Los Angeles, CA
Industry: Consumer & Lifestyle
Products: Industrial Packaging, Custom Touring & Road Cases
Rock stars appreciate Muffie and Jan Alejandro’s bulletproof cases and a manufacturing operation that blends technology – and generations
Running a rehearsal studio in San Francisco, California, Muffie and Jan Alejandro’s bosses asked if they could sell road and touring cases to the musicians rehearsing in the studios. It was an effort by the studio to make more money and expected it would be a complete failure. The Alejandros ended up being very successful at it, however, and ultimately were brought to Southern California to work for the manufacturer of the cases.
"My husband and my business partner are from Southern California, so we came down here and worked on making cases for the artists," said Alejandro. With her husband deeply rooted in the music industry, he had plenty of contacts and clients to make cases for. "The company eventually let him go because they just wanted his customers, so we started our own company, Jan-Al Cases. In the process, forty percent of the client base came with us."
The design of high-quality cases came from their background in the music industry. "We were users first, so we understood the need for quality cases and how important they were to keep instruments safe during tours and while in transport," says Alejandro. "We knew what they were and how to use them. When we started, we did it more as a service and a byproduct of our service is that we deliver cases too."
Over the years, Jan-Al made templates for each individual type and model of guitar and other musical instruments, so that each case can be customized to the unique shape of each item. "If someone calls up and asks if we have a Gibson, Fender, or custom guitar, etc., we can look this up on a computer list, go to the number, and see all the information we need to make it an exact fit."
With more than 35-years of templates for guitars, keyboards, bass, classical instruments, and more, Jan-Al is now modernizing their extensive template information using computer software. "We are now tasking ourselves with actually figuring out what every single one of these cases and templates are, who they belong to, what equipment it is, and putting it into a computer archive on a storage cloud," says Alejandro.
Materials are sourced from companies in Santa Fe Springs, California to China, and even from the Baltic’s. "Stuff comes from all over the world to make what we make," says Alejandro. "With that comes a lot of challenges, especially with current federal government tariffs. We are really having to work hard to keep our prices as low as possible. We do not compete on price; we have a certain kind of client who is more interested in buying a quality product."
The company has adopted leading-edge techniques that have helped put them at the forefront of their industry. "The thing about owning a business, and owning a technology-based business, is that you always have to be on the leading edge of one industry or another," says Alejandro. "What we do is package technology, and we’re interested in keeping up with the latest manufacturing technologies to stay ahead." As an example, the company is utilizing CNC machinery and computer software like Solidworks, as well as software to run production schedules.
"When you make a big technology change like we are, the fear is that we are going to become the Post Office," says Alejandro. "Our interest, however, is to give our employees more information about how to effectively use their time at work. We want to take away the really boring part of working in a factory; doing the same operation hundreds of times. We’re trying to eliminate as much of that so they can be creative manufacturers and partners with the sales staff. That’s the hardest thing to do."
Incorporating technology brought Alejandro to the realization she had two types of workers that were separated by generations. One is a population of craftsmen who are less computer savvy but skilled. There’s also a younger generation of workers whose work experience was limited by the recession, but have a great knowledge and understanding of technology. "So the question became how to merge these two things together," says Alejandro.
The answer was a new program where mature and young employees are matched up as partners for them to learn from each other. "My partner, for example, is the guy who does our deliveries," says Alejandro. "We were always asking where he was, and why he’s taking so long to make a delivery? The reality became that we don’t really know what it’s like to be in the other person’s shoes. Each team receives an appreciation for what each partner does for the company and has a better understanding of the role every employee plays at Jan-AL Cases. It’s been working very successfully but is a work in progress."
Needs: "We are trying to expand our workforce and we need more of the middle generation’s expertise, computer illiterate or not. We also need their maturity," says Alejandro. "Maturity plays a big role in how you handle work."
Challenges: Alejandro argues that the State of California is going to have to do something about its lack of foresight in insurance policies. "I think the biggest challenge we have right now is that the insurance companies and government undermine the security of my employees," says Alejandro. "I see myself as an employer and standing between their security and their future. I am the shepherd of that."
Opportunities: Jan-Al is looking to expand its design and sales team. “We have a big presence in professional sports but we would like to do more at the collegiate level, says Alejadnro. “We enjoy our relationships in industry but there is so much business with industrial accounts that there is always room for expansion there. The coming year is looking very promising in the sales area.