Chuck Ceccarelli has a knack for finding inspiration in unexpected places. In fact, his passion for manufacturing stemmed from the close inspection of a 200-pound, cast iron manhole cover on the outskirts of a town in high-desert Idaho.
“The lid said Made in India,” he said. “How is it possible that someone can produce a $300 part 8,000 miles away and then ship it here and compete with us? Shouldn’t we be the ones shipping products that way?”
Yes, he thought, we should. So, he turned the boat around.
What started as a small tow truck repair operation in Bruneau, Idaho, has since transformed into a 65,000-square foot, $18-million-dollar manufacturing facility on six acres of land in Mountain Home, Idaho. This expansive campus is home to Chuck’s umbrella corporation, Inventive Group, where four brands are housed: Inventive Products, In the Ditch Towing Products, Razorback Offroad UTV Accessories, and Fish Fighter Products.
“Back when we built tow trucks, we also started making accessories that made the job easier,” Chuck said. “Soon, we started building those accessories for other people, which led to the startup of In the Ditch Towing Products. Once we became a manufacturer of towing accessories, it led to boating accessories, which led to offroad accessories, which led to garage accessories, and now we employ over 100 people and export close to 20% of our products.”
From folding windshields and scissor lift storage brackets to custom power workstations and products for the hardcore fisherman, there’s no shortage of innovation at Inventive Group, but their ideation process involves a clear set of design standards and a ruthless hunt for the unique selling proposition.
“When the team proposes new products, we really want to know why someone would buy it from us and nobody else,” said Chuck. “Essentially, if you don’t have a competitive advantage, you shouldn’t compete.”
Sniffing out the competitive advantage for their products is only part of Inventive Group’s recipe for success. Adhering closely to the Toyota Production System, Inventive Group is first and foremost a lean manufacturing company with a focus on motivating its employees. Chuck is so dedicated to this focus that he has changed his title from CEO to something more fitting: Director of Excitement.
“I believe the job of a leader is to have a vision, have a plan and inspire people,” he said. “Everybody says their employees are their biggest asset, but very few companies prove it. We’re out to prove it.”
Chuck’s dedication to employee development is just as zealous as his passion for making connections throughout the industry. That’s where the Idaho Manufacturing Alliance comes in.
“If you’re in an industry, you need to belong to the organization,” said Chuck. “If you’re a policeman, you belong to the fellowship of officers. If you’re a girl scout, you’re part of a troop. If you’re struggling as a manufacturer but you’re not willing to be a part of an organization like IMA that can help you, the conversation’s over.”
What it boils down to is if you want to be a world-class manufacturer, spend time with world-class manufacturers. Whether you’re interested in learning from industry titans, blue-collar millionaires, or those just starting out, there’s a place for you at IMA. Join today at https://www.idmfg.org/join/.