City of Industry, California
Industry: Industrial & Equipment
Products: Industrial, custom, and specialty brushes
CEO Ken Rakusin is guiding the award winning California manufacturer to growth through acquisitions and the capability to make any and all brushes.
Producing more than 17,000 different brushes for every industry imaginable, Gordon Brush is the leading brush manufacturer in the nation. Its catalog typically grows by 15 to 20 styles every single week.
"If a brush exists, we have it," says Rakusin. "If it doesn't, we'll make it. What most people don't realize is that almost every single type of industry needs brushes for one reason or another. For us, there are two general types of brush categories. One is the stock or standard type of brush and the other 50 percent are custom brushes." Custom clients run the gamut from cookie bakeries looking to clean conveyor lines to NASA for telescope lens upkeep.
The company, established in 1951 by founder Don Gordon, now has a dozen brands, of which two date back to the 19th century and one has been around since 1855. Through acquisitions over the decades, Gordon Brush has grown into numerous markets, expanding its reach into such industries as aerospace, medical, military, pharmaceutical, and electronics.
"We generally make two acquisitions a year," says Rakusin. "We acquire companies whose ownership is ready to retire and that fits well with our product line. Over time, this has expanded the depth and breadth of our product line and has helped us acquire new customers."
Within the company's 183,000-square-foot facility, manufacturing and assembly capabilities allow for fast turnaround times. "We can offer same-day shipping on over 3,500 standard types of brushes and can sometimes deliver specialty and custom brushes in one business day or less," says Rakusin. "Our facility combines both modern automated and semi-automated equipment that can help us produce 50,000 to 100,000 pieces a day. Yet, there are some brushes which need to be done by hand and requires an artisan aspect to some of our specialty products. Brush manufacturing is an art, so we often train employees with the skills needed to operate machinery as well as learning the skills to create products that need to be made by hand."
According to Rakusin, competition from overseas is continually bombarding the market with lower cost products. To combat this, Gordon Brush takes great strides to showcase its products are "Made in America" and that the company's quality sets the standard by being ISO 9001:2015 certified. "In certain markets the competition is fierce," says Rakusin. "Cheaper products fall apart and a company may have to purchase the product many more times, which will become more expensive in the long run."
The company has also received recognition as an American manufacturer. "We are the 2018 winner of the MADE: In America Award," says Rakusin. "We use this branding strategy to differentiate ourselves and spend a lot of time on our PR efforts with this."
In August 2018, Congressional leaders visited Gordon Brush to highlight the company's longstanding commitment to domestic manufacturing. California state officials have also recognized the company's commitment to manufacturing in the United States.
"The company and its employees are proud to be committed to manufacturing in the U.S.," says Rakusin. "It's good for our business as well as our workers. Some of them have been here for 40 years and their training and skills are passed on to new employees. This is who we are and if you need quality, you come to us."
Challenges: "California taxes and propositions are a challenge," says Rakusin. "It can make it difficult to find and retain a stable workforce, especially with young people. They have a different mentality. Companies like ours are stable and can help them learn and grow while getting a good wage and fantastic benefits. They just need to give it a try."
Opportunities: "There's always a need for a brush," says Rakusin. "It's unbelievable some of the stuff that comes up. For example, we experimented with different filament materials to make a brush to keep away snakes and found that they won't pass through the color red. There are also so many new technologies in the medical and military industries that may not realize they will someday need a brush to clean it."
Needs: "Everybody needs more customers, it goes without saying," says Rakusin. "We have the manufacturing capabilities to make any custom brush, be it a fine detail brush for an artist, to a brush used for aircraft engine maintenance or to clean the main gun on an Abrams tank."