WABASH, Ind.—After more than 35 years with Wabash MPI Carver, first as a bookkeeper and for the last 16 years as general manager, Beth Gillespie is retiring.
The Indiana native led the company to record revenue growth three out of the last five years, and said a company's success is always a team effort.
"A leader must never forget that leadership is not an individual endeavor," Gillespie said. "They must never forget that leadership—while sometimes they may think they are in it alone—is about the people: employees, customers, suppliers and people that supply auxiliary and ancillary support in insurance or medical.
"We accomplish nothing on our own and anyone who thinks this fools no one except themselves."
Wabash MPI Carver began in the Midwestern town of Wabash in 1941, after a high school science teacher sought out a hydraulic press so his students could learn about molding and laminating. A friend produced the press, and the rest is pneumatic history, with the firm now a global manufacturer of pneumatic and hydraulic presses for the aerospace, medical (orthopedic), recreation, automotive, energy, ASTM, and rubber and plastics testing industries.
For a short period, the company made metal tabs that attached to file folders. Nearly 80 years later, Wabash MPI Carver has grown into the major manufacturer of industrial and lab equipment that it is today.
In a separate move in the early 1940s, entrepreneur Fred S. Carver established Carver Inc. on Madison Avenue in New York City. Today, Wabash MPI builds the larger custom presses, which can exert between five tons and 1,000 tons of pressure, while Carver constructs smaller lab presses that provide anywhere between less than a half a ton and 100 tons of pressure.
Wabash MPI presses are used in a variety of medical and general molding applications using elastomers, composite, gum silicone, thermoset and other materials. Carver Inc. presses are available in manual or automated versions, suitable for research in pharmaceuticals, drugs, silicone and other elastomers, and for lab testing, laminating, oil extraction, sample preparation, pelletizing, splice molding, extrusion and forming.
Over time, Gillespie said the two companies became more like a single business with separate product lines, as they exist today, each with their niche presses and separate customers. Wabash MPI and Carver are owned by the ACS Group based in Schaumburg, Ill., and boast 38,000 square feet of manufacturing space and about 80 employees.
"As with everything, manufacturing changes out of necessity to meet market needs," Gillespie said.
For example, she said Carver began by making only hand-operated presses and evolved into making automatic presses, at the same time expanding its parts and accessory lines. Wabash began by making small presses with simplistic controls and has evolved into making larger presses with specialized, technical controls and tolerances.
"Wabash builds relationships with their customers and provides them with technical sales and engineers to assist them in developing exactly what they need," Gillespie said. "We also have a strong service team if customers need startup or other assistance after shipment."