along the line. The person who works with a group of machines knows them better than a custodian reading a maintenance schedule. The operator changes the oil when it needs to be changed, he hears the squeaks when bearing is about to go, and he is sensitive to whether the machine is functioning as it should.

Lou Volpe, an engineer in the first part of the factory to be restructured, is enthusiastic. "A revolver frame used to travel almost a mile and a quarter in processing," he said. "Now the travel distance is just 1,800 feet."

These new production concepts mean smaller lot sizes which enable the factory to be more flexible and responsive to customer needs as well as more capable to handle any quality problem, according to Heske. The goal is to have this total quality management concept at every work station in the company.

New Ideas At Colt's

"The firearms industry will round for a long time to come," said Evan Whildin, Colt's director of marketing sales, and advertising. "Colt has contributed to America's war effort in every conflict from 1836 to the present day. The rifles used in Operation Desert Storm all came from Colt's. We're planning for a bright future."

Colt's is working on executing new ideas, quantum leaps, ahead in technology, to bring to the market two to five years from now. With the advent of World Class Manufacturer and high-tech materials, production capabilities are far broader and the factory can do things they could not do in the past.

With the coming of mass production, most manufacturer's custom shops became a special section of the factory where gunsmiths could add accessories and engravers could decorate a gun almost any way consumers desired. They handle individual items in a way production department can't, mostly improving cosmetics.

Colt's concept goes beyond that. Yes, it's still part of the factory and provides the usual services, but it has become a different kind of shop in recent years. Using parts from the plant, Colt's Custom Shop can turn out a truly custom gun. it can produce a specialty product with very limited appeal at an affordable cost.

For example, Colt's supposedly went out of the Single Action Army revolver business back in the 1960s, but the gun has never really out of production. it is still produced by the custom shop.

"It can take anywhere from a couple of months to a year or more to complete a custom gun order. it depends on what's involved," said Jim Alaimo, custom shop supervision. A custom gun could be a cataloged model which is hand-assembled, custom engraved, and hand polished all by the most skilled specialist in the factory, or it could be a gun that isn't even in the catalog, such as the Single Action Army.

Keeping Customers On Target

The Government Model 1911 competitors shoot at the National Match Course isn't the same as the one the GIs carried during the war. A target gun isn't what customer would want for Police Combat or IPSC events. There are subtle differences among the handguns best suited for each of these competitive events, and dealers will see a variety of pistols, specialized for specific events, coming from Colt's

Tom Uznanski, Colt's manager of customer satisfaction, oversees the custom shop which includes customer service, product service, spare parts,and final factory testing and shipping.

"People like 1987 and 1990 USPSA national champion Jerry Barnhart of Team Colt Bill Blankenship, who was seven times national champion, and our experienced customers all tell us what they need for specific competitive events," Uznanski said, "Our goal is for thee customer to be able to take his new gun out of the box, walk up to the firing line and compete on a national level."

Writing a letter to the president of the company is not a wasted effort at Colt's either. Appropriate letters from dealers as well as consumers are passed around the plant - even to the factory floor where the machinist can see what the customer thinks of the product he has produced.

Perhaps it look the strike and restructuring of the company to teach Colt's the fallacy of divisiveness, but the Three Musketeers' idea seems to be catching on at Colt's:"All for one and one for all."
COPYRIGHT 1992 Publishers' Development Corporation
No portion of this article can be reproduced without the express written permission from the copyright holder.
Copyright 1992 Gale, Cengage Learning. All rights reserved.

Article Details
Printer friendly Cite/link Email Feedback
Author:Clede, Bill
Publication:Shooting Industry
Date:May 1, 1992
Previous Article:Looking at scopes.
Next Article:Muzzleloading rendezvous.

Related Articles
Another shot for Mujahid; Newmarket third hits the Classic trail again as he bids to provide Dunlop with his first victory in the French Guineas.
Newbury: Indiana the one to beat says Meehan; Trainer happy colt can turn tables on Golden Silca.
Mill Reef: Channon's Cheveley dilemma; Rain holds key to Silca supplementary entry after battling victory over colts.
Lambourn: Silca Legend has strong claims; View from the training centres.
Colt legacy presented at Historical Center. (Industry Watch).
American football: Peyton 11-4 to top Marino tonight.
BLOODSTOCK DESK: Healthy Calder figur es could be a good omen.
Horse Racing: Grand Slam colt heads yearling sale.

Terms of use | Copyright © 2017 Farlex, Inc. | Feedback | For webmasters