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December 2017
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Industrial Magnetics strives to be best

Industrial Magnetics Inc. couldn’t have asked for a better way to start its 50th year.

“2010 was an exceptional year on all fronts, and it added up to our best all-around results in the history of IMI,” said Dennis O’Leary, who was named general manager of the Boyne City, Mich., company in December of last year. O’Leary joined the company in 1999.  

“We have a system that we incorporated years ago, and we strongly believe that each new year is simply an extension of the prior year. This requires that we pay close attention to how we market, to whom we market, regular review of raw material needs, intelligent spot-buys, inventory turns and many other measurables,” O’Leary said.

The company’s best year yet also came after some reinvention.

“Like most of our competition, we all experienced what I call an ‘artificial growth’ when rare earth magnet material became readily available in the late 90s. Nobody on the manufacturing side reinvented the wheel; instead we were all benefactors of an increased ticket price for providing a stronger and more valuable magnetic component,” O’Leary said. “At the same time, we reviewed our business model and quickly came to understand we couldn’t be all things to all channels in the markets we had grown to serve. So we decided to trim our channel partners to a manageable number and then we worked diligently to promote to and through these channels and capture the attention and interest of the end user.

“The result has been a growth of 75 percent in the last decade. That type of growth for a start-up could be expected with a little ‘lightning in the bottle’ luck, but for a well-established company already 40 years into business, it is a credit to our employees and partners.”

In the next 10 years, O’Leary foresees “steady, sustainable growth. We have never strived to be the biggest, we’d rather be the best in our customer’s eyes.”

The company has 65 employees, and “jeans are the standard attire so long as we hit our daily bookings goal.”

“I think everyone would agree that while we are very professional, nobody feels like we’re working the emergency room at a major metropolitan hospital. We are not afraid to fail or make mistakes, and I think that frees everyone to work their best,” O’Leary said. “Some mistakes are simply unavoidable. We work hard to eliminate the avoidable ones.

“When we’re successful, it’s amazing what a trickle-down effect this has on the bottom line.  Solid months are followed by a luncheon hosted by Bud’s (owner Bud Shear) wife Nancy and my wife Paige.”

A goal of Industrial Magnetics is to be an important, vital part of their community, O’Leary explained.

“We’re located in a small town in state that is obviously struggling economically, so our ability to grow the company, add personnel and provide a stable foundation for our employees and their families is a source of satisfaction for Bud,” he said.

IMI has more than 700 off-the-shelf products stocked for same day shipment, including a broad range of products for holding, lifting and fixturing.

“Where we differentiate IMI from our competition is our knack and desire to engineer custom solutions that meet the exact need of a given application. If off-the-shelf isn’t sufficient, we won’t pretend it is. We specialize in making magnets that others simply wouldn’t or don’t have the resources to do. We have seen steady growth in the demand for ergonomically designed lifting devices, and with an extremely high strength-to-weight ratio in rare earth magnets, it has given us the edge in lifting some very unique product that most would shake their head at and say, ‘Nope, can’t do it.’”  

“We have six engineers on staff and over 80 percent of what we manufacture is design intensive. We have created an atmosphere where our engineers and sales personnel at our factory are intimately involved with one of our three product groups, so they are working on constant improvement of like-product on a regular basis,” O’Leary said.



Mary Glindinning is a freelance writer who has worked at daily and weekly newspapers for more than 20 years. She lives in rural Shullsburg, Wis. You may contact her by e-mailing