Three years after parent company TS Tech Co. Ltd. struck a deal with Harley-Davidson, the Lincoln division of Tri-Con Industries is ready to expand.
And it couldn’t come at a better time, said Tri-Con Vice President and Plant Manager John Holt. The company manufactures seats and seat covers for motorcycles and ATVs, among other products, and is celebrating 40 years in Lincoln since its manufacturing plant opened at 4000 N.W. 44th St. in February 1977.
To meet business demands following TS Tech’s deal with Harley-Davidson, the plant is expanding into a second building down the street in April.
“It’s unique because Tri-Con will be only the second company to ever supply seats for Harley-Davidson,” said Holt, who has been with the company for nearly 35 years.
Tri-Con is a Japanese company established in 1960; it employs more than 15,000 people around the world.
Lincoln was chosen as the first site for international expansion in 1977 because of the company’s close relationship with Kawasaki, which has a factory here.
“We are a supplier to Kawasaki, and they are a supplier to us,” Holt said. “I know Lincoln is heavy in insurance and technical startups, but Kawasaki and Tri-Con are just a part of a few manufacturers here, and it’s good to build things.”
Tri-Con Industries also has operated a stamping plant in Lincoln since 1984 at 4020 N.W. 36th St.
According to Holt, the facilities are seasonal with anywhere from 350 to 500 employees working at a given time. Products like watercraft seats, for example, keep the plant busier from October until the beginning of summer.
“Then it will slow down for two or three months and it will pick up again,” Holt said. “We always have a mix of products that are going out the door.”
The plant puts out well over half a million individual pieces a year, according to Holt, and he said that number will grow to nearly 750 million pieces as business expands.
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Although the company is incorporating more automation on the factory floor, Holt said it has had a minimal effect on the number of employees.
“More than not, for us, it’s been an increase in productivity rather than a decrease in staffing,” he said, citing automation for improving employees’ well-being.
Team lead Mary Carman, who directs individual parts like foam cushions to different team members for assembly, thinks the employee-friendly atmosphere sets the company apart.
“Everybody is nice around here,” said Carman, who has worked for Tri-Con for nearly 24 years. “We treat each other with respect.”
Because Tri-Con deals with both the recreational vehicle and automobile industries, Holt believes it has an upper hand as far as technology goes.
“Oftentimes our competitors aren’t in that bigger part of the manufacturing market,” he said. “So we learn a lot from the automobile industry that we can bring to the recreational side, and I think that gives us an advantage.”
Nick DeLong, who is also a team leader at Tri-Con, enjoys staying busy.
“Over here it’s fast-paced; it’s always something different every day,” said DeLong, who came to Tri-Con from Lincoln Industries three years ago.
Holt said Tri-Con repurposes equipment -- like a press from 1987 -- to cut back on waste.
“We don’t throw much away,” he said. “We just keep using it, recycling it and adding to it.”
To celebrate the plant's 40th anniversary, Holt said they’ll continue a Japanese tradition this year by planting a tree next to ones marking other notable anniversaries.